Ancient Mythology in Keats

Last month, I entered the Gould Prize for essays in English Literature which is organised by Trinity College, Cambridge. For my entry, I chose the following question from a range of seven:

‘What was he doing, the great god Pan,

Down in the reeds by the river?

Spreading ruin and scattering ban,

Splashing and paddling with hoofs of a goat

and breaking the golden lilies afloat

With the dragon-fly on the river.’ 

(Barrett Browning, ‘A Musical Instrument’)


What are the gods of Greece and Rome doing in English poetry?

In my response, I posit that the role of ancient deities in Keats’ poetry is threefold: they allow Keats to seemlessly blend the personal and the universal, to trace the cultural evolution from the Hellenic era to 19th Century England, and to enter a mythic realm which is entirely dependent on a literary tradition. Ancient mythology is therefore prominent in Keats’ poetry for a variety of reasons and gives Keats a uniquely confident poetic diction. I was lucky enough to be highly commended for my essay, which you can read below if you like; I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Click here to read the essay.

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