A Joy Forever

I watched Bright Star, Jane Campion’s film about the romance between the poet John Keats and Fanny Brawne on the weekend.

It was a good film although I found the settings to be very stark and sort of bleak. Campion conveyed very well how cold it was all the time and how much of a struggle it was to get by. She is that kind of film-maker (think of The Piano) where her aesthetic is so strong it almost becomes part of the narrative.

And Keats himself, here was this brilliant poet who was ill all the time and totally broke. I wonder if they coined the phrase suffering for one’s art about him because he really suffered.

I was enjoying the movie but about half an hour into it I just burst into tears. I just couldn’t stop crying. It wasn’t even at a sad bit. It was at the part where Keats publishes one of his first books of poetry called Endymion. The first part begins –

A thing of beauty is a joy forever.

That opening line really hit me hard.

That flower that you see at your front gate as you leave for work in the morning, you smile at it every single time, don’t you?

It is a joy forever.

That song you love – you know the one you always play when you’ve had a bad day? It makes you feel better every single time, doesn’t it?

It is a joy forever.

That cup of coffee after you’ve done all the morning’s drudgery, piping hot, aromatic, soothing the things that need to be soothed.

It is a joy forever.

Birds flying beneath the clouds. Soaring, whirling, turning like windmills. You feel their elation from the ground and reach up as high as you can to see if you can catch some of it.

It is a joy forever.

I wonder when Keats wrote Endymion in 1818 in his impoverished state if any part of him had an inkling as to how rich he really was. I wonder if he had any idea that almost 200 years later someone would hear the lines from his poems and weep in their living room at one in the morning and thank the gods that a man like John Keats existed in the first place.

Such is the power of beauty. It really is a joy forever.

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17 thoughts on “A Joy Forever

  1. Thanks for sharing the inspiration Selma. I followed the Keats link and it was worth the read. I should invest more reading time in the classics–I am never disappointed.

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  2. A beautiful tribute to a wonderful poet and a reminder that the joys in life ARE forever and should be cherished, each day. Even the small ones, like a hot cup of coffee. Beautiful post Sel. Happy Week, G

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  3. I have always been so inspired by Keats, who lived only to be 26 and still one of the greatest poets to ever live. How could he have acquired that level of wisdom and craft?

    It’s artists like Keats that make me believe that some gifts are divine.

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  4. Hi SLAMDUNK:
    Keats is one of the more readable, beautiful poets in my view. Such a profound outlook in such a young man. Quite incredible. I should invest more time in reading the classics too. But I think I just have too much on my TO DO list!!

    Hi GERALDINE:
    Oh, absolutely. There are so many joys that we encounter every day and often we don’t notice them until they are gone. The small ones really make a difference, don’t they? Hope you have a wonderful week too!

    Hi DEBORAH:
    It really is a gift. How lucky we are to be able to read those beautiful words!

    Hi JENNIFER:
    I know. Isn’t it amazing he was so young and produced such an incredible body of work? I think he only wrote seriously for about 3 years. I am blown away by that. Oh yeah. Some gifts are definitely divine. I can also see that touch of the divine in Mozart, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix. Talent like that is so exceptional there is no other explanation.

    Hi MELEAH:
    I think you will like the movie although I will warn you it is quite sad. I will never get over his talent at such a young age, either. Just mind-blowing!!!

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  5. Beautiful post Selma. Stephen Fry in ‘The Ode Less Travelled’ says he fell in love with a line of Keats ‘And Madeline asleep in lap of legends old’ – and Fry says ‘I know this is all fey and mockable. Very sensitive, cardigan-wearing reading glasses on a thin gold chain old poof who runs an antique business and yearns for beauty. Ah, my beloved Keats, such a solace to me in this world of reality television and chicken nuggets.’ – haha – I will agree with Stephen Fry and you Selma and I must see that movie.

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  6. Wonderful post, Selma. I, too, am a Keats fan. To Autumn is one of my favourite poems. Your post reminded me of another one of my favourites:
    Tears, Idle Tears by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

    TEARS, idle tears, I know not what they mean,
    Tears from the depth of some divine despair
    Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes,
    In looking on the happy Autumn-fields,
    And thinking of the days that are no more. 5

    Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
    That brings our friends up from the underworld,
    Sad as the last which reddens over one
    That sinks with all we love below the verge;
    So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more. 10

    Ah, sad and strange as in dark summer dawns
    The earliest pipe of half-awakened birds
    To dying ears, when unto dying eyes
    The casement slowly grows a glimmering square;
    So sad, so strange, the days that are no more. 15

    Dear as remembered kisses after death,
    And sweet as those by hopeless fancy feigned
    On lips that are for others; deep as love,
    Deep as first love, and wild with all regret;
    O Death in Life, the days that are no more.

    Cheers, David

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  7. That’s a film I’d like to see … we didn’t learn much about Keats’ life at school; we concentrated more on the Lake Poets. But, of course we did read his poetry. The media tend to trot out ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness …’ around September every year.

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  8. Selma you really are a lovely ,sensitive soul, always reminding us to keep the important things at the front of our minds. Thanks!

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  9. Hi Selma,
    The movie sounds really good, I haven’t heard anything about it at all.
    I love Keats poetry, and you have done a beautiful job putting it all together in your post.

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  10. Hi GABRIELLE:
    Oh yes. A beautiful line, indeed. Wow. That is just gorgeous. What a poet. If I could even halfway think of lines like that I would be so up myself that I would be insufferable (that’s probably why I can’t think of them. Conceit is a sin, right? LOL) Stephen Fry really is an incredibly sensitive guy. Did you see that show he did about animals on the verge of extinction? I cried more that he cared so much rather than about the animals (although I cried for them too.) We need more people like him and Keats to save us from ourselves!!

    Hi DAVID:
    Oh yes. A beautiful poem too. Tennyson has written some gems. Being of an Arthurian persuasion (haha) I love The Lady of Shalott but I came upon this recently which I thought was still very pertinent today. It’s from a sonnet written on the Russian invasion of Poland (which I think was sometime in the 1830s. Can any historians help me with the date?) Anyway, here it is –
    ” How long, O God, shall men be ridden down
    And trampled under by the last and least
    Of men?”
    Can you believe how relevant that still is today? Wow.

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  11. Hi TRAVELRAT:
    Oh yes. ‘Season of mists…’ is oft-quoted. I think you will like the movie. The guy who played Keats was very good!

    Hi LAURI:
    You are such a sweetie to say that. That has made me feel all jolly 😀 😀 😀

    HI MAGS:
    You are so kind too. It is a good movie. You should check it out if you get the chance 🙂

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  12. I did see that show about the near extinct animals with Stephen Fry – fantastic stuff – I think it is hilarious how he cares so much but also hates to rough it and gets all sooky with campy and such things (and then he went and hurt is shoulder trying to get on a boat – very serious injury apparently).

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  13. Hi GABRIELLE:
    He is a complete sook. But I guess that’s why we love him. Despite his fame he is a real person. And therefore more believable and capable of making a difference. An all-round cool guy!

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  14. Although I’m not much into poetry and really can’t appreciate it the way I’m sure it deserves to be, I totally get the joy forever thing. The gurgling baby that grins toothlessly at me on the bus, the toddler who chirps HI as you walk past them, watching my daughters dog chase the soccer ball, grinning and panting and happily yipping as she goes , my cats playing and rolling around together, my kids, going out for shopping and lunch with them…those are the joys forever in my life.

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  15. CATHY – you have got it in one. All the things you have mentioned give us such joy, don’t they? That is what life is all about for me. Absolutely!!!!

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