Poems to Keats

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

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Postby bard of passion » Thu Jan 18, 2007 9:45 pm

Yikes! :oops:

I didn't realize we had a corps of Fannyites among the Royal Hampsteaders!

Sorry, Malia, but I fell under the Fanny spell as an earlier admirer of Keats and all those other poets he (in some subliminal manner) pushed me towards.

I know courtship was different then. I know expectations were different then (did not Fanny's mother disapprove of Fanny and John, primarily because of his lack of prospects?).

But look to his letters on Fanny. Not "to" Fanny but when he first writes of her. A hypersensitive, insecure poet falling for the first young woman he feels comfortable with: not the makings for a successful lovelife. In my opinion, of course!

I would not deign to presume too much here, but I did give my view about that Fanny which looms large in front of every question about Keats' mental and creative welfare during his last 3 years.

What you and I may see as not worthy of report or comment, to someone like a Keats it may become an overwhelming bother.

Do you really believe Fanny to be, at that time, knowing what we know (forget her letters, I will guarantee that if anything they were short and coquettish) 'good' for him?
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Postby Malia » Thu Jan 18, 2007 10:01 pm

I don't consider myself to be a "Fannyite"--i.e. someone who thinks she was some perfect being because *no one* is perfect. However, I think that you're swinging to exactly the opposite extreme. Have you ever read Fanny Brawne's letters to Fanny Keats? I highly recommend going through them to get a first person idea of Fanny as a fully human person. She certainly was a frank talker and quite a practical person. She cared for Keats in a practical way. But she certainly cared about him--her letters to Fanny Keats express that.

I agree with you that Keats and Fanny probably wouldn't have made a good pair. Frankly, I don't think Keats was the ideal suitor or would have been a very good husband. Still, he was quite young and ill with TB during most of his love-affair with Fanny. These things need to be taken into account when considering their affair.
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Postby dks » Fri Jan 19, 2007 1:49 am

I agree, Malia, that since the only record which survives in offering any glimpse into Fanny Brawne's temperment and disposition is the epistolary ouvre between her and Fanny Keats (Llanos), it is a solid starting point in examining her character.

I've never in all my years of studying and reading Keats heard of the theory which surmises that he declared his love for Fanny in his letters to her for some semblance of future (or posthumous) recognition. I would have to say that he would roll over in his "low, grassy tomb" over that declaration. I say this only because even though Keats's attachment to Fanny was indeed probably quite a bit more serious than hers was to him, I truly think that given his nature that very fact only aided in fueling his fire for her. It made him want to possess her even more--that genuine, raw immediacy is clearly evident in the 1820 letters. To say otherwise is to, I think, undermine the very same genuine immediacy which epitomizes his work--especially the Odes--it also undermines the very qualities which render Keats a true Romantic...and I just couldn't bring myself to do that--not because I love him so much, but simply because the evidence doesn't suggest it.
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Postby bard of passion » Fri Jan 19, 2007 2:29 am

dks wrote:I agree, Malia, that since the only record which survives in offering any glimpse into Fanny Brawne's temperment and disposition is the epistolary ouvre between her and Fanny Keats (Llanos), it is a solid starting point in examining her character.


Critics and fans have never stopped trying to "figure out" their favorite's choices in love and life. Witness the gyrations over Shakespeare's Sonnets.

What I was writing about was not so much Fanny as the BAD HAT, but Fanny as the Not Ready For Prime Time Player for Keats. No matter what we think, the fact is that he never (to our knowledge) discussed poetry or poets or his career with her in his letters. They were part of his wooing, his pitch to her. First he can't stand her and writes to others about her appearance. Then he can't stand her coquettishness, her flightiness, then he can't stand not to.

Is that love? Worthy of a movie? Of course: it's the only love our hero had in his short life. But it is not a good love. It is one pursuing and convincing the other to love.

We men do it all the time. The most successful of us are told that we were the hunted all the time. We were too caught up in our passion (the perfect word) to notice is SHE liked us, all we cared about was that WE got her attention and affection.

