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LITERARY STYLE INSPIRATION: THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN

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ROLLING WITH JAMES JOYCE ON AN IRISH HILL

bookish girls

ODE TO THE BOOKISH GIRLS

youth, beauty & Keats

Keats diors-tulle-ballgown-on-the-grand-staircase-at-the-paris-opera-photo-clifford-coffin-1948We all chanted youth, beauty & Keats, youth, beauty & Keats…

You should have seen us darling, Baker, Butcher, Proust and I; along with Eduardo del Mar, the woman who hides her smiles with her scarves and the rest of the villagers, climbing the wide staircase of the library.

We wore our sheer gowns, us women, with our trails skimming the marbled stairs, and the men in their suits and unbuttoned shirts, listening to the distant violins of the skeletal maestro’s orchestra.

We found the librarian at the top of the steps, in front of two large doors which led to the main hall of the library, nodding to each one of us despite his weak sight and shaking hands with Proust as the latter walked in.

The hall was as it has always been, brimming with books from floor to ceiling, except on this night, the reading lamps on the table were switched off, while projectors placed all over the hall were showing excerpts from the letters of the man we had come to celebrate.

We stood in the middle of the hall as sentences written to John Hamilton Reynolds, Charles Wentworth Dilke, and Fanny Keats; letters to Georgiana Keats and the “sweetest” Fanny Brawne were projected on the shelves, on the large windows and on our couture.

We were there to recite the poetry of Keats, of the immortal youth

I am a coward. I cannot bear the pain of being happy: ‘tis out of the question: I must admit no thought of it…*

I have asked myself so often why I should be a poet more than other men…

All my thoughts, my unhappiest days and nights, have I find not at all cured me of my love of Beauty, but made it so intense that I am miserable that you are not with me: or rather breathe in that dull sort of patience that cannot be called life…

I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days—three such days with you I would fill with more delight than fifty common years would ever contain…

I feel more and more every day, as my imagination strengthens, that I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds…

Nothing startles me beyond the moment…

I find I cannot exist without Poetry—without eternal Poetry—half the day will not do—the whole of it­—I began with a little, but habit has made me a Leviathan…

What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be Truth…

Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact or reason…

You are always new. The last of your kisses was ever the sweetest; the last smile the brightest; the last movement the gracefullest…

We were there to recite the poetry of Keats, of the immortal youth and I was the first to start . I stood on the velvet carpet while the others sat on wooden chairs.

None of us would need to use a book to recite his poetry. I could see the flower hoarder peaking behind the large door of the main hall; she would only come out for this and nothing else.

Story credits: Image by Clifford Coffin for Dior (1948); *Quotes via The Letters of John Keats.

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