National Poetry Month, Week 4!

It’s that time again, dear readers, where we gather to share some verse in honor of National Poetry Month!  This week, we honor Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a Black poet, teacher, activist, and social advocate.National Poetry Month Poster 2019

Frances Harper was born in Baltimore Maryland on September 24, 1825, the only daughter of two free Black parents whose names are not known.  Following the death of her parents by the age of three, she was raised by her maternal aunt and uncle, Henrietta and Rev. William Watkins, whose name she also took.  Rev. Watkins ran a school for Black children, and Frances was educated there until she found work at a seamstress at age 14. During her early twenties, she published poems and articles in the local newspaper and wrote her first volume of poetry.  When the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850, which rendered all Black people in the United States at risk of being sent into slavery on the pretext that they were “fugitive slaves,” Frances and her family fled to the northern United States; they lived in Ohio, where Frances  where she worked as the first female teacher at Union Seminary, and eventually settled in Pennsylvania, where Frances joined the American Anti-Slavery Society.

Women of distinction - remarkable in works and invincible in character (1893) (14598047448).jpg
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1893, via Wikimedia

In addition to supporting abolition, Frances was also an active and vocal supporter of prohibition and woman’s suffrage.  She helped to found the American Woman Suffrage Association, which rejected the racist, classist ideology of the suffrage parties led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who refused to support the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which gave freed Black men the right to vote.  1858, a century before Rosa Park’s protest, she refused to give up her seat or ride in the “colored” section of a segregated trolley car in Philadelphia.  A lifelong advocate of women’s personal and political rights, as well as the rights of people of color made her a mentor (and a friend) to many other African American writers and journalists, including Mary Shadd CaryIda B. WellsVictoria Earle Matthews, and Kate D. Chapman.  Today, we are honored to bring her one of Frances’ most well-known poems as part of our National Poetry Month celebration!

The Slave Mother

By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Heard you that shriek? It rose
   So wildly on the air,
It seem’d as if a burden’d heart
   Was breaking in despair.
Saw you those hands so sadly clasped—
   The bowed and feeble head—
The shuddering of that fragile form—
   That look of grief and dread?
Saw you the sad, imploring eye?
   Its every glance was pain,
As if a storm of agony
   Were sweeping through the brain.
She is a mother pale with fear,
   Her boy clings to her side,
And in her kyrtle vainly tries
   His trembling form to hide.
He is not hers, although she bore
   For him a mother’s pains;
He is not hers, although her blood
   Is coursing through his veins!
He is not hers, for cruel hands
   May rudely tear apart
The only wreath of household love
   That binds her breaking heart.
His love has been a joyous light
   That o’er her pathway smiled,
A fountain gushing ever new,
   Amid life’s desert wild.
His lightest word has been a tone
   Of music round her heart,
Their lives a streamlet blent in one—
   Oh, Father! must they part?
They tear him from her circling arms,
   Her last and fond embrace.
Oh! never more may her sad eyes
   Gaze on his mournful face.
No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks
   Disturb the listening air:
She is a mother, and her heart
   Is breaking in despair.

Five Book Friday!

And we wanted to remind you, beloved patrons, that the Friends of the Library are again selling beautiful geranium and impatiens plants, just in time for Mother’s Day and
Memorial Day.  The money raised from these sales will be used to help the Peabody Institute Libraries to offer some of the best programs and services in the area.   You can find the form on our website, in person at the Library, or right here, by clicking this link.

Orders must be prepaid and received at the Main Library by Wednesday, May 8. Plants may be picked up at the Main Library on Saturday, May 11. Make checks payable to: Friends of the Peabody Institute Libraries.  You can then deliver or mail the form to any one of our libraries.  Thank you for your assistance, and we sincerely hope your flowers bring you color and joy!

And now, on to the books!

