The Mail Coach
Rattling along to harbor goes the coach,
The mail coach, in its dusty diurnal course.
So humble the postilion, he will broach
No inroad into our notice; just the horse-
Clop jog, the clatter and shake, the primitive chassis
No mail conveyance is famed for any glamor;
This one, though, like a gem engraved by Tassie,
Claims our attention; on top or inside it,
Keats, who’s journeying to the Isle of Wight.
Endymion’s four thousand lines: to write it,
Keats aims, his plan both clear and dim in sight;
As the half-sleepy coach clops at sunrise
Past Chawton town, will it greet Jane Austen’s eyes?
Coleridge at Highgate
Thom Gunn penned a great sonnet* on John Keats
And Coleridge at Highgate: I give you mine.
Keats, later, writing to a friend, repeats
Some nineteen subject headings: packthread, twine
Around vast reams of philosophic talk
Coleridge delights in, Keats not in the least.
A decade hence, the Sage records their walk;
The friendly handshake, not how mental yeast
Caused STC’s doughy monologue to swell.
Strange, how the telescope of retrospect
Foreshortens his recall. Now their farewell
Engulfs whole layer cakes of analect.
The poets part; Keats in his genial mood;
His “damp” hand’s touch leaves Coleridge to brood.
*”Keats at Highgate,” easily obtainable online.
Wentworth Place, Hampstead
The Keats House it is now, and I suppose
Will always be; museums are for the named,
Not for the principal renters, tenant-flows
On rolls of occupancies, who pass unfamed.
The Keats House it is now, seen in Bright Star
The film. Its whitewashed rooms, its porches, lawns
Impress. In some moods, I think deeper far
The steadfast and tenacious Fanny Brawne’s
Low-smoldering, but once ignited, fiercely
Incandescent flame for Mr. Keats,
Charles Brown’s cash-strapped lodger friend. It clears
The mind to discover: a love which leaves no sheets
Inked with imperishable bids for fame
To even higher regard may lay fair claim.
Keats at Naples, 1820
Not much is said about John Keats at Naples;
Perhaps biographers feel they must make haste,
Speed the long-agonized poet to the Papals’
Vicinity, then up Spanish Steps. The taste
Of death is sickly metallic on his tongue.
But just observe Keats watching the lazzaroni
Taking short rests from labor; so the young
Poet sees them loft thick strands of macaroni
Into their mouths. Extols the lack of “humbug,”
No knives, forks. Fingers! Invented (he says) for feeding
—As sailors’ mouths (he does not say) for the rum bug
Were funneled? A lovely respite, at least, from heeding
How very sick he is. Thin sense of fun
To paper the bitterness over, to the last pun.
The only means of strengthening one's intellect is to make up one's mind about nothing, to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts.
Our thanks to Tom Goff for his inspired sonnet sequence today, about which he writes: “Am sending along these little items, inspired by just having purchased Amy Lowell's biography of [John] Keats. I would say to all poets, don't let anyone tell you this biography is antiquated or ‘less than’ the accounts by Walter Jackson Bate, Robert Gittings, Aileen Ward, or Andrew Motion. It's remarkable, with the insights into Keats' thought only a poet can supply, and a different sort of close analysis that never crosses the line from analysis into vivisection.
“And it was cheap to buy on eBay, this two-volume book from 1925. The details in the poems are largely details from her book, which makes the oddest small matters loom significant—I must have read them elsewhere, but it's Lowell who sharpens them.” Thanks again, Tom!
Today at 1pm online: MoST Summer Poetry Workshop with Karen Baker: “Time Travel Through Poetry”, exploring past and future through poetry. Zoom link: us02web.zoom.us/j/87665048170/. Meeting ID: 876 6504 8170. Info: www.mostpoetry.org/event/summer-poetry-workshop-time-travel-through-poetry/.
Also today, 2pm: Poetry in the Sierra Foothills will feature readers from California Fire and Water: A Climate Crisis Anthology, with Taylor Graham, Lara Gularte, Moira Magneson, Tim Kahl, Katy Brown, Wren Tuatha (plus open mic) at Love Birds Coffee & Tea Co., 411 Hwy 49, Ste. 100, Diamond Springs (where Hwy 49 meets Pleasant Valley Rd.). Bring a poem, a short musing, or be audience. Host: Lara Gularte.
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