We don't know a person's character from their work or from a selection of their (highly selective) statements in letters. Look to her children. What did they do after Fanny's death? Why did she keep only some of her correspondence? Where's the missing 18 minutes? (sorry, that dang Watergate stuff pops up every now and then)

I've never in all my years of studying and reading Keats heard of the theory which surmises that he declared his love for Fanny in his letters to her for some semblance of future (or posthumous) recognition. I would have to say that he would roll over in his "low, grassy tomb" over that declaration. I say this only because even though Keats's attachment to Fanny was indeed probably quite a bit more serious than hers was to him, I truly think that given his nature that very fact only aided in fueling his fire for her. It made him want to possess her even more--that genuine, raw immediacy is clearly evident in the 1820 letters. To say otherwise is to, I think, undermine the very same genuine immediacy which epitomizes his work--especially the Odes--it also undermines the very qualities which render Keats a true Romantic...and I just couldn't bring myself to do that--not because I love him so much, but simply because the evidence doesn't suggest it.


I never contended this either. I said Keats was VERY aware of his own persona as a poet and as someone who would be remembered. His posturings were authentic but they were posturings nonetheless. "Here lies one whose name was writ on water."

He did not declare his love for Fanny thinking it "for some semblance of future (or posthumous) recognition." He did it because as I stated, its the 'negative capable' thing to do: dive down as deep as you can and don't come up for air until you've had your fill.

That was Keats' nature: intense and as long lived as a drosophila.

She lasted as long as she did because of the courting customs of the time. Today, John would have moved on within a few months.

It is what it is, but Fanny (regardless of sentiment) was NOT the woman for Keats. Puppy love, maybe, but not true love, not with the kind of kiss that you know is not good enough and you must keep trying to get it right.

Is there any written record of John saying to Fanny, "As you wish"?

I don't think so.
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Postby Saturn » Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:47 am

Can I just say bards of passion that whatever you think or anyone else thinks the truth is we have no real idea if, had he lived, that Fanny and Keats relationship would not have lasted.

It is pure supposition on your part that it would not have gone the distance. They may have had ten kids and have been married for fifty years , but because he died we have no way of knowing.

You can't just make an assumption like that just because you think they weren't a perfect match for each other.

There are many seemingly strange relationships in life which, from the outside, no-one would believe would work but they do.

He declared his love for Fanny not out of some abstract literary principle but because he LOVED her :roll:

Keats was a man, a real person, not solely some conduit for literary progress or poetic truth. His feelings were as real and genuine as any people today and to dismiss them as calf-love is an insult to him and to people like him who fall headlong over heels in love with supposedly the "wrong" person.

How dare you say it was not real love - you have no way of knowing that at all, of knowing how they were with each other in private, what words were whispered and what tenderness exchanged.

What gives you the right to say she was the wrong person?
Who can tell what is right or wrong for one person or another?

Okay in your opinion Fanny may not have been the right person for Keats but you can't arbitrarily say that their relationship was doomed because all you have to go on is Keats words about her and those of his friends who were, as I'm sure you are aware, were more than hostile to the match for purely selfish literary reasons.
They couldn't bear the thought of Keats not writing as much poetry, or his poetry suffering because he was distracted by his affair with Fanny.

Rant over
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Postby dks » Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:24 pm

:shock: Perhaps I misunderstood your assertion, B of P...I have opinions, such as yourself, but I think it may be important not to be too deterministic, as we ultimately have no way of knowing. I wish I were as confident as you with regard to my interpretations of Keats's life...I should research more closely...I always strive to do that anyway...but that's what the forum is for--musing and opining and sharing what we all think and know...intermittent displays of passion are important, too, as this is a Romantic poet's forum...
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Postby bard of passion » Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:33 pm

Riot in Parnassus !

Common Vegetables Thrown at Bard of Passion !

Boos Resonate from the Rafters ! Film at Eleven !!

(AP) In a related story, Professor Pom D'Amorr of the UC Davis College of Agriculture released a statement decrying the common misconception that "tomatos are always referred to as 'common vegetables,' when in fact Lycopersicon esculentum is a fruit."

Now to our cover story:


Saturn wrote:Can I just say bards of passion that whatever you think or anyone else thinks the truth is we have no real idea if, had he lived, that Fanny and Keats relationship would not have lasted.


