One Whose Name Was Writ in Water

Here lies all that was once mortal.

An empty page of a short life.

He who wondered “Can death be sleep,

when life is but a dream?” now

knows more than we want to know.

Keats_Tombstone

John Keats’ tombstone in Rome


John Keats’ birthday was on Halloween. This poem was inspired by his tombstone. While caring for his brother who was dying of tuberculosis, John contracted the disease himself. He died in Rome early in 1821, at the age of 25. He had wanted his gravestone to carry this one beautiful line: “Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water,” but his two closest friends added a message as a way to attack some of the poet’s critics. This has always stuck me as so very wrong. They added: “This Grave contains all that was mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, who on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his heart, at the Malicious Power of his enemies, desired these words to be Engraven on his Tomb Stone.”

On Death

1.
Can death be sleep, when life is but a dream,
And scenes of bliss pass as a phantom by?
The transient pleasures as a vision seem,
And yet we think the greatest pain’s to die.

2.
How strange it is that man on earth should roam,
And lead a life of woe, but not forsake
His rugged path; nor dare he view alone
His future doom which is but to awake.

John Keats

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