Sex and Keats

Discussion on the works of John Keats.

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Sex and Keats

Postby Matt » Fri Jun 18, 2004 1:08 pm

Hi there, I was just pondering on the popular theorem that we are all perverts. And I wondered could it be to that Keats enjoyed talking about or discussing or even doing sex (before his venereal disease that is) just as much as the rest of us? 'Never!' I hear some of you cry.

Putting all the old huffiness aside has anyone recognised some amusing allusions to sex in any of Keats work? Of course theres the 'throbbing star' in 'Eve of St Agnes' which belongs to porphyro who 'melts into her (Madeline's) dream'. Anyone found any others?

I often wonder about 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci' where Keats where the knight-at-arms tells the voice of the poem:

'I set her on my pacing steed/ And nothing else saw all day long'

and this is after he has discussed how she

'made sweet moan'.

Its a rather childish assumption and not neccesarily one that i agree with but nevertheless amusing. And even if he hadn't intentionally done it I reckon Keats probably at least realised. Probably even laughed about it. Yep. I tell no lies. Keats was probably as childish as the rest of us in some respects.

Also I love the poem 'Where be ye going you Devon Maid' . I am actually laughing out loud and i am probably destroying any chance of me becomeing a reputable source on this forum but i just love:

'Ye tight little fairy, just fresh from the dairy/ will ye give me some cream if i ask it?'

Lets not foget the rather less crude but equally as fascinating as an insight into Keats suprisingly macho appreciation of the female form:

'I love your hills and i love your dales'

I'd be grateful if anyone else could slam me down for starting this thread but more grateful if anyone else could join the fun and discuss or even offer some more examples of Keats and Sex. Yep thats right I said it

Keats and Sex!

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Keats was a bawdy poet

Postby Saturn » Fri Jun 18, 2004 8:13 pm

Glad to see someone else recognise that Keats was a grown man, a sexual being, not some child-like innocent, unschooled in the ways of the world. Unlike the childish thread of last week, this discussion of Keats' relation to sex is much more mature.

All the examples you mention are acknowledged sexual references (I too love the 'Devon Maid' poem).

There is another list of Keats' use of bawdy in Robert Gittings biography; in fact a whole appendix devoted to the matter!!

Check it out for more examples, mainly taken from the letters.

Here's a surprising one from the poems:

In "Unfelt, unheard, unseen", line 17

I feel my heaven anew...

means to grope a woman.

Keasts could also at times be prudish, most notably in the case of Charles Brown's taking for his mistress the Irish landlady (I think), when he complained about Brown's lewdness.

To be fair this was during his final illness, and he may have realised that Brown was, unlike him, fit and able to have an active sex life with his chosen partner - so unlike his relationship to Fanny Brawne.

In fact in one of his last agonising letters he says that wished he could have "had her" while he was able to.
Of course, at this point he was in the deep of despair; his not unnatural frustration was spilling over into his writings.
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Postby Matt » Sat Jun 19, 2004 1:45 pm

That was an excellent one Stephen!!!

Anybody else got any? (At this moment I am unable to get the Gittings biography)

I have read Motion's biography and I think it is in that that Motion considers the possibility of having a venereal disease. In one of the letters Keats chekily vents his frustration that it is painful to see Fanny in the sense that his lust could not be satisfied due to his rather unfortunate problem.

Motion also says that Keats even went on a Vegetarian desire for it was popular beleif at the time that a carnivorous diet spurred lust!!!

That was a little aside for you! Lets not forget people to inform the thread of any more quotes relating to 'Keats and Sex'
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Who is Keats?

Postby MonroeDoctrine » Sun Jun 20, 2004 8:46 am

Did Keats and Shelly discuss sex? Maybe, but that's completely irrelevant. People tend to have too many stupid academic discussions about great men in history completely ignoring things like historical context.

Keats and Shelly were clear with what they were going to write about! If at all Keats was alluding towards sex he did so in
"Give me women, wine and snuff." But Poems like La Belle Dame Sans Merci are tragedies, not Keats' erotic fantasy. The point of that poem, is to not be like the idiot that was only thinking with his phallus! Who wants to be Alone and loitering in an awful state of mind?

Keats doesn't just exist in the existential universe of some listless folks who write about him in public forums. He actually existed in a time where there were political revolutions being generated. Keats didn't hang out with his friends watching wrestling or Harry Potter, or the NBA finals game as they masturbated to cheer-leaders! Keats' friends were intellectuals that had a higher conception of human beings than just objects to ejaculate on.

I would argue that even fools like Byron, who was a complete erotic son of a bitch, had a much more beautiful conception of women that say a typical man in the 21st century.

