Last Sonnet / Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art

February 13, 2006 at 8:15 pm Leave a comment

John Keats


I WOULD that we were, my beloved, white birds on the foam of the sea!
We tire of the flame of the meteor, before it can fade and flee;
And the flame of the blue star of twilight, hung low on the rim of the sky,
Has awakened in our hearts, my beloved, a sadness that may not die.

A weariness comes from those dreamers, dew-dabbled, the lily and rose;
Ah, dream not of them, my beloved, the flame of the meteor that goes,
Or the flame of the blue star that lingers hung low in the fall of the dew:
For I would we were changed to white birds on the wandering foam: I and you!

I am haunted by numberless islands, and many a Danaan shore,
Where Time would surely forget us, and Sorrow come near us no more;
Soon far from the rose and the lily, and fret of the flames would we be,
Were we only white birds, my beloved, buoyed out on the foam of the sea!

First love is wonderful, isn’t it?

John Keats was the first poet I ever fell in love with – something breathtaking and unshamable about his engagement of beauty, the equal purity of his verses and his heart, spoke to my adolescent self in a way that can only be described as enchantment [1]. And while I am no longer as starry-eyed about his poetry as I was at 15, he remains, for me, one of the most exquisite and ravishing of all poets; the only writer, whose language, for sheer aestheticism, is fully the rival of Shakespeare’s.

It’s only fitting then, that if we must celebrate Valentine’s Day, we shall do it, Not chariot’d by Hallmark and its cards, but on “the viewless wings of Poesy”.

For more commentary, see Minstrels.
[1] Keats himself describes the feeling of discovering poetry for the first time: “I am brimful of the friendliness / that in a little cottage I have found / Of fair-hair’d Milton’s eloquent distress / And all his love for gentle Lycid drown’d / Of lovely Laura in her light green dress / And faithful Petrarch gloriously crown’d”


Entry filed under: English, John Keats.

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