John Keats: A Literary Biography, Page 78
by Albert Elmer Hancock (1908).
It was a death without the clergy. There was no anointing with oil; no laying on of apostolic hands; only Jeremy Taylor's "Holy Living and Holy Dying" and Severn praying by the bedside. The lonely vigils of the death watch, day after day, night after night—for he lingered on—brought the faithful overstrained comrade to the verge of collapse. Yet he held up until the end.
And the last hours, the two, hand in hand—but no alien pen has a privilege here. Four days later Severn, utterly prostrated, managed to scrawl a few tremulous lines—an unfinished letter to Brown that was never sent—and to sketch on the sheet, as a relief—art's relief for tragic realities—the symbolic figure of his own inexpressible grief.
"He is gone. He died with the greatest ease. He seemed to go to sleep. On Friday the 23rd, at half-past four the approach of death came on. 'Severn—I—lift me up, for I am dying. I shall die easy. Don't be frightened! Thank God it has come.' I lifted him up in my arms and the phlegm seemed boiling in his throat. This increased until eleven at night, when he gradually sank into death, so quiet that I still thought he slept—but I cannot say more now. I am broken down beyond my strength, I cannot be left alone. I have not slept for nine days, I will say the days since— On Saturday a gentleman came to cast the face, hand and foot. On Sunday the body was opened: the lungs were completely gone, the doctors could not conceive how he had lived in the last two months. Dr. Clark will write you on this head—"
The champaign with its endless fleece
PAGE 78 OF 81.
Of feathery grasses everywhere!
Silence and passion, joy and peace,
An everlasting wash of air—
Rome's ghost since her decease.
The Protestant Cemetery is on the edge of the Campagna. For nineteen centuries the gray pyramid of Cestius has guarded the spot. St. Paul passed it by on his way to martyrdom. Here Keats lies in the shadow of the pagan tomb. It is pleasant to think that the ashes of Shelley lie close beside him. For Shelley only, of all the contemporaries, delivered the judgment that came in the fullness of time. The "Adonais" is prophecy come literally true.