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Friday, June 25, 2010

To Fanny

(portrait of John Keats by William Hilton,
1786-1839, English painter)

When John Keats fell in love with the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, he was an impoverished poet with no prospects for marriage. He was also under a death sentence, stricken with the consumption or tuberculosis that had already killed a brother. Keats moved to Italy for his health and died there when he was only 25 years old, separated from his beloved.

The love that they felt for each other Keats recorded in his poems and the many letters that survive. “I love you the more in that I believe you have liked me for my own sake and for nothing else,” he wrote to Fanny. “I have met with women whom I really think would like to be married to a Poem and to be given away by a Novel.”

In another letter he told Fanny, “I have no limit now to my love. I have been astonished that men could die martyrs of religion. I have shuddered at it. I shudder no more. I could be martyred for my religion — love is my religion — I could die for you. My creed is love and you are its only tenet. You have ravish’d me away by a power I could not resist. . . . My love is selfish. I cannot breathe without you. . . . Yours for ever.”


I cry your mercy — pity — love — aye, love!
Merciful love that tantalizes not,
One-thoughted, never-wandering, guileless love,
Unmask’d, and being seen — without a blot!
O! let me have thee whole, — all — all — be mine!
That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of your love, your kiss, — those hands, those eyes divine,
That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast, —
Yourself — your soul — in pity give me all,
Withhold no atom’s atom or I die,
Or living on perhaps, your wretched thrall,
Forget, in the midst of idle misery,
Life’s purposes, — the palate of my mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!

~ John Keats (1795-1821), English Romantic poet

For a short article about Bright Star, the recent film depicting the love between Keats and Fanny, go to this site:

(Please cut and paste the address if the link is not working.)

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