All About Books discussion

John Keats
This topic is about John Keats
101 views
The Monday Poem > 4th August 2014. What can I do to drive away - by John Keats

Comments Showing 1-19 of 19 (19 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by B the BookAddict (last edited Aug 03, 2014 11:50AM) (new)

B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments What can I do to drive away
Remembrance from my eyes? for they have seen,
Aye, an hour ago, my brilliant Queen!
Touch has a memory. O say, love, say,
What can I do to kill it and be free
In my old liberty?
When every fair one that I saw was fair
Enough to catch me in but half a snare,
Not keep me there:
When, howe’er poor or particolour’d things,
My muse had wings,
And ever ready was to take her course
Whither I bent her force,
Unintellectual, yet divine to me; —
Divine, I say! — What sea-bird o’er the sea
Is a philosopher the while he goes
Winging along where the great water throes?

How shall I do
To get anew
Those moulted feathers, and so mount once more
Above, above
The reach of fluttering Love,
And make him cower lowly while I soar?
Shall I gulp wine? No, that is vulgarism,
A heresy and schism,
Foisted into the canon law of love; —
No, — wine is only sweet to happy men;
More dismal cares
Seize on me unawares, —

Where shall I learn to get my peace again?
To banish thoughts of that most hateful land,
Dungeoner of my friends, that wicked strand
Where they were wreck’d and live a wrecked life;
That monstrous region, whose dull rivers pour
Ever from their sordid urns unto the shore,
Unown’d of any weedy-haired gods;
Whose winds, all zephyrless, hold scourging rods,
Iced in the great lakes, to afflict mankind;
Whose rank-grown forests, frosted, black, and blind,
Would fright a Dryad; whose harsh herbag’d meads
Make lean and lank the starv’d ox while he feeds;
There flowers have no scent, birds no sweet song,
And great unerring Nature once seems wrong.

O, for some sunny spell
To dissipate the shadows of this hell!
Say they are gone, — with the new dawning light
Steps forth my lady bright!
O, let me once more rest
My soul upon that dazzling breast!
Let once again these aching arms be plac’d,
The tender gaolers of thy waist!
And let me feel that warm breath here and there
To spread a rapture in my very hair, —
O, the sweetness of the pain!
Give me those lips again!
Enough! Enough! it is enough for me
To dream of thee!


John Keats (1795 - 1821) was one of the principal poets of the English Romantic movement. During his short life, his work received constant critical attacks from the periodicals of the day, but his posthumous influence on poets such as Alfred Tennyson has been immense. Elaborate word choice and sensual imagery characterize Keats's poetry, including a series of odes that were his masterpieces and which remain among the most popular poems in English literature. Keats's letters, which expound on his aesthetic theory of "negative capability", are among the most celebrated by any writer. (from Goodreads Author page)


message 2: by Alannah (new)

Alannah Clarke (alannahclarke) | 11958 comments Mod
Lovely poem Bette.


message 3: by Everyman (new)

Everyman Very interesting. A Keats I don't recognize, and indeed in a way sounds more like Donne than Keats, doesn't it?


message 4: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13413 comments Mod
How I love Keats.
He is buried in Rome where the house he lived in with Shelly is a museum and also nice to visit - it faces Piazza di Spagna!!!!


message 5: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
A beautiful poem Bette! I don't think I've ever come across this particular Keats poem before. I like it!

Sounds like Keats is feeling that both he and his artistic gift are being overpowered by a too-ardent love, and his loved one's absence is making his life into a special kind of hell.

I'm still a little confused about these lines: "What sea-bird over the sea / Is a philosopher the while he goes / Winging along where the great water throes."

Here's my current way of thinking of those lines: Based on context, I'm guessing somehow the bird is being controlled by the sea (the bird's path?) as Keats is controlled by his too-ardent love; Because of this, Keats and the bird can't soar in the upper regions (be a "philosopher"). All of this is different from the past when Keats loved less deeply (was only in "half a snare") and was still able to soar above a lesser Love that cowered lowly ("Love .. make him cower lowly while I soar")? Even if these conjectures of mine are right, I don't fully understand the sense of the word "throes" in that line. Hmmm.

Am I totally off track Bette? :)

Thanks for sharing the poem!


message 6: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
@Laura, I hope I can visit that house & museum someday! That would be something special!!


message 7: by LauraT (new)

LauraT (laurata) | 13413 comments Mod
Greg wrote: "@Laura, I hope I can visit that house & museum someday! That would be something special!!"

Definitly great place, where to start a tour of Rome!
https://www.google.it/search?q=keats+...


message 8: by EleonoraF (new)

EleonoraF (eleonora1679) LauraT wrote: "Definitly great place, where to start a tour of Rome!
https://www.google.it/search?q=keats+a..."


