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For John Keats, Apostle of Beauty -- Countee Cullen

Guest poem submitted by Jeffrey Sean Huo, in response
to yesterday's poem:
(Poem #1497) For John Keats, Apostle of Beauty
 Not writ in water nor in mist,
 Sweet lyric throat, thy name.
 Thy singing lips that cold death kissed
 Have seared his own with flame.
-- Countee Cullen
 From "Four Epitaths".

 In response to today's poem [ #1497, "Give Me Women, Wine, and Snuff" ],
Mr. Ramasubramanian recalls a response to Keat's famous epitaph that posited
that Keats' name ought to have been written in the sky in letters of fire.
Mr. Ramasubramanian was unable to recall that poem, and neither can I -- but
what I did find was three poems by three poets whose poems have been
featured in these pages before. One by Oscar Wilde, one by Henry Wadsworth
Longfellow, and the one I wish to feature, the one by Countee Cullen.

 In contrast to Longfellow's and Wilde's drawn out, overly-flowered, and in
the end, forgettable verses (included below), Cullen, in four short lines,
burns into your brain an absolutely unforgettable image: Keats, the poet of
such awesome passion and power, that even the cold lips of Death himself are
set afire.  The power and genius of poetry is the ability to capture
powerful, complex ideas in very short spaces. Longfellow and Wilde certainly
make clear the depth of respect and feeling each has for Keats. But it is
Cullen, in my opinion, which most succeeds in making Keats unforgettable.

 This poem is especially powerful for me for having come of age with a
relatively recent literary incarnation of the Grim Reaper. Not the grey,
hooded, skeletal spectre of so many past stories, but instead the
passionate, vibrant, immortal Lady Teleute of Neil Gaiman's _The Sandman_,
the cute Goth chick with the curl under her eye who was sister to Destiny,
Destruction and Dream. *That* Death, Neil Gaiman's gentle, beautiful lady
Death, she could definately be imagined taking Keats beyond in one final,
brilliant, blazing kiss. Influenced by the masterful way way Gaiman wove
tales of _The Sandman_ around such other historical figures as William
Shakespeare, Augustus Ceasar, and Haroun Al Raschid, Cullen's poem, imagined
through Gaiman's lens, is to me as unforgettable a memorial to Keats' legacy
as Keats could possibly hope for.

 Thank you again for the opportunity to share,


 Longfellow's musings were as follows:


 The young Endymion sleeps Endymion's sleep;
 The shepherd-boy whose tale was left half told!
 The solemn grove uplifts its shield of gold
 To the red rising moon, and loud and deep
 The nightingale is singing from the steep;
 It is midsummer, but the air is cold;
 Can it be death? Alas, beside the fold
 A shepherd's pipe lies shattered near his sheep.
 Lo! in the moonlight gleams a marble white,
 On which I read: "Here lieth one whose name
 Was writ in water." And was this the meed
 Of his sweet singing? Rather let me write:
 "The smoking flax before it burst to flame
 Was quenched by death, and broken the bruised reed."

        -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 Oscar Wilde wrote instead this:

 "The Grave of Keats"

 Rid of the world's injustice, and his pain,
 He rests at last beneath God's veil of blue:
 Taken from life when life and love were new
 The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
 Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
 No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
 But gentle violets weeping with the dew
 Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
 O proudest heart that broke for misery!
 O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
 O poet-painter of our English Land!
 Thy name was writ in water--it shall stand:
 And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
 As Isabella did her Basil-tree.

        -- Oscar Wilde

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