Well, uh, I think that is what I said in my first posting in answer to Malia's missive: "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."

You see, Saturn, I know that I am a mere satellite, but I didn't say that "the truth is" such and such. As a fan of Keats (did I need to give my academic credentials before registering with this site??), I thought to give my opinion, my supposition about the planned upcoming movie on their "love affair." I didn't think there was enough to merit a big production. Look at the love affair of Heloise and Abelard and the fantastic letters we have, yet, the most recent movie about them fizzled.

Again, I said "I get the feeling" not "I know for a fact."


It is pure supposition on your part that it would not have gone the distance. They may have had ten kids and have been married for fifty years , but because he died we have no way of knowing.


No disagreement here. You are repeating what I have already surmised: if he had lived he would have either moved on (what I think) or his poetry would have suffered and (what I think) his marriage with Fanny would have fizzled.

You can't just make an assumption like that just because you think they weren't a perfect match for each other.


I made it as Malia and dks and you and all others make it: from our impressions of what we read and think and from our experiences in life: our own and those friends and family we know.

These assumptions are made everyday, even on this website. I apologize if I have desecrated the sanctum sanctorum of the shrine, but reading the notes and other marginalia in books that Keats owned or was in possession of leads me to believe he was an extremely intense writer who devoured STYLE as much as CONTENT and forever (in his too short life) experimenting with both to our delight (witness his Odes, his sonnets, some of the longer pieces).

There are many seemingly strange relationships in life which, from the outside, no-one would believe would work but they do.

He declared his love for Fanny not out of some abstract literary principle but because he LOVED her :roll:


And I am sure (tongue planted firmly in cheek) that his declaration for love is of the same type as mine or yours (I am assuming here something for purposes of illustration only: no offense meant) or Malia's or dks's or that banned Richard.

Keats was a man, a real person, not solely some conduit for literary progress or poetic truth. His feelings were as real and genuine as any people today and to dismiss them as calf-love is an insult to him and to people like him who fall headlong over heels in love with supposedly the "wrong" person.


The 'conduit' image was in relation to his place in the English literary tradition: his use of the ballad form, the sonnet, the epic and Ode. Those in that pantheon of literature build upon the best (sometimes by taking the worst -from minor writers) and continue the song.

Puppy love is not an insult. Some of us get over it. Some of us never get out of it even after years of marriage.

How dare you say it was not real love - you have no way of knowing that at all, of knowing how they were with each other in private, what words were whispered and what tenderness exchanged.


I did not say "it was not real love," and you, Saturn, owe me an apology here.

To quote Malia: "I am inclined to believe she was less of a "heartless flirt" than some biographers and Keatsians suggest."
The subject wasn't the value of his love or her love or their mutual love, the subject (as I began it) was my impression that Keats delved into everything as if that was all it mattered. Then he moved on. Look as his growth as a poet from his first book to The Eve of St Agne's and Other Poems. He admitted to Shelley that Shelley was indeed correct: that he should not have published those first poems as they were. This bespeaks his approach to all things to me. He dives in, head first, come hell or high water (love those cliches!)

What gives you the right to say she was the wrong person?
Who can tell what is right or wrong for one person or another?


This would be a pretty thin website if no one was allowed to express opinions.

Malia does, and not a complaint is forthcoming from you: "Keats's tragic personal history (especially his abandonment issues surrounding his mother) had quite a bit to do with his attitude towards her."

Hhhmmm, a lot of PRE suppostions going on here! Do we compare notes about who among us has had a more "tragic personal history"? Takers anyone? I buried two children and one granddaughter, does that qualify me to talk about Keats?
"Abandonment issues"? I don't remember reading Keats' Psychiatric files in college. "[H]is attitude towards her"? Now, where IS THAT one found??!! I thought I mentioned some of these 'attitudes' towards Fanny in his early letters about her?

Okay in your opinion Fanny may not have been the right person for Keats but you can't arbitrarily say that their relationship was doomed because all you have to go on is Keats words about her and those of his friends who were, as I'm sure you are aware, were more than hostile to the match for purely selfish literary reasons.


They couldn't bear the thought of Keats not writing as much poetry, or his poetry suffering because he was distracted by his affair with Fanny.


Well, thank you, kind administrator! You came around from "whatever you think or anyone else thinks the truth is" to "Okay in your opinion." No comment here.

"[F]or purely selfish literary reasons." Oops. Comment here. You're taking that BIG leap you have accused me of doing. Where is it written that Brown or Hunt or anyone else did not like Fanny because for Keats to 'love' her would result in Keats not writing or not writing quality work?

Tsk tsk, you're beginning to sound like my brother: Bard of Mirth.


Rant over
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Postby dks » Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:54 pm

Oh, wait, B of P. Now, now...the latest Abelard and Heloise movie panned because they didn't have the right director...that gorgeous story could be featured so well on film...we should petition Ms. Campion about that, too...I fear I am the one who set the tone for the current pissing contest with regard to the bashing of the scholars' minds--that wasn't my intention, I apologize...one thing is certain--no one can say after reading these posts that we are not passionate about Keats...and somehow, around the back porch, and inadvertently down the side streets--that's a good thing...it emphasizes the touchstone of this fantastic forum.
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Postby bard of passion » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:36 pm

dks,

Good feint for the big guy, but I want Saturn to respond to his fists of flurry.

The point seems to have been missed. Maybe, in my opinion, like your statement that Stealing Heaven flopped because of the director, Clive Donner.

I would think the screenwriter (Christ Bryant) or the novel by Marion Meade upon which it was snipped and pasted would be the true failing.

Pierre Abelard left us (in latin, granted) a book telling of the whole affair with Heloise.

She was not shy about the reasons of its origins, either.

Still, as passion and love and that whole enchilada goes, any film which tells this story SHOULD be a blockbuster.

And we now come full circle to the Keats-Brawne movie. What passion (except the reflection of Keats' 'fits and starts' and painful letters) can Fanny bring to the set?

Well, even if its filmed in England (or NZ), it's 'all Hollywood' and it's all in the casting. (Get a babe for a costume drama, even if the historical events [the recent Beethoven movie] do not support this 'interpretation.')

I like a good roll in the opinionated hay as much as the next Tom, Dick and Sherry. But no one likes getting the fork in the backside for reasons unfounded.

Most of what I said concerning love in the context of this discussion was done with a little wink (Princess Bride reference, for one). Our Saturnine friend, of all peeps, should have seen that.

dks, do you think Keats had Fanny in mind when he wrote 'The Devon Maid?' (ye tight little fairy, just fresh from the dairy, would you give me some cream if I ask it?) I'll put dinner at Cafe Annie's in Houston on it! Or Milagro's, or Cafe Express.
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Postby Malia » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:58 pm

bard of passion wrote:dks, do you think Keats had Fanny in mind when he wrote 'The Devon Maid?' (ye tight little fairy, just fresh from the dairy, would you give me some cream if I ask it?) I'll put dinner at Cafe Annie's in Houston on it! Or Milagro's, or Cafe Express.


I'm not dks, but I have an answer for this one :)

Keats did not write this about Fanny B. He didn't even know her when he wrote it. He was living in Devonshire with his brother Tom at the time--he met Fanny months later, after his trip to Scotland with Charles Brown.
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Postby bard of passion » Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:04 pm

Thank you, Malia, but it was meant in jest in light of the prior postings about the 'what if' speculations re John and Fanny.
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Postby Credo Buffa » Sat Mar 31, 2007 1:03 pm

I just found a poem in Music and Letters from 1936 by May Sarton, and thought that it might be of interest to you all. I know I've personally thought quite a bit about the similarities between these two, but here someone else has recognized it and written a poem about it!

For Keats and Mozart

When human hands, the hands of the living, have failed you,
Served only to vanquish and brought no peace,
Then turn to the dead for your courage, for your heart's ease.
They are yours forever: the words man has invented
Against shame and sorrow and all failure.
Listen to the young men building out of despair
Their great symphonic cities.
Listen to the young men making for human grief
A cup of words, and be sustained by them.
This is the mercy, the comfort you will find nowhere
Among the living, the fallible, the beautiful destroyers.
Put your faith in the dead through words and music glowing
Who will never change.
Lift up your hearts to the young dead.
They will give you knowledge of
Something like love
(O to be comforted!)
They will be the hosts to your pain,
The wine and the bread,
The pillow under your head:
Give praise to those who are dead
Who have created
With human breath
Something outside of life, outside of death--
The heart translated.
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Postby Malia » Sat Mar 31, 2007 4:11 pm

Credo Buffa wrote:I just found a poem in Music and Letters from 1936 by May Sarton, and thought that it might be of interest to you all. I know I've personally thought quite a bit about the similarities between these two, but here someone else has recognized it and written a poem about it!


