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Featured Poem: On the Grasshopper and Cricket by John Keats

Written by The Reader, 1st August 2016

Still determined to be summery, our poem this week comes from John Keats, On the Grasshopper and Cricket.

You might not imagine it at first from the summery spirit of the poem, but Keats penned On the Grasshopper and Cricket "on a lone winter evening" in the depths of December, 1816.

Keats was just 21 at the time, and wrote the poem in response to a competition with his great friend Leigh Hunt, as to who could write the best verse on a particular subject in the shortest time. Keats reportedly won on this occasion but humbly contested that he preferred his companion's efforts to his own.

 The poem is thick with the green and blooming imagery of "summer luxury", so much so the reader can almost feel the drowsiness and warmth of the hot sun. For Keats the atmosphere is captured through the music of summer sounds, the song of insects trickling through the hedges and over grassy hills.

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

The Poetry of earth is never dead:
  When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
  And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s—he takes the lead
  In summer luxury,—he has never done
  With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
  On a lone winter evening, when the frost
    Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
  And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
    The Grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.
by John Keats

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