Boy Swallows Universe: Trent Dalton’s debut is being celebrated by authors and critics across the country for its realistic depiction of Australia in the 1980’s, along side a fantastical story about the power of love in its many forms. Eli Bell’s life is complicated. His father is lost, his mother is in jail, and his stepdad is a heroin dealer. The most steadfast adult in Eli’s life is Slim—a notorious felon and national record-holder for successful prison escapes—who watches over Eli and August, his silent genius of an older brother. Exiled from the people who may be able to help him, Eli is just trying to follow his heart, learn what it takes to be a good man, and train for a glamorous career in journalism. Life, however, insists on throwing obstacles in Eli’s path—most notably Tytus Broz, Brisbane’s legendary drug dealer. But the real trouble lies ahead. Eli is about to fall in love, face off against truly bad guys, and fight to save his mother from a certain doom—all before starting high school. A novel about friendship, brotherhood, family, and romance, this is a story that earned a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly, who said it “makes the typical coming-of-age novel look bland by comparison…In less adept hands, these antics might descend into whimsy, but Dalton’s broadly observant eye, ability to temper pathos with humor, and thorough understanding of the mechanics of plot prevent the novel from breaking into sparkling pieces…This is an outstanding debut.”

In the Night of Memory: Linda LeGarde Grover’s introduces readers to a new generation of the Gallette family she crafted in her other words, and deals with the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, the trauma of loss, and the long and painful history of Native/American women in the United States in a beautiful and wonderfully accessible manner. When Loretta surrenders her young girls to the county and then disappears, she becomes one more missing Native woman in Indian Country’s long devastating history of loss. Habsence haunts all the lives she has touched—and all the stories they tell in this novel. After a string of foster placements, from cold to kind to cruel, Azure and Rain, Loretta’s two daughters, find their way back to their extended Mozhay family, and a new set of challenges, and stories, unfolds, creating a nuanced, moving, often humorous picture of two Ojibwe girls becoming women in light of this lesson learned in the long, sharply etched shadow of Native American history.  This is a powerful, heart-rending, but ultimately, uplifting book that Ms. Magazine celebrated for the way it “brings together themes of missing women, family and community, complicated histories and collective wisdoms.”

Loch of the Dead: Readers of Oscar De Muriel’s McGray and Frey series can delight in this fourth mystery, which brings a boatload of gothic atmosphere and a fun, twisty adventure for the two sleuths to solve. A mysterious woman pleads for the help of our devoted  Inspectors. Her son, illegitimate scion of the Koloman family, has received an anonymous death threat―right after learning he is to inherit the best part of a vast wine-producing estate. In exchange for their protection, she offers McGray the ultimate cure for his sister, who has been locked in an insane asylum after brutally murdering their parents: the miraculous waters that spring from a small island in the remote Loch Maree. The island has been a sacred burial ground since the time of the druids, but the legends around it will turn out to be much darker than McGray could have expected. Murder and increasingly bizarre happenings will intermingle throughout this trip to the Highlands, before Frey and McGray learn a terrible truth.  Nothing is what is seems in this book, and readers will be hard-pressed to guess what is coming next–or to keep from turning pages to discover the next revelation!  Kirkus Reviews gave this book a stellar review, describing it as “Steeped in history, myth, and medical lore, murky as the deepest loch, miles from the remotest civilizing forces, this provides all the thrills of an amusement-park concession for grown-ups who want to test their limits.”

The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming: In his travelogue of our near future, David Wallace-Wells brings into stark relief the climate troubles that await—food shortages, refugee emergencies, and other crises that will reshape the globe. But the world will be remade by warming in more profound ways as well, transforming our politics, our culture, our relationship to technology, and our sense of history. It will be all-encompassing, shaping and distorting nearly every aspect of human life as it is lived today. Frightening, but also deeply informative, this book is both a meditation on the devastation we have brought upon ourselves and an impassioned call to action. For just as the world was brought to the brink of catastrophe within the span of a lifetime, the responsibility to avoid it now belongs to a single generation. Indeed, The New York Times called it “the most terrifying book I have ever read. Its subject is climate change, and its method is scientific, but its mode is Old Testament. The book is a meticulously documented, white-knuckled tour through the cascading catastrophes that will soon engulf our warming planet.”

Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse RaceAt the age of nineteen, Lara Prior-Palmer discovered a website devoted to “the world’s longest, toughest horse race”―an annual competition of endurance and skill that involves dozens of riders racing a series of twenty-five wild ponies across 1,000 kilometers of Mongolian grassland. On a whim, she decided to enter the race. As she boarded a plane to East Asia, she was utterly unprepared for what awaited her.  Riders often spend years preparing to compete in the Mongol Derby, a course that re-creates the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan, and many fail to finish. Prior-Palmer had no formal training. She was driven by her own restlessness, stubbornness, and a lifelong love of horses. She raced for ten days through extreme heat and terrifying storms, catching a few hours of sleep where she could at the homes of nomadic families. Battling bouts of illness and dehydration, exhaustion and bruising falls, she decided she had nothing to lose. Each dawn she rode out again on a fresh horse, scrambling up mountains, swimming through rivers, crossing woodlands and wetlands, arid dunes and open steppe, as American television crews chased her in their jeeps.  Told in breathtaking, breathless prose, this is the story of one young woman who forged ahead, against all odds, to become the first female winner of this amazing race.  Kirkus Reviews called this tale “Feisty and exhilarating . . . Horse lovers will adore this inspiring and spirited memoir.”


