‘That drop of blood is my death warrant’: Keats and the poetry of suffering

‘That drop of blood is my death warrant’: Keats and the poetry of suffering

‘That drop of blood is my death warrant’: Keats and the poetry of suffering

‘That drop of blood is my death warrant’: Keats and the poetry of suffering

T

he poet John Keats made his way back from central London to the house he shared with Charles Brown in Hampstead. He was seated on the outside of the stagecoach through a bitter February evening to save on the fare and arrived shivering and feverish. Brown advised his friend to go straight to bed.

“… he leapt into bed. On entering the cold sheets, before his head was on the pillow, he slightly coughed, and I heard him say, – ‘That is blood from my mouth.’ I went towards him; he was examining the single drop of blood upon the sheet. ‘Bring me the candle, Brown; and let me see this blood.’ After regarding it steadfastly, he looked up in my face, with a calmness of countenance that I can never forget, and said, – ‘I know the colour of that blood; – it is arterial blood; – I cannot be deceived in that colour; – that drop of blood is my death-warrant; – I must die’.”

A little after this first slight attack a much more violent haemorrhage brought up a cup full of blood and Keats felt he was drowning.


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