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Sunday, 4 October 2009

Lost Horizons (September 1819)



To slip the cold grasp of a familiar ghost
Rising above the wide water meadows
Chills yet consoles me; and the great work
Of accepting life can now be begun.


Mottey Meadows, Staffordshire: photo by James Loach, 2008
View from north bank of Thames over Magna Carta Isle and water meadows, Runnymede
: photo by Anthony McCallum, 2008

from TC: Junkets on a Sad Planet: Scenes from The Life of John Keats


u.v.ray. said...

Mottey Meadows - just down the road from where I live!

It's funny how we make such work of accepting life. We complicate things, I think. Maybe it's all much more simple than we think.

Or maybe, I'm just more simple than I think.

TC said...


I expect maybe you are not as simple as you think.

("Man possesses the ability to construct languages capable of expressing every sense, without having any idea how each word has meaning or what its meaning is," opined the bird-feeding philosopher of Cambridge.)

Zephirine said...

What a very big moment inside a small poem. Or is it that the poem is a small window opening on a wide landscape of the soul?

TC said...


I have never been tempted to forget or overlook the carefulness of your attentions, you are the sort of reader that supposedly does not exist on the internet--I've been told over and over "Oh, you can't do poetry on the internet, no one wants to spend the time" (this invariably from people who extrapolate from the fact that they themselves don't want to spend the time).

At any rate, yes, I was pleased to find that such a window as you describe, a small one but perhaps opening upon something large, in both "inside" and "outside" worlds, might be created by substantial revision of the poem as published in my Keats book -- where you'll see if you take a look that this is a fourteen-line poem, with a good deal of stuff happening in lines two through eleven that amounted, as I saw when I took hard look, to a sort of closed shutter over that small yet wide window I had wanted.

One of my favourite writing mentors (though she'd probably not be entirely thrilled to have me blame her for anything I may have written!) was Jessica Mitford, who had a wondrous word of advice of the subject of how one ought to treat all those elaborate hothouse growths of pretty phrasing we writers like to put down to our "writerliness": "Strangle your darlings," was Jessica's sage counsel.

With this one I did realize the risks of that wide-angle ellipsis I was creating by strangling my ten darling lines of stuffing, but your kind comment encourages me to think (or anyway hope) I wasn't merely constructing a wayward bit of bafflement after all. Thank you once again for being my (if not "the") Ideal Reader!

Zephirine said...

Thank you, Tom! - though you have many sensitive and perceptive readers here, I think.