Thursday, 12 November 2009


Went to see the film BRIGHT STAR yesterday - about the life of one of my favourite poets, John Keats.

It was filmed as if for a fabric conditioner meadow was seen unless it was lush-full of blossom and flowers. Seasons came and went with alarming frequency - one minute the nodding daffodils signified spring - and in another, the heavy snowfall told us it was winter (did they REALLY have that much snow in Hampstead?)

Having said that - I loved it. I loved the depiction of tortured love. Of loss before possession has even taken place. I loved Fanny's mad devotion and I despaired of events and people who all helped contribute to the tragedy of the poet's early death.

The (brilliant) actors playing Fanny and John also spoke the lines of a poem which has always particularly inspired me.
It was spookily prescient, in a way......

La Belle Dame Sans Merci

"O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

"O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms! 5
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

"I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever-dew. 10
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too."

"I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery's child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light, 15
And her eyes were wild.

"I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look'd at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan. 20

"I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long;
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.

"She found me roots of relish sweet, 25
And honey wild and manna-dew;
And sure in language strange she said,
'I love thee true.'

"She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept and sigh'd full sore; 30
And there I shut her wild, wild eyes
With kisses four.

"And there she lullèd me asleep,
And there I dream'd—ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream'd 35
On the cold hill's side.

"I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all:
They cried, 'La belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!' 40

"I saw their starved lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gapèd wide,
And I awoke and found me here
On the cold hill's side.

"And this is why I sojourn here 45
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing."


  1. Ah...lovely poem. Dying to see the film, I love Jane Campion...lucky you. It's lashing rain here in Dublin, no sign of the seasons at all!
    x Abby Green

  2. I don't know this film, but I'm looking forward to seeing it - Jane Campion is a great director and I love her film "The portrait of a lady" starring Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich, based on the novel by Henry James, one of my favourite authors.

    I also suggest to you - if you haven't seen it - the film "Becoming Jane" starring Anne Hathaway, about Jane Austen's life and love story with the Irish Tom Lefroy.

    Keats is wonderful and here's another of his famous poems, inspired by the water meadows of Winchester (where you live!) in an early autumn evening. It's also suitable because we're in the right season.


    Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
    Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
    With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
    To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
    And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
    And still more, later flowers for the bees,
    Until they think warm days will never cease,
    For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

    Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
    Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
    Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
    Steady thy laden head across a brook;
    Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
    Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

    Where are the songs of spring? Ay, where are they?
    Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,--
    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
    And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
    Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
    Among the river sallows, borne aloft
    Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
    Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
    The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
    And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

  3. Lovely poem! Haven't heard it for a long time. Thanks for reminding me about it. Hope to catch the film as well. Take care. Caroline x

  4. Chucking it down here as well, Abby!

    Michela - I haven't seen BECOMING JANE - but I now intend to (and yes, Ode To Autumn is a wonderful poem - I should have been out and about with my camera, taking photos of the colours which must have insoired him,,,,)

    Thanks, Caroline - it was lovely to be reminded of that poem myself.

  5. Thanks for the review - probably won't get to see this at the cinema, but it'll be on my buy-list as soon as it's released on DVD. Keats was always my fave of the Romantic poets (despite the fact that my dog is named after the one who was mad, bad and dangerous to know *g* - and incidentally has the sweetest disposition of any dog I've ever known). I take it you've visited his house at Hampstead?

  6. Isn't it shaming to admit that I've never visited the Hampstead house, Kate? - but shall remedy that as soon as latest book delivered (it has been misbehaving dreadfully!). I also feel that I should read Andrew Motion's biography - on which much of the film was based.