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Keats forever

Friday, 7 September, 2012

Keats “When John Keats read George Chapman’s translation of Homer he felt, in his elevated, poetical way, like ‘some watcher of the skies/When a new planet swims into his ken’.” So begins The new world of DNA in the current issue of The Economist. It’s always reassuring when journalists dealing with the most complicated of subjects draw upon Keats as he really is the poet for all seasons and all subjects.

John Keats (1795-1821) was the greatest talent the English language had seen since Shakespeare. Yet he was dead at 26. Keats lived and died, says Clive James, in a time “when it was normal for talent to be killed at random.” And, adds James: “Today’s young tourists of a literary bent, when they pass, on the Spanish Steps in Rome, the window of his last resting place, are being granted an insight into the fearful realities of a world without antibiotics.”

But this is human life: the war, the deeds,
The disappointment, the anxiety,
Imagination’s struggles, far and nigh,
All human; bearing in themselves this good,
That they are still the air, the subtle food,
To make us feel existence, and to shew
How quiet death is.

John Keats Endymion, Book II, l.153-159


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