In this extraordinary new collection by distinguished poet Christopher Howell, the opening poem presents us with a spiritual paradox that will echo throughout its pages. The speaker remembers an earlier time of happiness, freedom, and a certain innocence. The poem closes with:
And if he remembers now he is in love, which is the soul's condition, and alone because that is how we live.
"How we live" is the book's major inquiry; its illustration, the poems' major achievement. How do we live, in our dailiness, in our loves, our private and global wars? And, in the face of unbearable grief, how can we live?
When Keats, at last beyond the curtainof love's distraction, lay dying in his roomon the Piazza di Spagna, the melody of the BerniniFountain "filling him like flowers,"he held his breath like a coin, looked outinto the moonlight and thought he saw snow.He did not suppose it was fever or the body'sweakness turning the mind. He thought, "England!"and there he was, secretly, for the restof his improvidently short life: up to his neckin sleigh bells and the impossibly English criesof street venders, perfectand affectionate as his soul.For days the snow and statuary sang him so farbeyond regret that if now you walk rancorlessand alone there, in the piazza, the white shadowof his last words to Severn, "Don't be frightened,"may enter you.