The Friend of Keats

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

Moderators: Saturn, Malia

The Friend of Keats

Postby Malia » Sat Jan 26, 2013 7:17 am

I reread the eulogy that Charles Cowden Clarke was said to have written anonymously after Keats's death and was moved by this statement:

"You have plunged into the gulf, but your golden sandals remain."

The image speaks right to the heart of Keats's legacy. His physical presence has disappeared into the mysterious sea of death, but the "golden sandals" of his poetry and his letters--and the impact he had on those who knew him--remained. Almost immediately after he died, requesting that he be forgotten by all, his friends did the opposite--with deep and dedicated passion.

It amazes me how Keats influenced so many friends to the point that at least three of them (Reynolds, Brown, and Severn) would have his name included on their own tombstones. What is it do you think that drew them to Keats? What constituted his "everlasting spell"?

What draws you most to Keats? What spell does he hold over you?
Stay Awake!
--Anthony deMello
User avatar
Malia
Forum Administrator
 
Posts: 1606
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2004 12:55 am
Location: Washington State, USA

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Raphael » Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:45 am

It amazes me how Keats influenced so many friends to the point that at least three of them (Reynolds, Brown, and Severn) would have his name included on their own tombstones. What is it do you think that drew them to Keats? What constituted his "everlasting spell"?



I think many things Malia- a generous, intelligent, interesting and witty personality. Loyal friend. Great talent, and perhaps above all a somewhat magical aura about him. Perhaps charisma too.


What draws you most to Keats? What spell does he hold over you?


Although not being back in 1818 or so to witness the above, from the descriptions of him by his friends and especially Cowden Clarke's I can imagine what they saw. The poems, the letters which are intelligent, insightful, funny, clever and interesting.
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.
User avatar
Raphael
Milton
 
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:10 pm
Location: wandering Keats' poetry

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Ennis » Wed Jan 30, 2013 2:22 am

I have to agree with Raphael. Even the sad-beyond-bearing pathos of his life: such a young genius taken away too soon, believing he had died without producing the verse that would immortalize him. I suppose the irony of such a life as his is captivating (and, as stated before, unbearably sad). However, I think Fanny Brawne expressed it best (and who else would be best able to?):

""I cannot tell you how much every one have exerted themselves for him, nor how much he is liked, which is the more wonderful, as he is the last person to exert himself to gain people's friendships. I am certain he has some spell that attaches them to him. . . ."

Ben Whishaw also expressed an answer to your question, Malia, in one of the several interviews when Bright Star was released (at Cannes?). I don't remember which interview or specifically what he said, I just remember being impressed with his answer. It might even be one of the interviews that's an extra feature on the Bright Star dvd. Seems to me, Campion addresses the same topic, too.

No matter what the draw, once one has fallen under Keats's spell, it's impossible to shake him away. But who in their right mind would want to? (Are we all in our right minds. . . ? If not, do we care? Emphatically NO!!))
"But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, 'twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures." JK to FB 08.07.1819
User avatar
Ennis
Calidore
 
Posts: 387
Joined: Sun May 16, 2010 2:24 am
Location: Not where (or when) I want to be.

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Cybele » Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:40 am

What a wonderfully thought-provoking question, Malia!
I've also been impressed that his friends opted to put on their own tombstones that Keats had been their friend.

What spell does he hold over me?
Almost 30 years ago I read his poems (after searching the local public library's shelves for something different to read) and somewhat accidentally came across The Letters. As great an achievement as the poetry is, it is The Letters that got me completely and totally hooked. Made breathless by both the depth of thought expressed, and discovering what a normal person the writer had been, I almost mourned the fact that our lives were separated by so many years. Here was someone I wanted to go have a beer with, talk books with, watch baseball games with and get silly with. Indeed, after my third journey through the letters, I considered the guy my friend. And I still do -- altho' our conversations are necessarily a little one-sided. :lol:

