Poems to Keats

The life of John Keats the man: his family, his friends, and his contemporaries.

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Poems to Keats

Postby Malia » Mon Dec 18, 2006 7:48 pm

I thought I'd created this thread some time ago. . .but it may have happened in a dream, because I can't find it :) So, here's the thread anew--a thread dedicated to poems *about* Keats and/or inspired by him. Here's one by famous Keats scholar and biographer Andrew Motion. The poem was inspired by On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer so I've posted both poems for a comparison. Enjoy :)

On First Looking Into Keats's Poems by Andrew Motion

Sixteen or so, I took your book outside
and read it to the living wind and sun
until your here-and-now was far-and-wide.
I saw the stained glass colours start to run
back to the scenes from which they started out:
those antique rooms where love decides its fate;
the banished rulers with their cut-off shout;
a god discovering his power too late… .

Now what felt young in you has come of age
through time you never had, but kept in view,
and here's your book again. Each deep-dyed page
still shows me what is beautiful and true:
old artifice connecting head to heart;
new planets orbiting a world apart.


On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer, by John Keats


Much have I travelled in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific - and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise -
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Stay Awake!
--Anthony deMello
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Postby greymouse » Mon Dec 18, 2006 8:50 pm

This is a neat thread idea. The Motion sonnet is very moving! But I'm surprised he used the Shakespearian model in this case. I'm such a picky bastard!

Here's one by Oscar Wilde:



The Grave of Keats

Rid of the world's injustice, and his pain,
He rests at last beneath God's veil of blue;
Taken from life when life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
But gentle violets weeping with the dew
Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
O poet-painter of our English Land!
Thy name was writ in water--it shall stand;
And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
As Isabella did her Basil-tree.
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Postby Saturn » Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:00 pm

I remember that thread Malia but for the life of me can't remember the name of it.

I certainly didn't delete it as that was long before I became administrator I think.
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
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Postby Malia » Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:31 pm

I know I've posted this before. . .but since it's been a while and we have this nice new thread in which to post poems dedicated to Keats, I will post it again. This is perhaps my favorite poem inspired by and dedicated to John Keats. It is by the great Harlem Renaissance poet, Countee Cullen.

To John Keats, Poet. At Spring Time

I cannot hold my peace, John Keats;
There never was a spring like this;
It is an echo, that repeats
My last year's song and next year's bliss.
I know, in spite of all men say
Of Beauty, you have felt her most.
Yea, even in your grave her way
Is laid. Poor, troubled, lyric ghost,
Spring was never so fair and dear
As Beauty makes her seem this year.

I cannot hold my peace, John Keats,
I am as helpless in the toil
Of Spring as any lamb that bleats
To feel the solid earth recoil
Beneath his puny legs. Spring beats
Her tocsin call to those who love her,
And lo! the dogwood petals cover
Her breast with drifts of snow, and sleek
White gulls fly screaming to her, and hover
About her shoulders, and kiss her cheek,
While white and purple lilacs muster
A strength that bears them to a cluster
Of color and odor; for her sake
All things that slept are now awake.

And you and I, shall we lie still,
John Keats, while Beauty summons us?
Somehow I feel your sensitive will
Is pulsing up some tremulous
Sap road of a maple tree, whose leaves
Grow music as they grow, since your
Wild voice is in them, a harp that grieves
For life that opens death's dark door.
Though dust, your fingers still can push
The Vision Splended to a birth,
Though now they work as grass in the hush
Of the night on the broad sweet page of the earth.

