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Keats – Straining at particles of light

May 13, 2014

“I am however young writing at random – straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness – without knowing the bearing of any one assertion of any one opinion. Yet may I not in this be free from sin? May there not be superior being amused with any graceful, though instinctive attitude my mind may fall into, as I am entertained with the alertness of a Stoat or the anxiety of a Deer? Though a quarrel in the Streets is a thing to be hated, the energies displayed in it are fine; the commonest Man shows a grace in his quarrel – By a superior being our reasonings may take the same tone – though erroneous they may be fine – This is the very thing in which consists poetry; and if so it is not so fine a thing as philosophy – For the same reason that an eagle is not so fine a thing as a truth – Give me this credit – Do you not think I strive – to know myself? Give me this credit – and you will not think that on my own account I repeat Milton’s lines

« How charming is divine Philosophy
Not harsh and crabbed as dull fools suppose
But musical as is Apollo’s lute» –

No – not for myself – feeling grateful as I do to have got into a state of mind to relish them properly – Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced – Even a Proverb is no proverb to you till your Life hast illustrated it.”

(From a letter to George and Georgiana Keats, written over the period February 14 to May 3, 1819, and online at


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