Conversation With Joseph Severn "Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ In Water"
by John Keats

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"Here Lies One Whose Name Was Writ In Water"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: John Keats was born the last of the great quintet of English romantic poets; he died the first and youngest. The last years of his life were bitter ones. His brother George, with whom he was quite close, migrated to America; his brother Tom died slowly of tuberculosis in 1818, as Keats himself was to die three years later; and the poet was separated from his little sister Fanny by relatives. In his love for a woman, too, Keats found only bitterness and frustration, never being able to marry his beloved Fanny Brawne because of illness which stood between the two. As a poet, Keats had also tasted of disappointment. His first volume, Poems, had been poorly received in 1817 by both the public and the critics; his second publication, Endymion, fared no better in 1818. Only his Poems of 1820 elicited a favorable response. With such experiences behind him in his brief life, it is no wonder that Keats insisted to the young painter, Severn, who accompanied the dying poet to Italy, that the pessimistic epitaph he wrote for himself be inscribed upon his tombstone. Keats could not know at the time how long his name and work would be remembered; so far as he knew, he was correct in writing of himself,

Here lies one whose name was writ in water.