'Epistle To My Brother George' by John Keats


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Full many a dreary hour have I past,
My brain bewildered, and my mind o'ercast
With heaviness; in seasons when I've thought
No spherey strains by me could e'er be caught
From the blue dome, though I to dimness gaze
On the far depth where sheeted lightning plays;
Or, on the wavy grass outstretched supinely,
Pry 'mong the stars, to strive to think divinely:
That I should never hear Apollo's song,
Though feathery clouds were floating all along
The purple west, and, two bright streaks between,
The golden lyre itself were dimly seen:
That the still murmur of the honey bee
Would never teach a rural song to me:
That the bright glance from beauty's eyelids slanting
Would never make a lay of mine enchanting,
Or warm my breast with ardour to unfold
Some tale of love and arms in time of old.

But there are times, when those that love the bay,
Fly from all sorrowing far, far away;
A sudden glow comes on them, nought they see
In water, earth, or air, but poesy.
It has been said, dear George, and true I hold it,
(For knightly Spenser to Libertas told it,)
That when a Poet is in such a trance,
In air her sees white coursers paw, and prance,
Bestridden of gay knights, in gay apparel,
Who at each other tilt in playful quarrel,
And what we, ignorantly, sheet-lightning call,
Is the swift opening of their wide portal,
When the bright warder blows his trumpet clear,
Whose tones reach nought on earth but Poet's ear.
When these enchanted portals open wide,
And through the light the horsemen swiftly glide,
The Poet's eye can reach those golden halls,
And view the glory of their festivals:
Their ladies fair, that in the distance seem
Fit for the silv'ring of a seraph's dream;
Their rich brimmed goblets, that incessant run
Like the bright spots that move about the sun;
And, when upheld, the wine from each bright jar
Pours with the lustre of a falling star.
Yet further off, are dimly seen their bowers,
Of which, no mortal eye can reach the flowers;
And 'tis right just, for well Apollo knows
'Twould make the Poet quarrel with the rose.
All that's revealed from that far seat of blisses
Is the clear fountains' interchanging kisses,
As gracefully descending, light and thin,
Like silver streaks across a dolphin's fin,
When he upswimmeth from the coral caves,
And sports with half his tail above the waves.

These wonders strange he sees, and many more,
Whose head is pregnant with poetic lore.
Should he upon an evening ramble fare
With forehead to the soothing breezes bare,
Would he nought see but the dark, silent blue
With all its diamonds trembling through and through?
Or the coy moon, when in the waviness
Of whitest clouds she does her beauty dress,
And staidly paces higher up, and higher,
Like a sweet nun in holy-day attire?
Ah, yes! much more would start into his sight—
The revelries and mysteries of night:
And should I ever see them, I will tell you
Such tales as needs must with amazement spell you.