I've often remarked that Keats taught me to love poetry the way Sandy Koufax taught me to love baseball. (I'm really dating myself with this remark, but it's true.) Once, I'm a bit embarrassed to say, I hated poetry. I loathed even the word "poetry." (I now attribute this to the crummy way poetry was taught in school.) But Mr Keats opened my eyes, and I discovered a new world of incredible beauty and -- I think this is the correct word -- spirituality. The poet taught me how to read a poem and enjoy it as art. I experienced an almost-overnight transformation into a poetry geek. Because of Keats, I also discovered Seamus Heaney, Wallace Stevens, Billy Collins, Hart Crane and so many more wonderful poets. Poetry has enriched my life in some pretty profound ways.
Last edited by Cybele on Sat Feb 02, 2013 6:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
Wallace Stevens
User avatar
Cybele
Calidore
 
Posts: 377
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:19 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby ColSilver » Sat Feb 02, 2013 11:31 am

What draws you most to Keats? What spell does he hold over you?


I think it is his sublimity, which my dictionary defines as "of the highest or noblest nature".

I spend a little bit of time on the island of Jersey, and one of my favourite things is to walk down to a bay where the light is peculiarly beautiful (pale but bright, it throws the rocks and trees surrounding the bay into silhouette). I invariably sit down and recite to myself Keats' On the Sea - "It keeps eternal whisperings around desolate shores...". I then feel the beauty and power of the sea "on the pulse" as Keats would have said, and am always (no matter how many times I do this) amazed at the beauty and depth of this poem.

This is what Keats does for me - he opens my eyes to the beauty, I might even say the spirituality, of the world around me. As a person, he was indeed of the highest and noblest nature, "very clever indeed" as Maria Dilke said of him, but also kind-hearted and with an extremely attractive sense of humour.

There is no doubt that he does hold a spell over me, and always will.
ColSilver
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:23 am
Location: Oxfordshire, UK

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Raphael » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:34 pm

Once, I'm a bit embarrassed to say, I hated poetry. I loathed even the word "poetry." (I now attribute this to the crummy way poetry was taught in school.) But Mr Keats opened my eyes, and I discovered a new world of incredible beauty and -- I think this is the correct word -- spirituality. The poet taught me how to read a poem and enjoy it as art.


Same here- everything you said! And yes, how interesting would he have been to engage in converstaion, though in my case I'd rather he talk and I listen.
Last edited by Raphael on Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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.
User avatar
Raphael
Milton
 
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:10 pm
Location: wandering Keats' poetry

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Raphael » Sat Feb 02, 2013 2:35 pm

ColSilver wrote:
What draws you most to Keats? What spell does he hold over you?


I think it is his sublimity, which my dictionary defines as "of the highest or noblest nature".

I spend a little bit of time on the island of Jersey, and one of my favourite things is to walk down to a bay where the light is peculiarly beautiful (pale but bright, it throws the rocks and trees surrounding the bay into silhouette). I invariably sit down and recite to myself Keats' On the Sea - "It keeps eternal whisperings around desolate shores...". I then feel the beauty and power of the sea "on the pulse" as Keats would have said, and am always (no matter how many times I do this) amazed at the beauty and depth of this poem.

This is what Keats does for me - he opens my eyes to the beauty, I might even say the spirituality, of the world around me. As a person, he was indeed of the highest and noblest nature, "very clever indeed" as Maria Dilke said of him, but also kind-hearted and with an extremely attractive sense of humour.

There is no doubt that he does hold a spell over me, and always will.


Beautiful post and welcome ColSilver! I too love the Sea!
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.
User avatar
Raphael
Milton
 
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:10 pm
Location: wandering Keats' poetry

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Cybele » Sat Feb 02, 2013 8:23 pm

ColSilver wrote:
What draws you most to Keats? What spell does he hold over you?

. . .
I spend a little bit of time on the island of Jersey, and one of my favourite things is to walk down to a bay where the light is peculiarly beautiful (pale but bright, it throws the rocks and trees surrounding the bay into silhouette). I invariably sit down and recite to myself Keats' On the Sea - "It keeps eternal whisperings around desolate shores...". I then feel the beauty and power of the sea "on the pulse" as Keats would have said, and am always (no matter how many times I do this) amazed at the beauty and depth of this poem. . .


