Keats was a bold player, keeping his eye determinedly focussed on achieving enduring greatness, not on the fads and fashions of the critical present. His letters reveal his willingness to fly in the face of, and transcend, the vagaries of reviewers.

Here he uses a powerful metaphor of being potentially drowned or dashed to pieces on the rocks to signal his courageous engagement with his own creative (s)urge.

See also his comment on writing and doing.

‘In Endymion, I leaped headlong into the Sea, and thereby have become better acquainted with the Soundings, the quicksands, & the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea & comfortable advice – I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.’

Source: 8 October 1818, John Keats, Selected Letters, ed. Robert Gittings (Oxford World Classics, 2002/2009), p. 146

Photo credit: KeKai AhSam at


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