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     On Keats

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    Abdul-Settar Abdul-Latif
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    Registration date : 2008-02-05

    PostSubject: On Keats   Fri Feb 08, 2008 4:50 am



    Keats was born in 1795, the son of a stable attendant. As a young teen, he was extroverted, scrappy, and liked fistfighting. In 1810 he became an apprentice to an apothecary-surgeon, and in 1815 he went to medical school at Guy's Hospital in London. In 1816, although he could have been licensed to prepare and sell medicines, he chose to devote his life entirely to writing poetry.
    In 1818, Keats took a walking tour of the north of England and Scotland, and nursed his brother Tom during his fatal episode of tuberculosis.
    By 1819, Keats realized that he, too, had tuberculosis. If you believe that most adult TB is from reactivation of a childhood infection, then he probably caught it from his mother. If you believe (as I do) that primary progressive TB is common, then he may well have caught it from Tom. Or it could have come from anybody. TB was common in Keats's era.
    Despite his illness and his financial difficulties, Keats wrote a tremendous amount of great poetry during 1819, including "La Belle Dame Sans Merci".
    On Feb. 3, 1820, Keats went to bed feverish and feeling very ill. He coughed, and noticed blood on the sheet. His friend Charles Brown looked at the blood with him. Keats said, "I know the color of that blood; it is arterial blood. I cannot be deceived. That drop of blood is my death warrant." (Actually, TB is more likely to invade veins than arteries, but the blood that gets coughed up turns equally red the instant it contacts oxygen in the airways. The physicians of Keats's era confused brown, altered blood with "venous blood", and fresh red blood with "arterial blood".) Later that night he had massive hemoptysis.
    Seeking a climate that might help him recover, he left England for Italy in 1820, where he died of his tuberculosis on Feb. 23, 1821. His asked that his epitaph read, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."
    Percy Shelley, in "Adonais", for his own political reasons, claimed falsely that bad reviews of Keats's poems (Blackwoods, 1817) had caused Keats's death. Charles Brown referred to Keats's "enemies" on Keats's tombstone to get back at those who had cared for him during his final illness. And so began the nonsense about Keats, the great poet of sensuality and beauty, being a sissy and a crybaby.
    There is actually much of the modern rock-and-roll star in Keats. His lyrics make sense, he tried hard to preserve his health, and he found beauty in the simplest things rather than in drugs (which were available in his era) or wild behavior. But in giving in totally to the experiences and sensations of the moment, without reasoning everything out, Keats could have been any of a host of present-day radical rockers.
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