ColSilver, isn't finding a space like the one you've just described wonderful? I've got a few of those myself -- sometimes small, those little holy spaces seem to connect you with others who have experienced the same things on that spot.
"It keeps eternal whisperings around desolate shores..." I love this phrase, too. The word "desolate," in this case doesn't have its lonely, abandoned sort of connotation. It's soothing and to me speaks of solitude and permanence, not loneliness.

Another thing (Please, no one roll your eyes! :lol: ) that keeps me coming back to Keats is the "feel" of the words in my mouth when I read or recite a poem aloud. Keats had a theory about open and closed vowels that I've never been able to quite understand, he also used alliteration frequently. These things just add the poetry and the effect isn't artificial or contrived. It's as if the particular poem had always existed and that Keats merely gave it form. (Does that make sense? I often have a hard time articulating thoughts.)
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
Wallace Stevens
User avatar
Cybele
Calidore
 
Posts: 377
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:19 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Raphael » Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:19 am

Another thing (Please, no one roll your eyes! :lol: ) that keeps me coming back to Keats is the "feel" of the words in my mouth when I read or recite a poem aloud. Keats had a theory about open and closed vowels that I've never been able to quite understand, he also used alliteration frequently. These things just add the poetry and the effect isn't artificial or contrived. It's as if the particular poem had always existed and that Keats merely gave it form. (Does that make sense? I often have a hard time articulating thoughts.)


Yes, makes sense!
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.
User avatar
Raphael
Milton
 
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:10 pm
Location: wandering Keats' poetry

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby ColSilver » Sun Feb 03, 2013 2:44 am

ColSilver, isn't finding a space like the one you've just described wonderful? I've got a few of those myself -- sometimes small, those little holy spaces seem to connect you with others who have experienced the same things on that spot.
"It keeps eternal whisperings around desolate shores..." I love this phrase, too. The word "desolate," in this case doesn't have its lonely, abandoned sort of connotation. It's soothing and to me speaks of solitude and permanence, not loneliness.

Another thing (Please, no one roll your eyes! :lol: ) that keeps me coming back to Keats is the "feel" of the words in my mouth when I read or recite a poem aloud. Keats had a theory about open and closed vowels that I've never been able to quite understand, he also used alliteration frequently. These things just add the poetry and the effect isn't artificial or contrived. It's as if the particular poem had always existed and that Keats merely gave it form. (Does that make sense? I often have a hard time articulating thoughts.)


Yes, I agree wholeheartedly. When I am looking at the sea in my little bay on Jersey, I am looking at something that, because of its peculiar beauty, was loved by generations of people before I was born, and will be loved by generations of people after I am gone. It is about the continuity of experience, I think, feeling a part of something bigger than oneself.

It's interesting that you use the word "holy" in this context, and that we have both used the word "spiritual" in describing Keats' poetry. I'm reminded of a favourite phrase of mine from the great Victorian art critic John Ruskin: "The greatest thing a human soul ever does in this world is to see something, and tell what it saw in a plain way. Hundreds of people can talk for one who can think, but thousands can think for one who can see. To see clearly is poetry, prophecy and religion, all in one". Keats saw things clearly, and through his genius as a poet, he "told what he saw in a plain way", which may sound counter-intuitive unless one understands it as meaning that Keats' poetry is so beautifully expressive and colourful that our own imaginations are stimulated into allowing us to see what he saw. When I recite On the Sea to myself, I am momentarily, fleetingly, seeing the sea as Keats saw it.

Keats, of course, loved solitude (to write and study) and wrote about it in his poem, O Solitude (which he wrote after reading Wordsworth's "Prefatory Sonnet"). I agree that his theory of open and closed vowels can be rather technical, but I think we can understand it in terms of the "musicality" of his poetry (which Bailey remembered decades after Keats had discussed it with him in Oxford). Keats used an amalgamation of alliteration and assonance to create a synaesthetic experience, a blend of pleasing sound and colourful description which, in my opinion, has never been surpassed. I think I understand what you mean when you say:

It's as if the particular poem had always existed and that Keats merely gave it form.


