Tag Archives: John Keats

Bright Star; a thanksgiving for John Keats

John Keats died on this day in 1821, so I am reposting an earlier blog post paying tribute to him for all his poetry has meant and continues to mean for me:

Sometimes a poet, or even a single poem, can save your life. It can take you the way you are, in a place of darkness, loss or lostness, and, without changing anything, transmute everything, make everything available to you new, having ‘suffered a sea-change/ into something rich and strange. Thats how it was for me when I first encountered Keats, in my mid-teens,  a very dark period of my life. This poem, written in the Spenserian Stanzas he used so effectively, is an account of how he changed things for me, and in its own way an act of testimony and thanksgiving. It is set on the Spanish Steps and in the house there where Keats spent the last months of his life. It was there, in the room where he died, that I first read the sonnet Bright Star, written into the fly leaf of his Shakespeare.

This poem is published in my book  The Singing Bowl  which is published by Canterbury Press and available through Amazon etc.

You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

Gold

 

The sun strikes gold along the Spanish steps,

Patches of god-light where the tourists stray.

The old house is in shadow and still keeps

It’s treasures from the searching light of day.

I found it once, when I had lost my way,

Depressed and restless, sheltering from rain,

Long years ago in Rome. But from that day

Everything turned to gold, even my pain,

Reading the words of one who feared he wrote in vain.

 

I too was ‘half in love with ease-full death’,

But standing by the window, near his bed,

I almost heard the ‘tender-taken breath’

On which his words were forming. As I read

I felt things shifting in me, an old dread

Was somehow being brought to harmony

Taught by his music as the music fled

To sing at last, as by some alchemy

Despair itself was lifted into poetry

 

I spent that summer there and came each day

To read and breathe and let his life unfold

In mine. Little by little, made my way

From realms of darkness into realms of gold,

Finding that in his story mine was told;

Bereavements, doubts and longings, all were there

Somehow transmuted in the poem’s old

Enduring crucible, that furnace where

Quick-silver draws the gold from leaden-eyed despair.

 

 

Now with the sun I come on pilgrimage

To find this house and climb the foot-worn stair,

For I have lived to more than twice his age

And year-by-year his words have helped me bear

The black weight of my breathing, to repair

An always-breaking heart. Somehow he keeps

His watch on me from somewhere, that bright star…

So, with the words of one who mined the depths,

I sing and strike for gold along the Spanish steps.

The house where Keats died, by the Spanish Steps, now a memorial, museum and library

9 Comments

Filed under literature, Poems

In Drear-Nighted December by John Keats

Drear-nighted December image by Linda Richardson

Drear-nighted December image by Linda Richardson

The poem I have chosen for December 10th in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is In Drear-nighted December by John Keats. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above, is by Linda Richardson, who writes:

Had I known that these images would, the following year, accompany the poetry in Waiting on the Word, I would have made more of each of them. Some days I had only a short time to respond, but my daily discipline helped me to meditate on each of the poems, and it was a deeply enriching experience. Perhaps you could find your own way of responding, by walking or learning a part of the poem by heart, or sewing. Perhaps you could print out and stick into the book, an image that you feel captures a part of the poem that speaks most deeply to you.

In this image I used only black Indian ink, masking fluid and water. I wanted to give the impression of bleak leafless trees disappearing into a freezing mist. This stripping back of denuding winter time reveals a beauty and form that has always been there but has gone unnoticed. Think of a cobweb that is invisible until the scintillating frost of winter steals through the landscape as we sleep and turns the morning into a Narnian dream of white.

This denuding also happen to us when, forced by circumstances, we too are stripped back, perhaps by grief as John Keats was, or by struggling with an addiction, humiliation, or anger and depression. What seems like death in the landscape of our lives can, if we wait patiently, teach us to integrate our shadow side and help us to know ourselves. If we can come to prayer like this, letting what we truly are be exposed, because to Him all hearts are exposed, then maturity begins, as we say to Him, ‘Lord take me as I am. I can come to you no other way.’

