English, Galford, John Keats, Ode to a Nightingale, poetry, Poets, Pretzels and Bullfights, Romanticism
Romanticism. To some, the very word begets the core of poetry–the flowery language, the graceful imagery, the tone and texture that sinks into the very depths of heart. Truly, one cannot pass the halls of poetic history without stopping a moment to undertake glimpses of that beautiful time period, and the many writers to grace it–and it would be a crime to do so without crossing paths with John Keats.
Keats was young. He was gifted. What’s more, he existed in a time when poetry was truly in a flowering way–and he knew well its enticing scents. Born to humble beginnings, he was denied the rich education some of his wealthier contemporaries could afford to undertake–and yet, he flourished for it, as his school, denied the income of others, nevertheless devoted what it had to more modern and progressive curriculum that stimulated this young poet’s mind. He lost his parents young, and would struggle his whole life with the burden of poverty–despite the fact that a great deal of money that should have been owed him never reached his knowing, or his hands.
Though he began to pursue the medical life, when it conflicted with his writing, he chose the writing–though stoppered ambition, financial crisis, and fear often paved a road for him to the depths of depression. Poetically, though regarded today as one of the greatest minds to grace the art, were not well-received in his time. Put against wordsmiths like Byron and Shelley, the critics all but eviscerated him as he began to travel, and to write in earnest. So too did he love in earnest–only to find this, too, should be denied him…not by a cruel twist of the heart, but by the illness that would eventually take his life.
John Keats suffered from tuberculosis. It forced him from home and from love, to Rome and hopes of warmer climates. No such thing could help him. He died, in terrible agony, at just 25 years old. When he went, he was convinced that he had left no mark on this earth…and today has left one of the most profound.
Why might have been so agonized? Perhaps a letter from his own brother told it best, in that he: “feared that he should never be a poet, & if he was not he would destroy himself”.
Perhaps it is appropriate that on his grave, his friends engraved the everlasting words: “Here lies one whose name was writ in water.”
* A special note. Friends, it is with great sadness I announce today that this edition of Pretzels and Bullfights shall be my last. Life, as they say, can be a fickle thing–and mine has taken many tumultuous and chaotic tumbles that struggle against the time and capability nature saw fit to deliver. In short: life pulls me elsewhere at the moment.
This said, it has been a pleasure to bring to you each week some semblance of our collective poetic history, and to share with you the voices that have truly honed our craft. If I have opened eyes and ears to but one poet they did not know before, I consider this segment a victory. It has truly been a pleasure, and for those of you that have read and supported this segment each week, my heart goes out to you, and my thanks. Keep reading. Keep scribbling. May all the best find you–and may you continue to enjoy the excitements here at dVerse. I know not what shall replace my own scribbles here, but I have no doubt it shall be of the same quality this site at large has come to exemplify.
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,–
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
And mid-May’s eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain–
To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now ’tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:–Do I wake or sleep?
brian miller said:
i appreciate everything you put into pretzels&bullfights chris….for me it was an education as i have never really had any formal poetry training or really even read much poetry until after i started writing it a few years ago…so much of its history is still lost to me…my wish for you is that life meets you where you are man…keep writing yourself…
its been an honor to serve with you both at one stop and here…
Wishing you the best in all your endeavors! Thanks for the education 🙂
Chris, it has been so good to read your lyrical and knowledgeable words on poetry. Along with Brian, you have given an important education to all of us here who love poetry and the written word. You have a beautiful and strong lyricism in your writing.
Write on, dear friend. May the winds of change take you to the summits of beauty. and creativity.
Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) said:
Ah, so beautiful! To me it has been just as good to revisit poets I knew as to discover others with your help. Thank you for this weekly delight! Go well.
It’s been such a learning experience for me, Chris, your P&B segments, and I have never failed to read them, though often not as promptly as I should have. I know your life has had almost as many upheavals of late as the poet you profile here, so I completely understand how something has to give. I hope you will continue to find some time and energy for your own writing, as it is a gift to the world. Thank you so much for all you’ve brought to us as a team and a community, and may the road rise up to meet you, as the Irish proverb has it, and take you where you need to go.
