Monday, July 2, 2007

Roman Exile

During my last week in Rome I paid a visit to the Protestant Cemetery, where John Keats is buried. It was impossible that I leave without making this small pilgrimage. The place was so lovely that I stayed there for an hour, and I said a rosary for Keats, attempting to give him something in return for his poetry. Here you can see that he is buried next to Joseph Severn, his artist friend:

An admirer had left him this object:

What did it have inside, I wonder? The true, the blushful Hippocrene? Actually, that would be uncivilized... if you're going to offer a libation, you pour it on the ground; you don't leave it standing there going "Nyah nyah!" Maybe the vase was filled with crumpled-up sonnets.

One more picture. This is a far-off view of Keats's grave, and it shows that he is buried in the quietest, most distant corner of the Protestant Cemetery.

It tore me up that Keats only came to Italy when he was dying. Rome is the worst place in which to be living a posthumous existence; when I was there, I often felt a kind of panic that I was going to have to leave without seeing some marvelous thing or other. His doctor kept Keats from visiting the famous sights of Rome, fearing that the excitement would weaken him; and as he fell asleep at night, listening to the plash of Bernini's fountain outside his window, the "warm South" must have seemed as distant as it was in England when he imagined it vaguely as a land of "summer waters":

Happy is England! I could be content
  To see no other verdure than its own;
  To feel no other breezes than are blown
Through its tall woods with high romances blent:
Yet do I sometimes feel a languishment
  For skies Italian, and an inward groan
  To sit upon an Alp as on a throne,
And half forget what world or worldling meant.
Happy is England, sweet her artless daughters;
  Enough their simple loveliness for me,
    Enough their whitest arms in silence clinging:
  Yet do I often warmly burn to see
    Beauties of deeper glance, and hear their singing,
And float with them about the summer waters.

1 comment:

Gail White said...

I was delighted to see these pictures. Thank you!

At odd moments, I wonder whatever became of the poems I submitted online to Dappled Things. Any clue?