"John Keats is dead," they say, but I
Who hear your full insistent cry
In bud and blossom, leaf and tree,
Know John Keats still writges poetry.
And while my head is earthward bowed
To read new life sprung from your shroud,
Folks seeing me must think it strange
That merely spring should so derange
My mind. They do not know that you,
John Keats, keep revel with me, too.
Stay Awake!
--Anthony deMello
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Postby Saturn » Mon Dec 18, 2006 11:34 pm

Lovely poem indeed Malia. A fitting tribute.
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Tony Harrison

Postby Apollonius » Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:42 pm

Does anybody know Tony Harrison's A Kumquat for John Keats?
The key idea in the poem is that the kumquat is indistinguishably both sweet and sour. This connects, obviously with ideas in Melancholy.
The tygers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.
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Re: Tony Harrison

Postby Malia » Tue Dec 19, 2006 4:52 pm

Apollonius wrote:Does anybody know Tony Harrison's A Kumquat for John Keats?
The key idea in the poem is that the kumquat is indistinguishably both sweet and sour. This connects, obviously with ideas in Melancholy.


I do know that poem and read it years ago when I was an undergrad. I've tried to find it on line in order to post it, but I can't locate a free copy. It is a great poem, though!
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Postby Credo Buffa » Tue Dec 19, 2006 5:16 pm

My favorite is another sonnet by Oscar Wilde:


On The Sale By Auction Of Keats' Love Letters

These are the letters which Endymion wrote
To one he loved in secret, and apart.
And now the brawlers of the auction mart
Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note,
Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote
The merchant's price. I think they love not art
Who break the crystal of a poet's heart
That small and sickly eyes may glare and gloat.

Is it not said that many years ago,
In a far Eastern town, some soldiers ran
With torches through the midnight, and began
To wrangle for mean raiment, and to throw
Dice for the garments of a wretched man,
Not knowing the God's wonder, or His woe?



Makes you feel a bit guilty, doesn't it. :shock:
"Holy Kleenex, Batman! It was right under our nose and we blew it!"
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Postby Malia » Tue Dec 19, 2006 9:50 pm

Credo Buffa wrote:My favorite is another sonnet by Oscar Wilde:


On The Sale By Auction Of Keats' Love Letters

These are the letters which Endymion wrote
To one he loved in secret, and apart.
And now the brawlers of the auction mart
Bargain and bid for each poor blotted note,
Ay! for each separate pulse of passion quote
The merchant's price. I think they love not art
Who break the crystal of a poet's heart
That small and sickly eyes may glare and gloat.

Is it not said that many years ago,
In a far Eastern town, some soldiers ran
With torches through the midnight, and began
To wrangle for mean raiment, and to throw
Dice for the garments of a wretched man,
Not knowing the God's wonder, or His woe?



Makes you feel a bit guilty, doesn't it. :shock:



I have to admit, I have felt like a voyeur (sp?) when reading some of Keats's most painful letters to Fanny Brawne. I can imagine how mortified he would be if he knew anyone was reading them let alone to discover they had been sold or auctioned off. How would you feel if your love letters were considered a part of the cannon of English literature and were the subject of scholarly essays, disected and interpreted by scholars and lay people alike?
Of course, since Keats is *dead* and his writings--all of them--contribute to the full picture of him as man and artist, I think it is perfectly ethical for us to be able to read them and gain insight. But again, I do feel at times as if I'm intruding in his life.
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Postby bard of passion » Thu Jan 18, 2007 8:35 pm

I don't know. I get the feeling that Keats was very aware of his posture, public and private, as a poet.

Fanny was a problem. I think he would have gotten over her if he had lived a bit longer. She was a tease and strung beaus along like a gift wrapper at Nordstrom's.

His letters are addressed to his future audience. He knew what he was doing and being the lovesick suitor is necessary for that 'negative capability' when he (as others have done since) needs to know what its's like to feel and plead for unrequited love.

Some of us practice in the dark, tossing our darts "in your general direction" (Python fans, anyone?), others have willing targets who collect letters as proof of their own worth and esteem among the admiring throng.

Fanny gets too much press. What she needs is a little push.
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Postby Malia » Thu Jan 18, 2007 8:55 pm

bard of passion wrote:I don't know. I get the feeling that Keats was very aware of his posture, public and private, as a poet.

Fanny was a problem. I think he would have gotten over her if he had lived a bit longer. She was a tease and strung beaus along like a gift wrapper at Nordstrom's.

