200 years ago Keats wrote a sonnet in Burns’s cottage

On Saturday 11 July 1818 Keats and Brown had breakfast at Kirkoswald, then visited the remains of Crossraguel Abbey and Baltersan Castle. They spent the night at Ayr, where Keats wrote a sonnet in Burns’s cottage.

 

“One song of Burns’s is of more worth to you than all I could think for a whole year in his native country. His Misery is a dead weight upon the nimbleness of one’s quill — I tried to forget it — to drink Toddy without any Care — to write a merry sonnet — it won’t do — he talked with Bitches — he drank with Blackguards, he was miserable — We can see horribly clear, in the works of such a Man his whole life, as if we were God’s spies.”

This mortal body of a thousand days
Now fills, O Burns, a space in thine own room,
Where thou didst dream alone on budded bays,
Happy and thoughtless of thy day of doom!
My pulse is warm with thine own barley-bree,
My head is light with pledging a great soul,
My eyes are wandering, and I cannot see,
Fancy is dead and drunken at its goal:
Yet can I stamp my foot upon thy floor,
Yet can I ope thy window-sash to find
The meadow thou hast tramped o’er and o’er,
Yet can I think of thee till thought is blind,
Yet can I gulp a bumper to thy name —
O smile among the shades, for this is fame!

[A thousand days takes us back to 7 April 1815, which was around the time it’s believed that Keats wrote ‘O Solitude, if I must with thee dwell’ – which would be his first published poem.]
[photo: https://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/08/09/67/10/burns-cottage.jpg]

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