I woke to sunshine and the sound of my friend hollering across the room. I had slept for two-and-a-half hours, our agreed upon time so that we could venture into the land of Keats.
More than two decades ago, I had fallen in love with the young poet and his bold, unapologetic, and hopelessly romantic poetry and writing. Before the tender age of 25 when he succumbed to death by tuberculosis, Keats had managed to produce an astonishing amount of work filled with the beauty and pathos of life. Truth and Beauty. Those words haunting the Grecian Urn to extend time into eternity. You can imagine my surprise and delight to discover that the poet was also an amateur artist of sorts and had drawn the actual urn he had poured his musings into.
And then there was his beloved’s engagement ring. A hopeless romantic myself, I had fallen in love with their love. So much so, I had written my honors thesis comparing Keats’s poetry to his love letters to Fanny Brawne.
The house itself is both beautiful and understated, fitting for the young poet. Nearby is now a large library, of which we did not venture inside, but both felt a fitting honor for the poet. Outside the white facade of Keats’s home are beautiful gardens, which were in the full flush of spring. February spring. The day before I was in the throes of winter in New Hampshire. Wrapped tightly against 20 degrees Fahrenheit amid a land blanketed in white. Now, before me, purple and gold crocuses littered an emerald lawn where an old tree reaches toward the pathway that wraps the house.
I felt the spirit guardians inside the tree watching me as I passed. Judging, perhaps, the worthiness of my feet to walk the path of the poet. It was, in many ways surreal. The sudden, early spring laid before me. I, treading the the role of voyeur through the rooms where Keats slept, ate, and wrote his heart’s truths on a wooden desk with quill and ink.
What did he see, I wondered? What was his land like many years ago? The house looked, in many ways, untouched. Outside, several of the same buildings still stand as they had during the poet’s lifetime. England is old, far older than Keats’s timeline.
It took but a short while to roam the rooms and gardens of his home, and we were soon venturing out in to his beloved Hampstead Heath. The afternoon sun beginning to turn the land golden. Its heady warmth lifting my sleepless form in a semi-somnambular weightlessness.
How many poems had been inspired by the poet’s walks through these woods? Woods so vast one could easily get lost inside of them. We did. For awhile, before we took out the phone and gave into the modern convenience of tracked navigation.
It had been a full day. A day blessed with the quiet peace of a past mingled with the present. The woods were filled with dogs and their companions, the air imbibed with the mingled appreciation for the beauty of the early spring day.
We had an early dinner at the Spaniard’s Inn before we ventured toward home. As I looked over the land, my eye caught upon a large white feather formed by clouds over Jack Straws Castle. I took it as a sign. Of what, I did not know, but there would be more white feathers. Many more, before my journey in England was over.
I had almost forgotten about the girl with the blindfold waiting in the hallway as we climbed the stairs to the flat. Overcome with the exhaustion of travel, the weight of the long waking hours over took me as I climbed once again into bed. I closed my eyes expecting immediate sleep, but there she was. Unmoved in the hallway. Waiting for me. The blindfold still wrapped around her eyes.
To be continued…
This is part 2 of my most recent journey to England. To read part 1, please click here.