Here Keats is believed to be talking about a beautiful woman he met once in Vauxhall Gardens. Seeing her, to Keats, is one of life’s great moments. She has been given supernatural qualities, ‘Faery power’ – i. e. , she is set apart from other women. I think Keats’ deliberately describes her as little as possible. All through the poem he has been telling us, he sees such utter beauty in the world, yet is incapable of describing it to its fullest. It appears to be the case with this minute description of a lady he probably felt an attraction to.
Also, faeries are mysterious, mischievous creatures in themselves – he perhaps finds this appealing of her and wants to maintain this, not delving too much into detail about her. Also in this quartet, he realises life’s transient nature, that it is continually moving onwards, and coupled with this realisation is the inner call for immediacy to his work. Of unreflecting love! – then on the shore Of the wide world I stand alone, and think Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
He worries he will die before he has written all that he has stored in his brain, before he has experienced romance, emphasis given by the exclamation mark put before the end of the clause. He is like an artist who takes a step back from a painting – he takes account of the everyday, trivial goings-on and finds it totally insignificant to what he sees before him, this vision that he beholds. Keats finishes by addressing these two preoccupations shown throughout the poem: love, and success. He stands looking out from the shore, to the sea.
The sea is not a constant, its form changes all the time, it fluxuates in all different directions. It is a symbol of uncertainty, and he perhaps sees these preoccupations testing themselves along this sea, perhaps seen as the world, only to sink to nothing. John Keats had preoccupations regarding both love and fame, or more accurately, success as a poet. He was, at one time, an apothecary’s trainee, so he will have encountered death at many times, and is known to have nursed his brother who died. As for love, his feelings for Fanny Braun are well documented; he even went as far as to propose to her daughter when she refused him.
In my opinion it would be fair to say that he felt loneliness, one that could only be remedied by the love of a partner. Woodhouse noted, ‘He [Keats] has repeatedly said… that he never sits down to write, unless he is full of ideas – and then thoughts come about him in troops… one of his maxims is that if P[oetry] does not come naturally, it had better not come at all. ‘ It can be taken from this, combined with Keats’ own comment that his brain is teeming with ideas, that perhaps his preoccupations have given him too much to write about, that it has shaken his confidence in his own abilities.
My final conclusion is that Keats’ preoccupations have had an extremely adverse affect on his writing craft – his self-admitted incapability to accurately convey these scenes, or images that he beholds, has cause the worst frustration, and in turn, a ‘stand-offish’ approach to his poetry, like he is cautious of writing in case he has created an imperfect poem that would be an injustice to the particular source of his inspiration.