Keats and Buddhism?

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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Malia » Wed Jun 02, 2010 3:07 pm

If I remember correctly, Severn also read to Keats specifically from the book of Job. I've been reading it in my Old Testament class and I must admit, when Job laments about why he should be so struck down and even seeks out revenge against God, I can't help but think of poor Keats on his deathbed . . .
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby BrokenLyre » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:20 pm

Yes, I agree Malia, there are some superb passages in the book of Job that remind me of Keats as well.

Job wrote: "May the day of my birth perish, and the night it was said 'A boy is born!' " (Job 3:1), and "Man is born for trouble as surely as sparks fly upward" (Job 5:7).

Keats wrote to Fanny B., "The time is passed when I had power to advise and warn you against the unpromising morning of my life."

The 'unpromising morning of my life' - that just complements Job's feeling so well I think. And there are many other passages in Job like this. I am sure that Keats read Job and was certainly familiar with its themes. It makes me wonder what he really thought.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:43 pm

Where is the reference that Joseph Severn read from Job to John? I haven't seen that anywhere. I know he also read to him from some novels.
John....you did not live to see-
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what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Malia » Wed Jun 02, 2010 5:45 pm

I believe I saw that reference in one of the biographies, Raphael--either the Ward or the Gittings, most likely. I don't have the books in front of me right now in order to double check. It wouldn't surprise me if he *did* read Job to Keats, though, reference or not.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Wed Jun 02, 2010 6:31 pm

Malia wrote:I believe I saw that reference in one of the biographies, Raphael--either the Ward or the Gittings, most likely. I don't have the books in front of me right now in order to double check. It wouldn't surprise me if he *did* read Job to Keats, though, reference or not.


How do they know that? From one of Joseph Severn's memoirs?
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Malia » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:27 pm

I'm not sure, Raphael. Perhaps there is no direct evidence--and I retract my statement that Severn actually read Job to Keats, if that is the case. I *will* claim that, were any of the Bible read to Keats at this time, Job would be a realistic place for them to go. In many respects it is the story of bad things happening to good people, and Keats often asked "Why is this happening?" (paraphrase from one of Severn's letters, here) while on his deathbed.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Wed Jun 02, 2010 7:46 pm

Malia wrote:I'm not sure, Raphael. Perhaps there is no direct evidence--and I retract my statement that Severn actually read Job to Keats, if that is the case. I *will* claim that, were any of the Bible read to Keats at this time, Job would be a realistic place for them to go. In many respects it is the story of bad things happening to good people, and Keats often asked "Why is this happening?" (paraphrase from one of Severn's letters, here) while on his deathbed.


It would make sense if John wanted Severn to read him something from the Bible, yes. It's heartbreaking to read the part of Joseph's account when John asks "Why is this?" calls himself a "miserbale wretch" and says he has always been good to people.Joseph also reported that John said to him he thought his friend's faith was the way he could stand to watch the suffering and then asked him to find the J Taylor book.I can imagine that during those last horrid 2 months John wanted to understand why he was dying of this cruel disease, when he had been a good person and had so much to offer.
My philosophy is that there is no answer, sadly. It's the nature of physical life to be born and die. Harsh but it is so. Doesn't make it less painful and at the opposite end less beautiful- the flower blooms, looks and smells divine then fades away to fertilise the ground.
John....you did not live to see-
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Cybele » Wed Jun 02, 2010 11:32 pm

BrokenLyre wrote:The books you refer to that Keats was reading in Italy were Jeremy Taylor's "The Rule and Exercise of Holy Living" (1650) and "The Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying" (1651). These are rare and expensive books these days - and a bit hard to find.

Obviously Keats was reading Taylor to find some comfort in his last days.


I've looked through Jeremy Taylor, thinking I might find something "redeeming" in his works. (I think it was late 19th century reprint -- or maybe just excerpts. It was a long time ago.) I really found little that was at all inspiring.

There is this: http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english ... or-1-4.pdf
but again -- it's just highlights.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:25 am

Cybele wrote:
BrokenLyre wrote:The books you refer to that Keats was reading in Italy were Jeremy Taylor's "The Rule and Exercise of Holy Living" (1650) and "The Rule and Exercise of Holy Dying" (1651). These are rare and expensive books these days - and a bit hard to find.

Obviously Keats was reading Taylor to find some comfort in his last days.


I've looked through Jeremy Taylor, thinking I might find something "redeeming" in his works. (I think it was late 19th century reprint -- or maybe just excerpts. It was a long time ago.) I really found little that was at all inspiring.

There is this: http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english ... or-1-4.pdf
but again -- it's just highlights.