Until next week, beloved patrons–Happy Reading!

National Poetry Month, Week 3!

Well, my word, dear readers, it’s been a long time since we’ve last met!  A bout of the flu kept us apart for two whole weeks, but we’re delighted to have the Free For All up and running again, and we are delighted to be returning on such an auspicious day!

National Poetry Month Poster 2019

In addition to celebrating National Poetry Month, as we have been all of April (sick or otherwise), it is also the observed birthday of William Shakespeare!

Historians don’t actually know for certain on what day Shakespeare was born. We know he was baptized in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon on April 26, 1564, which leads us to conjecture that he was born on April 23rd, as newborns were typically baptized on the third day after their birth.  His father was a prominent figure in Stratford, eventually rising to become bailiff (the highest official in the town).  However, the family fortunes were not to remain good, and young William knew poverty as well as prosperity.

Image result for william shakespeare
Is this what Shakespeare really looked like? We’re not entirely sure, to be honest, but this image appeared in the First Folio in 1623, so it’s a closer bet than many.

Again there isn’t a great deal of information about Shakespeare’s life.  We do know he married Anne Hathaway, the daughter of a local farmer, in November 1582, when he was eighteen years old.  Anne was pregnant with Susanna Shakespeare at the time of their marriage, and she was baptized on May 26, 1583. Their twins, Hamnet and Judith Shakespeare, were baptized on February 2, 1585.

Image result for globe theater shakespeareWe don’t know specifically when he began writing, but Shakespeare’s plays were being performed in London by 1592, and he was being attacked in the press as “an Upstart Crow” by playwright Robert Greene. You can see an etching of the Globe Theatre as it would have looked in Shakespeare’s time on the left.  He remained involved in the London theater scene, both as a writer and a player (we are pretty sure he played Hamlet’s Father’s Ghost in the original production of Hamlet) until about 1613.  Shakespeare died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52, and his cause of death remains unknown.  What we do know is that his work revolutionized not only theater, but English literature and poetry as a whole.

Today, we are happy to bring you two of Shakespeare’s sonnets.  Although the form existed well before Will, his development of iambic pentameter became such a signature that these poems are know as “Shakespearean Sonnets”.   There are fourteen lines in a Shakespearean sonnet. The first twelve lines are divided into three quatrains with four lines each. In the three quatrains the poet establishes a theme or problem and then resolves it in the final two lines, called the couplet.  The first twelve of these lines are divided into three quatrains with four lines each. In those three quatrains, Shakespeare (or the author of a Shakespearean sonnet) establishes a theme or problem and then resolves it in the final two rhyming lines, called the couplet.

The three quatrains are written in Iambic Pentameter.  That means that  each line contains ten syllables, and the syllables are divided into five pairs called iambs or iambic feet (an iamb is a metrical unit made up of one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, which you can hear in the way we say “Good BYE”).  A line of iambic pentameter flows like this:

baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM / baBOOM.

Image result for william shakespeare

Shakespeare’s plays are also written primarily in iambic pentameter (some of which were first published in the First Folio of his works, pictured above), but the lines are unrhymed and not grouped into stanzas. Unrhymed iambic pentameter is called blank verse.

So, without further ado, here are two of Shakespeare’s sonnets–follow along with the iambic pentameter to learn about the structure of the poem, or simply enjoy the lovely language!

Sonnet 19: Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws

By William Shakespeare

Devouring Time, blunt thou the lion’s paws,
And make the earth devour her own sweet brood;
Pluck the keen teeth from the fierce tiger’s jaws,
And burn the long-liv’d Phoenix in her blood;
Make glad and sorry seasons as thou fleets,
And do whate’er thou wilt, swift-footed Time,
To the wide world and all her fading sweets;
But I forbid thee one more heinous crime:
O, carve not with the hours my love’s fair brow,
Nor draw no lines there with thine antique pen!
Him in thy course untainted do allow
For beauty’s pattern to succeeding men.
Yet do thy worst, old Time! Despite thy wrong
My love shall in my verse ever live young.

