Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Who can resist the romance of John Keats? How did such a powerful body of work come from such a small, weak frame in such a brief lifetime? Here is a moment from the life of Keats:
To a Lady Seen for a Few Moments at Vauxhall
Time's sea hath been five years at its slow ebb,
Long hours have to and fro let creep the sand,
Since I was tangled in thy beauty's web,
And snared by the ungloving of thine hand.
And yet I never look on midnight sky,
But I behold thine eyes' well memory'd light;
I cannot look upon the rose's dye,
But to thy cheek my soul doth take its flight.
I cannot look on any budding flower,
But my fond ear, in fancy at thy lips
And hearkening for a love-sound, doth devour
Its sweets in the wrong sense:--Thous dost eclipse
Every delight with sweet remembering,
And grief unto my darling joys dost bring.
What gives this sonnet immediacy is the image of the woman drawing the glove from her hand--a moment's glimpse, five years past--to which the poet returns over and over, in memory.
Keats comes to life in his letters; here's a brief excerpt from a letter to a friend:
"I find that I cannot exist without poetry, without eternal poetry; half the day will not do, the whole of it. I began with a little, but habit has made me a Leviathan. I had become all in a Tremble from not having written anything of late. The Sonnet over leaf did me some good. I slept the better last night for it. This Morning, however, I am nearly as bad again."