As we will be celebrating Valentine’s Day this weekend, I thought I would post about my favourite Romantic poet. Bless him, Keats died when he was only 25 years old but, in a truly inspired period of just three and a half years, he produced some 150 poems. He said that love was his religion. It is said that his best poetry was written in the last nine months of his life, when he was madly in love with Fanny Brawne, his neighbour in Hampstead where he had lived.
To follow the WPC theme for this week, which is “Life Imitates Art”, I have added an extract from one of his poems to a photo I took of the River Avon in Stratford, where I often took shade for whole summers on school holidays.
Keats (1795-1821) died in Rome when he was just twenty-five years old. He had left his home in London’s Hampstead to seek a better climate, hoping this might cure him. But he left behind some of the most exquisite and moving poetry ever written.
Before he gave his life to poetry, he had qualified as a surgeon-apothecary at Guy’s Hospital in London. But he had to give that up as his health was fading. There is a beautiful bronze statue of him in the garden of the hospital, which was unveiled in 2007 by another wonderful poet, Andrew Motion. I went to visit it with two of my dearest friends.
Keats famously said, “Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself, but with its subject”.
He remains to this day one of the greatest of British poets. Who knows what he could have achieved had he not died so young of TB. But what he left us, his beautiful poetry, will survive. And, contrary to what he thought, he will never be forgotten. In one of his later letters to Fanny he was obviously feeling despondent, as he wrote,
“If I should die,” said I to myself, “I have left no immortal work behind me-nothing to make my friends proud of my memory-that I have loved the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had had time I would have made myself remembered”
But of course he is remembered and he was truly loved by Fanny although her family disapproved. She wore the ring he gave her until the day she died.
He knew that whatever sorrows, difficulties or even tragedies we face in this world, there will always be beauty in nature and art. He wrote about this in his exquisite heroic poem, Endymion
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its lovliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkn’d ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: …
There was a film called “Bright Star”, starring Abbie Cornish as Fanny, and Ben Whishaw as John Keats, released in 2009. I haven’t seen it so I can’t say whether it does him justice. But if you would like to see a clip the link is here.
Below are some photos I took in London while visiting Keats’ statue, Enjoy x
Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day everyone x x x