Though not one of John Keats' very best poems, Lamia is a major work and essential for anyone interested in him. It has his signature unparalleled beauty but is also unusually thoughtful, with intriguing musings on illusion vs. reality and the nature of love, beauty, and art. Keats' lament about empiricism destroying natural wonder has heavily influenced everyone from Edgar Allen Poe to Richard Dawkins, and Lamia remains central to the art/nature vs. science debate. The story is also interesting in itself; Keats brings a fantasy world vividly to life, draws us in emotionally, and even has a devastating ending. Finally, the poem is impressive technically, showing Keats' growing couplet mastery. One should certainly read his best-known works first, but this should be an early stop; that said, the fact that it is virtually every Keats collection makes a standalone very hard to justify. The important thing at any rate is to read it in some form.
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