“Hellenism” means one’s specific interest in Greek culture and fine arts (poetry, music, painting, sculpture, and architecture) as developed by Greek cities in the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. Keats’s Hellenism ( Greekness ) is represented by:
(i ) his spontaneous response to his lobe of beauty and of truth in all possible forms;
(ii) his pagan delight in Nature and in the physical side of human life;
(iii) his manner of personifying the phenomena of Nature;
(iv) his interest in ancient Greek writers as well as in ancient Greek mythology;
(v) his feeling for form, and clearness of expression;
(vi) his concrete imagery instead of abstract ideas;
(vii) his reading of translations of Greek classics; and
(viii) his study of Lempriere’s Classical Dictionary.
Keats freely used Greek mythology in his poems like Endymion, Lamia, Hyperion, Ode to Psyche, On a Grecian Urn, The eye of St. Agnes, etc. The imaginative attitude of the Greeks felt the mythological presence of Proteus if the sea, of Dryads in the trees and of Naiads in the brooks. The instinctive Greekness of Keats’s mind is proved by the fact that in his entire poetry, he elevated only goddess Psyche and she was of Greece. Keats’s poetry blends Hellenic or Classical restraints with Romantic freedom. It is in Keats’s Odes that we find a fusion of his romantic impulse with the classic severity.
The instinctive Greekness of Keats’s mind lies in his passionate pursuit of beauty, which is the very soul of his poetry. The Greek did not burden their poetry with philosophy or spiritual massage. Their poetry was incarnation of beauty, and existed for itself. Similarly Keats was a pure poet.
Thus “there was in Keats the keenest sense and enjoyment of beauty, and this gave him a fellow feeling with the Greek masters.”
The qualities and characteristic of Keats’s Hellenism or “Greekness” may be thus summarized:
(1)his love of beauty--- his spontaneous response to in all forms.
(2)his pagan delight in Nature and in the physical side of life.
(3)his manner of personifying the phenomena of Nature.
(4)his interest in the subject-matter of the old Greek writers, and in the Greek mythology.