One of the funny things about getting to be world-famous,
is that after you die,
people publish and read all sorts of things you wrote and said and did that should
never have seen the light of day. But perhaps I'm being too harsh. Certainly, a bit of
crap is to be expected from an eighteen year old boy who had only just started
writing poetry, whether he turns out to be a genius of verse or not. There is certainly
no reason to criticize John Keats for writing "Fill for me a brimming bowl," but
it does seem a bit ridiculous that, as I sit here reading a book of the collected
work of one of the greatest poets of the English language, I end up muddling through
what can only be described as meaningless adolescent drivel.
Once again, I think I'm overspeaking myself. It's not all that bad. But
neither is there any need for me to be reading this poem nearly
two hundred years after it was written.
The moral of this story? If you're a writer (and you are, or you wouldn't be here),
or an artist, or whatever, and you write or paint something that you later realize
is shit, burn it. Destroy it, erase all evidence, and make sure nobody
else has a copy, anywhere, lest by some chance you become famous, and people
have to struggle, years from now, to figure out if it is possible that it's
really as terrible as it seems to be.
But alas, this one has survived, and is still reprinted, and read, and handed down
along with all the good stuff, and people like me will insist on keeping it that way.
So, with no further ado, here is what I think I can unqualifiably say is the worst
poem Keats ever wrote. Enjoy.
Fill for me a brimming bowl
Fill for me a brimming bowl,
And let me in it drown my soul:
But put therein some drug design'd
To banish Woman from my mind.
For I want not the stream inspiring,
That heats the sense with lewd desiring;
But I want as deep a draught
As e'er from Lethe's waves was quaft,
From my despairing breast to charm
The image of the fairest form
That e'er my rev'ling eyes beheld,
That e'er my wand'ring fancy spell'd!
'Tis vain--away I cannot chace
The melting softness of that face--
The beaminess of those bright eyes--
That breast, earth's only paradise!
My sight will never more be blest,
For all I see has lost its zest;
Nor with delight can I explore
The classic page--the muse's lore.
Had she but known how beat my heart
And with one smile reliev'd its smart,
I should have felt a sweet relief,
I should have felt the "joy of grief"!
Yet as a Tuscan 'mid the snow
Of Lapland thinks on sweet Arno;
So for ever shall she be
The halo of my memory.
The subject of this poem
was a young lady Keats saw at Vauxhall
, and never met
or spoke to. According to his later account, he watched her all night and was
completely fascinated, to the point that for years after he compared all women
to her and found them wanting. He was to treat the same subject with much more
grace in 1818 with "When I have fears that I may cease to be