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Epitaph of a Writer who could not envision Eternity
by Sim Lee
5/06/2018 / Death
"For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." Matthew 7:14 ESV
John Keats was one England's greatest poets who died at the young age of 25. He had a great belief in himself and those feelings came across clearly in his romantic poems like "Ode to a Nightingale", and in the influence he had upon his fellow poets like Lord Byron and Percy Shelley. With great strength of belief in himself and in his literary ability, it so odd that such a creative person had no belief in a Creator or of a Savior, as indicated by the following comments from ones who has studied Keats extensively:
"Except for his famous description of life as "a vale of soul-making," Keats seems unconcerned with religion." .. Glen Everett, Associate Professor of English, University of Tennessee at Martin
"Keats shared Hunt's dislike of institutionalized Christianity, parsons, and the Christian belief in man's innate corruption, but, as an unassertive agnostic, held well short of Shelley's avowed atheism." .. John Barnard - "John Keats"
Perhaps a part of his spiritual blindness was that Keats had a meager childhood with his father passing when he was eight and then his mother dying of tuberculosis when he was twelve. Then later his brothers George and Tom would also die from tuberculosis [which Keats would call his "family disease"].
These life events of the deaths of so many loved ones, in and of themselves, should not have blinded Keats to the logical and certain existence of a supreme being, yet when he contracted tuberculosis himself, one would think he would have questioned such things, now facing his own certain and untimely death.
Rather than to seek the peace that Christ will give to all who accept Him, Keats sought the cooperation of artist Joseph Severn to acquire opium for the relief of the pain or to facilitate conducting his own suicide, should he choose to do so. Severn and the doctors in Rome [where Keats had relocated to from England in hopes of extending his life] refused to do so and Keats died a horribly painful death soon after this. (1821)
At his request, Keats was buried under a tombstone that bore neither his name nor the date of his death, but only this verse: "Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water."
In view of his worldwide aclaim, for Keats to think of himself as being nothing more than a name written in water, or upon the wind, to be here for the moment and then gone perpetually, was the product of a life apparently devoid of faith and belief. For such a man to have requested to be buried in such a way affirms that. For all his wisdom and vision, he truly could not envision eternity.
The sad story of this most brilliant man's life, that apparently ended still devoid of any faith or religious beliefs, is best summarized by the last stanza of his greatest ode "To Autumn", still considered to be the best in all of English literature:
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Sim Lee is a retired NE Iowan who loves all of God's creatures.
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