Absolutely wonderful poem, Credo! And it holds a great truth, I think. Certainly there are hints in it that art lives forever and it allows the artist to, as well, long after he is loosed from this mortal coil. That is one of the things I've always enjoyed about literature. I remember (and I think I must have said this on the forum before) when I was a freshman in my undergrad English program and one of my professors told the class that we should always address works of literature in the present tense because, while the authors who wrote them may be dead and gone and past, the works themselves live forever. They live because we participate in thier living--by reading, analyzing and discussing them, we continue to keep them alive--we help the authors who wrote them carry these works through centuries of life. I love that idea of participating in a great truth. . .in helping literature live. In that way, we are in a sense actively "dancing" or at least holding hands through time with those great authors (and artists) from the past. The same could certainly be said for mucisians and composers. Every time you play or listen to a piece of Mozart, you participate in keeping the music present--alive--although the man who wrote it is long dead and gone. So interesting.

I would go on to say that this is true even for regular folk like you and me. When we are our best selves in living, that positive energy is often taken up by others after we've passed on and that energy continues to feed the world as long as others actively participate in it. Of course, I'd like to use my current favorite example of this--Brian Piccolo, the old Bears football player. Brian played football 40 years ago and only played 4 seasons (less than four, actually). He wasn't famous, per se, and although he was a fine football player, he didn't do anything glorious on the field. BUT he lived a good life. He was a wonderful person (on and off the field) and genuinely cared about EVERYONE he met. I have absolutely never read a bad word about this guy from anyone anywhere. Just by the virtue of the fact that he lived a good life, even though he died when he was only 26, his family and friends carried on that positive energy he exuded to everyone he met. They started the first real "celebrity-inspired" cancer foundation (Lance Armstrong and others followed in the tradition) and people who never knew him, who were born long after he died--kids who go to his college, Wake Forest--raise something like $60,000 a year in dances and bake sales for cancer research in his name. I guess what I want to say in all of this is, although a person may be dead, with the help of us--the living--a great legacy can be engendered and live for a long time after the person is gone. That could be through art and literature or through foundations--or just by passing along a positive attitude. :)
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Postby Malia » Wed Feb 13, 2008 6:02 pm

Here is a poem I'd read a long, long time ago and recently decided to track down and read again. It is a little long, but I highly recommend it as a great poem that utilizes Keats as a subject and metaphor--it also cleverly alludes to several of his odes.

A KUMQUAT FOR JOHN KEATS
By Tony Harrison


Today I found the right fruit for my prime,
not orange, not tangelo, and not lime,
nor moon-like globes of grapefruit that now hang
outside our bedroom, nor tart lemon's tang
(though last year full of bile and self-defeat
I wanted to believe no life was sweet)
nor the tangible sunshine of the tangerine,
and no incongruous citrus ever seen
at greengrocers' in Newcastle or Leeds
mis-spelt by the spuds and mud-caked swedes,
a fruit an older poet might substitute
for the grape John Keats thought fit to be Joy's fruit,
when, two years before he died, he tried to write
how Melancholy dwelled inside Delight,
and if he'd known the citrus that I mean
that's not orange, lemon, lime, or tangerine,
I'm pretty sure that Keats, though he had heard
'of candied apple, quince and plum and gourd'
instead of 'grape against the palate fine'
would have, if he'd known it, plumped for mine,
this Eastern citrus scarcely cherry size
he'd bite just once and then apostrophize
and pen one stanza how the fruit had all
the qualities of fruit before the Fall,
but in the next few lines be forced to write
how Eve's apple tasted at the second bite,
and if John Keats had only lived to be,
because of extra years, in need like me,
at 42 he'd help me celebrate
that Micanopy kumquat that I ate
whole, straight off the tree, sweet pulp and sour skin-
or was it sweet outside, and sour within?
For however many kumquats that I eat
I'm not sure if it's flesh or rind that's sweet,
and being a man of doubt at life's mid-way
I'd offer Keats some kumquats and I'd say:

You'll find that one part's sweet and one part's tart:
say where the sweetness or the sourness start.

