John Keats and Shelley are often mentioned in the same breath as two of the top-tier poets of the Romantic Era, which officially began in 1798 when William Wordsworth and his best buddy Samuel Taylor Coleridge put together a poetry book they dubbed Lyrical Ballads.
George Gordon, Lord Byron also figures in this brew of top Romantic poets, as does Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, the woman Shelley made honest.
So Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Keats, and Shelley: a man with the perfect name for a poet, a Unitarian minister into drugs, a womanizer with a gimpy leg that didn’t keep him from swimming across a narrow part of the Mediterranean, a kid who died at twenty-five of tuberculosis, a guy who made his reputation with a long, bad poem in honor of that poor lad, and his partner and probable cause of the suicide of her new squeeze’s then-wife Harriet.
Four months after Keats breathed his last, his distant acquaintance Shelley penned these lines in his memory: “I weep for Adonais—he is dead!” Thinking his readers might have missed the point, two stanzas later he repeats: “Oh, weep for Adonais—he is dead!” Next stanza: “Most musical of mourners, weep again!” (This is a good four months after the funeral.) Stanza VIII: “He will awake no more, oh, never more!” (“He” being John Keats, the pen name of Adonais. Why Adonais? Now, there’s a topic for a Ph.D. dissertation.)
This man has a problem. Doubt it? Skip a stanza: “Ah, woe is me!” etc. Then on to Stanza XXXVI: “Our Adonais has drunk poison. Oh!” Oh? I was under the impression he died of tuberculosis.
And all this from a wannabe poet who ended his writing career with the bold prose sentence, venerated by the National Endowment for the Humanities: “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
Allen Ginsberg or Eminem for prez! Oh!
Maybe Ogden Nash? Steve Martin?