Ode to Keats

Poet of Earth and the unearthly skies,
fire-gatherer for a restless scurrying tribe
beneath the moon! None in the modern guise
of visionary word-mage
could once upon the page
take pen and in a few scant words describe
the great Promethean journey that you made.
Yet I
shall try,
for like you, Poet, I am not afraid.

Something was stored in you. A drop of sun
in a rapscallion prone to fisticuffs
turned to a burning tenderness in one
for whom the true and real
linked hands with the ideal.
– Still you ran, head down, at the playground roughs!
Always you threw your small frame on unheeding.
Now words
like birds
rose in a storm at the onrush of your reading.

History, myth and journey. Still a lad
you circled the globe of heaven. Home from school
you nursed your mother with all the strength you had.
Head-in-the-stars, you found
on Earth the truest ground,
too fond a heart to play the romantic fool.
No: as you read and dreamed, and played with rhyme,
a trade
upon the hour: the hand of slow-ticking time.

Was there a choice? You learnt a doctor’s skills
but sat down with Apollo. And your pen
transcribed a remedy for human ills.
A ballad, a few odes –
one of the deepest codes
was unlocked here. God speed, the best of men!
To approach, you were not timid; to aspire,
not scared.
You dared:
and coming of age, you reached out, and took fire.

Young lion of England! The footfall of your lines,
the soft immediate grace, the darting phrases,
the image half-concealed, the natural signs
of a great beauty – who
now breathes, to honour you?
A better poet than I will sing your praises
some day, when Time again admits Art’s worth.
Your twin
will win
a brilliance from within, to shine on Earth.

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