200 years ago this month, Keats began his first long poem


Around this time in November 1816, Keats began writing ‘Sleep and Poetry’.

O Poesy! for thee I grasp my pen
That am not yet a glorious denizen
Of thy wide heaven; yet, to my ardent prayer,
Yield from thy sanctuary some clear air,
Smoothed for intoxication by the breath
Of flowering bays, that I may die a death
Of luxury, and my young spirit follow
The morning sunbeams to the great Apollo
Like a fresh sacrifice…

O for ten years, that I may overwhelm
Myself in poesy; so I may do the deed
That my own soul has to itself decreed…

And they shall be accounted poet-kings
Who simply tell the most heart-easing things.
O may these joys be ripe before I die…

Will not some say that I presumptuously
Have spoken? that from the hastening disgrace
Twere better far to hide my foolish face?
That whining boyhood should with reverence bow
Ere the dread thunderbolt could reach?  How!
If I do hide myself, it sure shall be
In the very fane, the light of Poesy:
If I do fall, at least I will be laid
Beneath the silence of a poplar shade;
And over me the grass shall be smooth-shaven;
And there shall be a kind memorial graven…

Charles Cowden Clarke recalled:
It was in the library at Hunt’s cottage, where an extemporary bed had been made up for him on the sofa, that he composed the frame-work and many lines of the poem on Sleep and Poetry — the last sixty or seventy being an inventory of the art garniture of the room, commencing,—
It was a poet’s house who keeps the keys
Of Pleasure’s temple.

Source <of context>

Source <of poem>
‘Sleep and Poetry’ lines 47-61, 96-98, 267-280

Sleep and Poetry

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *