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Oscar Wilde pays his respect to John Keats

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Oscar Wilde pays his respect to John Keats

At the non-Catholic cemetery in Rome, a young artist contemplates captivated the grave of Keats, inspects it, get excited, thinks upon and then writes…


The image of Oscar Wilde (Dublin 1854 – Paris1900) kneeling with devotion on the turf that accommodates the tomb of John Keats, is emblematic. Wilde considered Keats the greatest poet of the century.Devoted to the cult of  Beauty, Wilde could not refrain frompaying respect to whom had made at that cult, the only reason of his life.

 When he was 22 years old (in 1877), during University and according to the fashion of that time, Oscar Wilde tooksome trips to Europe which led him to Italy.

A stopover in Rome, allowed him to visit the grave of John Keats in the in the Protestant Cemetery; that encounter between kindred souls, had a profound emotional impact on the young poet.

 The feelings that the visit produced were nearly mystical.Deep respect for the work and the poetry of Keats, and the impressions aroused by the sight of the grave, induced him to write a sonnet «The Grave of Keats» in the immediate future.

A deep sense of emotional zeal and strong sentiment pervades every verse.Oscar Wilde rethinks about premature death of a promising young poet, torn to life too early.

 He contemplates his tomb and regrets that there is not even a tree to protect it, to shadow it; it almost seems that Oscar Wilde takes offense at the world's indifference towards that being so tender, fragile and sublime at the same time .


And then, it depends on him to keep the memory of the young Keats alive: is going to cry not to let his memory fade away, and is going to compose his poetry so that the world does not forget him.

The Grave of Keats

by Oscar Wilde

Rid of the world’s injustice, and his pain, 
He rests at last beneath God’s veil of blue:
Taken from life when life and love were new
The youngest of the martyrs here is lain,
Fair as Sebastian, and as early slain.
No cypress shades his grave, no funeral yew,
But gentle violets weeping with the dew
Weave on his bones an ever-blossoming chain.
O proudest heart that broke for misery!
O sweetest lips since those of Mitylene!
O poet-painter of our English Land!
Thy name was writ in water——it shall stand:
And tears like mine will keep thy memory green,
As Isabella did her Basil-tree.*

* Oscar Wilde refers to the story of Lisabetta from Messina, the main character of the fifth novel of the fourth day of Decameron written by Boccaccio. The novel tells about the story of Lisabettawho is in love with Lorenzo, a young boy of humbleorigins.Their relationship isn’t accepted by the three brothers of the young woman, who catch him on a pretext and kill him.A night the young man visits Lisabetta in a dream , revealing his murder and where to locate his body .Lisabetta goes to the place and she discovers painfully the horribile truth.Unable to offer him a proper burial where to cry, she decides to cut his head and to hide it in a vase that she will cover with basil. Every day Lisabetta cries and despairs, wetting profusely his basil plant with her tears …

That sonnet couldn't be caged in the pages of a notebook or relegated in a load of leaflets. A capable writer with passionate spirit and livelyintellectsuch as Oscar Wilde didn’t hesitate to share his mystical experience. And he did it throughouthis journey diary, includingthe poetry he had written in honorof Keats in the Report of his stay in Rome.

In July 1877, the sonnet appeared in the journalThe Irish MonthlyIn this version he decidedadding referencesto the classical period, and to adorned it with links to nature. Oscar Wilde changedthe title and in printing was presented asHeuMiserandepuer[1]

Our journey re-discovering John Keats goes on and with Oscar Wilde, we will meet...

[1] Pag. 478 ,Irish Montly, 5 July 1877


-  Keats-Shelly Memorial Association, 2007, Il Labirinto

-  http://www.oscarwildeinamerica.org/features/wilde-keats-letter.html

-          http://www.google.it/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=7&ved=0CDIQFjAG&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.keats-shelley-house.org%2Fsystem%2Fresources%2F0000%2F0090%2FOscar_Wilde_-_Lettera_e_Sonetto.doc&ei=7pyEVaObK4vsUrG3vvAL&usg=AFQjCNHPFP2T2AuC6IBWpxeAxAipLP_rUA&sig2=hRimCWXJ20fmc7n4neQdYg&bvm=bv.96339352,d.bGg

-   http://www.oilproject.org/lezione/decameron-lisabetta-da-messina-analisi-4609.html

Oscar Wilde pays his respect to John Keats