Spring came a little early in the year of 1819. In its bag, spring brought the essence of life in the deadly cold land of England.
Birds and birdlings had started to head back. Some of them already built nests, laid precious eggs there. Among them was the Nightingale, king of the singing birds. The melodious creatures had taken over the lively spring.
In a corner of London city, in Hampstead, there was a house ornamented with greens. On a tree at this household, unheeding of the surrounding, a Nightingale family was knitting a tune—enchanting the people around.
A young man of 24, guest at that house, was one of those enchanted listeners of the Nightingale. When spring ends, this tune would end too. The birds will leave their nests; they would not be here the next winter. Who knows, maybe they will fly to the land of death. But this music, the tune, the melody from the heavens—how can they ever die? All these thoughts made the young English man, Keats, very restless.
One drizzly day of summer, (it is to be discerned which day is not rainy in England), I went to the celebrated Keats House. In this very place, Keats spent three significant years of his life, wrote the best of his poems. In this very place, he also fell in love with the girl next door, Fanny Brawne.
The locality is quite secluded. There is a big park in front of the house. In a nearing swamp, there are many kinds of ducks sportingly playing in the water.
At the first glance, you would not know there are actually two bedchambers in the house. Charles Brown resided in the house from the very beginning, Keats met him in 1817, immediately becoming close friends.
Since then, Keats often visited the house. In 1818, his brother Tom died of tuberculosis. Wishing to help the mourning friend, Charles Brown invited him over to stay in this house.
Keats religiously attended to his sick brother Tom, to no end though. Tom could not be saved from death. Broken hearted, Keats accepted his friend's invitation. He lodged with Brown in the house, and during this time, he paid a monthly rent of £5 bearing some other expanses as well.
Now there is a signboard telling the visitors to take the back door into the house. Apparently, ticket office for the museum, a shop, and the entrance were placed there. The house has gone through quite some changes in the last 200 years, this is one of them.
The entry fee was £5, but the good news is, the ticket will be valid for an entire year.
In 1818, Fanny Brawne came to live in this house with her family. She probably met Keats in November. Tom died the next month. 23-year old Keats was shaken like a tree taken down in a storm. Fanny's presence, and her company gave him strength. It released him of macabre thoughts, brought him back to the artistry of the world.
On October 18, 1819, Keats asked Fanny's hand in marriage. Even though Fanny said yes at once, it was unknown what fate had lotted for them. As usual, Fanny's mother played the villain. She did not appreciate Keats's idea to give up on medicine for becoming a poet—which got him no money at all. What would he even feed her daughter!
Keats was not good at attending parties and balls. He was sick so often that Fanny attended festivals and balls with her friends. All this made the poet deeply angry, and sad.
At one point, tuberculosis attacked the poet as well. On one hand, his sickly health, on the other hand, excitement of meeting with Fanny; the poet was sceptical of whether he can take the pressure. Thus, living in the same house, the meetings between Fanny and Keats stopped. However, they always kept writing each other.
The beloved, Fanny, sometimes used to walk by the poet's window. There are many stories about these lovers, the film 'Bright Star' was made based on those distraught days in the lovers' life.
Wishing to tend to his health, Keats visited many places. At last, he went to Italy with the hope to cure his tuberculosis. Till his death, Fanny awaited the return of her lover. For the six years following the poet's death, Fanny wore mourning clothes.
At present, after slight revamping here and there, the house still maintains some old rooms; especially the hallway, Fanny Brawne's room, Keats's parlour.
All the rooms are well decorated. There are many artworks hanging on the walls—the subject is mostly poet Keats. I found a quite a few books signed by him, many of them are Shakespearean classics. There was also the ring, the one he gave to his fiancée Fanny.
There are two bed rooms on the first floor, the bigger one taken by Charles, Keats had the smaller room. It was found from researches that the poet's room was painted in light pink, the colour is brought back now. The artefacts in the museum include a copy of Keats's death mask as well.
There's a tone of melancholia in the bedroom. I made my way to the basement, an adjacent pantry to the dining room, fake breakfast item arranged on the table.
To respect the memories of Keats, the house was turned into a museum in 1931. I asked an employee, where is that palm tree—whose shadow was the poet's shelter while writing his beautiful poems. He disappointed me with a broad smile, the tree is dead, there are new ones.
There were some red marks on the walls of the house, which were done by the Royal Society of Arts in 1895. In entire England, there are around 20 of these marks only, these were painted blue later on.