I recently discovered a fine poem, "The Resurrection of John Keats," by a young poet in Cleveland, Virginia Konchan. The poem, published in The New Republic, delighted me with its quality of a conversation heard through a door, a veiled language that offered its own meaning. I was also delighted to see that Keats' power continues into new generations.
"The Resurrection of John Keats" is an apt theme, for the young poet, who died in his early 20s in apparent obscurity, is now the most enduring poet of his Romantic era. Books and poems about him keep arriving. The resurrection of Keats began among his friends in the early Victorian era and keeps growing into the early 20th century. The power of his life and work is reflected in his influence over William Faulkner and F. Scott Fitzgerald ("Tender Is The Night" from "Ode to the Nightingale"). Their sensibilities owe much to Keats.
I have seen the house on the Spanish Steps in Rome where Keats died; his grave in the Protestant Cemetery there, with its famed inscription, "Here Lies One Who's Name Was Writ in Water"; and his house in Hampstead in London where he wrote "Nightingale" and met Fanny Brawne, the young woman with whom he fell in love and who haunted him in his last months. Above is a posthumous portrait of Keats by Joseph Severn, the heroic young painter who traveled with him to Rome and nursed him during his agonizing last weeks and hours.
Among the Romantics, Keats can lay claim to rivaling Shakespeare, Donne, Chaucer and others among the greatest English poem. To me, "To Autumn" is the most perfect in the language, and I love the odes. And then there's his letters, full of philosophical and poetic riches, along with narrative color from his daily living. Byron keeps getting biographical interest because of his salacious life. Shelley is heroic, and I want to reread him. I still love Wordsworth, although he grew into a boor in old age, and Coleridge, but no one excites me like Keats.
Reading about the Cannes Film Festival, I discovered a new movie, "Bright Star," has been made about the doomed love affair between Keats and Fannie Brawne. I'm looking forward to seeing the film. I hope it delves into Keats' journey from England to Italy and to Rome.
Until the movie arrives, I'll have to keep re-reading Ms. Konchan's "Resurrection."