Monday, February 13, 2006

Last Sonnet / Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art

John Keats


Bright Star, would I were steadfast 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 priest-like 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 steadfast, 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,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

First love is wonderful, isn't it?

John Keats was the first poet I ever fell in love with - something breathtaking and unshamable about his engagement of beauty, the equal purity of his verses and his heart, spoke to my adolescent self in a way that can only be described as enchantment [1]. And while I am no longer as starry-eyed about his poetry as I was at 15, he remains, for me, one of the most exquisite and ravishing of all poets; the only writer, whose language, for sheer aestheticism, is fully the rival of Shakespeare's.

It's only fitting then, that if we must celebrate Valentine's Day, we shall do it, Not chariot'd by Hallmark and its cards, but on "the viewless wings of Poesy".

For more commentary, see Minstrels.

[1] Keats himself describes the feeling of discovering poetry for the first time: "I am brimful of the friendliness / that in a little cottage I have found / Of fair-hair'd Milton's eloquent distress / And all his love for gentle Lycid drown'd / Of lovely Laura in her light green dress / And faithful Petrarch gloriously crown'd"


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