Sonnet 60: Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore

By William Shakespeare

Like as the waves make towards the pebbl’d shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow:
And yet to times in hope my verse shall stand,
Praising thy worth, despite his cruel hand.

Five Book Friday!

We also wanted to let you know, beloved patrons, that our elevator will be out of service all day on Monday, April 8.  Our West and South Branches will be open and functioning as usual.  Our staff will also be on hand to help you access any area of the library over the course of the day.  We are very sorry for the difficulties this will cause, but we hope that the results (namely, a fully functioning elevator) will be worth it!

But now, on to the books!

The ParadeDavid Eggers has not only made great contributions to literature himself, but his work with young writers and literacy programs is ensuring that lots of other young wordsmiths will also be making contributions as well.  And thus, we’re quite excited to showcase his newest novel. An unnamed country is leaving the darkness of a decade at war, and to commemorate the armistice the government commissions a new road connecting two halves of the state. Two men, foreign contractors from the same company, are sent to finish the highway. While one is flighty and adventurous, wanting to experience the nightlife and people, the other wants only to do the work and go home. But both men must eventually face the absurdities of their positions, and the dire consequences of their presence.  These men are introduced only by numbers, and their pasts are hidden from us, replicating the odd, and subtly disconcerting tone of the state in which they are working. The result is a story that Kirkus described as “An unassuming but deceptively complex morality play, as Eggers distills his ongoing concerns into ever tighter prose.”

The Lost Night: Andrea Bartz’s debut has muscled its way onto a number of ‘best of’ lists, and is raising the eyebrows and pulses of readers, as well.  In 2009, Edie had New York’s social world in her thrall. Mercurial and beguiling, she was the shining star of a group of recent graduates living in a Brooklyn loft and treating New York like their playground. When Edie’s body was found near a suicide note at the end of a long, drunken night, no one could believe it. Grief, shock, and resentment scattered the group and brought the era to an abrupt end.  A decade later, Lindsay has come a long way from the drug-addled world of Calhoun Lofts. She has devoted best friends, a cozy apartment, and a thriving career as a magazine’s head fact-checker. But when a chance reunion leads Lindsay to discover an unsettling video from that hazy night, she starts to wonder if Edie was actually murdered—and, worse, if she herself was involved. As she rifles through those months in 2009—combing through case files, old technology, and her fractured memories—Lindsay is forced to confront the demons of her own violent history to bring the truth to light.  We love ourselves a good unreliable narrator here at the Free For All, so this book is on our To Be Read list, as well!  Milwaukee Magazine gave this book a great review, noting “.If you’re a fan of psychological thrillers with strong female protagonists, like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects or Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train, put The Lost Night on your must-read list.”

A Woman Is No Man: Here is another stunning debut from Brooklyn-based author Etaf Rum, that looks at the immigrant experience inside one very unique family.  Palestine, 1990. Seventeen-year-old Isra prefers reading books to entertaining the suitors her father has chosen for her. Over the course of a week, the naïve and dreamy girl finds herself quickly betrothed and married, and is soon living in Brooklyn. There Isra struggles to adapt to the expectations of her oppressive mother-in-law Fareeda and strange new husband Adam, a pressure that intensifies as she begins to have children—four daughters instead of the sons Fareeda tells Isra she must bear.  In Brooklyn, 2008. Eighteen-year-old Deya, Isra’s oldest daughter, must meet with potential husbands at her grandmother Fareeda’s insistence, though her only desire is to go to college. Deya can’t help but wonder if her options would have been different had her parents survived the car crash that killed them when Deya was only eight. But her grandmother is firm on the matter: the only way to secure a worthy future for Deya is through marriage to the right man. But fate has a will of its own, and soon Deya will find herself on an unexpected path that leads her to shocking truths about her family—knowledge that will force her to question everything she thought she knew about her parents, the past, and her own future.  The New York Times Review of Books wrote a powerful review of this book, describing it as “A dauntless exploration of the pathology of silence, an attempt to unsnarl the dark knot of history, culture, fear and trauma that can render conservative Arab-American women so visibly invisible…. The triumph of Rum’s novel is that she refuses to measure her women against anything but their own hearts and histories…. Both a love letter to storytelling and a careful object lesson in its power.”