Just to add another thing to my rant, any human being who wants to be potent in any aspect of life whether it be in bed or in math or in history must have a strong intellectual identity. The inverse doesn't work, in other words it is not as if Keats was first a sex fanatic and then he wrote great poetry; but he wrote great poetry and therefore would be potent in other aspects in his life. I state this because people like to waste their time discussing many things from the wrong standpoint.
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Postby Despondence » Sun Jun 20, 2004 11:54 am

While not exactly of a sexual character, I found the notes on Madeleine's undressing scene in St. Agnes XXVI rather amusing. Keats had several attempts at the line "Loosens her fragrant bodice" :

"Loosens the boddice from her"
"Loosens her bursting boddice"
"Loosens her Boddice lace string"
"Loosens her boddice and her bar[e]"

I kind of liked number two ;)

From a different thread, the pronunciation of Lethe, the two e's should apparently have the same tone as in "Leda" (as in Leda and Zeus), which maybe isn't quite the same as the English "ee." I imagine a type of e as in "thespian," but I'm just guessing.

Postby Matt » Sun Jun 20, 2004 3:30 pm

Monroe, Monroe, Monroe. Calm down. I was not suggesting at all that Keats was a sex maniac. If I made any assumption as to Keats as a person it was only that he was....(dare i suggest it) a human being!

In response to MonroeDoctrines point I think that what you say about Keats is correct. Of course he did not masturbate to cheerleaders whilst watching NBA. For a start television did not exist in the 18th century and also from what I can recall neither did Basketball. Also, Keats being English, hr probably wouldnt have watched NBA anyway (even if televsion and basketball had existed) as it is primarily an American Sport. Perhaps his brother George would have informed him of the latest results though.

Yes, Keats did exist in a time of political revoloutions and yes he did surround himself with friends that were insightful and intellectual. But lets not do ourselves and indeed Keats an injustice by suggesting that just because Keats was a poet growing up in the 18th century that he was not partial to the odd rude joke or desire.

It must be stressed that in my reference to 'La Belle Dame Sans Merci', I acknowledged that 'pacing steed' was unlikely to be a phallus reference but that the lines before and after this line do register an alternative reading. And please do not think less of me for noticing this. After all like John Keats, I myself am only human.

Just reading your post again Monroe i noticed that you said "Keats' friends were intellectuals that had a higher conception of human beings than just objects to ejaculate on." I found this highly patronising, as if you were suggesting that i myself was hinting that Keats and his friends acted in this way. Keats was a great man but it seems as if you think that only Keats and his 'great intellectuals' are able to realise that human beings are not sperm flasks. I can tell you now that even Ron Jeremy (if you dont know who he is visit your favourite porn site and find out) knows that human beings are not to just objects to be ejaculated on.

Before anyone picks up on it I realise that my wording is clumsy. Perhaps my post in reply to Monroe's is to erratic and fuelled with childish anger. If so then I apologise.

I ask that people particularly Despondence and Stephen, whom i respect as scholars (despite their beliefs that they are not!) do not regard me in a less favourable light than before.

Thank you to Stephen and Despondence for embracing the thread and for amusing me in the midst of all this revision I am doing.

From Matt (who eagerly awaits with baited breath, responses to this post)

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Postby Matt » Sun Jun 20, 2004 4:52 pm

(As a quick aside. Please nobody respond to this thread, responds instead to previous post. But I must apologise for my spelling in these posts. I have been re-reading many of my posts and the amount of spelling mistakes is embarrassing. I urge you to know that this is not a reflection of my actual spelling ability but rather a reflection the speed and fervour in which i write. Merci Be Coup, Matt)
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Spelling isn't that important

Postby Saturn » Sun Jun 20, 2004 10:24 pm

I wouldn't worry too much about your spelling on here - the art or the consideration of spelling died with text-messages and the 'net.
I take too much unnecessary pain about my own spelling, because I'm a fussy perfectionist.

Remember Keats own spelling was at times bizzare, and has become an aspect of his character - individualised spellings show us the very human failings of artists, and remind us to not revere too much (on the right side of idolatory) people who were imperfect like the rest of us.

P.S. I'm flattered that you think I'm a scholar - I'm not really, just a loser with too much time on his hands, though I have a very useless B.A. in Ancient & Modern History (joint honours), which might qualify me for Esquire status, but I place little value on such "barren titles" or educational qualifications - neither do potential employers to my chagrin.
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Postby Matt » Sat Jun 26, 2004 6:26 pm

Just to add something new to what had (or has) the potential to be an amusing and interesting thread Andrew Motion, in his biography of Keats mentions an evening where Keats and some of his medical associates 'spent an entire evening discussing the derviation of the word c--t)!!!

Hmmmm. Controversial
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Postby Saturn » Sun Jun 27, 2004 12:59 pm

:lol: There's nothing controversial in what you say, it is simply a fact. I remember reading that as well - things never change, do they?

There's one in the eye for those with a "romantic" view of Keats.

He had deep passions and sexual longings like all of us and could have a right laugh about all things carnal. Remember he lived at the end of the "Regency" area, a time renowned for it's bawdiness and so-called lax morality, which, compared to today is a bit tame to our eyes.
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