Thursday, 23 July 2009

John Keats 1795 - 1821

Keats has been in the news recently with the re-opening of Keats House in Hampstead after a £500,000 renovation. Keats is the most romantic of the English Romantic Poets - well, Byron was pretty romantic too, but Keats has the advantages in that respect of Dying Young (aged 25), in Rome, and of a Wasting Disease, all of which make him extremely Romantic. There is a film opening soon about Keats' love affair with Fanny Brawne, the girl next door and as far as we know, his only love. The title of the film is Bright Star, and this sonnet, which he wrote on a blank page in his copy of Shakespeare's Poems, is where the title comes from:
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art -
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors -
No - yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever - or else swoon to death.

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