Bright star Fanny Brawne
Bright star! would I were steadfast 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 steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.
For sure this girl was the love of his life. “Did Fanny love Keats as much as he loved her? Did he truly love her, or did he even truly know her?” Such questions can never be answered by biographers or critics. All we know for certain is that Fanny became the other great passion of Keats’s life and another cause to mourn when illness struck. Their relationship, like his poetic ambition, would remain unfulfilled, another reason to think, If only….”
“He had already told Fanny that he ‘must impose chains’ on himself if he was to endure living so close to her (for a time they were next-door-neighbors), and now he was as good as his word. Following the advice of Burton’s Anatomy, which insisted that meat-eating increased physical desire, he put himself on a vegetarian diet, telling his sister that he hoped it would mean ‘my brains may never henceforth be in a greater mist than is theirs by nature.’…
His thoughts now turned to his final resting-place, the Protestant Cemetery beside the pyramid of Caius Cestius. He asked Severn to visit and describe the place for him. Even today, it remains a place of peace and beauty. Severn told him of the daisies and violets which grew there, and of the flocks of goats and sheep which roamed over the graves. The description pleased Keats. He asked that one phrase be put upon his tombstone: ‘Here lies one whose name was writ in water.’..
I have seen this peaceful graveyard in the outskirts of Rome. Some steps away Goethe’s son August is put to rest (and pushing daisies too).
Frances ‘Fanny” Brawne was born in 1800 and died as a mother and married woman in 1865, lived from the romantic times of stagecoaches, sweet moonshine, manors and wide parks, nightingales and odes – she wrote some poems herself – to the modern ages of machines, the industrial revolution, going mainly out from Great Britain. Only for a few years she was engaged to John Keats, even seeing him depart for his last journey to Rome where he died. To research about them is to feel the pain of tuberculosis, taking not only him but several members of both their families to a gruesome slow death. If only…
Two years after the death of Keats, Fanny began learning Italian and translating short stories from the German, eventually publishing them in various magazines. Frances Keats, John’s sister – with the same name as Fanny – went to live with the Brawnes, where she was warmly welcomed.
Later, in France, where Fanny settled for a long time (after seven years of mourning for her dead fiancé) she married Louis Lindon and had children with him. Only after many years and the death of her husband she told her children about her romance with John and the love letters he left her (for example “My Mind has been the most discontented and restless one that ever was put into a body too small for it. I never felt my Mind repose upon anything with complete and undistracted enjoyment – upon no person but you. When you are in the room my thoughts never fly out of window: you always concentrate my whole senses.”).
Poetry and Fanny Brawne – Fanny Brawne and poetry: for sure this were the loves of his life. Rather unknown in his lifetime his famousness skyrocketed after his death. There is no doubt he wrote some of the most beautiful poems ever.