12 April 2010

Tuesday poem: 'When I have fears that I may cease to be'

By John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charact'ry,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;
When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

Rather than one of my own, I thought I'd share a poem that is well and truly out of copyright.

Over Easter I finally managed to go and see Bright Star, Jane Campion's latest movie, which is about the relationship between Keats and Fanny Brawn. I'd been meaning to see it for ages. I find Jane Campion's movies interesting (I can't say I always like them, but she definitely has a viewpoint), and I've known some people to be really quite batty about Keats, so was curious. I guess I'd hoped that it would help me 'get' Romantic poetry. I've never really got it - much preferring modern poetry instead - but for a long time I've been meaning to give it more of a go.

During the movie, and especially during the credits, there was quite a bit of Keats's poetry read out, but I have to say, it didn't really help me. I still find Romantic poetry fairly impenetrable. Sean described it as hearing someone speak in te reo - a language you understand bits of, but don't really know that well - we understood quite a lot of the words, but certainly not all of it. I felt like there were times when a spotlight was shone on a phrase, that would sparkle and make sense, but in between was all these words that just didn't add up to much.

But anyway, this poem makes perfect sense, is short, and I like it.

For more Tuesday poems, visit the Tuesday Poem blog: http://tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com/


Kay Cooke said...

Taking an English paper or two on Romantic Poetry at Otago Uni with the inimitable Nick Read was my door into the mysteries and depths of the Romantics ... plus John Dolan's lectures on Byron. Rich days back in the 90s (as well as in 1971 when I took a paper on Wordsworth by a very young Jocelyn Harris - when she had long, golden-red tresses). :) Want to see that movie - will have to be on dvd now.

melissashook said...

I have to say that I liked your description of the film, why you wanted to see it, your struggles with it and with the poems...better than I, who probably have even more struggles, cared for the poem.
Thank you for the interesting commentary.

Mary McCallum said...

Thank you for adding Keats to the Tuesday Poem conversation. He's never been a fave of mine but other Romantics when I was young - ah! Coleridge, for one. Spending time with him while I did the Romantics at university, was like a love affair...

onceastudent said...

John Dolan . . . sad, sad, sad