The Keats-Shelley Blog

2 March 2021

‘Writ in Water’ poems, Dante ‘Geezer’ Rossetti and John ‘Cockney’ Keats

Dr Dinah Roe reads and discusses Rossetti's 'Writ in Water' poems on the Keats-Shelley Prize Podcast
The manuscript of Dante Gabriel Rossetti's 'John Keats'. Courtesy of Arizona State University

THE weltering London ways where children weep
And girls whom none call maidens laugh,—strange road
Miring his outward steps, who inly trode
The bright Castalian brink and Latmos’ steep:—
Even such his life’s cross-paths; till deathly deep
He toiled through sands of Lethe; and long pain,
Weary with labour spurned and love found vain,
In dead Rome’s sheltering shadow wrapped his sleep.
O pang-dowered Poet, whose reverberant lips
And heart-strung lyre awoke the Moon’s eclipse,—
Thou whom the daisies glory in growing o’er,—
Their fragrance clings around thy name, not writ
But rumour’d in water, while the fame of it
Along Time’s flood goes echoing evermore.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Dante Gabriel Rossetti serving up the full Keats

The Keats-Shelley Prize Podcast recently spoke to Dr Dinah Roe about Christina Rossetti’s ‘Writ in Water’-quoting sonnet, ‘On Keats’. This will be posted soon.

During our conversation, Dinah also read two ‘Writ in Water’-quoting poems by Christina’s brother, Dante Gabriel Rossetti - the first was also a sonnet, ‘John Keats’, whose text is posted above. The manuscript shows a few alterations, which are somewhat hard to read, but seem to go something like:

‘O pang-dowered Poet, [with warrant] whose reverberant lips
[Throat and timbrel?] And heart-strung lyre awoke the Moon’s eclipse,—’

The second Rossetti ‘Writ in Water’ poem that Dinah read was a fragment included in a letter to Dante Gabriel’s brother, William Michael.

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