Oscar Wilde called it the most sacred place in Rome, nestled in the shadows of that strange, out-of-place pyramid– the tomb of Keats. Walking along the streets of, not just Rome, but Roman Rome, home of the inhabitants, the true Italians. We had just visited the Keats-Shelley house in that bustling tourist center–the Spanish Steps. Funny, nobody seemed to care much that the greatest English poet had lived there, as a young man in his young twenties, a wanderer in the truest sense. On his grave it said, simply:
“Here lies the man whose name was writ in water.”
The greatest poet in the English language. Water?
Honorable Mention 2010 FTF Teen Travel Writing Scholarship
I questioned myself, the goals that seemed completely superficial, everything I thought mattered to me. I suppose, dying so young, he had thought a lot about it, the act of death, the legacy he would leave behind–one that obviously meant little. “That beauty is truth, truth beauty that is all–ye know on earth and all ye need to know.” He initiated the modern aesthetic theory, followed up by my favorite writer, Oscar Wilde, and culminating into my own theory, where I echoed the voices of Virginia Woolf, Joseph Conrad…
Writ in water?
I wanted to leave him something– a cigarette maybe, a sweater. There, beneath my feet, my body, was his body, his brain, that brain that composed such beautiful, articulate sentences. I thought about it, and this idea played around in my head, it started to swell, compress my logic, expand it. I knew all the words to “Bright Star.” I knew ALL the words, his words, those beautiful words.
I am just sixteen, ending a scholastic year in the mysterious, beautiful country of Italy. I know Latin, Ancient Greek, the classics, Italian, I can make kick-ass gnocchi…but I have a strange doubt, a sneaking suspicion, that I’ll never be as great.
I stood at the grave of John Keats, died in his twenties, changed the world. I stood at the ironic grave of an immortal man who thought his name was “writ in water.”
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