Chris…I know well what this beast of life can do…may the wind fill your sails and carry you to where you are supposed to be…and you know we’re here waiting!!! Light, love and luck to you, wordweaver! And thank you for the many wonderful introductions to some fantastic poets I would have never stumbled upon without this…gratitude!
Chris…thank you so much for your posts! I have enjoyed them and esp remember a Spanish poet you wrote about, again on the romantics. I wish you well and stop back n let us know what else you have written. Keats at 25 is tragic, then again tuberculosis. People should realize how lucky we are today with medicine. Thanks for teaching us. 🙂
Dear Chris – I think your articles have been read and enjoyed more than you know. I for one have been very grateful for your wide ranging researches – so many poets all over the place I’ve never heard of.
I wish you the very best in your work. Good luck especially with the novel. I know how difficult and disappointing that can be – you work so hard to finish something and it really is awfully hard to also market it in today’s world. Best of luck with all!
Take care, Karin Gustafson
Chris, you will sincerely be missed. I read with interest each article you presented, even if I did not specifically comment. And I wish not I had! I do know how much time it must have taken you to prepare your informative and interesting articles. I hope I will continue to see you here at ‘the bar’ and sincerelhy wish you well in all future endeavors.
I meant to say “I wish NOW I had!”
Dear Chris, I know this is not goodbye, just a short period while you make the necessary changes that are so frequent at your age and stage of life where everything happens in a blink of your eye. I’ve enjoyed meeting new poets here at P&B every week and reacquainting myself with old poetic friends. I shall miss your posts and your blog during your hiatus but I content myself you will be back before long. We are all facing challenges at every stage of life and sometimes our creativity has to languish for awhile as we submit to other demands and responsibilities. I’m wishing you God speed in your next set of adventures and keeping a light in the window for your return…G.
chris, thanks so much for sharing the treasures on your bookshelf with us…you have brought such a variety of poets into the pub i’ve never heard about before and i was really looking forward to pretzels & bullfights each week…was like a discovery tour into the history of poetry and also around the globe…hope life will soon be a bit less stressful for you…and you know that the pub door is always wide open for you…thanks…
Victoria C. Slotto said:
You choice of poem for today seems fit in light of the fact that you will be taking leave of us in blog-dom, for a while at least. It’s wise to make the decisions you need to for your life as it is now, but it is a letting go…on your part and ours. I, like Brian, haven’t had an extensive education in poetry, and what I did have was so long ago it’s a blur. You’ve peaked my interest in the history and development of our art and I’ve begun reading more “old” poetry as well as some biographies of poets. So if you ever wonder if you’ve made a difference, know that you have, my friend. Best of luck in your life in the “underground” and in your writing. You are truly talented.
Thank you for your always enjoyable and illuminating Pretzels, and I wish you all the best in whatever life throws at you. Keep poeming!
Chris, thank you for your enlightening and diverse posts, your introductions of multiple styles and poets, your unique insights, etc. P&B has always been a delight to read! Best wishes as you pursue a different path–you will be missed here, but I am sure you will be enriching others 🙂
Tania A said:
I wish you brightest blessings on your road, Chris. Your posts have been immeasurably enlightening for me, for though I love poetry, I have not had much education in it. It has been a delight to read your illustrations of those that came before us in our craft and art.
Vaya Con Dios
Thanks for your generous teaching here, Chris.
There are many poets like Keats nowadays, not wealthy but very talented – my hubby is one of them – who maybe will be famous in a near future.
“Here lies one whose name was writ in stone, I hope…
Best wishes and thanks again.
Thanks for your generous teaching here, Chris.
There are so many poets like Keats nowadays…, not wealthy but very talented – my hubby is one of them – who maybe will be famous in a near future.
“Here lies one whose name was writ in stone, I hope…
Best wishes and thanks again.
Samuel Peralta / Semaphore said:
Chris, your generosity in sharing your love of the life poetic will always be remembered. It was an honor and a privilege to be numbered alongside you. In your voyages forward, may you find calmer seas, and a wind that blows you to your favored destination.