Monday, 13 April 2015

K: A man who put the right words in the right order

To be honest, as I always try to be, this reason to be cheerful was something that I probably didn't think much of as a teenager. But then, and not meaning any disrespect to teenagers, what do they know?

So today's reason is John Keats, the Romantic poet who managed to achieve all he had to do in just 25 years. Yes, one of the English language's most famous poets was only on the planet for a mere quarter of a century.

I had to study Keats' poetry at school and, I'll admit, some of it I really didn't like. "Too long, too complicated, too full of poetic words" was probably how I reacted. Fancy that, a poet using poetic words. Anyway that was  Hyperion and Endymion dealt with.

But what I did like were some of the odes, so thank goodness for being made to study Keats' ode To Autumn. You know the one: "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness/ Close-bosom friend of the maturing sun" and so on and so on.

The definition of poetry I most like is that it is "the right words in the right order". That is why good poetry is so quotable and, I suppose, why bad poetry looks like junk.

Here's some of Keats' poetry, namely On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer which I thought was appropriate seeing as I am in Greece. I can't guarantee you'll like it, but give it time. I think the thing with poetry is not to go at it like a bull at a gate. After all, although Keats only managed 25 years on the planet, we don't have to rush what he left us.

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star'd at the Pacific — and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise —
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Keats wrote this in 1816 when he was 20. He had only five years to go, not that he'd have known it then, and it's very grown-up stuff. Keats contracted TB and was advised to go a to warmer climate. He headed for Rome where he died. He was buried there and at his request his tombstone does not bear his name, but does state: "Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water."

No name: Keats' grave in Rome.
I haven't been able to find any songs about Keats, but instead here is Poetry in Motion by Johnny Tillotson. It's got rhymes and stuff so it is almost poetry. The accompanying video shows some nifty dancing, too.

  • Question: Do you like the poetry of Keats? Do you like any poetry, or is it all a load of tosh? Think carefully before you answer this one because I will judge you based on your answers. 

* Picture of Keats' grave by Piero Montesacro (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Hi Mark - yes Keats is one of the poets I've read some of and recognise his work .. the 'First Looking into Chapman's Homer' .. makes much more sense to me now .. that I can 'see' the lands and understand the area more ... thanks for reminding us of the poem .. it's a delight - cheers Hilary

  2. I love the Keats lines:
    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.

    Lots of people THINK they can write poetry because it looks easy. In fact, it's a real art to get it right and very few people have that talent. Favourite poets: Wilfred Owen, William Blake, Dylan Thomas and John Donne.

  3. This is the best part of the #Challenge. Finding new blogs so well done one has to FOLLOW. I start with fellow writers and then the gardeners, which doesn't leave much time left over. This blog gets a blue ribbons for clarity, easy to read, uncluttered. A pleasure that makes you say, "Yes, I will come back." If you have a moment, come and see what I'm up to this month of April. I'll be in the garden, just holler out.

  4. Hello, visiting from the A-Z. I occasionally rediscover old (sometimes forgotten) poets or poems, Longfellow, for instance, and love what I read. Keats was a poet of my youth.
    Inventions by Women A-Z

  5. I didn't know Keats died so young. I have a love/hate relationship with poetry. I don't think I'm a good reader of poetry. Sometimes I just don't get it...and as a result, I don't spend the time with it that I probably should. I liked the song you chose for today. I use that term "poetry in motion" frequently when I'm talking about my greyhounds. They are indeed poetry in motion when they're running...
    Michele at Angels Bark

  6. I rather enjoy Keats. Something about his lines have always painted these dream scapes for me.

    Tim Brannan, The Other Side Blog
    2015 A to Z of Vampires


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