John Keats: A Literary Biography, Page 76|
by Albert Elmer Hancock (1908).
Naples was in a political uproar. Keats found nothing to awaken his interest. Another letter to Brown, sent from here, shows his stoical resolution and his utter despair. "I will endeavor to bear my miseries patiently. . . . I can bear to die—I cannot bear to leave her. Oh, God! God! God!" He sends his blessing to all at home and again the injunction, "My dear Brown, for my sake, be her advocate forever."
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They traveled to Rome in a carriage, progressing slowly, stopping at bad inns and eating bad food. The carriage was loaded with wild-flowers, gathered by the wayside. The approach to Rome was across the Campagna; the entrance by the Lateran gate. As they drove through the streets Keats caught a glimpse of the Coliseum—the only one. Dr. Clark had taken lodgings for them opposite his own residence in the Piazza di Spagna. There they settled down for the struggle.
About this spot cluster the closing memories. From the fountains by the house the Spanish Stairs ascend to the church of the Holy Trinity, where, nowadays, the little wards of the convent sing so dolefully the Sunday vespers. From here the way goes past the inclosed Villa Medici to the Pincian Hill. In old Roman days on this hill Lucullus built his gardens and Messalini indulged in her orgies. Napoleon had recently constructed the grand promenade. It was along this that Keats took his last walks on earth. At the far end he looked down on the broad Piazza del Popolo, the Egyptian obelisk and the northern gate—the gate through which Luther entered the Holy City. Across the Tiber the Vatican and Michaelangelo's dome on St. Peter's loomed above the gray confusion of buildings. Except for these distant prospects and the Borghese Galleries, he saw little of the glories of Rome. The doctor forbade the excitement. On the promenade the Princess Borghese—but that is a bit of scandal that does not concern Keats. The English officer who walked with him was the cynosure of her eyes.
For a time he appeared to improve. He studied Italian and began to conceive new literary projects. Dr. Clark, diagnosing his case as only a slight affection of the lungs, prescribed short easy rides on horseback. The letter to Brown, however, written at the end of November, the last letter of all, is filled with quiet resignation. Keats feels that he is leading merely a posthumous existence. There is a faint smile on his face as he closes, and the tinge of humor thrusts the pathos home. "Write to George as soon as you see this, and tell him how I am as far a you are able to guess; and also a note to my sister—who walks about my imagination like a ghost. She is so like poor Tom. I can scarcely bid you good-by, even in a letter. I always make an awkward bow. God bless you." These are his last words on paper.
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