"His situation felt closer to mine" - Keats
Keats at Guy's Hospital. Image: Piers Alladyce
About Last Night quotes Zadie Smith -
I knew he wasn't working-class, exactly, and of course he wasn't black - but in rough outline his situation felt closer to mine than the other writers I'd come across. . .To me, Keats offered the possibility of entering writing from a side door, the one marked Apprentices Welcome Here. . . The term "role model" is so odious, but the truth is it's a very strong writer indeed who gets by without a mode kept somewhere in mind. So I think of Keats. Keats slogging away, devouring books, plagiarizing, impersonating, adapting, struggling growing, writing many poems that made him blush, and then a few that made him proud. . .
An African-American woman novelist whose mentor is John Keats - these are the kinds of connections that cannot be legislated.
Keats's literary career began when he was eighteen, growing slowly as he studied at Guy's Hospital and became eligible to practise as an apothecary and physician. Inspired by the writers and artists he met in London he wrote poems that still light the skies before dying at 25.
In tribute to summer, here is On the Grasshopper and Cricket. Not one of his great poems, but so lovely -
The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's - he takes the lead
In summer luxury,- he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.