Bright Star

Imagine my excitement to hear about the release of a new Jane Campion (The Piano) movie about John Keats‘s doomed love. Bright Star was scheduled for release Friday Sept 18. A new movie set in the Regency era, by an intelligent filmaker. Hooray!
Then I was immediately cast down because Bright Star’s “limited release” did not include the Washington, DC area. Pooh.

But this looks like a wonderful film. It tells the story of Keats’s love affair with his neighbor in Hampstead, Fanny Brawne, doomed from the start by her need to marry well, his poverty and, of course, the illness that would tragically take his life at 25. The actors playing Keats (Ben Whishaw) and Fanny look gorgeous and the performance by the actress playing Fanny (Abbie Cornish) is said to be Emmy-worthy.

Here’s the Movie Trailer:

I confess that I knew little of Keats, except that he wrote wonderful poetry and he died young. I remember coming across a plaque near the Spanish Steps in Rome marking the residence where he died. This was years ago when I’d visited Rome and had not even started writing Regency or become obsessed by the era and all its characters.

Keats suffered scathing reviews in the London press, but probably because he was associated with Leigh Hunt, who in 1813 was imprisoned for criticizing the Prince Regent. It is such a shame Keats’s work was not more appreciated in his lifetime. It is so beautiful.

Here is the poem inspired by Fanny Brawne that gave the movie its title:

Bright Star, would I were steadfast as thou art–
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest-like task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors–
No–yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever–or else swoon to death

Keats contracted tuberculosis, known then as consumption, the illness that took the lives of his mother and brother. From his medical studies he knew from the sight of the first drop of blood what he would face. He died in Rome, his friend Severn at his side.

It seems fitting to end my blog with the beginning of Keats’s Ode to Autumn:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

Are you in a city showing Bright Star? Have you seen it? Tell us, please!
What is your favorite poem by Keats?
Do you think you could write a Regency-set Romance with a poet as a hero?

About diane

Diane Gaston is the RITA award-winning author of Historical Romance for Harlequin Historical and Mills and Boon, with books that feature the darker side of the Regency. Formerly a mental health social worker, she is happiest now when deep in the psyches of soldiers, rakes and women who don’t always act like ladies.
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