John Keats
                        Fanny Brawne chides him because he loves her 
for her beauty. “Why may I not speak of your Beauty,” 
            says John Keats, “since without that I could never have 
lov'd you? I cannot conceive any beginning of such love 
                        as I have for you but Beauty.” See, she thinks he means

                        the way she looks, and, sure, most men start with
a handsome bosom or a well-turned ankle, but after that,
            men love women the way women love men, so that “beauty” 
doesn’t mean “looks” but something like “the whole 
                        package.” Did not John Keats describe her to

                        his brother George as "beautiful and elegant, graceful, 
silly, fashionable and strange”? Who would not want 
            to be thought “silly” and “strange” by John Keats!
Of his own looks, John Keats writes, “I am not a thing 
                        to be admired…. I hold that place among Men which 

                        snub-nosed brunettes with meeting eyebrows do among 
women—they are trash to me—unless I should find one 
            among them with a fire in her heart like the one that burns 
in mine.” On the one hand, I think John Keats 
                        is just fishing for compliments, the way we all do when

                        we say, “Oh, this old rag? It’s the only clean thing 
I could find” or “It’s kind of you to say that about 
            my poem/story/screenplay, but it still needs a lot of work.” 
On the other, the fire that burned in John Keats’s heart 
                        is like one of those 8,000-acre wildfires you see on TV,

                        the ones that burn everything in their paths yet leave
the earth ready for fresh growth—woe to the lover 
            who cannot match the heat of that inferno! “In case 
of the worst that can happen, I shall still love you,”
                        says John Keats, “but what hatred shall I have for another!”

                        Oh, don’t say that, John Keats! Jealousy’s the meanest 
emotion. Terror, anger, sorrow, joy: these burn the way 
            that fire in your heart does, blue and pure, whereas jealousy 
smokes and sputters and makes you look noisome and puny.
                        Better to ask Fanny for a letter from her own hand,

                        to say “write the softest words and kiss them that I may 
at least touch my lips where yours have been,” and, then,
            when you get it, “I have kiss’d your Writing
over in the hope you had indulg’d me by leaving a trace 
                        of honey.” Of course: if you’re going to die, why not 

                        do it with Fanny Brawne’s lips on yours? Or John Keats’s. 
His friend Severn says his last words were “lift me up—
            I am dying—I shall die easy; don’t be frightened—be firm, 
and thank God it has come.” Fine, though just two months 
                        earlier, he’s saying this about Fanny to Charles Brown: 

                        “I can bear to die—I cannot bear to leave her. Oh, God! 
God! God! Every thing I have in my trunks that reminds 
            me of her goes through me like a spear.” Oh, God!  
God! God! There’s nothing sweeter than the right word 
                        to the right person at the right time, nothing sadder, nothing 

                        more likely to buoy you up like the scape of a dandelion 
floating toward heaven, to drag you down to a hell
            hotter than the hottest hell you’ve ever imagined. 
Don’t just sit there, reader. Do something! There’s a wildfire
                        headed your way. Throw water on it—no, wait, gasoline.
Copyright © 2004–2017 Memorious