This book – which includes copies of John Keats’s poetry in his own hand – has travelled around the world.
How did it end up in America?
In 1818, Keats’s brother George moved to America with his new wife, Georgiana. Keats was upset by the decision, but nevertheless accompanied them to the port of Liverpool on the way, then continued north for a walking tour of Scotland. In a letter to George of 14 February 1819, he is probably referring to the contents of this book when he writes 'In my next packet I shall send you my “Pot of Basil”, “St. Agnes Eve”, and, if I should have finished it, a little thing called “The Eve of St. Mark”'. ‘Pot of Basil’ is better known as ‘Isabella; or, the Pot of Basil’.
What does it contain?
Besides the poems mentioned in the letter – in Keats’s own hand – the book contains a number of Keats’s poems which appear to have been copied out by George; apparently from the manuscripts he often posted to the couple.
Composition of 'To Autumn'
In May 1819 Keats received a letter from his brother, George, asking him for money. Looking for ways to economise his own expenses, over the next few months he went to stay with friends in the Isle of Wight, London and Winchester, attempting to live cheaply and work hard. In September 1819 he returned to Winchester and began to write 'To Autumn'. The last in the series of Keats’s famous odes, the poem is more tranquil and accepting than the furious emotions expressed in his previous works and is an example of Keats’s increasing skill and maturity as a poet.
To Autumn 1819
Season of Mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom friend of the maturing Sun,
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
The vines with fruit that round the thatch-eves ^ run,
To bend with apples the moss’ed Cottage-trees,
And fill all fruits with sweetness to the core;
To swell the gourd and plump the hazle shells
With a sweet Kernel, to set budding more,
And still more later flowers for the Bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er brim’d their clammy cells.
2Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor
Thy hair soft lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half reapéd furrow, sound asleep,
Dos’ed with a fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next sheath and all its honied flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy leaden head across the brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozing, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of spring? Aye, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue,
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, born aloft,
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn
Hedge-crickets sing; and now again full soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
“There is a charm in footing slow,
“Across a silent plain,
“Where patriot battle had been fought,
“Where glory had the gain;
“There is a pleasure on the heath,
“Where druids old have been,
“Where mantles grey have rustled by,
“And swept the nettles green.” - KEATS.
- Article by:
- Stephen Hebron
What is melancholy? Stephen Hebron examines changing ideas about the emotion, considering Keats’s suggestion that we embrace melancholy as inextricable from pleasure.
- Article by:
- Stephen Hebron
The nightingale has longstanding literary associations, but Keats’s famous ode was inspired by a real-life nightingale as much as by previous poetry. Stephen Hebron considers how Keats uses the bird to position poetic imagination between the mortal and the immortal.
- Article by:
- Andrew Motion
Keats is often seen as a purely sensual poet, isolated from the social and political concerns of his day. Andrew Motion challenges this view, exploring how Keats translated political, philosophical and medical questions into physical, immediate language.
Related collection items
John Keats (1795-1821) composed his sensuous ode ‘To Autumn’ in September 1819. He was inspired by his ...
John Keats (1795-1821) composed this poem one morning in early May 1819, when he was still mourning the death of his ...
This volume by John Keats (1795-1821) was published in July 1820. It included: the three narrative poems listed in ...