These are the living pleasures of the bard:
But richer far posterity's reward.
What does he murmur with his latest breath,
While his proud eye looks though the film of death?
"What though I leave this dull and earthly mould,
Yet shall my spirit lofty converse hold
With after times.—The patriot shall feel
My stern alarum, and unsheath his steel;
Or, in the senate thunder out my numbers
To startle princes from their easy slumbers.
The sage will mingle with each moral theme
My happy thoughts sententious; he will teem
With lofty periods when my verses fire him,
And then I'll stoop from heaven to inspire him.
Lays have I left of such a dear delight
That maids will sing them on their bridal night.
Gay villagers, upon a morn of May,
When they have tired their gentle limbs with play
And formed a snowy circle on the grass,
And placed in midst of all that lovely lass
Who chosen is their queen,—with her fine head
Crowned with flowers purple, white, and red:
For there the lily, and the musk-rose, sighing,
Are emblems true of hapless lovers dying:
Between her breasts, that never yet felt trouble,
A bunch of violets full blown, and double,
Serenely sleep:—she from a casket takes
A little book,—and then a joy awakes
About each youthful heart,—with stifled cries,
And rubbing of white hands, and sparkling eyes:
For she's to read a tale of hopes, and fears;
One that I fostered in my youthful years:
The pearls, that on each glist'ning circlet sleep,
Must ever and anon with silent creep,
Lured by the innocent dimples. To sweet rest
Shall the dear babe, upon its mother's breast,
Be lulled with songs of mine. Fair world, adieu!
Thy dales, and hills, are fading from my view:
Swiftly I mount, upon wide spreading pinions,
Far from the narrow bound of thy dominions.
Full joy I feel, while thus I cleave the air,
That my soft verse will charm thy daughters fair,
And warm thy sons!" Ah, my dear friend and brother,
Could I, at once, my mad ambition smother,
For tasting joys like these, sure I should be
Happier, and dearer to society.
At times, 'tis true, I've felt relief from pain
When some bright thought has darted through my brain:
Through all that day I've felt a greater pleasure
Than if I'd brought to light a hidden treasure.
As to my sonnets, though none else should heed them,
I feel delighted, still, that you should read them.
Of late, too, I have had much calm enjoyment,
Stretched on the grass at my best loved employment
Of scribbling lines for you. These things I thought
While, in my face, the freshest breeze I caught.
E'en now I'm pillowed on a bed of flowers
That crowns a lofty clift, which proudly towers
Above the ocean-waves, The stalks, and blades,
Chequer my tablet with their quivering shades.
On one side is a field of drooping oats,
Through which the poppies show their scarlet coats;
So pert and useless, that they bring to mind
The scarlet coats that pester human-kind.
And on the other side, outspread, is seen
Ocean's blue mantle streaked with purple, and green.
Now 'tis I see a canvassed ship, and now
Mark the bright silver curling round her prow.
I see the lark dowm-dropping to his nest,
And the broad winged sea-gull never at rest;
For when no more he spreads his feathers free,
His breast is dancing on the restless sea.
Now I direct my eyes into the west,
Which at this moment is in sunbeams drest:
Why westward turn? 'Twas but to say adieu!
'Twas but to kiss my hand, dear George, to you!

Editor 1 Interpretation

Epistle To My Brother George: A Masterpiece of Brotherly Love

John Keats is one of the most celebrated poets of the Romantic era. His poetry is characterized by a deep sense of melancholy and a fascination with the mysteries of nature and the human soul. His Epistle to My Brother George is a poignant and touching tribute to his younger brother, George Keats. In this poem, John Keats captures the essence of brotherly love and the bond that exists between siblings.

The poem is written in the form of a letter to George, who was then living in America. Keats opens the poem with an expression of his love for his brother, describing him as "dear brother" and "my best friend." He goes on to reminisce about their childhood and the happy times they shared together. Keats recalls their games and adventures, their laughter and tears, and the bond that developed between them.

As the poem progresses, Keats becomes more reflective, contemplating the fleeting nature of life and the inevitability of death. He speaks of the "swift-footed moments" that pass us by, and the fact that "life is but a day." Keats acknowledges that death is a part of life, but he also expresses a hope that his brother will be spared this fate for as long as possible.

Throughout the poem, Keats displays a profound sensitivity to the natural world. He describes the beauty of the countryside in which they grew up, with its "lowly daisies" and "sweet peas." He also reflects on the transience of this beauty, noting that "the flowers have their time to bloom / And then they wither away." This theme of transience runs throughout the poem and underscores the fragility of life and the importance of cherishing the moments we have.

Keats also displays a deep spiritual insight in this poem. He speaks of the "eternal soul" that resides within us and the mysteries of the afterlife. He expresses a hope that he and his brother will be reunited in the next world, where they will be "in blissful Elysium."

In terms of literary style, Epistle to My Brother George is a masterful work of poetry. Keats employs a variety of poetic devices, including imagery, personification, and allusion. He also makes use of a number of literary forms, including the pastoral, the epistle, and the elegy. Through these devices and forms, Keats creates a rich and complex tapestry of emotion and meaning.

