Happy Birthday John Keats

On this day, in 1795, John Keats was born. To celebrate his birthday, I intended to write a short biography as I’ve recently done with Benjamin Robert Haydon, but after writing for almost three hours, I realised that I couldn’t do it. I’m not able to write a text that does any justice to his life. I wanted to talk about his early years in school, the loss of his parents and brother, the women who had an impact on his life, his fears and desires, his experiences as a surgeon, his poetry, his studies, the trips around Britain, the unsuccessful poems, those who saw his potential, close friends, some fiends, inner demons, moments of happiness, parties, gatherings, attempts, and final days. I’ve found impossible to include it all in a simple blog post, and I also find it incredibly hard to present it without coming across too eager or too impartial. Instead, I’ve decided to share some of my favourite lines and paintings of John Keats. Let’s take this day to prove that his name was most definitely not “writ in water”.

796b6a7126f238d5919706682046b1eaLife mask by Benjamin Robert Haydon, 1816

“What Psyche felt, and Love, when their full lips
First touch’d; what amorous and fondling nips
They gave each other’s cheeks; with all their sighs,
And how they kist each other’s tremulous eyes:
The silver lamp,—the ravishment,—the wonder—
The darkness,—loneliness,—the fearful thunder;
Their woes gone by, and both to heaven upflown,
To bow for gratitude before Jove’s throne. ”
                                     -I Stood Tip-Toe Upon A Little Hill

Joseph Severn, 1845

“She found me roots of relish sweet, 25
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
‘I love thee true.’”
                                   -La Belle Dame Sans Merci

NPG 58; John Keats by Joseph Severn
By Joseph Severn, 1821-1823

“(…) for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death”
“Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toil me back from thee to my sole self!”
“Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?”
-Ode to a Nightingale

NPG 1963; John Keats by Charles Armitage Brown
By Charles Armitage Brown, 1819

“I am in that temper that if I were under water I would scarcely kick to come to the top.”

Keats’s bust by Anna Whitney, 19th century

“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”

Joseph Severn, 1821

“(…)then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.”
        -When I have fears that I may cease to be

You can find more of my favourites here.



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