Posts Tagged ‘John Keats’

My credit is too low- bankruptcy

Weighs heavily on me like a ball of chain,

And each way-out I find it soon in vain-

Do I make for the sea of bankruptcy

With Chapter ‘Leven I might be afloat;

Yet ’tis a gentle luxury to weep

That I have not the cloudy winds to keep

But under Seven dash my brains direct

On this nagging ball of reputation?

Such are legal conundrums left by law:

Poor Shylock’s knife cannot cut them but draw

rebuke instead from the congregation.

Law thus dispenses relief worth a straw

But loath help him gain lost reputation.

Original Version:

On Seeing Elgin marbles

My spirit is too weak—mortality

   Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,

   And each imagined pinnacle and steep

Of godlike hardship tells me I must die

Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.

   Yet ’tis a gentle luxury to weep

   That I have not the cloudy winds to keep

Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.

Such dim-conceived glories of the brain

   Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;

So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,

   That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude

Wasting of old time—with a billowy main—

   A sun—a shadow of a magnitude.


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Shakespeare’s life is equated with the Elizabethan Age. Such is his genius. One might wonder how can a young lad with modicum of education, -typical grammar school syllabus with its devotion to Ovid, Bible and Prayer Book , unlike his contemporary Marlow who went to the University, surpass all others to be the representative man of the Age. It is such a serious question that defies a rational answer and many scholars have hazarded a theory to aver Bacon as the real author. As with every theory it has its supporters but literature is not respecter of class or scholarship. It has to smell life in its naturalness, even coarseness has its part. Scholarship can make a horse run to win the Derby but cannot make it fly like Pegasus. Here is the difference between Shakespeare and his rivals. His line trots and when flies it takes our breath away.

So what was the secret of William Shakespeare? I shall come to it by and by. Beginning as a player he became the most celebrated playwright of the Age. It was a time when poets were considered a cut above the players similar to the subtle social distinctions that marked a composer than a flautist in the Baroque Age. He made wise career moves in taking shares of the Lord Chamberlain’s Company at its inception in 1594 and his star rose as with the fortunes of the Company. Its popularity was such its players were elevated to be regarded as the King’s Men on James I accession in 1603. He ended up as part owner of the Blackfriar’s theatre. In short his sound business acumen made him as the Stratford lad who made good in the City of London.

Intelligence he had aplenty as his life in bare essentials would prove. His imagination was of such ethereal quality that he could put words in the mouth of Mercutio and we feel we know Queen Mab as though from direct experience. Never has any one excelled in poetic fancies as shown in the plays like Othello or Antony and Cleopatra. One can imagine it coming out like a single sweep of imagination, theme and coloring adding to the line- richness and vibrancy as the Renaissance palette of a Tintorotto or a Vernese. In the latter play especially ‘his language reaches heights and depths never reached before or excelled since.’

Not poppy, nor mandragora,

Nor all the drowsy syrups of the world,

Shall ever medicine thee to that sweet sleep..” (Ot.AcIII sc.3: 330)

Negative capability as defined by John Keats explains the ability of Shakespeare, whose academic credentials were merely rudimentary, to have excelled himself in writing plays that bear his name. The Bard of Avon despite his negative capability made up by exercising his imagination. Such is imagination and it belongs to the inner world.


How rational mind may lay bare our world in terms of use and purpose is like putting together a newspaper which once read is outdated. Mere facts help one negotiate his world adequately. Shakespeare’s King Lear or Hamlet and Macbeth hold freshness that is beyond fads and facts. Works such as these are drawn by imagination,- or in a manner of speaking, lay bare the truth that animates human soul. Imagination ranging through inner world can give human experience various shades of meaning and reveal them to others. The Bard surpassed himself and his lines consequently acquired beauty and truth to delight great many.


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Much have I pined in the paperwork,
And many accounts and books tallied;
Round many expense accounts have I rallied
And found how Corporate heads work.
Oft of one name in particular I shirk
To cite among many follies in my work:
Yet did I never breathe or e’en bark
Till I saw Madoff scheme take off sky-high:
Then felt I like some stupid pen-pusher
Wading through worthless assets rated high:
My eyes ever on entries and number
Must keep my judgment suspended-fie!
Work is worship: but a lean purse, my boon
I guess Madoff has his god of Mammon

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John Keats (1795-1821)
Poet of whom Mathew Arnold said thus:’Keats is with Shakespeare.’Rightly so. Since Shakespeare none had written as richly sensuous as Keats.

Keats used to write snatches of poems as it occurred to him on any paper on hand which he tucked away as some book-marker for later. By this manner he had lost many verses either because the poetic inspiration had eased or by forgetfulness. In the spring of 1819 a nightingale had built her nest near his friend Charles Brown’s house. Keats who was very observant of these things once heard the nightingale sing and was captivated. One morning he took his chair from the breakfast table to the plot of grass under a plum tree and sat there for a couple of hours. When he went into the house again he had the rough draft of the Ode in so many scraps of papers. Because of his friends persuasion he went over the verses till he had put them in its proper form. It has since become one of the greatest poems ever penned in English language.
30th Dec.1816.
while at the house of Leigh Hunt ,who,the talks having turned upon crickets -the cheerful little grasshopper of the fireside’-proposed to Keats that they should each write a sonnet on the double theme. Hunt was fond of such friendly competition. When Keats produced in a shorter time, an infinitely better sonnet than his own, Cowden Clarke, the only other person present, recorded the unalloyed pleasure in his friend’s triumph. ‘The poetry of earth is never dead:…’
John Keats gave up medicine for the poetic muse. One night around eleven o’clock he came to his friend Brown’s house. He was feverish and in an excitable state. At his friend’s request he took to bed. He coughed a little and a drop of blood fell on the sheet. A little later when his friend went check if he was alright found him examining the sheet. ‘Bring me the candle, Brown, and let me see this blood.’
After examining it he announced with a calmness,which was all the more striking, he said,’ I know the color of that blood; it is arterial blood. I cannot be deceived in that color; that drop of blood is my death warrant- I must die.

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