This week we are going to focus on two more Romantic poets. My main squeeze John Keats and Lord Byron. I will be honest. I am not even going to attempt to give them equal time. hahaha. Also, I resent Lord Byron because he insulted my man.
“Here are Johnny Keats’ pi%$-a-bed poetry, and three novels by God knows whom… No more Keats, I entreat: flay him alive; if some of you don’t I must skin him myself: there is no bearing the drivelling idiotism of the Mankin.” – Lord Byron on John Keats
This week you will need to watch a movie called Bright Star. It is PG so you need your parents permission. It is $2.99 on Amazon. It is about the life of my favorite poet and it is really sweet. I saw it in the only theater nearby that it played in, in Claremont, and cried. I even ugly cried. hahaha.
I have loved John Keat’s poetry since I was 18 years old. I want you to experience his poems less from an intellectual perspective and more from an experiential perspective. Feel the imagery, close your eyes and see it. Listen to the sound of it, the way the consonant sounds repeat. The words he chooses are so perfect and rich. Pretend the poems are like a soup and taste it–noticing the flavors and textures. He is so brilliant.
Enjoy his poems, and then go outside and walk in your grass barefoot and feel the cool texture of the grass beneath your feet. Smell the fresh air and notice the sound and movement of the air all around you. This is what reading a Keat’s poem is about.
Live while you can. Live richly. And love the people around you. Notice the sound of their giggles. The warmth of your mothers hug, her smell.
John Keats died young. He died of Tuberculosis when he was 25. He lived well though and loved deeply, and payed attention to all the living world around him–celebrating and memorializing it.
Before you watch Bright Star please read the following poem.
When I Have Fears, by John Keats
When I have fears that I may cease to beBefore my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,Before high-pilèd books, in charactery,Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,And think that I may never live to traceTheir 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 powerOf unreflecting love—then on the shoreOf the wide world I stand alone, and thinkTill love and fame to nothingness do sink.
The movie is not just about his poems, and his struggles with self-doubt, but it is about love. John was sooooooo in love with a young girl named Fanny Brawne. He used to write her the most romantic letters. She was a lucky woman. I even have a rare publication of a book of their love letters that I purchased form a book collector. It is one of my book treasures. They were so sweet to each other. He was a good man.
- “Endymion” by John Keats
- “Bright Star” by John Keats
- “Ode To A Nightingale” by John Keats
- “Ode On A Grecian Urn” by John Keats
- “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” by John Keats “The figure of woman as temptress–irresistibly beautiful, but emotionally cold–is ancient. Indifferent to the fate of those who come under her spell, she vanishes swiftly and mysteriously as she arrives, leaving her victim spiritless, deprived of his manhood-and forever obsessed with the unattainable. Think about these two things: How does the woman captivate the speaker of the poem? And what about this tale so captivated Keats as a romantic poet?”
- “The Destruction of Sennacherib” by George Gordon, Lord Byron. This is a poem about the Bible story from Kings and Chronicles when the Angel of the Lord kills the entire army of Assyria as they camped outside the walls of Jerusalem.
- “She Walks In Beauty” by George Gordon, Lord Byron
- “Ozzymandias” by Percy Bysshe Shelley (again)
- “England 1819” by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Please print out the poems in BOLD print above and bring them to class on Friday so that we can go over them.
Listening (please close your eyes and listen):
- “Ode To A Nightingale” – Read by Benedict Cumberbatch
- https://www.youtube.com/embed/P3afZ5KxNzY“>”Ode To A Nightingale” – Read by Ben Wishaw
Ode To a Nightingale Background
“When Keats was twenty-three, he spent a few months at the Hampstead home of his friend Charles Brown, who remembered: ‘In the spring of 1819 a nightingale had built her nest near my house. Keats felt a tranquil and continual joy in her song, and one morning he took his chair from the breakfast table to the grass plot under a plum tree where he sat for two or three hours. When he came into the house, I perceived he had some scraps of paper in his hand and these he was quietly thrusting behind books. On inquiry, I found those scraps, four or five in number, contained his poetic feeling on the song of our nightingale.’ There are no nightingales in North America. Their unearthly, sad, sweet song can only be heard in the British Isles and in Central and Western Europe. (Holt, Rinehart and Winston Elements of Literature)
Thinking and Writing (to be updated)
- “The Destruction of Sennacherib” — What image in this poem do you remember most vividly?
- Notice the meter of the poem. It is anapestic tetrameter. An anapestic foot is three syllables–two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable. The beat is: ba ba BA, ba ba BA, ba ba BA How do you think this meter would suit a modern battle poem?
- In “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” what is the most important word describing the woman, in your opinion?
- Who are the poem’s two speakers, and where does one stop speaking and the other begin?
- How does the poem’s images help you visualize the knight and the time of year?
- Where does Keats vary each stanza’s meter, and what is the effect of the rhythmic change?
- In “Ode to a Nightingale” what image is strongest in your mind?
- Describe the setting of the poem–its time and place.
- Why do you think the speaker wants to capture the nightingale’s “ease” and why is he “too happy in [its] happiness” (stanza 1)?
- The title of the poem is “Ode TO a Nightingale” not “Ode ABOUT or ON a Nightingale” What does this distinction mean when it comes to the SUBJECT of the poem? Who is the speaker of the poem speaking to? And what is he speaking about?
- In “Ode on a Grecian Urn” what passages in this poem do you think are most important and why?
- Discuss your understanding of the three metaphors for the urn in lines 1-3.
- Why do you think “unheard” melodies (line 11) are “sweeter” to the speaker? How would you relate this to the idea of Romanticism?
- According to stanza 5, what will happen to the urn when the speaker is dead? What message does the urn give to people?
- What do you think was the most stunningly beautiful scene of nature in the movie? Leave your answer in the comment section below.
- Print out all the poems above that are in BOLD print and bring them to class on Friday.
Your Projects are Due Friday