Nineteenth-Century Poetry continues – (20)

John Keats on his deathbed – sketched by Joseph Severn – “28 Janry 3 o’clock mng. Drawn to keep me awake-a deadly sweat was on him all this night” –  & wry pithy quote from William Shenstone (1714-1763)

Allen Ginsberg on the English Romantic poets (“Nineteenth Century Poetry‘) his October 8 1981 Naropa class  continues from here

Student:  Where did all these poets get consumption, I wonder?  It seems like all of the…

AG:  I don’t know.  Shelley was supposed to be very frail.

Student:  ..writers..

AG:  “Pale Shelley”.  Well, it was more common in those days.

Student:  Yeah.

AG:  The only reason we don’t get it nowadays is they’ve got some kind of cure for it.

Student:  So romantic.

AG:  It was considered romantic at the time.

Student:  Yeah.  Hmm.

Peter Orlovsky:  I guess also he did a lot of reading.

AG:  Yeah, stayed inside.

Peter Orlovsky:  Stayed inside, no sunshine.

AG: Stony towers.

Peter Orlovsky: Damp room.

Student:  Maybe you’re putting the cart before the horse.  They didn’t get consumption because they were poets, I mean.

Student:  No.

Student:  They became poets because of the sense…

AG:  Yeah.

Student:  … of death and all that, that might have brought their sensitivity out.

AG:  He was dying of consumption.  And Keats … had Keats died by then?

Student:  Uh, no.  Eighteen …

AG:  This says 1818.

Student:  … twenty.

AG:  Keats died two years later? [Editorial note – Keats died, actually, in 1821]

Student:  Twenty.

Student:  Didn’t Byron die right in there, too?

AG:  Later.  Byron died after. [Editorial note – Byron died in 1824.  So within three years Keats (1821), Shelley (1822) and Byron were dead.]

He does say “Some might lament that I were cold”.  So he knows that somebody is going to be sorry.  Somebody’s going to be sorry when he dies.

AG: Now you’ve got..  I was just in Rome and on the Spanish Steps where there’s a big fountain, there’s a house where Keats died where they have a giant library and memorial to Keats and Shelley and Byron and (Edward) Trelawny and all their friends.  And there’s a room where Keats died of consumption overlooking the Spanish Steps. Now it’s like a big museum and many regret.  And there’s a basic air of Romantic mournfulness about the place, because all these poets died young.  All the good ones, the great ones- like Byron, Keats, Shelley – died young.  And their sort of less-inspired friends lived on to write memoirs when they were ninety years old.  Hogg, I guess, [(The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1858)) and Trelawny (Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron, in the same year, when he was sixty-six.  He was to live on until he was eighty-nine..]

So that’s a depression.  The exaltation a couple of years earlier, a year earlier – two years earlier – 1816.

to be continued

Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately  twenty-six-and-a-half minute in and concluding at approximately twenty-eight-and-a-half minutes in

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