Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Whose name was writ in water

The life story of John Keats reads like a novel--and not one with a happy ending. Here's part of the story from This Day in History:

When John was eight, his father fell off a horse and died, launching a long economic struggle that would keep Keats in poverty throughout his life, despite a large inheritance owed to him. His mother quickly remarried, and the five Keats children were sent to live with their maternal grandparents. The marriage failed, and their mother soon joined them. However, she died in 1810, and John's grandparents died by 1814. The Keats children were kept from their money by an unscrupulous guardian, and John was apprenticed to a surgeon in 1811.

Keats began writing poetry at the age of 18 and was soon hanging out with Percy Bysshe Shelley and other literary types. He was a mere babe of 21 when he published his first book. Soon after that he contracted tuberculosis. He wrote a cartload of brilliant poems in 1819, then died two years later, at the tender age of 25.

That's right--all that amazing stuff about nightingales and Grecian urns was written by a kid.

Keats is buried in Rome, where he died. He wrote his own epitaph: Here lies one whose name was writ in water.

Cruise over to John-Keats.com to read a more detailed biography and enjoy some poems, many of which include links to individual pages of "biographical content" that provide insight into Keats' circumstances and mind during the time of the writings.

Finally, be sure to click over to this page at EnglishHistory.net, where you can see a copy of the original manuscript of "Ode to the Nightingale"--complete with crossed out and inserted words that provide thrilling glimpses into how Keats honed the masterpiece.

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Anonymous said...

Neat story on Keats. Poetry and tragedy...I went to that site and perused the Ode to the Nightengale...fascinating to see his scribbles to perfection!
I can't imagine writing w/o a computer!

Brenda Coulter said...

Me, either. If I had to do this in longhand, I wouldn't be a writer. How anyone can write a sparkling line of poetry or prose without going over and over and over it is simply beyond my comprehension.

Small Blue Thing said...

Hi there _still alive, indeed! :)

Although I would prefer Shelley's poetry after all, I do like Keats' work too. He was quite an artist even when he wasn't writing poetry. If you have the choice, take a look to his Letters, a collected selection of Keats' correspondance with his friends and Fanny since his first young days until the dark last time in Rome. I barely remember any other reading which had moved me more.

Brenda Coulter said...

Blue Thing, it's nice to see you again.

I love reading old letters. Maybe I'll look those up.