Monday, 21 September 2009


It is the year 1818 and Shelley is in Pisa or Leghorn or Lucca or somewhere. Byron is in Venice steeped in wickedness. But Keats is at Teignmouth being, with the turns of the tide, shallow and profound, happy and sad, breezy and sulky. He has been gazing on a lampit rock and has had deep poetic thoughts about what he can read there and he is now setting down verses and trying them out on Tom who no doubt has been gazing at the same lampit rock, a lampit being a limpet. And John is writing this poem by way of an epistle to another boy poet, his friend John Hamilton Reynolds:

Dear Reynolds! I have a mysterious tale
And cannot speak it: the first page I read
Upon a Lampit rock of green sea-weed
Among the breakers; ’twas a quiet eve,
The rocks were silent, the wide sea did weave
An untumultuous fringe of silver foam
Along the flat brown sand; I was at home
And should have been most happy, - but I saw
Too far into the sea, where every maw
The greater on the less feeds evermore,-
But I saw too distinct into the core
Of an eternal fierce destruction,….

“Find me a really good rhyme for destruction, dear Tom!”

“Destructi-on/gone, dear brother?” -

“Brilliant Tom! I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

….And so from happiness I far was gone.

Eternal destruction/ gone! Yes! Gone too soon! And yet not altogether gone. Poets linger.

They cling like garlic.

Tomorrow: Keats Adieu!

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