“I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain.”
He only lived to the age of 25 and he only actively wrote poetry for six years, but he is widely regarded as one of the biggest and most influential figures of the Romantic period in the early 19th century. John Keats wasn’t fully appreciated while he was alive; it wasn’t until some time after his death that his reputation and popularity grew to what they are today. In a sense, he really did only live for “three summer days,” but he made a monumental impact in that short time.
Consider how so many people begrudgingly go through the motions each day, living out their “fifty common years” in silence and mediocrity. Life is too short and too precious to let those days go to waste. We have to live them to their fullest. And it is through this philosophy that the name of John Keats can easily be uttered in the same breath as a William Shakespeare or John Milton. Perhaps I’m drawn to these great writers, both because of my chosen profession and the fact that I graduated from university with a English Literature minor, but you can see how these universal truths hold true.
The quote above was taken from a love letter Keats wrote to Fanny Brawne and love is surely a wonderful thing. At the same time, that sort of mindset also applies to life in general. Quality is far better than quantity.
When we were in Rome earlier this month, we paid a visit to the famous Spanish Steps. John Keats lived out his final days in an apartment near the base of the stairs and a plaque, shown above, is now there in his honor. Keats was taken from this world at far too young of an age (he died from tuberculosis) and it is said by many that if he had lived as long and wrote as much as Wordsworth did, Keats would instead be seen as the representative of the Romantic period.
“A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.”
John Keats may have lived “but three summer days,” but the “loveliness” of his work continues to increase to this day.