August 29, 2014

Keats, Severn, Nocturne - Helen Humphreys

Nocturne - Helen Humphreys

"In that room where there was no writing and no reading, Severn sketched the dying man, in fact made some of the finest drawings of the poet when he was on his deathbed. Perhaps Severn's sketching was a comforting presence to Keats. Art, although no longer of urgent relevance to his world, would have been his familiar. 

Severn, afraid that he'd fall asleep one night and that Keats would wake to darkness and think that he had died, devised a system so that the poet would have continuous light. He fastened a piece of thread from the bottom of one candle to the wick of another, and in its guttering state the dying flame would ignite the thread and travel up it to ignite the wick of the next candle. 

It is said that John Keats awoke at the exact moment the flame was travelling up the thread from one candle to another, and that in his excitement at witnessing the spectacle, he woke Severn to tell him of the success of his invention. 

At the end, we are all far from home. We are far from home, and what we hope for is that someone will fashion us a light, so that we will not have to wake in darkness."

                                                   ~ Helen Humphreys, Nocturne

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