A Comparison Between Matthew Arnold And John Keats

A poet’s role for the society, at least what he thinks, can change rapidly in one or two decades or, it can remain constant for the rest of his life.

When we look deeply into the history of English poetry, we see that there are huge differences in the observations of different poets of different times. The change of perceptions from the Romantic era to the Victorian era is pretty visible to everyone. The change was significant and it surely had some significance too.

We can’t say that all the poets of any school of poetry the absolute theory of poetry, which was predominant, in their era. Even Matthew Arnold (1822-88) and John Keats ( 1795-1821) are not widely regarded as the absolute typical of their respective era.

In the course of life, Matthew Arnold reacted against the ideas of so many writers. John Keats was one of them. Thus a comparison can be made between the ideas of Matthew Arnold and John Keats to represent the change that affected the course of poetry and changed it.

Difference In The Ideas: Matthew Arnold vs John Keats

When discussing the ideas of the poets, it must start with their views about a poets’ role in society. Keats and Arnold construct interesting and amusing contrasts even in their forms. Their writings, where that conveys their feelings about a poet and poetry, are different from each other.

It can be said there is no similarity at all in their forms of writing. For Keats poetry was never systematically set out.

Keats style of writing

Writing poetry for Keats was a way of conveying the inner feelings, which are suppressed by the gruesome brutality of reality. The poems were the means of escape from reality. It’s the meticulous observation power that differentiates common people from the poets. Keats was so delicate and so was his feeling. His personal life gets reflected in his poems.

When we closely observe the poems of Keats, we will see that there is a tendency of breaking away from everything. Somewhere he wasn’t happy with his life that’s why he found the world of ‘Nightingale’ more charming and beautiful than ours.

His creation involves hard work and careful attention even to the smallest of things. He believed that poetry is the sweetest fruit of honest feelings and beautiful imaginations.

The Romantic poets such as William Wordsworth, P.B. Shelley, Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and John Keats, are considered romantic because they found ordinary things extraordinary.

In the history of English literature, from the Anglo Saxon period (450-1066) to Neoclassical period(1600-1785), common and ordinary things have always been overlooked. But the romantics changed the whole equation.

Keats’s idealism never bothered to deal with the affairs of the external world, took no interest in political thoughts. It was always the world of senses which got the attention of Keats. Keats never gave any systematic guideline to understanding nature or poetry even his art or criticism of art.

He believed that creative people are the most scattered ones. The principal theory of the art of poetry is taken from his letter where he at least bothers to develop the ideas spontaneously. For him the most creative was the most personal, his letters prove that.

Arnold’s Style of Writing

‘Rugby Chapel’ was an elegy, written by Arnold for his father after fifteen years of his death. This is an example which shows that Arnold was not only a mature poet but also a mature man in his life. He preferred to look at the tough road which consists of cold and misery. Arnold was able to draw a connection between his past and who he was as a man.

The lack of shelter ‘Of the mighty Oak’, his father, taught him how to enjoy strength, wisdom, and courage. He believed that the passing of his father was the gateway towards knowledge and truth, the romantic myth. He became the major Victorian writer. Arnold was the finest literary and social critic of this era.

Unlike the romantics, he argued for the need of modern age which was regarded as the intellectual deliverance. He was the worshiper of truth and reasoning rather than beauty and imagination.

The shorter half of his life, which is the representative of his poetic career, if full of writings which are sad and melancholic. He wanted society to become modern, humanized, and more civilized.

He believed that the making of a better society depends not only on the critical view but also on the vision of reaching human perfection. His poems are considered modern because it reflects new ideas, critical views, reformations.

He worked as a prophet and spent the whole life trying to expand the intellectual boundaries.


The comparative study of John Keats and Matthew Arnold only shows the transition of time. The change in writing style and method beautifully captures the change of society also. Writings change automatically when the inspiration changes.

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