Guest poem sent in by Aseem Kaul () One of my favourites...
(Poem #433) Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell
Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell No God, no demon of severe response Deigns to reply from heaven or from hell Then to my human heart I turn at once: Heart, thou and I are here, sad and alone, Say, why did I laugh? O mortal pain! O darkness! darkness! Forever must I moan To question heaven and hell and heart in vain? Why did I laugh? I know this being's lease My fancy to it's utmost blisses spreads Yet would I on this very midnight cease And all the world's gaudy ensigns see in shreds Verse, fame and beauty are intense indeed But death intenser, death is life's high meed.
What I love about this poem is the fact that its so uncharacteristic of Keats - so dark and feverish, quite a change from his usual tranquility: Keats is still ceasing upon the midnight, but no longer 'with no pain'. Plus of course it's a poem that cries out to be read aloud, the repetition of the original question adding a dramatic soul-searching intensity: almost like the sound of a man drawing in air between fits of pain. But that's not all that makes it dramatically intense - there's also the alternation between anger and anguish, between god and demons on the one hand, and his own heart on the other, all of it ending with an almost heroic disillusionment that one (or at any rate I) associates so much more with Shelley than with Keats. Altogether a wonderful poem that shows off the more savage side of Keats to perfection. Aseem. [I've added in a few links - m.] Links: Here's an analysis of the poem: http://icdweb.cc.purdue.edu/%7Efelluga/Apaper241F98.html And an excellent Keats site, complete with biography: http://www.john-keats.com/ (The above site also has a 'vote for your favourite Keats poem' poll - worth taking a second or two on)