NPM: O! Keats!

The Romantics embarrass me a little bit, because showing my own emotions publicly makes me feel weird, and the Romantics are nothing BUT public sharing of emotion (“sensibility,” they might say), so I avoid their poetry when I can. (Also, they’re pretty narcissistic.) Not because I don’t like it, but because it’s just SO MUCH FEELING. Also, usually SO MANY WORDS. Give me Imagist poetry any day, and I will revel in its implications. But this Keats fellow, he’s too dear not to share.

I recently discovered this online collection of a few of his letters to Fanny Brawne. Yes, she has a terrible name, but she also has the love of one of the brightest stars of English poetry. In one letter, he writes to her:

“I never knew before, what such a love as you have made me feel, was; I did not believe it; my Fancy was afraid of it, lest it should burn me up. But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, ’twill not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with Pleasures.”

Ok, I know some of you will object to Keats’ use of “moistened” on principle, but surely you can see the passion behind his unfortunate diction? Here’s another:

“Why may I not speak of your Beauty, since without that I could never have lov’d you? I cannot conceive any beginning of such love as I have for you but Beauty. There may be a sort of love for which, without the least sneer at it, I have the highest respect and can admire it in others: but it has not the richness, the bloom, the full form, the enchantment of love after my own heart. So let me speak of your Beauty, though to my own endangering; if you could be so cruel to me as to try elsewhere its Power.”

Yes, Keats seems a little shallow, but worshiping Beauty is typical of 1. Romantics, and 2. young people. (Keats died at age 25. What were YOU like at 25?)

So here is a melodramatic, passionate, naive, possessive, self-absorbed, utterly perfect, slightly morbid poem by Keats to wrap up National Poetry Month for us. Ah, love!

I cry your mercy–pity–love!–aye, love!
Merciful love that tantalizes not,
One-thoughted, never-wandering, guileless love,
Unmasked, and being seen–without a blot!
O! let me have thee whole, –all–all;–be mine!
That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of love, your kiss,–those hands, those eyes divine,
That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast,
Yourself–your soul–in pity give me all,
Withhold no atom’s atom or I die
Or living on perhaps, your wretched thrall,
Forget, in the mist of idle misery,
Life’s purposes,–the palate of my mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!

-John Keats


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