‘Modern Love,’ a poem by John Keats

Happy Sunday, everyone! Here’s a poem I love.

An English major in college, I had the chance to read and analyze a lot of Romantic poetry, which was the kind of literature I took the most classes in—it’s my favorite. And because I probably would never have gotten around the reading Romantic literature/poetry in my actual, everyday life, I was happy that I got to do it in college, when I was forced to! It introduced me to some of my favorite poems, this one included.

By John Keats, this poem is called “Modern Love,” and it is cynical as hell. I am so not a cynic, but I love this poem because it’s as if Keats is knocking love because he wants to understand it. And if you know much about Keats, he eventually falls desperately in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne. And then he dies. -___-

Modern Lovekeats

AND what is love? It is a doll dress’d up
For idleness to cosset, nurse, and dandle;
A thing of soft misnomers, so divine
That silly youth doth think to make itself
Divine by loving, and so goes on
Yawning and doting a whole summer long,
Till Miss’s comb is made a pearl tiara,
And common Wellingtons turn Romeo boots;
Then Cleopatra lives at number seven,
And Antony resides in Brunswick Square.
Fools! if some passions high have warm’d the world,
If Queens and Soldiers have play’d deep for hearts,
It is no reason why such agonies
Should be more common than the growth of weeds.
Fools! make me whole again that weighty pearl
The Queen of Egypt melted, and I’ll say
That ye may love in spite of beaver hats.

I think there’s some truth in this poem: that a lot of people think they’re in love because they like the idea of it. They think they’re like Romeo and Juliet, or Antony and Cleopatra. But it makes them fools, because they don’t understand real love, just the appearance of it. I think that’s still relevant today, making the title even more striking. What Keats thought in the 1800s still makes sense in our world.


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