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Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Poetry XXIV -- NO MORE A TEACHER & John Keats' "THIS LIVING HAND"

It hit me this past week--for some reason with particular vigor while monitoring the cafeteria at lunch, of all things or places--how terribly I am going to miss being a teacher.  Not preparing lessons and "molding young minds" and grading papers, but being a part--and integral part--of the lives of children and teenagers.  If I'm any good at teaching, it's not because of my subject or my love for it, but because I know and love and "get" kids.  They are my kids, and this living hand, no matter how I try--successful or not--to extend my own to them, is rather theirs, whether they're aware or no, to me:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might scream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—
I hold it toward you.

This is one of my very favorite Keats' poems, and so it is for its depth and how it keeps hidden down there its immense beauty and, despite the inelegance of the word, its personableness.  Maybe you'll "get" it right away.  Not me.  It took me several reads--I had to work at it--before it hit home.  Even now, I have to read it twice.


  1. Hmm... I wonder what you make of it. I take it to be about forgiveness and reconciliation, a hand offered in peace. But if you don't settle your grudges/affairs before the other party dies/the opportunity is lost, it will haunt you forever.

  2. I think that is the usual reading, and likely even the intended reading. For some years now I've read it as an inter-reliance between friends and loved ones, where the hand offered is that of unconditional friendship and support.


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