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Happy Birthday, Keats

Probably my all-time favourite poet.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 31st, 2007 07:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reminding me of these lines. The bit about Ruth has always caught at my heart, especially ". . . when, sick for home, / She stood in tears amid the alien corn."
Oct. 31st, 2007 10:47 pm (UTC)
yeah, me too. On its own it always moved me, and I have this other somewhat ideosyncratic button associated with it, too. Have you ever seen the _movie_ of "The Little Prince"? Somewhat bizarre musical version, notable for 1. Bob Fosse doing an amazing dance turn as the Snake and 2. Gene Wilder as the Fox. There's a scene of him standing - forlorn - in a corn field that chokes me up just thinking about it, and which that line of Nightingale always now reminds me of.
Nov. 1st, 2007 03:16 am (UTC)
Yes, I have seen it, actually, but hadn't made the association.

I have always had a thing about Ruth's story, actually. Thy people shall be my people, and thy god my god.

In the Keats poem, of course, it's about the simplicity of the image in conjunction with the rhythm of the line. But if I really had to put my finger the precise trigger, I'd say it's the phrase "alien corn." Alien's three symbols seem to cry out, in a line of such simple words, and the corn is such an ordinary and yet here hopelessly insurmountable thing. And then those two words have the most sorrowful vowels; they reproduce the sound of lonely wailing and make Ruth seem so small against the vast fields.

(Hey, taught poetry this afternoon, so you'll have to forgive me.)
Nov. 1st, 2007 02:33 am (UTC)
"Charm'd magic casements" reminded me of "The Eve of St. Agnes," which is one of my favorites of his...
Nov. 1st, 2007 03:04 am (UTC)
Yes, I love that too.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )


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