Murder By The Book: The Crime that Shocked Dickens’ LondonIn May 1840, Lord William Russell, well known in London’s highest social circles, was found with his throat cut. The brutal murder had the whole city talking. The police suspected Russell’s valet, Courvoisier, but the evidence was weak. The missing clue, it turned out, lay in the unlikeliest place: what Courvoisier had been reading. In the years just before the murder, new printing methods had made books cheap and abundant, the novel form was on the rise, and suddenly everyone was reading. The best-selling titles were the most sensational true-crime stories. Even Dickens and Thackeray, both at the beginning of their careers, fell under the spell of these tales–Dickens publicly admiring them, Thackeray rejecting them.  One such phenomenon was William Harrison Ainsworth’s Jack Sheppard, the story of an unrepentant criminal who escaped the gallows time and again. When Lord William’s murderer finally confessed his guilt, he would cite this novel in his defense.  In this recounting of the case and its literary roots, Claire Harman combines a thrilling true-crime story with an illuminating account of the rise of the novel form and the battle for its early soul among the most famous writers of the time.  Kirkus Reviews gave this wonderfully-researched book a starred review, calling it “An endlessly fascinating, bookish tale of true crime in Victorian England . . . Lovers of Drood, Sherlock, Jack the Ripper, and their kin real and fictional will relish the gruesome details of this entertaining book.”

An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System; A Tale in Four Lives: A terminal cancer patient rises from the grave. A medical marvel defies HIV. Two women with autoimmunity discover their own bodies have turned against them.  Through these fascinating human stories, Pulitzer-Prize-winning writer Matt Richtel takes us on a journey of the human immune system winding from the Black Plague to twentieth-century breakthroughs in vaccination and antibiotics, to the cutting-edge laboratories that are revolutionizing immunology. Based on extensive new interviews with dozens of world-renowned scientists, Matt Richtel’s new work is both an investigation into the deepest riddles of survival and a profoundly human tale that is movingly brought to life through the eyes of his four main characters, each of whom illuminates an essential facet of our immunological defense system. Kirkus also gave this book a starred review, hailing it as  “An expert examination of the immune system. … Richtel illuminates a complex subject so well that even physicians will learn.”

Until next week, beloved patrons–happy reading!

Announcing The Peapod!

We’re delighted to introduce you our newest initiative: The PeaPod: Peabody’s Community Seed Exchange!

Starting April 6, we invite you to come and take part in this ground-breaking initiative (pun entirely intended), and begin building your own garden–whether it’s in a window box, a rooftop oasis, or a piece of land.  Below are some questions and details that will help you become familiar with PeaPod and how to get involved!

What is a seed exchange?
A seed exchange, or a seed library, is a community resource that provides people with flower, herb, and vegetable seeds, free of charge!  Gardeners of all skills, from beginner to master, all ages, and all types of gardens are invited to browse the PeaPod’s seed selection and take what is needed for gardens, containers, backyards, and green spaces.

Where do the seeds come from?
For this first 2019 growing season, the PeaPod is stocked with extremely generous donations. For the 2020 growing season (and beyond!), we hope that the PeaPod will become self-replenishing. With the help of gardeners who choose to save, preserve, and donate seeds at the end of the harvest, the PeaPod will continue to grow every year and to offer a true community experience!

How Does the PeaPod Work?

  • Come to the library!
  • Fill out a PeaPod membership form, and browse the PeaPod seed catalog.
  • When you’ve decided which seeds you’d like to plant, ask library staff for empty seed packets.
  • Fill out the label on your packet with important planting information.
  • Take 2-3 seeds per planned plant, or a pinch of seeds if they’re very small, and remember- sharing is caring!
  • Return the PeaPod’s seed packet to the catalog.
  • Happy Planting!
  • At the end of your harvest, you can try your hand at seed saving to help keep the PeaPod replenished for next year. A donation of a few un-opened packs of seeds would also be appreciated, to help stock next year’s PeaPod!

We have lots of books and resources to help you get started on your garden, so stop on by and learn more about The PeaPod and all its wonderful potential!

The Pea Pod is open during normal library hours,
from April 6th through September 5th, at all three library locations.

April is National Poetry Month!

