Keats and Cannabis

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

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Keats and Cannabis

Postby Ravenwing » Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:47 pm

Wow, last night in my country of Canada, there did occur the 42nd Canadian general election which I did participate. It resulted in Canada having elected a new Prime Minister--in this instance, the leader of a party that amongst many other things, did strongly campaign to fully legalize marijuana for all adults in Canada, similar to the way that alcohol is fully legalized for all adults in Canada.

A recent article in Time Magazine (http://time.com/3990305/william-shakesp ... uana-high/) reports on a study which discovered traces of cannabis on the remains of clay pipes which were dated to be from the time of Shakespeare and found in Shakespeare’s garden; the author of that study suggests that Shakespeare himself did use cannabis. In mine own opinion, it is possible that Keats did use cannabis, because in Keats’ “Welcome Joy, and Welcome Sorrow” poem, he wrote:


Welcome Joy, and Welcome Sorrow
by John Keats (1818).

Welcome joy, and welcome sorrow,
Lethe's weed and Hermes' feather;
Come to-day and come to-morrow,
I do love you both together!

Source: http://webspace.webring.com/people/tl/l ... wel01.html


When reading some months ago the recent medical literature as pertaining to cannabis, I noticed it mentioned that one of the side-effects of cannabis can be temporary forgetfulness, and that is why it is used in Israel, the U.S.A., and Canada to treat soldiers and first responders that unfortunately suffer from P.T.S.D. In ancient Greek mythology, the river Lethe is known as the river of forgetfulness.

It seems to me that “Hermes’ feather” refers to the quill which the poet used that is quickly filled with poetic inspiration from his having used “Lethe’s weed.”

What is your opinion? We already know that Keats did use snuff, wine, and opium. Did he also use cannabis?

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Re: Keats and Cannabis

Postby Cybele » Thu Oct 22, 2015 7:28 pm

In my opinion, it's entirely possible. Historically, hemp was used medicinally. (I believe this may have been as a tincture, rather than smoked.) I don't know if hemp was grown in the UK as a crop, but it may have been common in medicinal gardens. And it seems to me Mr Keats was interested in medicinal herbs. (I may be projecting, here, since I find the topic fascinating.)
However, I don't think there's any way to prove that he and his friends did or did not use cannabis recreationally. I also don't know if, in the UK, it's as common growing wild as it is here in Ohio.
"The philosopher proves that the philosopher exists. The poet merely enjoys existence."
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Re: Keats and Cannabis

Postby Ravenwing » Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:35 pm

Cybele,

In reflecting upon your reply, I did remember that the village of Hampstead, which is where the Keats House is located, is actually named after the hemp plant, as are all hamlets, villages, towns, and cities which have “Hamp” as a part of their name, including those of the Hamptons in New York State.

If Keats’ Hampstead did continue to live up to its name into the early 19th century, that means its farmers did mainly grow hemp as a crop during the lifetime of Keats; not only that, but he was probably surrounded by it, especially whenever he did walk along the paths and roads near Hampstead's many hemp fields.

If that is what Keats himself did witness, then yes, we can indeed agree that “it may have been common in medicinal gardens" to quote your earlier post in this thread. Perhaps cannabis was cultivated by Keats in a special part of the Keats House' garden, orchard, or field.

Cybele, I love that you are into medicinal herbs. Are you into probiotic foods and prebiotic foods, too? Around three weeks ago, I did begin to add at least one probiotic food and at least one prebiotic food as ingredients to every meal, and in doing so, I feel really good. I think that this is something which everybody should do.

As for Keats and cannabis, I suppose that if Keats did grow cannabis on the grounds of Keats House in Hampstead, then he probably used it by means of his smoking pipe, at least when his throat was not too inflamed from the tuberculosis which he did suffer from. His having studied as an apothecary probably meant that he knew how to make cannabis tincture and cannabis oil. To buy cannabis tincture or oil from a fellow apothecary was probably more expensive than his making it himself, and than his growing it, curing it, and then smoking it in his pipe.

Perhaps Keats smoked cannabis when he could, and used cannabis tincture or cannabis oil if his throat was inflamed from tuberculosis during the cold, damp weather. Perhaps he did eat medicinal cannabis-butter infused foods. At the very least, he probably did regularly eat foods made of non-psychoactive hemp seed, as hemp seed was probably a dietary staple in all hemp-centred hamlets, villages, and towns, as probably was the Hampstead of his day and age.

In mine own opinion, the verse "Lethe's weed and Hermes' feather" seems to indicate that he did smoke cannabis, because from what I have read, cannabis flower when eaten, including when as a tincture or oil has a different effect than when smoked. Apparently, when eaten, its effects are mostly physical. As the speaker in Keats’ “Welcome Joy, and Welcome Sorrow” poem declares their love for using “Lethe’s weed” with “Hermes’ feather,” it seems that says he does use cannabis, at least in part, for the sake of composing poems.

If hemp was grown in Hempstead during the lifetime of Keats, then it was possible that some, if not all, of Keats’ clothes were made of hemp, and that the very clothes which he did wear in his portraits were made of hemp. Perhaps even the canvases and papers themselves of his portraits painted and sketched by his friends are made of hemp, as perhaps is the paper which he wrote his poems and letters on.

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Re: Keats and Cannabis

Postby Raphael » Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:36 pm

Cannabis/hemp can't be grown outdoors here in England- it's too cold and wet.
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 Cannabis

Postby Saturn » Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:31 am

Possible, of course but very highly unlikely.

The modern ise of the word 'weed' would be totally unknown to Keats.

'Weed' in the sense that Keats uses it there refers to literally the weeds of the fabled river of Lethe in the underworld from classical mythology.
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Re: Keats and Cannabis

Postby Raphael » Fri Nov 06, 2015 1:59 pm

Saturn wrote:Possible, of course but very highly unlikely.

The modern use of the word 'weed' would be totally unknown to Keats.

'Weed' in the sense that Keats uses it there refers to literally the weeds of the fabled river of Lethe in the underworld from classical mythology.


Exactly! :lol:
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 Cannabis

Postby Cybele » Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:32 pm

Raphael, I was surprised when you said that hemp wouldn't grow in the UK, so I looked it up.
http://reset.me/story/heres-why-cannabis-plants-are-growing-wild-all-over-britains-cities/
I was surprised because -- heh, heh, how can I state this? :oops: -- back when I was a university student in the late 60s, the common wisdom was that the "good stuff" (meaning nice, potent marijauna) came from British Columbia. A friend who lives in BC recently pointed out to me that the "good stuff" still comes from that province. My point is: If you want cold and wet, the west coast of Canada has more than enough cold and wet to go around.

A few years ago, I purchased some beautiful hemp yarn in Manitoba that was supposed to have been grown in MB. (I'm an avid knitter. This yard had a beautiful hand, and was very much like a nice linen yarn.) And if you're looking for cold, Manitoba's got it. They get hit with any kind of weird weather that blows across the prairies since they have no deep, large bodies of water or tall mountains to mitigate Mother Nature's sense of humor.

Known mostly as "pot," "weed" was not as common a nickname for the plant back in the day. As I mentioned, it grows wild in Ohio. It seems to favor boggy areas. In fact, that's where I've most often seen it growing -- on the edges of bogs, sometimes in really mucky areas. (The soil's fertile, but wet.)

There are, of course, different varieties, with some varieties more suitable for the production of fiber, others for building materials, and still others for "recreational opportunities."
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