You can find you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

In Drear-nighted December

In drear nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne’er remember

Their green felicity—

The north cannot undo them

With a sleety whistle through them

Nor frozen thawings glue them

From budding at the prime.

 

In drear nighted December,

Too happy, happy brook,

Thy bubblings ne’er remember

Apollo’s summer look;

But with a sweet forgetting,

They stay their crystal fretting,

Never, never petting

About the frozen time.

 

Ah! would ‘twere so with many

A gentle girl and boy—

But were there ever any

Writh’d not at passed joy?

The feel of not to feel it,

When there is none to heal it

Nor numbed sense to steel it,

Was never said in rhyme.

3 Comments

Filed under literature, Poems

In Drear-Nighted December by John Keats

Drear-nighted December image by Linda Richardson

Drear-nighted December image by Linda Richardson

The poem I have chosen for December 10th in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is In Drear-nighted December by John Keats. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above, is by Linda Richardson, who writes:

Had I known that these images would, the following year, accompany the poetry in Waiting on the Word, I would have made more of each of them. Some days I had only a short time to respond, but my daily discipline helped me to meditate on each of the poems, and it was a deeply enriching experience. Perhaps you could find your own way of responding, by walking or learning a part of the poem by heart, or sewing. Perhaps you could print out and stick into the book, an image that you feel captures a part of the poem that speaks most deeply to you.

In this image I used only black Indian ink, masking fluid and water. I wanted to give the impression of bleak leafless trees disappearing into a freezing mist. This stripping back of denuding winter time reveals a beauty and form that has always been there but has gone unnoticed. Think of a cobweb that is invisible until the scintillating frost of winter steals through the landscape as we sleep and turns the morning into a Narnian dream of white.

This denuding also happen to us when, forced by circumstances, we too are stripped back, perhaps by grief as John Keats was, or by struggling with an addiction, humiliation, or anger and depression. What seems like death in the landscape of our lives can, if we wait patiently, teach us to integrate our shadow side and help us to know ourselves. If we can come to prayer like this, letting what we truly are be exposed, because to Him all hearts are exposed, then maturity begins, as we say to Him, ‘Lord take me as I am. I can come to you no other way.’

You can find you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

In Drear-nighted December

In drear nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne’er remember

Their green felicity—

The north cannot undo them

With a sleety whistle through them

Nor frozen thawings glue them

From budding at the prime.

 

In drear nighted December,

Too happy, happy brook,

Thy bubblings ne’er remember

Apollo’s summer look;

But with a sweet forgetting,

They stay their crystal fretting,

Never, never petting

About the frozen time.

 

Ah! would ‘twere so with many

A gentle girl and boy—

But were there ever any

Writh’d not at passed joy?

The feel of not to feel it,

When there is none to heal it

Nor numbed sense to steel it,

Was never said in rhyme.

1 Comment

Filed under literature, Poems

In Drear-Nighted December by John Keats

Drear-nighted December image by Linda Richardson

Drear-nighted December image by Linda Richardson

The poem I have chosen for December 10th in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is In Drear-nighted December by John Keats. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above, is by Linda Richardson, who writes:

Had I known that these images would, the following year, accompany the poetry in Waiting on the Word, I would have made more of each of them. Some days I had only a short time to respond, but my daily discipline helped me to meditate on each of the poems, and it was a deeply enriching experience. Perhaps you could find your own way of responding, by walking or learning a part of the poem by heart, or sewing. Perhaps you could print out and stick into the book, an image that you feel captures a part of the poem that speaks most deeply to you.

In this image I used only black Indian ink, masking fluid and water. I wanted to give the impression of bleak leafless trees disappearing into a freezing mist. This stripping back of denuding winter time reveals a beauty and form that has always been there but has gone unnoticed. Think of a cobweb that is invisible until the scintillating frost of winter steals through the landscape as we sleep and turns the morning into a Narnian dream of white.

This denuding also happen to us when, forced by circumstances, we too are stripped back, perhaps by grief as John Keats was, or by struggling with an addiction, humiliation, or anger and depression. What seems like death in the landscape of our lives can, if we wait patiently, teach us to integrate our shadow side and help us to know ourselves. If we can come to prayer like this, letting what we truly are be exposed, because to Him all hearts are exposed, then maturity begins, as we say to Him, ‘Lord take me as I am. I can come to you no other way.’

