Take a look at the night sky.
See the vast emptiness of its darkness.
Now think that although the world may look scary and threatening without the light, and there may be many tragic corners that seem to drag the divine out of its place, there will always be stars. And the darker the night is, the brighter each star lights.
John Keats had tragic life story. Although he only lived 25 years due to the serious symptoms of tuberculosis (1795-1821), with his passionate dedication to writing and the vividness of his true poems, he accomplished his dream of becoming a Master of Literature. Aileen Ward's words from John Keats: The Making of a Poet:
“Keats earned his place in the tradition of English poetry by his courage to take the great dare of self-creation, his willingness to accept failure and move beyond it…”
This love sonnet should be read at least twice: one for the finding of its light as its read, and then again out loud to reflect to the reader the musical composition it sings.
Even though it is written in old English and some words may not be in our modern vocabulary, it is clear in the aesthetic of the poetry while it’s read. The reader might not understand exactly what the poem is saying, but implicitly great poems tend to transcend our understanding and connect us spiritually with the essence of the text.
Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art –
Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature’s patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors –
No –yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To fell forever its soft fall and swell,
Awake forever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever –or else swoon to death.
Eremite stands for a Hermit; an isolated man under a religious vow or philosophy. In a way he’s comparing himself with the lonesome star hung aloft the night, being himself part of nature, pure and connected with the world. But No –yet still steadfast, still unchangeable, he is connected to the world as he is now Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast.
In a way, he’s expressing how he’s as pure and divine as nature, and connected to the all-seeing world just in the moment of being with her. Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever –or else swoon to death.
It has been said that this poem was dedicated to Fanny Brawne, a dress-maker whom he had strong affection for, and although they shared readings together and had built a powerful relationship, he had too little to offer financially and their love remained unconsummated.
I deeply recommend you to watch the movie Bright Star (2009) by Jane Campion, which not only takes this poem in the essence of film, but also portrays John Keats’ vision and devotion. No wonder he made the best remarkable poems of the Romantic Movement, his pure use of words and openness of feelings, as well as his control of word choices, makes him deserve to be amongst the Masters of Literature. With his poems, Keats proves that poetry’s pure mission is the force of Truth and Beauty, as it always should be.
How about reciting a poem to your love one to show how you feel? How about writing one? The dedication, passion and meaning behind the words one says can be the best gift ever given. Like John Keats, an artist must be fearless to express what one feels, without shame, without regret. The love of creating may be the brightest star there is, and the darker the sky is, the more possibilities for you to shine.