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To Rome, a Poem

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This article is about: literaturepersonal

Published on Monday, 23 November 2015

I wrote this poem more than 10 years ago, but I’ve never published it anywhere. I’ve always been afraid it’s not any good or that it’s of not enough interest to warrant any merit … but that seems to matter less now. Anyway, here it is!

I wrote it after I read Andrew Motion’s biography of John Keats. I was so moved by the tragic life Keats had and how he’d created some of the world’s best poetry despite that.

To Rome #

It's a rose you've given, and a rose I'll take
  As I leave you awash in my wake.
Though I travel to distant shores
  I'll remember that rose that it was yours.

Now it's the third day out to sea
  And closer the shores of Napoli
Today I feel a lost cause
  Remembering that rose, that it was yours.

Never can an absolution be found
  This ship of ours has run aground
And climbing the steps to the Piazza's palace
  I lift to you a golden chalice:

Not Apollo's goblet, nor Endymion's cup
  Only for you would I offer up
The dregs become of this earthly root
  That my soul might sprout forth a shoot

And I might live again to see
  That rose you gave, you gave to me.


I imagined that when he left his lover and former fianceé, that she gave him a rose. But the fact is, Keats left the country without even saying goodbye to her, despite the deep emotional pain that caused him.

I imagined him drinking a cup to his lover, but wanted to mention that it wasn’t a glorious cup of a god like Apollo (Keats never saw himself that way), nor was it Endymion’s (who lived forever).

The dregs become of this earthly rootThat my soul might sprout forth a shoot

These 2 lines are from the poem Endymion, by Keats, and allude to the way his romance with Fanny Brawne made him feel.”

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