Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Poem by John Keats



The church bells toll a melancholy round,
Calling the people to some other prayers,
Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
More hearkening to the sermon's horrid sound.
Surely the mind of man is closely bound
In some black spell; seeing that each one tears
Himself from fireside joys, and Lydian airs,
And converse high of those with glory crown'd,
Still, still they toll, and I should feel a damp, --
A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
That they are dying like an outburnt lamp;
That 'tis their sighing, wailing ere they go
Into oblivion; -- that fresh flowers will grow,
And many glories of immortal stamp.

(Keats wrote this poem in 15 minutes. In other poems he was capable of conventional religious views, but he's great here. Is he saying that religion is dying in this poem? I share his disgust; would that I shared his talent!)


EdMcGon said...

It is clear that he is talking about the death of religion. Unfortunately, I don't think he "gets" religion.

He almost seems to understand it, by referring to it in the title as a "vulgar superstition", but then he loses it at the end, replacing it with flowers and the somewhat vague "immortal stamp".

Religion is about understanding the nature of the universe from a theological perspective. If religion dies, it must be replaced with something, either science or philosophy. There are no other means I am aware of to acquire an understanding of the universe.

I won't argue Keats is an accomplished poet, but he is a little weak on philosophy.

Myrhaf said...

Interesting point. You have to remember, though, that a poet is limited by number of syllables and cannot explain or clarify what he is saying. I would cut a poet slack for using the word "immortal." I take it as meaning something that lasts long and will outlive us.