Thanks for that Cybele- I've saved it to my favourites. Have you read Holy Dying? Was there anything nice in it? I mean comforting or uplifting?
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Cybele » Sat Jun 05, 2010 6:53 pm

Raphael wrote:[
Thanks for that Cybele- I've saved it to my favourites. Have you read Holy Dying? Was there anything nice in it? I mean comforting or uplifting?


I've not read "Holy dying." And, no -- I'm sorry to say nothing stood out as particularly comforting in what I've read of Jeremy Taylor. (I've also not read a great deal of his stuff.) I believe one can find wisdom where one looks for it (and in very unlikely places) but I'm at a loss to explain how somebody would be attracted to these books.

But, Hokey Smokes -- look what I just found: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/taylor/holy_dying.toc.html

I just now grabbed a random sentence from the text. I don't know about you, but an axiom like "As our life is very short, so it is very miserable; and therefore it is well it is short," doesn't do a whole lot to cheer me. :roll:
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Saturn » Sat Jun 05, 2010 7:05 pm

Nothing new in that, the Greeks had similar notions:

"...Not to be born is best
when all is reckoned in, but once a man has seen the light
the next best thing, by far, is to go back
back where he came from, quickly as he can.
For once his youth slips by, light on the wing
lightheaded…what mortal blows can he escape
what griefs wont stalk his days?
Envy and enemies, rage and battles, bloodshed
and last of all despised old age overtakes him,
stripped of power, companions, stripped of love-
the worst this life of pain can offer,
old age our mate at last.”
-Sophocles, Oedipus At Colonus

Not very cheery, but live can be for some a vale of troubles, with no end in sight but the body's demise. it's just as valid an outlook as the religious who grasp for comfort in another life after this with only faith to anchor them.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby BrokenLyre » Sat Jun 05, 2010 7:30 pm

Cybele,

Thanks for finding these sites on J. Taylor. This may be obvious to us all but I think it is important to keep in mind (when reading Taylor) that the average lifespan for people born in 1800 was about 44 years. I know as a fact that the average Lifespan for an American in 1900 was 47.3 years (well established). It was less for those born in 1800.

We can't appreciate how painfully difficult life was prior to the 1940's I think. When we consider living every day with the constant mystery of diseases, the endless suffering of family members, the common funerals attended, It's a wonder anybody had joy at all.

My own great grandmother had 12 kids. One died at 1 day old. One died at 4 years old. One died at 12 years old. One died at 27 years old. The other 8 died in their fifties/sixties and only one lived to old age (90). If you have to bury 4 of your lovely children (not including miscarriages) how does this shape your framework on life? How does this shape your perspective, your hopes, your expectations on life? How does this affect your responses to life's hardships?

I think it is impossible for us who live in the comforts of the Western World, to really taste the fears, the heartaches, the mysteries of simple disease(!), and the trauma of living in the 1800's or earlier eras. Perhaps that's why my ancestors in 1865 are never smiling in their photographs :) My point is that Taylor's work and Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy" were written in a different era characterized by deep, incessant fears that we no longer possess (I mean fear of diseases like polio, TB, small pox and fears of dying at 40 years of age, etc...). A look at the Bubonic plague will evidence this.

In a similar vein, it is interesting to note the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism (written in 1563):

"What is your only comfort in life and in death?"

The second question is:

"What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?"

The first two questions involve handling death. And this catechism was taught to children! So yes, disease, dying and death were deeply entrenched in people's thinking about life. (This is to say nothing of religious persecution in 1563). And this reality, I think, called forth books that tried to comfort people amidst the constant suffering of life. But as I said, this is obvious I'm sure to us today. So I cut Keats and Taylor and Burton some slack :)
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:31 pm

I've not read "Holy dying." And, no -- I'm sorry to say nothing stood out as particularly comforting in what I've read of Jeremy Taylor. (I've also not read a great deal of his stuff.) I believe one can find wisdom where one looks for it (and in very unlikely places) but I'm at a loss to explain how somebody would be attracted to these books.

But, Hokey Smokes -- look what I just found: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/taylor/holy_dying.toc.html

I just now grabbed a random sentence from the text. I don't know about you, but an axiom like "As our life is very short, so it is very miserable; and therefore it is well it is short," doesn't do a whole lot to cheer me. :roll:



Thanks Cybele! I saved it to my favourites and had a brief look-didn't look comforting to me either.But then I'm from a completely different spiritual tradition that J Taylor's.
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Raphael » Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:44 pm

We can't appreciate how painfully difficult life was prior to the 1940's I think. When we consider living every day with the constant mystery of diseases, the endless suffering of family members, the common funerals attended, It's a wonder anybody had joy at all.


