Keats and Shelley – (Keats’ Last Poem)


John Keats’ grave at the The Cimitero Acattolico (“Non-Catholic Cemetery”) in Rome, Italy

 On Keats and Shelley  continued

Student: Have you seen the grave (of John Keats)?

AG: Yeah, sure, many times. I went there with Gregory.. (I) went there alone once and I went there with Gregory (Corso)

Student: I went there and it was closed but there was a little chink in the wall

AG: Yeah, and you can look in..

PO: I don’t think I was there.

AG: I think we went this time with (Fer)nanda (Pivano)

PO: Oh my god!

AG: June, that one day that we were in Rome.

PO: It’s terrible. My memory’s shot!

AG: However.. Okay. So it all vanishes ino a breath. It almost all vanishes into breath. So what we could do then is go back and see, like the breath, you know, like the breath, or a shadow, or some insubstantial…some opening of the gates of breath and perception (or “doors of perception“) but into breath, into life, let us say, awareness, breath and awareness, so breath and space. It all goes, vanishes into breath and space. But, however, when you get into space, it’s just all shadows really. Go on. Yes?

Student: Why do you think of this “Why linger, why turn back, why shrink, my Heart?” as the key to why Shelley is constantly plunging into this act of dying, you know, his great act…

AG: He didn’t die much later than this. What is this? – 1821 – What year did Shelley die?- I think a couple of years (on), that year maybe? – 1822 – he died a year later. No, he was a reckless fellow – how old? – 27 (Keats was 24!) – they were smart, though, or, as Gregory Corso would say, “smart fuckers” (so smart, let’s see, is there a Keats here [in the book]?. Keats’ last poem – do you know that one? – it might be here – Keats in this book?, I just want to check that – and then we’ll go back to where we started – just to get quick into their mind)

(Page) 699, no it’s a little later – Yeah, very good, page 716,  Keats’ last poem. It’s a William Carlos Williams poem, actually, or David Cope poem, an uncanny poem. It’s written to his girlfriend, to Fanny Brawne, it is said, (the girl that he was, you know, he had a very close relationship with, Fanny -and he knew he was dying. Page 716 – “This Living Hand…” [At approximately sixty-seven-and-a-quarter minutes in, Allen begins reading] –  “This living hand… ‘ (the note says, “written on the page of Keats’ unfinished manuscript “The Cap and Bells”” (“The Cap and Bells”), but also, I think, seen in a letter to his girlfriend – “This living hand, now warm and capable/ Of earnest grasping….”….. “see, here it is -I hold it towards you” – The original ends with a dash! – “See, here it is -I hold it towards you” – that’s really coming out of the page!

Student: That’s his last poem?

AG: Yes, about the last. Maybe there’s another… but this is the last. It’s a great thing. Because he’s mad at her a little bit. She’s snubbed him and there’s some little shadow and he’s dying really.

Student: What did he die of?

AG: Consumption – and in Rome – in a house on the Spanish Steps in Rome

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately sixty-four-and-a- quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately sixty-eight-and-a-quarter minutes in]

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