You can find you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

In Drear-nighted December

In drear nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne’er remember

Their green felicity—

The north cannot undo them

With a sleety whistle through them

Nor frozen thawings glue them

From budding at the prime.

 

In drear nighted December,

Too happy, happy brook,

Thy bubblings ne’er remember

Apollo’s summer look;

But with a sweet forgetting,

They stay their crystal fretting,

Never, never petting

About the frozen time.

 

Ah! would ‘twere so with many

A gentle girl and boy—

But were there ever any

Writh’d not at passed joy?

The feel of not to feel it,

When there is none to heal it

Nor numbed sense to steel it,

Was never said in rhyme.

3 Comments

Filed under literature, Poems

In Drear-Nighted December by John Keats

The poem I have chosen for December 10th in my Advent Anthology from Canterbury Press Waiting on the Word, is In Drear-nighted December by John Keats. You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the play button. the image above, takes up the poems opening proclamation, was created by Lancia Smith. you can see this and more on her  excellent Website Cultivating the True the Good and the Beautiful.. You can find you can find the words, and a short reflective essay on this poem in Waiting on the Word, which is now also available on Kindle

In Drear-nighted December

4 Comments

Filed under literature, Poems

Bright Star; a thanksgiving for John Keats

As I prepare to begin a sabbatical, with both a great deal to recover from and a great deal to look forward to, I am drawn again to immerse myself in the healing poetry of John Keats, so I repost this poem of mine, as a reminder of what I owe him.

Sometimes a poet, or even a single poem, can save your life. It can take you the way you are, in a place of darkness, loss or lostness, and, without changing anything, transmute everything, make everything available to you new, having ‘suffered a sea-change/ into something rich and strange. Thats how it was for me when I first encountered Keats, in my mid-teens,  a very dark period of my life. This poem, written in the Spenserian Stanzas he used so effectively, is an account of how he changed things for me, and in its own way an act of testimony and thanksgiving. It is set on the Spanish Steps and in the house there where Keats spent the last months of his life. It was there, in the room where he died, that I first read the sonnet Bright Star, written into the fly leaf of his Shakespeare.

This poem is published in  The Singing Bowl my most recent volume of poems, which is published by Canterbury Press and available through Amazon etc.

You can hear me read this poem by clicking on the title or the ‘play’ button.

Gold

 

The sun strikes gold along the Spanish steps,

Patches of god-light where the tourists stray.

The old house is in shadow and still keeps

It’s treasures from the searching light of day.

I found it once, when I had lost my way,

Depressed and restless, sheltering from rain,

Long years ago in Rome. But from that day

Everything turned to gold, even my pain,

Reading the words of one who feared he wrote in vain.

 

I too was ‘half in love with ease-full death’,

But standing by the window, near his bed,

I almost heard the ‘tender-taken breath’

On which his words were forming. As I read

I felt things shifting in me, an old dread

Was somehow being brought to harmony

Taught by his music as the music fled

To sing at last, as by some alchemy

Despair itself was lifted into poetry

 

I spent that summer there and came each day

To read and breathe and let his life unfold

In mine. Little by little, made my way

From realms of darkness into realms of gold,

Finding that in his story mine was told;

Bereavements, doubts and longings, all were there

Somehow transmuted in the poem’s old

Enduring crucible, that furnace where

Quick-silver draws the gold from leaden-eyed despair.

 

 

Now with the sun I come on pilgrimage

To find this house and climb the foot-worn stair,

For I have lived to more than twice his age

And year-by-year his words have helped me bear

The black weight of my breathing, to repair

An always-breaking heart. Somehow he keeps

His watch on me from somewhere, that bright star…

So, with the words of one who mined the depths,

I sing and strike for gold along the Spanish steps.

The house where Keats died, by the Spanish Steps, now a memorial, museum and library

10 Comments

Filed under imagination, literature