2 of "People
Leave Each Other in Poetry"
This slowness and
swiftness can be heard in the first line, "O What can ail thee Knight at
arms." The word "ail," is lingering, yet there is suddenness in "Knight
at arms." The second line, "Alone and palely loitering?" "has poignancy
and staccato," Mr. Siegel pointed out. The uncertainty, doubt of
man, wandering about, is here. It is romantic in the best sense--where
a person feels reality as strange, subtle, unknown and the strangeness
is lovely." Later in the poem is this famous stanza:
We learned that Keats,
upon sending this poem out for the first time, was afraid of how it would
be met--and very much this last line--and so he attached these comments:
Why four kisses--you will say--why four,
because I wish to restrain the headlong impetuosity of my Muse--she would
fain have said "score" without hurting the rhyme--but we must temper the
imagination, as the Critics say, with Judgment. I was obliged to
choose an even number that both eyes might have fair play, and to speak
truly I think two a piece quite sufficient.
Later, Keats wrote another
version of this poem, which Mr. Siegel also read. In this version
he changes "With kisses four," to, "So kiss'd to sleep." Said Mr. Siegel:
The contest between the comparative swiftness
of "With kisses four," and the lingeringness of "So kiss'd to sleep," is
another form of the question Keats had about coldness and warmth. The first
form is grander. The second form, "So kiss'd to sleep" works too
And, with deep comprehension
of John Keats, Mr. Siegel continued:
There was a cleavage in Keats' mind between
seeing things in a hilarious fashion...and seeing seriously. There was
a tendency...to make fun of his feelings. And people will make fun of their
feelings because they don't know all that they are, all that they mean....
At the end of the poem,
the knight awakens and finds the lady is gone. The poem concludes
with the knight saying:
She took me to her elfin grot
And there she wept
and sigh'd full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.
So there is a change, Mr. Siegel said, "from
a sad individual happening to something like the human condition." And
then he explained:
It can be said that every person who has
ever lived has felt he or she wasn't cared for enough. But that which
is looked for...is also feared....We want to be loved by something outside
ourselves and we are also afraid of the care lessening ourselves.
I was moved by Mr. Siegel's deep understanding
of John Keats, and also by his explanation of a question every person has
about love: the desire for and also the fear of it. It made me have
so much more respect for humanity.
'And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely
Though the sedge is withered from the Lake
And no birds sing.'
of "People Leave Each Other in Poetry"