March 2021

This month we continue our celebration of Keats with three poems displayed on London tube stations: ‘O Solitude!, his first published poem, and Lines from Endymion appear at London Bridge station, near the original site of Guy’s Hospital, where he trained as an apothecary and surgeon; a stanza from ‘Ode to a Nightingale is reprinted at Hampstead tube, near Keats House, where he wrote many of his greatest poems.

Keats wrote that he was convinced of one thing only: ‘the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of imagination.’  His words seem especially meaningful during this difficult time. We are delighted to be able to share his poems with the travelling public.

We follow his poems with a series of European poems in bilingual texts.  Childhood and age are universal themes of poetry, as are the seasons, especially appropriate as we move from a grim winter to the warmer, longer days of spring.  We end this month’s selection with Poems for the World.

Celebrating Keats

Posters on display at London Bridge Station to mark the bicentenary of John Keats

Celebrating Keats London Bridge Display ' In 2021, Poems on the Underground is marking the 200th anniversary of the death of the poet John Keats (1795-1821)'
Keats Bicentenary Display at London Bridge Excerpt from Endymion, book 1 'A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.'
Naima for John Coltrane, Kamau Brathwaite 'Propped against the crowded bar he pours into the curved and silver horn his own unhappy longing for a home'
Celebrating Keats London Bridge Display ' O Solitude ! If I must with thee dwell, let it not be among the jumbled heap of murky buildings; '

Posters on display at Hampstead Station to mark the bicentenary of John Keats

Keats Bicentenary Display London Underground Posters
When I have fears that I may cease to be, John Keats When I have fears that I may cease to be Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain, Before high-piled books, in charact’ry, Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain; When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face, Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance, And think that I may never live to trace Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance; And when I feel, fair creature of an hour! That I shall never look upon thee more, Never have relish in the faery power Of unreflecting love!--then on the shore Of the wide world I stand alone, and think Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
On First Looking into Chapman's Homer , John Keats ' Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingdoms seen; Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.'

European Poems on the Underground

The Waves, Rafael Alberti tr. Mark Strand 'The waves, blue walls of Africa, go and come back. When they go... Ah, to go with them! Ah, to come back with them! When they come back....'
In the Poem, Sophia de Mello Breyner tr.Ruth Fainlight 'To bring the picture the wall the wind The flower the glass the shine on wood and the cold chaste clearness of water To the clean severe world of the poem'
Fresh Sighs for Sale, Alan Bosquet tr. Samuel Beckett ' Fresh sighs for sale! Prime doubts a penny! Scowls going at a loss!'
From March ’79, Tomas Tranströmer, tr. John F. Deane 'Tired of all who come with words, words but no language I went to the snow-covered island'
The Aegean, Maria Luisa Spaziani tr. Beverly Allen ' This music has lasted since the world began. A rock was born among the waters while tiny waves chatted in a soft universal tongue'
Somewhere in the House, Hanny Michaelis tr. Marolijn de Jager 'Somewhere in the house a door slams shut and a small giraffe of bright orange plastic totters briefly. A present from a six-year-old boy who, commuting between bewildered parents, bears his fate with incomprehensible joy',

Poems of Childhood and Age

Infant Joy, William Blake ' I have no name I am but two days old.- What shall I call thee?
What Am I After All, Walt Whitman ' What am I after all but a child, pleas'd with the sound of my own name? repeating it over and over; I stand apart to hear- it never tires me.'
World Poems on the Underground Boy with Orange (out of Kosovo)  Lotte Kramer. A boy holding an orange in his hands has crossed the border in uncertainty
To My First White Hairs, Wole Soyinka ' Hirsute hell chimney-spouts, black thunderthroes confluence of coarse cloudfleeces- my head sir!- scourbrush in bitumen, past fossil beyond fingers of light- until...!'
Father William, Lewis Carroll " You are old, father William,'' the young man said, and your hair is exceedingly white: And yet you incessantly stand on your head-- Do you think, at your age, it is right?"
At Sixty, Christine De Luca ' Dat line whaar birds, hurless, cross a treshel-tree, winter at der back, or a skirl o simmer afore dem.'

Poems for the Seasons

Season Song, Anon tr. Flann O Brien ' Here's a song- stags give tongue winter snows summer goes. High cold blow sun is low brief his day seas give spray.'
Had I not been awake, Seamus Heaney ' Had I not been awake I would have missed it, A wind that rose and whirled off the roof Pattered with quick leaves off the sycamore'
In the Heart of Hackney, Sebastian Barker ‘Behold, a swan. Ten houseboats on the Lee. A cyclist on the towpath. Gentle rain.’
Living, Denise Levertov ' The fire in leaf and grass so green it seems each summer the last summer. The wind blowing, the leaves shivering in the sun, each day the last day.'

Poems for the World

For the House Sparrow, in Decline, Paul Farley ' Your numbers fall and it's tempting to think you're deserting our suburbs and estates like your cousins at Pompeii;'
The Windhover, Gerard Manley Hopkins I caught this morning morning's minion, kingdom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon,'
Green the land of my poem, Mahmoud Darwish ‘Green the land of my poem is green and high Slowly I tell it slowly with the grace of a seagull riding the waves on the book of water I bequeath it written down to the one who asks to whom shall we sing when salt poisons the dew?’
Ein Yahav from “Israeli Travel: Otherness is All, Otherness is Love” Yehuda Amichai Translated by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld ‘ A night drive to Ein Yahav in the Arava Desert, a drive in the rain. Yes, in the rain.’

Poems displayed in February can be found on our February Poems page