Original Research

Philia and neikos in Keats’s 'Song of four faeries'

A.C. Swanepoel
Literator | Vol 28, No 1 | a153 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v28i1.153 | © 2007 A.C. Swanepoel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 2007 | Published: 30 July 2007

About the author(s)

A.C. Swanepoel, School of Languages, Vanderbijlpark Campus, North-West University, South Africa

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Despite the fact that Keats’s “Song of four faeries” received very little critical attention, the poem raises interesting issues regarding the creative and destructive forces in nature. The poem presents a conversation between the four elemental faeries about union and separation. Using Empedocles’ four-element theory of creation and change in nature as framework, this article explores through close reading how the form and content of the poem mirror creative and destructive natural processes. It concludes that both Empedocles’ concepts “philia” (the creative force), and “neikos” (the destructive force), feature in both form and content, but that “philia” is more prevalent in the form, whereas “neikos” is expressed mostly in the content of the poem. Furthermore, the natural changes presented in the poem suggest themselves in the form of the poem before they become evident in its content.


Empedocles; Four-Element Theory; Greek Natural Philosophers; John Keats; Song Of Four Faeries


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