“Keats” by Christopher Howell
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
When Keats, at last beyond the curtain of love’s distraction, lay dying in his room on the Piazza di Spagna, the melody of the Bernini Fountain “filling him like flowers,” he held his breath like a coin, looked out into the moonlight and thought he saw snow. He did not suppose it was fever or the body’s weakness turning the mind. He thought, “England!” and there he was, secretly, for the rest of his improvidently short life: up to his neck in sleigh bells and the impossibly English cries of street vendors, perfect and affectionate as his soul. For days the snow and statuary sang him so far beyond regret that if now you walk rancorless and alone there, in the piazza, the white shadow of his last words to Severn, “Don’t be frightened,” may enter you.
From Light’s Ladder
University of Washington Press, 2004
Copyright 2004 Christopher Howell.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of University of Washington Press. Copyright 2004 by Christopher Howell. For further permissions information, contact Denise Clark, University of Washington Press, 1326 5th Ave., Ste. 555, Seattle, WA 98101, (206) 543-4057, firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Poet
Christopher Howell is the author of nine poetry collections, including Dreamless and Possible: Poems New and Selected (University of Washington Press, 2013).
Learn more about Christopher Howell at Eastern Oregon University.