Bright Star

John Keats painted by Joseph Severn, 1819
John Keats painted by Joseph Severn, 1819

A TEXTUAL INTERVENTION OF JOHN KEATS’ POEM ‘BRIGHT STAR’

My dearest darling, How quickly the days turn to nights out here, and how slowly the darkness leaves the skies. The heavy summer heat continues to envelop us well into the night; though I suppose it is better than the biting frost of winter sneaking into the trenches.

At night I dream of you, my sweetheart, so much so that it causes me pain to wake up and find you are not in my arms, that I am too far away to love you, to protect you. There is a bright star hanging high in the sky – I’ve watched it these past nights, its immortal glow never lost amongst the endless blackness. It reminds me of you, of your own brightness; the brightness in your eyes, and your laugh.

A desperate jealousy has risen inside me, which is ignited each time I see the star; a jealousy of its eternal life, its steadfast immortality, which will have suffered nothing once I am gone from this world.

Don’t be frightened, though, my darling; I hunger not for the lone splendour of this star which hangs in the night, which looks over the world from the safe and peaceful heavens, which watches with patient, eternal, glowing eyes – watching the land and the seas, the days and nights flying past, the merciless, never-ending battles we men endure as we fight against our brothers.

I do not long for these forlorn curses of everlasting life – nor do I wish to see more of the world. I could live a hundred lifetimes without witnessing the beauty of freshly fallen snow upon the mountains and the fields, its white purity covering up the sins of man.

This all means nothing to me now.

I wish I were endless, like the bright star burning above me in the night sky, so that I could forever be with you. To always hold you, to lay my head down and feel your heartbeat against my own, your chest rising and falling softly, your warm breath against my neck. I want to love you forever, to never fall asleep without you again, for mere dreams of you are not real enough.

I fear the nights when I awake alone, with no one beside me but other soldiers like myself in their own tortured, desperate love-sick nightmares, the mocking stars staring down at us, taunting us all, forever witnesses to our suffering. If it could be, I would leave this mess and find my way back to you, my darling, just to see your beautiful face and hear your tender-taken breath, the breath that would make my soul as steadfast and eternal as that lucky bright star – and we would live on forever in our own beautiful splendour.

But it cannot be. I am here, and you are there, and the star is high in the sky. So for now I can only dream of you, my sweetheart, until this maddening desire to reach your bright star drives me to my death.

If only forever yours,

John


‘Bright Star’ by John Keats

Bright Star! would I were steadfast as thou art –
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors –
No – yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever – or else swoon to death.
finis

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