Tuesday, December 14, 2010


john clare (1793-1864)

Lost in a wilderness of listening leaves

John Clare had his doubts about John Keats, a poet he had never met.

"In spite of all this his descriptions of scenery are often very fine but as it is the case with other inhabitants of great cities he often described nature as she appeared to his fancies & not as he would have described her had he witnessed the things he described."

An age old tale between the bumpkin and the flatlander.

john keats (1795-1821)

I live in the eye

Here is Keats at Ambleside water fall (England's Lake District); the first water fall he had ever seen:

"We afterwards moved away a space, and saw nearly the whole more mild, streaming silverly through the trees. What astonishes me more than any thing is the tone, the coloring, the slate, the stone, the moss, the rock-weed; or, if I may so say, the intellect, the countenance of such places.The space, the magnitude of mountains and waterfalls are well imagined before one sees them; but this countenance or intellectual tone must surpass every imagination and defy any remembrance. I shall learn poetry here."

You want to hug him with that last line.

robert frost & wallace stevens, key west 1940

Yet I am the necessary angel of earth

"I have seen cowboys; I have seen prairie dogs; hundreds of wild ducks, Indians in camp with smoke coming through their discolored tent-tops; I have seen mountains swimming in clouds and basking in snow; and cascades, and gulches."

...says Wallace Stevens the future executive from Hartford, Connecticut, freshly peeled off from a Harvard graduation and New York Law School and piercing through Canada's wild landscape aboard the Canadian Pacific Railroad in 1903, exhorting to the "character of mountains above timber-line."

It was part of a six-week hunting trip, and the images and bounty of it stayed with the poet through all of his poetry and to his deathbed.

"Downward to darkness, on extended wings."

photo: frost/stevens c/o alfred knopf