One of the most striking features of the poem is its use of imagery. Keats paints a vivid picture of the natural world, using language that is both beautiful and evocative. He describes the "golden harvest-fields" and the "frosty morning" with equal skill, capturing the essence of each scene in a few well-chosen words. This imagery serves to reinforce the themes of transience and mortality that run throughout the poem, reminding us of the fleeting nature of life and the impermanence of all things.

Another notable aspect of the poem is its use of personification. Keats gives voice to nature, imagining the fields and flowers as animate beings with their own thoughts and feelings. He speaks of the "murmuring brook" and the "whispering breeze," endowing them with a sense of life and agency. This personification serves to deepen our sense of the natural world as a living, breathing entity, and reinforces the idea that we are all part of a larger, interconnected whole.

Throughout the poem, Keats also makes use of allusion, drawing upon a wide range of literary and mythological sources. He references the Greek myth of Elysium, imagining it as a place of eternal bliss where he and his brother will be reunited. He also alludes to a number of poets and authors, including Milton, Shakespeare, and Addison. These allusions serve to anchor the poem within a larger cultural and intellectual context, and to connect it to a broader tradition of poetry and thought.

In conclusion, Epistle to My Brother George is a masterful work of poetry that captures the essence of brotherly love and the bond that exists between siblings. Through its vivid imagery, deep spiritual insight, and skilled use of poetic devices, Keats creates a powerful and moving tribute to his brother and to the beauty and transience of life. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry to touch and inspire us, and to the timeless themes and emotions that it can express.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Epistle To My Brother George: A Masterpiece by John Keats

John Keats, one of the greatest poets of the Romantic era, wrote the Epistle To My Brother George in 1816. This poem is a letter to his brother George, who was living in America at the time. The poem is a beautiful expression of brotherly love and a reflection on the nature of life and death. In this analysis, we will explore the themes, structure, and language of this masterpiece.

Themes

The Epistle To My Brother George is a poem that explores several themes. The first theme is brotherly love. Keats expresses his love for his brother in this poem, and he does so in a way that is both heartfelt and sincere. He talks about how much he misses his brother and how he wishes he could be with him. This theme is evident throughout the poem, and it is what gives the poem its emotional depth.

The second theme is the nature of life and death. Keats reflects on the fleeting nature of life and how death is an inevitable part of it. He talks about how life is like a dream that fades away, and how death is the ultimate reality that we must all face. This theme is also evident throughout the poem, and it is what gives the poem its philosophical depth.

Structure

The Epistle To My Brother George is a poem that is structured like a letter. It is written in the form of a letter to his brother, and it is divided into several stanzas. Each stanza is composed of several lines, and the poem is written in iambic pentameter. The poem is also written in rhyming couplets, which gives it a musical quality.

The poem is divided into three parts. The first part is an introduction, where Keats talks about how much he misses his brother. The second part is the main body of the poem, where Keats reflects on the nature of life and death. The third part is the conclusion, where Keats expresses his hope that he will see his brother again.

Language

The language of the Epistle To My Brother George is beautiful and poetic. Keats uses a variety of literary devices to create a rich and vivid picture of his emotions and thoughts. He uses metaphors, similes, and personification to create a sense of depth and meaning.

One of the most striking features of the language in this poem is the use of imagery. Keats uses imagery to create a vivid picture of the world around him. He talks about the beauty of nature, the passing of time, and the inevitability of death. He uses imagery to create a sense of wonder and awe, and to express his emotions in a way that is both powerful and moving.

Another feature of the language in this poem is the use of repetition. Keats repeats certain words and phrases throughout the poem, which creates a sense of rhythm and musicality. This repetition also serves to emphasize certain themes and ideas, and to create a sense of unity and coherence.

Conclusion

The Epistle To My Brother George is a masterpiece of Romantic poetry. It is a beautiful expression of brotherly love and a reflection on the nature of life and death. Keats uses language and imagery to create a rich and vivid picture of his emotions and thoughts, and he does so in a way that is both powerful and moving. This poem is a testament to the enduring power of poetry, and it is a reminder of the beauty and wonder of the world around us.

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