Monday, March 04, 2013

PTSW: Beautiful Depths

I was struck yesterday, while listening to an NPR interview with a musician, by her declaration of love for sad songs. I can relate. I also count some sad songs among my favorites. And some sad poems. I thought of this one:

When I have Fears That I May Cease to Be 

When I have fears that I may cease to be
   Before my pen has gleaned my teeming brain,
Before high-pil├Ęd books, in charactery,
   Hold like rich garners the full ripened grain;
When I behold, upon the night’s starred face,
   Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
   Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
   That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
   Of unreflecting love—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
- John Keats 
Now, I don't doubt that John Keats was feeling a bit down when he set out to write these lines. And given his premature death - only 25! - the poem voices a very legitimate concern. But I have to believe that by the time he reached the depths of that nothingness in the last line he was greatly buoyed by a swelling, even joyful, somethingness we'll call pride of accomplishment. Surely he felt happiness at having written so beautifully his despair.