True Broken Lyre- but this is only the Western part of the world- it's still like this for many people in other countries.
And not forgetting that we still have scourges today- cancer, AIDS, MS, fibromalgyia etc. There are still incurable diseases.I have to live with painful eczema- the doctors send me away with useless creams that don't work.



I think it is impossible for us who live in the comforts of the Western World, to really taste the fears, the heartaches, the mysteries of simple disease(!), and the trauma of living in the 1800's or earlier eras. Perhaps that's why my ancestors in 1865 are never smiling in their photographs :) My point is that Taylor's work and Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy" were written in a different era characterized by deep, incessant fears that we no longer possess (I mean fear of diseases like polio, TB, small pox and fears of dying at 40 years of age, etc...). A look at the Bubonic plague will evidence this.



Yes..true..but most of us fear cancer now. I read 1 in 3 people will get it in the Western world- that is our current, biggest health fear today. I think people in general still do fear death but it's not a constant- it is there when one gets one of the modern incurable diseases or when one is elderly.

But I'm still surprised that people like Taylor didn't write of the comforts of heaven etc- surely to give people some hope would be more comforting than to write of sin? Maybe he did and I haven't seen that bit- I'm just responding from having a quick look.


In a similar vein, it is interesting to note the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism (written in 1563):

"What is your only comfort in life and in death?"

The second question is:

"What must you know to live and die in the joy of this comfort?"




I think these could still apply to today. The amount of miserable people I see today doesn't make me think people are much happier than back in the 1800's despite the improvements in home comforts and advancements in hospitals. I remember someone complaining quite loudly in a supermarket queue a while back ( because it was long) and I said in a jolly tone something like- "Well I suppose someone in Africa with no food, money and dirty water to drink would love to be in this queue right now with a trolley full of food!"
John....you did not live to see-
who we are because of what you left,
what it is we are in what we make of you.

Peter Sanson, 1995.
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Re: Keats and Buddhism?

Postby Cybele » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:12 am

BrokenLyre wrote:[snip]
This may be obvious to us all but I think it is important to keep in mind (when reading Taylor) that the average lifespan for people born in 1800 was about 44 years. I know as a fact that the average Lifespan for an American in 1900 was 47.3 years (well established). It was less for those born in 1800.

We can't appreciate how painfully difficult life was prior to the 1940's I think. When we consider living every day with the constant mystery of diseases, the endless suffering of family members, the common funerals attended, It's a wonder anybody had joy at all.

My own great grandmother had 12 kids. One died at 1 day old. One died at 4 years old. One died at 12 years old. One died at 27 years old. The other 8 died in their fifties/sixties and only one lived to old age (90). If you have to bury 4 of your lovely children (not including miscarriages) how does this shape your framework on life? How does this shape your perspective, your hopes, your expectations on life? How does this affect your responses to life's hardships?

I think it is impossible for us who live in the comforts of the Western World, to really taste the fears, the heartaches, the mysteries of simple disease(!), and the trauma of living in the 1800's or earlier eras. Perhaps that's why my ancestors in 1865 are never smiling in their photographs :) My point is that Taylor's work and Burton's "Anatomy of Melancholy" were written in a different era characterized by deep, incessant fears that we no longer possess (I mean fear of diseases like polio, TB, small pox and fears of dying at 40 years of age, etc...). A look at the Bubonic plague will evidence this. [snip]


You're absolutely right, Broken Lyre. My family's experience was similar to yours. All of my grandparents left Europe not so much because of the promise of the New World but because of near-famine and political upheaval. One of my grandmothers had 7 children, only three lived to adulthood (and one little girl died on the boat bound for America), and she had married three times and was widowed three times. Three of my grandparents died from TB -- none of them were terribly old.

I love reading old journals and letters from the 18th, 19th and even early 20th centuries. It gives you a genuine feel for history; what people were thinking and feeling; what and whom they loved; even what they were growing in their gardens and eating for dinner. I find this much more interesting than reading about battles and political intrigue! In those letters and journals, you can't help but notice how much sickness and suffering there was. High infant and maternal mortality and short life expectancies were realities, but there was a great deal of everyday suffering too -- miserable toothaches, sore throats that couldn't be shaken, etc. I can't believe that parents were any less distraught over the death of a child than they are now, and the deaths of children were much more common in past centuries.

Even in the best of times, Death was lurking around the nearest corner, or waiting for you on the front porch. (I doubt many people "Called him soft names. . .")

I've wondered if joy was more intense because there was so much grief, or -- more likely -- if every joy was diluted by worry over a possible calamity.
Last edited by Cybele on Tue Jun 08, 2010 1:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
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