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Bicentenary of poet John Keats' death in Rome

Published: 23/02/2021 By The Abode Team

200 years ago, on 23 February 1821, the English poet John Keats died of tuberculosis in Rome at the age of 25. “I shall soon be laid in the quiet grave – thank God for the quiet grave,” he told his friend Joseph Severn, in whose arms he died. “I can feel the cold earth upon me – the daisies growing over me – O for this quiet – it will be my first.” Keats gave instructions for his headstone to be engraved with the words “here lies one whose name was writ in water”, and visitors to Rome’s Protestant cemetery can still make a pilgrimage to see it today.

The Keats-Shelley Memorial House in Rome, where Keats died, has launched an immersive video tour of the house, led by rock star and philanthropist Bob Geldof, to mark the anniversary. Geldof, who is the Keats-Shelley200 ambassador, is also narrating a video story for the museum, The Death of Keats, in which he will read from letters that tell the story of Keats’s time in the house and his death. “Keats and the house in Rome mean a lot to me, and it was a pleasure to work on these projects for the bicentenary of his death,” said Geldof. Geldof’s tour can be watched with a VR headset or on a regular screen, while a panoramic tour of the house with a live guide will also be available on 23 February.

 “Keats didn’t consider himself to be a Romantic poet, but I think he knew he was a poet working on the vanguard of language and the imagination, qualities which still hold true,” said Giuseppe Albano, curator of Keats-Shelley House. “And then there’s the irresistibly sad story of his life and death, as well as his letters, which are among the freshest and deftest in the English language. It never ceases to amaze me just how much love he inspires in visitors to the Keats-Shelley House, and how his work has the power to draw people in and connect them. Two hundred years after his death, Keats’s poetry has never been more alive or more loved.”

In the morning of the anniversary, flowers will be laid by Keats’s tomb during a poetry reading. In the evening a virtual Keats, created by the Institute for Digital Archaeology in Oxford, will recite his poem Bright Star in a live feed from keats-shelley.org.