‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’: John Keats wrote many a memorable and arresting opening line in his short life, but his opening to his great poem ‘To Autumn’, one of his finest odes, is perhaps his most resonant of all. On one level a straightforward evocation of the season of autumn, ‘To Autumn’ (or ‘Ode to Autumn’ as it is sometimes known) is also a poem that subtly reflects the early nineteenth-century context in which it was written. Such contemporary allusions and references require closer analysis, but before we get to them, here is John Keats’s great autumnal poem.
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; Read the rest of this entry
On one of Keats’s finest sonnets
‘Bright Star’, or ‘Bright star! Would I were steadfast as thou art’ as it is sometimes known, is probably the most famous sonnet written by the Romantic poet John Keats (1795-1821). He wrote it in 1819 originally, although he revised it a year later. When he wrote ‘Bright Star’, Keats knew that he was dying from consumption or tuberculosis, and the poem is in part about this awareness that he will die young.
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, Read the rest of this entry
On one of Keats’s less famous poems about unrequited love
‘O love me truly!’ as a poetic refrain is likely to inspire disgust at the poet’s desperation rather than sympathy, but then desperation can be dangerously close to despair, and John Keats (1795-1821) knew better than most what it felt like to experience the pain of hopeless love. In his short and little-known poem ‘You Say You Love’, Keats addresses a woman who doesn’t return his love.
You say you love; but with a voice
Chaster than a nun’s, who singeth
The soft Vespers to herself
While the chime-bell ringeth –
O love me truly!
You say you love; but with a smile
Cold as sunrise in September, Read the rest of this entry