I find I can't, as if one couldn't say
exactly where the night became the day,
which makes for me the kumquat taken whole
best fruit, and metaphor, to fit the soul
of one in Florida at 42 with Keats
crunching kumquats, thinking, as he eats
the flesh, the juice, the pith, the pips, the peel,
that this is how a full life ought to feel,
its perishable relish prick the tongue,
when the man who savours life 's no longer young,
the fruits that were his futures far behind.
Then it's the kumquat fruit expresses best
how days have darkness round them like a rind,
life has a skin of death that keeps its zest.

History, a life, the heart, the brain
flow to the taste buds and flow back again.
That decade or more past Keats's span
makes me an older not a wiser man,
who knows that it's too late for dying young,
but since youth leaves some sweetnesses unsung,
he's granted days and kumquats to express
Man's Being ripened by his Nothingness.
And it isn't just the gap of sixteen years,
a bigger crop of terrors, hopes and fears,
but a century of history on this earth
between John Keats's death and my own birth-
years like an open crater, gory, grim,
with bloody bubbles leering at the rim;
a thing no bigger than an urn explodes
and ravishes all silence, and all odes,
Flora asphyxiated by foul air
unknown to either Keats or Lemprière,
dehydrated Naiads, Dryad amputees
dragging themselves through slagscapes with no trees,
a shirt of Nessus fire that gnaws and eats
children half the age of dying Keats . . .

Now were you twenty five or six years old
when that fevered brow at last grew cold?
I've got no books to hand to check the dates.
My grudging but glad spirit celebrates
that all I've got to hand 's the kumquats, John,
the fruit I'd love to have your verdict on,
but dead men don't eat kumquats, or drink wine,
they shiver in the arms of Prosperine,
not warm in bed beside their Fanny Brawne,
nor watch her pick ripe grapefruit in the dawn
as I did, waking, when I saw her twist,
with one deft movement of a sunburnt wrist,
the moon, that feebly lit our last night's walk
past alligator swampland, off its stalk.
I thought of moon-juice juleps when I saw,
as if I'd never seen the moon before,
the planet glow among the fruit, and its pale light
make each citrus on the tree its satellite.

Each evening when I reach to draw the blind
stars seem the light zest squeezed through night's black rind;
the night's peeled fruit the sun, juiced of its rays,
first stains, then streaks, then floods the world with days,
days, when the very sunlight made me weep,
days, spent like the nights in deep, drugged sleep,
days in Newcastle by my daughter's bed,
wondering if she, or I, weren't better dead,
days in Leeds, grey days, my first dark suit,
my mother's wreaths stacked next to Christmas fruit,
and days, like this in Micanopy. Days!

As strong sun burns away the dawn's grey haze
I pick a kumquat and the branches spray
cold dew in my face to start the day.
The dawn's molasses make the citrus gleam
still in the orchards of the groves of dream.

The limes, like Galway after weeks of rain,
glow with a greenness that is close to pain,
the dew-cooled surfaces of fruit that spent
all last night flaming in the firmament.
The new day dawns. O days! My spirit greets
the kumquat with the spirit of John Keats.
O kumquat, comfort for not dying young,
both sweet and bitter, bless the poet's tongue!
I burst the whole fruit chilled by morning dew
against my palate. Fine, for 42!

I search for buzzards as the air grows clear
and see them ride fresh thermals overhead.
Their bleak cries were the first sound I could hear
when I stepped at the start of sunrise out of doors,
and a noise like last night's bedsprings on our bed
from Mr Fowler sharpening farmers' saws.
Stay Awake!
--Anthony deMello
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Malia
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Postby Saturn » Wed Feb 13, 2008 6:17 pm

I swear you've posted that before Malia, I recognise the title.
"Oh what a misery it is to have an intellect in splints".
Saturn
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