Friday, February 23, 2018

John Keats — Here Lies One Whose Name was Writ in Water

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
The grave of  the romantic poet John Keats.

The epitaph of the poet — a young English poet — John Keats is one of the most famous literary epitaphs. Died February 23, 1821 in Rome, Italy, Keats is buried in that city's Protestant Cemetery. 

Keats' unmarked grave contains the following poetic epitaph that begins with words written by his good friend, the artist Joseph Severn and concludes with Keats own words:


This Grave
contains all that was Mortal
of a
Young English Poet
Who,
on his Death Bed,
in the Bitterness of his Heart
at the Malicious Power of his Enemies,
Desired
these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone:
Here lies One
Whose Name was writ in Water.
Feb 24th 1821


Joseph Severn himself would be buried next to Keats upon his death in 1879. Between Severn and Keats is the grave of Severn's infant son Arthur who was "accidentally killed" in 1837. Aged seven months. The marker notes that "the poet Wordsworth was present at his baptism."

Nearby, a relief on a cemetery wall contains the following acrostic dedicated to John Keats:


Keats! if thy cherished name be "writ in water"
Each drop has fallen from some mourner's cheek:
A sacred tribute such as heroes seek,
Though oft in vain — for dazzling deeds of slaughter
Sleep on! Not honored less for Epitaph so meek!

photo © Mark Butkus 2011
An acrostic to John Keats can be found on this relief at the Protestant Cemetery.

The Protestant Cemetery in Rome was also destined to be the final resting place for Percy Bysshe Shelley and Gregory Corso — to name but two other poets interred in Rome.