National Poetry Month was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States, and, since 1998, it’s also been celebrated in Canada.  The idea for the celebration came when the Academy saw the success of Women’s History Month (in March) and Black History Month (in February), and wanted a way to celebrate and promote the work of poets, and the power of poetry.  So, as a Library who always enjoys a celebration, we are happy to oblige!

National Poetry Month Poster 2019

Every year, the AAP put out a poster as part of the National Poetry Month campaign.  You can see this year’s poster right above this paragraph. This year, for the very first time, the official National Poetry Month poster features artwork by a high school student: tenth grader Julia Wang from San Jose, California, who has won the inaugural National Poetry Month Poster Contest. Julia’s work incorporates quotes from the poem “An Old Story” by current U. S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. SmithYou can read more about Julia’s art, as well as the judges’ comments on her poster here!

Because one of our goals here at the Free For All is to bring a little poetry into your life, we are looking forward to sharing some verses with you this National Poetry Month.  We’ll also be featuring a display table with poetry selections for you to savor.

John KeatsToday, we bring you and old favorite poem by John Keats (pictured on the left).  Although now considered one of the leaders of the English Romantic movement, Keats wasn’t very well known in his life time, and died of tuberculosis at the age of 25.   Born on October 31, 1795 to Thomas Keats, a hostler who worked with horses at the stables attached to the Swan and Hoop Inn  (which he would later manage) and his wife, Frances Jennings.  The family was unable to pay for an advanced education, so John was made an apprentice to a neighboring surgeon and apothecary named Thomas Hammond. Keats proved to be very talented at medicine, and enrolled at Guy’s Hospital (now part of King’s College London).  However, the work detracted from his writing time, just at the time when Keats’ poetry was being recognized by literary scholars and publishers.  Already suffering from health problems, Keats decided to leave London and move to Hampstead, where he helped his his brother nurse their other brother, Tom, who was dying of tuberculosis.  It is thought that Keats may have contracted the condition around this time, most likely from his brother.  His mother had also died of tuberculosis, which was known as the “family illness.”

It was during this time that Keats met Fanny Brawne, who is believed to have been one of the most profound loves of his life.  He and Brawne lived on the same property, and Keats wrote to her constantly.  His health, however, was failing, and Keats was convinced by his friends to travel to Italy in 1820 the hope of saving his life.  The trip was a disaster, however, marked by sudden storms at sea, a quarantine on board after a cholera scare, and resulted in Keats not arrived on land until November 1820, after the warm weather had already passed.  He remained in Rome where his friends (who were physicians themselves) tended to him–however, the treatments of the day (which included starvation and bleeding) may very well have hastened Keats’ death, which occurred on February 23, 1821.  His last request was for his grave to bear no name or date, only the words, “Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water.”  His friends obliged.

John William Waterhouse – La belle dame sans merci, 1893

Romantic poets aimed to identify and heighten extreme emotion through an emphasis on natural imagery, and Keats’ work is full of references to the scenery, animals, and beauty around him.   This poem, about a fairy who condemns a knight to an unpleasant fate after she seduces him with her eyes and singing, is full of imagery and emotion, and is perhaps among one of Keats’ most well-known works.  It has inspired a number of paintings and songs over the years, once of which you can see above this paragraph.  So, without further ago, we invite you to savor:

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

By John Keats
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
       Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has withered from the lake,
       And no birds sing.
O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
       So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
       And the harvest’s done.
I see a lily on thy brow,
       With anguish moist and fever-dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
       Fast withereth too.
I met a lady in the meads,
       Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
       And her eyes were wild.
I made a garland for her head,
       And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She looked at me as she did love,
       And made sweet moan
I set her on my pacing steed,
       And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
       A faery’s song.
She found me roots of relish sweet,
       And honey wild, and manna-dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
       ‘I love thee true’.
She took me to her Elfin grot,
       And there she wept and sighed full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
       With kisses four.
And there she lullèd me asleep,
       And there I dreamed—Ah! woe betide!—
The latest dream I ever dreamt
       On the cold hill side.
I saw pale kings and princes too,
       Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—‘La Belle Dame sans Merci
       Thee hath in thrall!’
I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
       With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
       On the cold hill’s side.
And this is why I sojourn here,
       Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is withered from the lake,
       And no birds sing.
La Belle Dame sans Merci by Henry Meynell Rheam, 1901