Ma quanto è bella Roma????

Wonderful places :)


message 9: by B the BookAddict (last edited Aug 04, 2014 12:13PM) (new)

B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments @Greg This is a relatively new Keats poem for me too. I can only think emotionally about it rather than intellectually because I am haunted by specific lines (not the ones you mention). So, Mr Google provides the following:

"Keats's characteristic questioning attitude is very intriguing here. The first impression one may have is that he wants to be free from the object of his affections. But the situation seems to be more complex rather than its implied simplicity. This is a typical situation of poetic day-dreaming, with the absent lover serving as inspiration, and delineating the poet as paradoxically running away from what he desires. The question of remembrance and seeing does not presuppose the actual sight of the poet, but mental images, or mental mirroring of what is not there. He is inextricably bound to love, whose touch and memory cannot be wiped out from the conscious or subconscious mind, but could be surmounted. With regard to the muse, the poem is primarily inspired by the one to whom it is addressed. Yet Keats talks about another muse, whom he associates with divinity. Whatever this second muse represents, it is also associated with the female principle, and can be taken to be a transcendental surrogate for Fanny Brawne."

quoted directly from:
John Keats
From Eroticism To Psycho-Aesthetics And Spirituality: The Keatsian Dimension
by Charles Ngiewih TEKE, PhD

full text: http://www.literature-study-online.co...

The full text is well worth reading.


message 10: by Dhanaraj (new)

Dhanaraj Rajan | 2962 comments Loved the poem. The pain of longing lover for his beloved is well captured. Thanks Bette.

By the way, I visited the YOUNG ENGLISH POET's resting place in Rome. In fact, I visit that site more often.


message 11: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
Bette BookAddict wrote: "@Greg This is a relatively new Keats poem for me too. I can only think emotionally about it rather than intellectually because I am haunted by specific lines (not the ones you mention). So, Mr G..."

Thanks Bette, great link. Gotta love Mr Google! I don't think I was too far astray, but the link was instructive in helping me understand further.

I know what you mean about understanding a poem emotionally as opposed to intellectually. Which lines struck you most?


message 12: by Diane S ☔ (new)

Diane S ☔ I love Keats and I love the airy tone of this poem.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

Bette, thank you for this poem which is new to me. I liked it very much.


message 14: by Leslie (new)

Leslie | 15985 comments Thanks Bette -- I glanced at this last time I was online but wanted to spend more time with it before commenting. I love the image of Keats' muse as a bird ("Unintellectual, yet divine to me")...


message 15: by Sigourney (new)

Sigourney (psthebirdbites) | 226 comments Lovely choice, Bette. I thought it would be a bit wordy when I started reading it but some of the imagery is really wonderful.


message 16: by B the BookAddict (new)

B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments Greg wrote: "Bette BookAddict wrote: "@Greg This is a relatively new Keats poem for me too. I can only think emotionally about it rather than intellectually because I am haunted by specific lines (not the one...

I know what you mean about understanding a poem emotionally as opposed to intellectually. Which lines struck you most? "


Oddly, for me, my favorite lines appear very near the beginning and at the end. Mostly, I think, it's because they speak to me of how I have felt over the last couple of years.

Touch has a memory. O say, love, say,
What can I do to kill it and be free...

Enough! Enough! it is enough for me
To dream of thee!



message 17: by B the BookAddict (new)

B the BookAddict (bthebookaddict) | 8315 comments Greg wrote: "Bette BookAddict wrote: "@Greg This is a relatively new Keats poem for me too. I can only think emotionally about it rather than intellectually because I am haunted by specific lines (not the one...

I know what you mean about understanding a poem emotionally as opposed to intellectually. Which lines struck you most? "


Oddly, for me, my favorite lines appear very near the beginning and at the end. Mostly, I think, it's because they speak to me of how I have felt over the last couple of years.

Touch has a memory. O say, love, say,
What can I do to kill it and be free...

Enough! Enough! it is enough for me
To dream of thee!



message 18: by Greg (new)

Greg | 7684 comments Mod
They are beautiful lines Bette - I can see how they would touch you deeply, especially now. Thank you for sharing this lovely poem.


message 19: by Jenny (new)

Jenny (jeoblivion) | 4869 comments Beautiful poem Bette, and I hadn't read before. One of the things that I like about Keats poetry so much is that it is so musical. It is fairly easy for me still - especially with old English - to NOT understand what I am reading precisely but to sort of drift over the text and take in the sound and rhythm way before I take in the meaning. With some poetry it simply leaves me with a sense of frustration of not being a native, with others - like Keats - it almost feels like a added bonus, because just the musicality by itself - before I read it again more closely - is so beautiful.


back to top