Poetry By Heart: “When I Have Fears” by John Keats
I know you’re supposed to fall in love with Keats when you’re a teenager, but I was always too busy with novels and short stories to have a poetry phase. And so, as I begin to finally explore the poets, I thought it would be as well to begin with some obvious choices, ones that are frequently referenced in the books I read. I have an affection for sonnets as well, especially as they’re so much trickier to manage in English than Italian. And in light of my post yesterday, this Keats poem feels right, especially as he did die so young. I have not memorised it quite yet; it will be this week’s project.
“When I Have Fears” by John Keats
When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love;–then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
I have a bit of spare spending money, and I’d like to buy a poetry anthology or two (…or three…). Ideally, I’d like one with a solid grounding of the touchstone classics mixed with lesser known but still good older poems (in a perfect world it would also acknowledge and try redress the limits of a canon built from centuries of white, male privilege) and a more contemporary one with a significant amount of women and poets of colour. An international one wouldn’t go amiss either, of course. Any suggestions? I’d rather flip through physical books than use the internet to come across poetry, as silly as that likely sounds. My list currently includes A Book of Luminous Things, The New Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250-1950, and Essential Pleasures: A New Anthology of Poems to Read Aloud, so it clearly is in need of a few more additions.
Here’s the photo credit for that beautiful night sky. That’s something I’d love to learn to do this upcoming year; when I was in the Amazon and later in the high rural Andes, the sky and stars simply engulfed me with their splendour, although they resisted my camera. Living in a city, and a cloudy one at that, is not as conducive to star gazing, but I’m haunted enough by those memories to wish to become more knowledgable of “the night’s starr’d face.”