Monday, June 02, 2008

F--- Me I Love Keats

Thanks to Clare for pointing me to Bridget Jones Diary for the title! Title censored 'cuz my Mom might read it!

I just finished the Complete Poems of John Keats. For a poet who died at age 26, he sure left behind a large body of work! My paperback is over 450 pages. I was familiar with his famous stuff, but I was amazed by the rest of it - I don't think Keats ever wrote a bad poem.

What struck me about Keats was he summed up everything we stereotypically believe a poet to be - flowery, ornate, classical, and with a lovely touch. Of course he was much more. He could write scathing political satire (The Cap and Bells) as well as Wordsworthian phrases (I Stood Tiptoe). He will always have a soft spot in my heart for his "On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer", which opens Swallows and Amazons.

To me, Keats combined love of nature's beauty and a deep interest in the Greek and Roman classics with an earthy sensuality that could only have been expressed in poetry without being scrubbed by the censors. All his poems are great, here is one of the best



SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.


Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.


Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.