Saturday, September 15, 2012

Classic Poetry - "This Living Hand" by John Keats

John Keats, 1795 - 1821

Known most famously for "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Isabella" and other works of similar heft and tone, John Keats occasionally penned brief, direct pieces like the one below. Unlike his more recognizable works, these shorter poems often resisted telling the whole tale.

Look at the poem's form. Note that the last line appears to be unfinished. Now read it. Do you feel as if you've been left dangling?

Great device, this. Great little bit of unrhymed iambic pentameter. Masterful!

This Living Hand

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—
I hold it towards you.


  1. Am I right in thinking there is a touch of blackmail in this :-)

    Nice to see the other side his polished verses.

  2. Yes, I do experience it as being like a reaching out of that hand, but a failure to connect (yet). Interestng device!

  3. Aprille ~ A threat at any rate. Quite chilling if one personalizes the message~

  4. Very chilling, really. One really would like to know the story behind the poem! I had never seen this Keats poem before. Thanks for presenting it to us here, Kim!

  5. This was interesting and threatening...
    spooky stuff! Thanks Kim for giving us insight~
    It is fascinating, to learn more behind the poem :D

  6. Kim, it is interesting to read one of his lesser known works......maybe this poem is where the phrase "I'll come back and haunt you" came from. Hee hee.

  7. I love this poem. Paraphrase: You'd cry if it was dead, take it now, living and warm! I suppose it is calling someone's bluff, but the way some people are friendlier when they can no longer be asked for anything has made me want to say this sentiment. I am too something--maybe it's polite--to do so. Maybe I have come to believe that much grief is misnamed.

  8. How haunting. That last line really gets you. I so wish I knew who he was speaking to and why. Thanks for sharing this Kim!

  9. Hmm... yes. Quite intriguing! Certainly no love sonnet here. :)


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