Keats 200 – World Poets
Venue: Online – £10/$12 for this online talk
The links giving you access to this lecture will be sent out on or after 15 February 2021. You will have the choice of a YouTube video or a downloadable audio podcast.
We think we know the 24-year-old who made the nightingale a watchword of our earthly wondering about eternity.
But do we? In Keats 200, marking the bicentenary of his death in Rome on 23 February 1821, we watch him
- trying to write the first line of his Endymion, and then the next 32, at a single sitting in the upstairs window of a house in Cheapside with a view of St Paul’s;
- being shocked out of writer’s block on the Isle of Wight by going down into Shanklin Chine and then reading King Lear;
- in the Keats House garden writing the Nightingale ode on scraps of paper;
- composing his great Chapman’s Homer sonnet in his head while walking through the London night;
- and on the storm-tossed boat to Italy.
In the face of never-ending challenges, Keats was fearlessly creative on the page. Dead at 25, his sonnets can stand alongside Shakespeare’s, his poems tread every inch of the meadow of the English language, his letters are the finest ever written in English, and the beauty of his lyrical gift has seldom been surpassed by anyone in any language. “There was”, said Joseph Severn, who was with him when he died in Rome, “a strong bias of the beautiful side of humanity in everything he did.”
Top picture: Posthumous portrait of John Keats by William Hilton (National Portrait Gallery, London)
Lower picture: Sketch of John Keats by Joseph Severn, 1816.