John Keats – excerpts from letters to Fanny Brawne


“(…) I am now at a very pleasant cottage window, looking onto a beautiful hilly country, with a glimpse of the sea ; the morning is very fine. I do not know how elastic my spirit might be, what pleasure I might have in living here and breathing and wandering as free as a stag about this beautiful coast if the remembrance of you did not weigh so upon me. I have never known any unalloy’d happiness for many days together : the death or sickness of some one has always spoilt my hours – and now when none such troubles oppress me, it is you must confess very hard that another sort of pain should haunt me. Ask yourself my love whether you are not very cruel to have so entrammelled me, so destroyed my freedom. Will you confess this in the letter you must write immediately and do all you can to console me in it – make it rich as a draught of popies to intoxicate me – write the softest words and kiss them that I may at least touch my lips where yours have been. For myself I know not how to express my devotion to so fair a form : I want a brighter word than bright, a fairer word than fair. I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain”.

“(…) All my thoughts, my unhappiest days and nights, have I find not at all cured me of my love of beauty, but made it so intense that I am miserable that you are not with me : or rather breathe in that dull sort of patience that cannot be called life. I never knew before, what such a love as you have made me feel, was ; I did not believe in it ; my fancy was afraid of it, lest it should burn me up. But if you will fully love me, though there may be some fire, ‘t will not be more than we can bear when moistened and bedewed with pleasures”.

“(…) You cannot conceive how I ache to be with you : how I would die for an hour – for what is in the world ? I say you cannot conceive ; it is impossible you should look with such eyes upon me as I have upon you : it cannot be”.

“(…) I have two luxuries to brood over in my walks, your loveliness and the hour of my death. O that I could have possession of them both in the same minute. My sweet girl, I am living today in yesterday : I was in a complete fascination all day. I feel myself at your mercy. Write me ever so few lines and tell me you will never for ever be less kind to me than yesterday. – You dazzled me. There is nothing in the world so bright and delicate”.

“(…) My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you. I am forgetful of everything but seeing you again – my life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving – I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you. I should be afraid to separate myself far from you. My sweet Fanny, will your heart never change ? My love, will it ? I have no limit now to my love… Your note came in just now. I cannot be happier away from you. ‘T is richer than any argosy of pearles. Do not threat me even in jest. I have been astonished that men could die martyrs for religion – I have shudder’d at it. I shudder no more – I could be martyr’d for my religion – love is my religion – I could die for that. I could die for you. My creed is love and you are its only tenet. You have ravish’d me away by a power I cannot resist ; and yet I could resist till I saw you ; and even since I have seen you I have endeavoured often “to reason against the reasons of my love”. I can do that no more – the pain would be so great. My love is selfish. I cannot breathe without you. Yours for ever, John Keats”.


( John Keats, 1819-20 )


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