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This essay was originally published on The North American Society for the Study of Romanticism’s blog.  The full essay can be read on their home page by accessing the link at the end.


I want to say it was Stephen Fry who argued that John Keats might have gone on to become the next William Shakespeare had he lived a bit longer, though it may have in fact have been Christopher Hitchens.  It’s odd not knowing the origin of that quote, because I get those two mixed up rarely—then again, the accent and a general contempt for belief in any sort of divine being are traits common to both these men, so I’ll cut myself some slack.  It is an interesting statement when taken from afar, because at first I’m willing to agree with it.  Upon reflection, however, I feel that this is in fact a real disservice to John Keats as a poet, for while Shakespeare is a standard that I think many writers should aspire to (or at least would appreciate as a lovely comparison), I think Keats as a writer managed in his own way to attain his own identity.

730052102-300x300Speaking of which, as of late, that idea has begun to become more and more complicated.  It may be just part of the student complex, but I’ve blossomed in the academic setting because the world has provided me with a sense of structure, organization, and purpose.  School has given my life direction which in turn provided me with the confidence to begin writing again, or at least push the writing I was doing in a more productive route.  I’ve now spent the last six years working and writing, and with a recent acceptance for a publication I’ve gotten to the point I don’t flinch at admitting I’m a writer.  School and regularly writing for this website as well as my own has given me an identity…and it’s about to be over, as I transition from graduating to starting something new.

Since this is my last essay for this organization, I struggled to figure out what I was going to actually write next.  Since it’s the last essay, I felt I should end with The Rime of the Ancient Mariner since that was what my first essay for this site was about, but honestly that felt a bit kitsch and I hate sentimentality.  The worst part about transitions is the way ritual so alters our reality, and rather than just pushing forward we have to stop and let the end totally consume us so that we can achieve some kind of closure and process that we’ve done something with all this time.

Don’t get me wrong, we should enjoy and relish in our achievements, but I’d rather have this last post honestly say something than be a long drawn-out goodbye.

W.H. Auden is a poet that I learned about through Christopher Hitchens, for he is cited 7345631regularly throughout Hitchens’ memoir Hitch-22 (the index lists him on 16 pages, I counted), his epigrams appear in numerous essays, and he was the focus of Hitchens’ entire article The Long Littleness of Life* which was published in the New York Review of Books and my copy of Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere which I’ll be reading as soon as I finish this essay.  I trust Hitchens to never disappoint (unless we’re talking about whether women are funny or not, but that’s another essay), and so when I began reading Auden here and there I was always floored.  The man’s ability with language is everything one should want in a poet, and given the fact he was a postmodernist he was right up my alley.  The Vintage Paperback Press W.H. Auden: Collected Poems remains on permanent reserve in my personal library.

My reader may ask what a postmodernist has to do with the Romantics; slow down, I’m getting to it. I like to talk and hear my own voice as I write and I’m also a big fan of lead-ins, don’t forget.  Thinking of Stephen Fry, which might actually have been Christopher Hitchens, speaking about John Keats made me think of Auden because both Keats and Auden both have written poems involving Greek reliquary.



Shields and Urns and Beauty and Misery: What Wonders Were the Greeks