Poetry Review: “Bright Star” by John Keats

A poet looks at the world the way a man looks at a woman.
~Wallace Stevens

071002I have been reminded of Stevens’ famous quote a number of times in the last few months as I have been working on my own poetry and as I have been reading the poetry of others.

In November at MontanaWriter, we have been focusing on poems about stars. Keats’ poem “Bright Star” seems like the perfect way to end the month. But for that, a Keat’s poem would be the perfect way to end any month.

To our modern ear, some of the flourishes of the Romantic style can seem overwrought. Our ears and hearts have been hardened from hearing too much bad poetry that has tried to copy the Romantic style. It is easy to forget what great poetry can sound like… feel like.

Enjoy!

Bright Star
Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art– 
Not in lone splendour 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 stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death.

The feelings encompassed in these lines are universal, having been felt by countless lovers for countless generations. In Keats, we find the perfect expression of love. So perfect that it cannot be paraphrased or ignored… only read and felt and enjoyed.

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