One of our ESA contributors, Saakshi, reflects on the way a trip to Keats’ home affected her outlook on English, poetry, and the universality of pure human emotion.
I was fortunate enough to have myself immersed in the magical world of John Keats for the first time in high school, two years ago. Ever since I read his work, no other poet’s words have managed to move or resonate with me more. Keats wrote with a passion unmatched, about emotions so heartbreakingly human that I couldn’t help but feel his pain, almost alongside him, and fall more in love with his poetry. It was a dream come true when I had the privilege of visiting his house in Hampstead, London, a couple of summers ago.
Walking through the same front door as he had, more than 200 years ago, was surreal. Just imagining that my favourite poet of all time had once lived in the exact space I was standing in gave me goosebumps. I took my time to contemplate the kind of life he had led, how hard he had fallen in love with the woman who lived next door – Fanny Brawne, and the thoughts that ran through his mind as he created poems he didn’t know would immortalize him. Sometimes, I still feel disoriented and overwhelmed while reading work that was written centuries ago – did this person actually live and breathe on the same planet as I? How is it possible that what they felt back then is exactly what I feel right now? What does it take to capture such timeless feelings? Seeing Keats’ own writing desk, his copy of Milton’s Paradise Lost, his original poem manuscripts of Ode to a Nightingale and To Autumn – complete with scratch marks, cancellations and ink blots – validated that he was indeed a human being, who had lived and loved, very much like me.
It felt liberating to do something for myself that was specifically catered towards my passion. As a student quite familiar with Keats’ writings and hoping to major in English, the trip impacted me hugely – I find myself enjoying his poetry and connecting even more deeply with it than before. It was an unfathomably sentimental experience, something which still brings tears of gratitude and happiness to my eyes. I would strongly recommend making a visit like this one, if your passions drive you to do so, to whichever place holds the most meaning in your heart – it makes all the difference.
As Keats wrote rightly indeed, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever.”