Monday, October 31, 2005

Ode To A Parakeet

The great romantic poet John Keats was born on Halloween in 1795. Like his mother and brother Tom before him, Keats died of tuberculosis, in his 26th year. In the space of just three remarkably productive years Keats published 3 collections of his poetry. About 150 poems are known, and many of those survive in manuscript form, written in Keats' own hand.

There are many useful web resources on Keats, as one would expect. Perhaps the best place to start is here, at the Keats page of the fine reference source,

What these web resources won't tell you is that the grounds of the Keats House in Hampstead Heath, where Keats wrote one of his most beautiful poems, Ode to a Nightingale, are these days frequented by naturalized ring-necked parakeets, according to a recent City of London website news page:
"Birds in Keats House Garden - In May and early June there has been a lot of activity in the garden from our pair of blackbirds. We are now helping them by providing currants and these seem popular. The smaller birds are not much in evidence and for this we blame an aggressive magpie. The Ring Necked Parakeets have been particularly noisy and fly high amongst the trees. Originally, these were caged birds but those that escaped have survived the British winters in the south and are now breeding..."
I don't think an ode to a parakeet would have had the same effect, although Wallace Stevens tried his darnedest. The young Mr. Keats was far the wiser to go with the Nightingale.

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