Almost 200 years ago, on February 23, 1821, the English poet John Keats died of tuberculosis in Rome at the age of 25. “Soon I will be buried in the quiet grave, thank God for the quiet grave,” he told his friend Joseph. Severn, in whose arms he died. “I can feel the cold earth on me – the daisies growing on me – Oh, this silence – will be the first.”
Keats instructed that the words “here lies one whose name was written in water” be engraved on his headstone, and visitors to Rome’s Protestant cemetery can still make a pilgrimage to see him today. But far from being “written in water,” Keats’s words continue to resonate, with a series of writings and events lined up to mark the 200th anniversary of his death.
“Over the 200 years, Keats’s reputation has continued to grow, while that of some of his contemporaries has risen and fallen. His early death, his doomed love, his attractive personality, his handsome looks and his exuberant and accessible poetry have captured the imagination of generations. ” Angus Graham-Campbell said, a playwright and academic whose Writ in Water, which tells the story of Keats’s final weeks, will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on February 23. “His reputation will continue to grow.”
The Poetry Society and the Keats-Shelley Memorial Association are working together to mark the anniversary. The society has commissioned poets Ruth Padel, Rachael Boast, and Will Harris to write Keats-inspired poems. Padel was inspired by his Ode to a Mockingbird, Harris responded to Hyperion and brag about When I Have Fears That I May Dease to Be.
“You can’t sleep either? After a dark year, / many old friends left, I heard you sing / on the empty street outside the window / inches from my ear. / Who are you singing for at this time of night? Padel writes while his poem opens.
She said: “Insomnia in the confinement, unable to see my family at Christmas, in a year in which many friends died and there were ambulances and Covid deaths in flats across the street, I heard a robin singing his song the night and the thought of Keats ”, said Padel, calling Ode to a Nightingale“ a perfect example of where poetry can take us, why we need it ”.
The Keats-Shelley Memorial House in Rome, where Keats died, has been opened an immersive video tour of the house, led by rock star and philanthropist Bob Geldof, to mark the anniversary. Geldof, who is the ambassador for Keats-Shelley200, is also narrating a video story for the museum, Keats death, in which you will read letters that tell the story of Keats’ time in the house and his death. “Keats and the house in Rome mean a lot to me, and it was a pleasure working on these projects for the bicentennial of his death,” Geldof said. Geldof’s tour can be viewed with a virtual reality headset or on a normal screen, while The panoramic tour of the house with a live guide will also be available on February 23..
“Keats did not consider himself a romantic poet, but I think he knew he was a poet working at the forefront of language and imagination, qualities that are still valid,” said Giuseppe Albano, curator of Keats-Shelley House. And then there is the irresistibly sad story of his life and death, as well as his letters, which are among the freshest and most challenging in the English language. It never ceases to amaze me how much love she inspires in visitors to the Keats-Shelley House and how her work has the power to attract and connect people. Two hundred years after his death, Keats’s poetry has never been more alive or more loved. “
The Keats-Shelley Memorial Association also commissioned Graham-Campbell’s play, Writ in Water, which will star Billy Howle as Keats and Callum Woodhouse as his partner Joseph Severn. The play was put together during the pandemic, which means there were restrictions on production, but Graham-Campbell said it had produced “wonderfully authentic and deeply moving results to me.”
On the morning of the anniversary, flowers will be placed by Keats’s grave during a poetry reading. In the evening, a virtual Keats, created by the Institute for Digital Archeology at Oxford, will recite his poem Bright Star on a live broadcast of keats-shelley.org. Later, the poet Pele Cox’s play Lift Me Up for I Am Dying will be performed on FaceTime by actors locked in different locations and broadcast on the house’s YouTube channel at 10 pm GMT, the time Keats died.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism