Monday, 22 February 2016

Violets and Verse

The opening sequence of the film 'Bright Star' shows a funeral procession moving across the front of the Spanish Steps. The funeral was that of John Keats, the Romantic poet who died on 23rd February 1821.
Keats and his friend Joseph Severn had taken up residence at the foot of the Spanish Steps. Keats was suffering from tuberculosis and had come to Rome to escape the English winter, leaving behind the love of his life, Fanny Brawne.
The house in which he had rooms is now the Keats-Shelley Museum and the library here is said to be one of the best in the world dedicated to the Romantic poets.

For us, however, it allows us a glimpse of how this tragic young poet spent his last days. The room in which he died, clutching the hand of his friend, has changed very little. The furniture is replica of course as the original would have been destroyed for, health reasons, after his death.
Thanks to the Landmark Trust, it is possible to stay in the same house in a similar room.
Stand at the window and listen to the chatter on the Spanish Steps and know that Keats would have heard the same. At that time this area was a magnet for Grand Tourists, artists and models.

 Today it is a popular spot for wedding photos.

The sound of tinkling water from the Barcaccia fountain will also not have changed.

Keats ventured above the Steps to the Borghese Gardens for healthy walks along the tree lined avenues. The view of St Peters dome from the Pincio  is much the same today as it was then.

Keats is buried in the Protestant Cemetery, where his tombstone declares 'Here lies one whose name is writ in water'

 In late winter/early spring the area is carpeted with wild violets, a flower which appeared in many of his poems.

'Fast fading violets covered up in leaves' (Ode to a Nightingale)

'Into her dream he melted, as the rose
Blendeth its odour with the violet' (Eve of St Agnes)

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