Plato believed in another world or dimension where everything is perfect, with everything here on Earth (a rose, beauty, justice) being an inferior manifestation or shadow of its perfect, eternal counterpart in the Platonic realm (St Augustine used the theory to develop his conception of God). It is often said that Keats' To Autumn is the most perfect poem in the English language. In Platonic terms it always existed, and Keats gave it form.
ColSilver
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:23 am
Location: Oxfordshire, UK

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Cybele » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:12 pm

Oh! I've never heard of a Platonic realm. I've just Googled it and now realize I must have lived my life under a bushel basket. :oops: How interesting! But, it's certainly not surprising to me that the concept's been around for a long time. When I'm engaged in a creative pursuit, it seems sometimes like I'm merely "channeling" ideas that are being handed to me from somewhere else. This somewhere else might be described by others as God, the universe, the Oversoul, etc. (I strongly suspect that this, sadly, is not the case and that it's merely one hemisphere of the brain communicating with the other.)

BTW, I completely agree that To Autumn is the most perfect poem in the English language!
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
Wallace Stevens
User avatar
Cybele
Calidore
 
Posts: 377
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:19 am
Location: Ohio, USA

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby ColSilver » Sun Feb 03, 2013 6:38 pm

Can I just say a quick thank you to Raphael and Cybele for their warm welcome and interesting discussions. I think this is a very interesting forum and I look forward to exploring more and more of it as time goes by. Thank you.
ColSilver
 
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Nov 01, 2012 12:23 am
Location: Oxfordshire, UK

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Cath » Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:58 pm

Welcome Colin!

Malia, I’ve been thinking about your question.

I think it’s difficult to explain Keats’s ‘spellbinding’ appeal. Being in Keats’s company (i.e. reading his letters, his poetry, a biography) is a very humane, generous and open-hearted place to be. It’s also a place without risk – we can experience the dance of sensations and an intensity of feeling without risking the hurt we can experience in actual, lived relationships. The emotional experience of reading may be painful in some cases but this pain does not preclude the opportunity to grow – in fact, if we take Keats at his word, the opposite is true (“Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a Soul?” Spring 1819).

One small example: Keats’s way of friendship spiritually influenced my relationships in a very subtle yet fundamental way. He wrote in a letter to Fanny Brawne in February 1820: ‘Believe too my Love that our friends think and speak for the best, and if their best is not our best it is not their fault’. When I first read that line, I thought it was extraordinary. I was always so suspicious, so distrusting of friends and acquaintances, and could feel very quickly hurt. Keats’s truth taught me to re-think and re-define how I viewed the people I know. Others cannot always act in a way that coincides with what (you consider) to be best for you, even if they want, think or claim to do so. I’m not necessarily saying we should extrapolate truths from literature and use them in a self-helpy way. Rather, I’m saying that in his company we can experience something ennobling and sublime – through reading Keats we come closer to our selves and who we can be.
"Why should we be owls, when we can be Eagles?" (Keats to Reynolds, 3 February 1818)
User avatar
Cath
Calidore
 
Posts: 251
Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2011 1:02 pm
Location: in a bottle of claret, looking out

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Raphael » Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:02 am

ColSilver wrote:Can I just say a quick thank you to Raphael and Cybele for their warm welcome and interesting discussions. I think this is a very interesting forum and I look forward to exploring more and more of it as time goes by. Thank you.


Great to have you here!
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.
User avatar
Raphael
Milton
 
Posts: 1845
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 6:10 pm
Location: wandering Keats' poetry

Re: The Friend of Keats

Postby Cybele » Tue Feb 05, 2013 4:11 am

And thank you, ColSilver, for joining us.
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
Wallace Stevens
User avatar
Cybele
Calidore
 
Posts: 377
Joined: Sat Jan 16, 2010 1:19 am
Location: Ohio, USA


Return to Life and Letters

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 4 guests