On that note, here's a poem I wrote in my second year at OLSWA which I think really benefited from the rigour of school.
This is a creative addition for Keats, inspired chiefly by his concise language and rich imagery. John Keats was part of the second generation of romantic poets, and besides his emphasis on self, nature, and senses, his poetry also incorporated deeper reflection about reality. Following in the train of “Ode to a Nightingale”, I explored in this poem the lyric speaker’s sadness over morality and desire to know what death truly is. He despairs of man’s ability to understand death through reason and believes instead that imagination can transcend time and discover truth. But even imagination might not be enough . . .
On A Winter Glade
I halt as sorrow hurls against my breast
And jolts me from the hurry-beaten way
And does my feelings like my breath arrest
To spy a glint amid Erebus grey:
A forest glade enclosed in polished glass
And white new-felled; its statue chambers poise
In an eternal stance and bid me thus
To stay and not to pass,
Forsaking all the jostle and the noise
Of jaded rush, our futile business.
O see the laden boughs like brittle edge
Of flaking crust; see glittering facets sheer,
And icicles poised flawless from a ledge
In stillness never broken by the fear
That plagues the ticking toil of running days,
Corrupting pleasure found in love and life,
The bridal blush, the gift of infant birth,
Each fleeting as a phase,
Marking transient respite from the strife,
Then puffed away like lingering echomirth.
A bitter biting breeze attacks my heart;
Its pinching stings my cheek with cold despair
And threatens newfound hush to tear apart
When life takes on consistency of air:
Each field of beggars topples in a blow
While kings and pharaohs bow, their scepters fail;
Death in a mighty rampage rages on
With shining scythe of woe.
I look to check his stride - to no avail,
His step will hasten to my side anon.
Who is this monarch dread that treads the earth,
And looks upon protest with mirthful scorn?
Our books have sought to view his baffling girth,
Our brains to probe the essence of his thorn.
Yet ever brains meet soil ere thought is done,
And books turn dust, ere ever page is turned
And man abandons such a hopeless quest
With resolution none,
Relinquishing the truth that he has yearned
For long, he holds his head and craves his rest.
Yet silence of this winter gives me cause
To hope; to try imagination’s spell,
To steal intimate into a pause,
Arrive where reason failed, and excel,
Suspending the rotation of the world.
Here Cupid’s darts themselves are pierced with frost,
Here Jupiter’s bolt frozen in mid flight.
My very tears are pearled
And hang immobile; not a gem is lost,
Beheld forever under crystal light.
Here sheets enclose a feather bed of snows
Where Hades’ crown is lately set aside;
He lies, fell beauty, naked in repose,
Throughout whose sleep must ruin, idle, bide.
Cool marble are his lips and mighty brow
His hoary hair a mass of stone-cold coils.
I look on him with wonderment beguiled,
This pale king that now
Heart’s-eye is victor o’er, so stern and royal,
This giant Death, defenseless as a child.
At last to know the face I hold in awe!
To understand the captor, caught alone!
Whether to flee his great embrace so raw
Or seek oblivion tendered at his throne?
If he be tyrant or deliverer?
If he in truth bear such an iron fist,
Or rather gentle hush to stem our moan?
No more shall I demur:
I reach slow hand toward his wan cheek, kissed
with rime – one moment – soon all will be known . . .
Yet wait! What if my warm touch break the spell?
Or sunbeams stretch and yawn, come out to play?
Might not a flush of springtime in this dell
the picture shiver, melt, and fade away?
I hesitate and waver in alarm,
And see my spirit’s firm foundation quake,
That sculpture such as this cannot enthrall
With everlasting charm.
Look! Even now I see a droplet wake,
And slip along a branching arm and fall.