The Evidence for Celticism in Keats

  • Christine Gallant


Keats was born on Hallowe’en. This was Samhain of the old Celtic calendar, the time when the veil between the mortal world and the world of faerie grew porous and thin, a dangerous time. And indeed Romantic Celticism, its culture and politics, was central to his major works. Woven in and out of his poetry are faeries, demons, and spirits. These are “the Good People,” “the wee folk,” and “the Little People” long known in the folklore of the British Isles, so named to propitiate any that might be lurking nearby unseen.1 Terming them thus also quieted one’s own fears of the capricious, amoral powers of these beings that half belonged to the world of the dead and half to the world of the mortal.2 The presence of the faerie in Keats’s writings is accompanied by the centuries-old feeling of dread at their menace mixed with fascination by their timeless allure, rather than the more modern notion of them as small, tricksy aliens. Keats was not emulating Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton with their literary rendering of contemporary faerylore; nor was he revealing some supposedly pervasive anxiety to fit into their aristocratic literary culture by using faerylore as they did.3 He drew on an earlier and more primitive lore of the faerie.


British Isle Early Nineteenth Century Roman History Introductory Essay Periphery Country 
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© Christine Gallant 2005

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  • Christine Gallant

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