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Poetry

A Few Axioms

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Hampstead, February 27th, 1818

Hampstead, 27 Feby

My dear Taylor –

In poetry I have a few axioms, and you will see how far I am from their centre.
1st. I think poetry should surprise by a fine excess, and not by singularity; It should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.
2d. Its touches of beauty should never be half-way, thereby making the reader breathless, instead of content. The rise, the progress, the setting of Imagery should, like the sun, seem natural to him, shine over him, and set soberly, although in magnificence, leaving him in the luxury of twilight. But it is easier to think what poetry should be, than to write it – And this leads me to another axiom – That if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.

Your sincere and obliged friend,
John Keats


Biographical context here.