Monday, October 19, 2009


by Arthur Hughes

I finally saw "Bright Star" today. It is the new Jane Campion film featuring the love story of the English romantic poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne. I had expected to see it that weekend, but it didn't open in Bismarck until last Friday.

It was worth the wait. I highly recommend it, even though it made me weep. The theme of this blog is a line from an Archibald MacLeish poem: "a poem should not mean but be."

"Bright Star" underlines this theme. At one point in the film, Fanny says that "poems are difficult to work out", or words to that effect. Keats later tells her that reading a poem is like jumping in a lake. The point at first is not necessarily to reach the other side, he says. It is to experience the sensation of being in the water.

A reader just needs to jump into a poem - to feel its rhythmic waves wash over you, to hear the cadences reaching you from the shore; to be immersed in its loveliness, its freshness, its coolness; sometimes to feel its ferocity or terrible beauty.

I printed some of Keats' most famous poems, or parts of them, on my regular blog, Celtic Lady, on September 17 ( Here I print one of my favorites of Keats' poems, "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" in its entirety. This poem inspired many painters, and was especially loved by the Pre-Raphaelites. Since I couldn't choose just one painting, I'm printing four of the most famous.

by Henry Maynell Rheame


By John Keats

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
Alone and palely loitering;
The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Ah, what can ail thee, wretched wight,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

I se a lilly on thy brow,
With anguish moist and fever dew;
And on thy cheek, a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a Lady in the meads
Full beautiful, A fairy's child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light
And her eyes were wild.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long;
For sideways would she lean, and sing
A faery's song.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look'd at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

She found me roots with relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said,
I love thee true.

She took me to her elfin grot,
and there she gaz'd and sighed deep,
And there I shut her wild sad eyes --
So kiss'd to sleep.

And there we slumber'd on the moss
And there I dream'd, ah woe betide
The latest dream I ever dream'd
On the cold hill side.

I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
Who cry'd -- "La belle Dame sans mercy
Hath thee in thrall!"

I saw their starv'd lips in the gloom
With horrid warning gaped wide,
and I awoke, and found me here
On the cold hill side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

by Sir Frank Dicksee

by J. W. Waterhouse

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. I'm especially fond of Pre-Raphaelite art, most especially the swirly drawings of Edward Burne-Jones.