Fanny gets too much press. What she needs is a little push.


Wow, you definitely have some issues with Fanny B. First,
what beaus are these that you talk about? What is your evidence for this statement?

Second, What inspires your image of her? I am inclined to believe she was *less* of a "heartless flirt" than some biographers and Keatsians suggest. Taking things in as practical a manner as possible, one must remember that Fanny was a teenager when she met Keats and a relatively *normal* one for the time. Teenagers often have some social and emotional growing to do--give her a break.


Third, Keats himself was no saint when it came to his behavior around Fanny. He alternately loathed and loved her in such a manner that I have a hard time believing the onus was all on Fanny. Keats's tragic personal history (especially his abandonment issues surrounding his mother) had quite a bit to do with his attitude toward her.

It must be remembered that we don't have any letters from Fanny to Keats--the story that is told is decidedly one-sided from Keats's often obsessed and passionate, and certainly biased point of view. Much of this obsession and passion can be (especially later in their relationship) explined in part by Keats's growing illness--tuburcular infection often affects one's emotional and mental state.
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Postby bard of passion » Thu Jan 18, 2007 9:21 pm

No issues with Fanny.

She was of her time and temper. Keats was too intense (even for what we later readers would term) even for a Romantic. It was the Immovable Object meeting the Irresistable Force.

Brown (I think, I may be in error) wrote of Fanny's flirtatious nature and bent. Keats in many of those letters showed his battle standard to be that of the Green Eyed Goddess.

His FIRST love, for St Pete's sake! He had to get over it or it would have killed him (had he lived, of course) as a poet. Women can kill (the Lamia backstory on all the powers of love) and they can inspire as the Muses we men want them to be.

Didn't Fanny marry a man 15 or so years her junior?? Hhhmmm, seems like she knew how to market her wiles. And didn't she at one time live near Army barracks and attend dances there, while letting Keats know about these soirees???
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Postby bard of passion » Thu Jan 18, 2007 9:26 pm

Help me, O help me, Malia.

There is a line from one of his letters about women and love.

Dang! I'm going off on a lark. Be back in a bit (or two bits)

I married my first love. I am still married. I have no problem with Fanny. I just think given all the circumstances (and you alluded to and mentioned some) and their respective personalities, I think it's overblown by many Keatsians (??!!)

And I DONT think a movie based upon their "tragic" love affair will punch a lot of tickets outside of us camp followers.
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Postby bard of passion » Thu Jan 18, 2007 9:30 pm

I found it!

"Women love to be forced to do a thing, by a fine fellow."
(to Woodhouse)

Speaks volumes on modern psychological profiles of the "bad boy" allure to good women.

By "fine fellow," I think he means one with good looks, tall (so important to our hero), and with the funds to spend on them.
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Postby Malia » Thu Jan 18, 2007 9:31 pm

bard of passion wrote:No issues with Fanny.



Hmm. . .seems to me like you do--or maybe it's just with women in general. . .



Brown (I think, I may be in error) wrote of Fanny's flirtatious nature and bent.


Please give us a quote or something--I'm pretty sure Brown did not make these statments.

Women can kill (the Lamia backstory on all the powers of love) and they can inspire as the Muses we men want them to be.


And men cannot "kill" in the game of love? What is this mystique about women and "wiles" that can kill men? Oy, haven't we moved past all that? :roll:

Didn't Fanny marry a man 15 or so years her junior?? Hhhmmm, seems like she knew how to market her wiles.


Ok, I don't know what "wiles" have to do with marrying a man who was younger than she. She married YEARS after Keats's death and as far as anyone knows, she was not a whore before or after she married.

And didn't she at one time live near Army barracks and attend dances there, while letting Keats know about these soirees???


Attending a dance and talking about what went on does not equate to flirting relentlessly or having an affair. Fanny also went to dances at Maria Dilkes and Keats knew about those, too.
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