This sonnet was written by John Keats on December 22, 1816.
A note in the margins of an early draft, "Written in fifteen minutes," would imply
that this, like "On the Grasshopper and Cricket," and "On Receiving
a Laurel Crown from Mr. Leigh Hunt" was the product of one of Leigh Hunt's sonnet writing
competitions. The group would be assigned a topic, and then be given a period of
time, usually fifteen minutes, in which to compose a sonnet. Everyone's work
was then compared. Keats seems to have done quite well in these competitions.
The subject of this poem, as well reveals Keats' growing discontent with traditional
Christian theology. Although he was probably a deist, he is said to have once
remarked, "Shakespeare is all the God I need."
Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition
The church bells toll a melancholy round,
Calling the people to some other prayers,
Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
More heark'ning to the sermon's horrid sound.
Surely the mind of man is closely bound
In some black spell; seeing that each one tears
Himself from fireside joys, and Lydian airs,
And converse high of those with glory crown'd.
Still, still they toll, and I should feel a damp,
A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
That they are dying like an outburnt lamp;
That 'tis their sighing, wailing ere they go
Into oblivion;--that fresh flowers will grow,
And many glories of immortal stamp.