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
The best poems by Keats
John Keats (1795-1821) died when he was just twenty-five years old, but he left behind a substantial body of work, considering he died so young. Nevertheless, a number of his poems immediately suggest themselves as being among the ‘best’ of his work. In this post, we’ve selected what we think are the top ten best Keats poems.
‘Ode to Psyche’. The earliest of Keats’s 1819 odes, ‘Ode to Psyche’ is about the Greek embodiment of the soul and mind, Psyche. Keats declares that he will be Psyche’s ‘priest’ and build a temple to her in his mind. Although this is probably the least-admired of Keats’s classic odes (though ‘Ode on Indolence’ would rival it), it’s a fine paean to poetic creativity and the power of the imagination. Read the rest of this entry
A reading of one of Keats’s best sonnets
John Keats wrote a number of sonnets in his short life, and ‘When I have fears that I may cease to be’ remains a popular and widely anthologised one. Some words of analysis are useful in highlighting the relevance of Keats’s imagery in this poem, as well as the form and language of the sonnet. The poem is a Shakespearean sonnet rhyming ababcdcdefefgg, which is particularly appropriate here, since in this poem Keats is preoccupied with dying prematurely, before he has had a chance to write his best work and take his place ‘among the English poets’ (as Keats himself put it).
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink. Read the rest of this entry