Thursday

Oct. 31, 2002

Bright Star

by John Keats

THURSDAY, 31 OCTOBER 2002
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Poem
: "Bright Star," by John Keats.

Bright Star

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 feel 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.



Today is Halloween. It refers to the Eve of All Hallows Day, a Catholic day in honor of saints. In the 5th century BC, it was also the official end of the summer in Celtic Ireland. According to legend, on that day the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. It was to be their only hope for the afterlife. The Celts believed that all laws of space and time were suspended during this time, allowing the spirit world to intermingle with the living.

It's the birthday of Juliette Gordon Low, born in Savannah, Georgia (1860). She founded the Girl Scouts. She was born into high society and was groomed to be the perfect "Southern Lady." She founded the Girl Scouts because she felt that she herself did not possess the skills necessary for everyday life.

It's the birthday of the poet John Keats, born in London (1795). He was the oldest of four children and he took care of his brothers and sister while they were growing up. His father died early, his mother's second husband took all the inheritance, and his mother ran off with a third man, leaving behind her children. He studied anatomy and physiology to become a surgeon. He studied poetry as well, translating the Aeneid and reading for the first time Ovid, Milton, and Spenser's Faerie Queen. In 1815 he became a licensed surgeon and did very well. He passed all the tests to be certified but in the end turned to poetry. He had a long courtship with Fanny Brawne, to whom he was engaged. She inspired The Eve of St. Agnes, a long poem about romance and desire. He wrote other poems on romantic subjects such as Ode to a Nightingale and Ode on a Grecian Urn, in which he said, "Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all / Ye know on earth and all ye need to know." He was a doctor so when he first contracted tuberculosis, he knew enough to know what he had when he saw the blood on his pillow. He knew it was his death warrant. He went to Rome to try to recover and died there in his room near the fountain at the Spanish Steps. "There is nothing stable in the world; uproar's your only music."



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