On the Grasshopper and Cricket"
by John Keats (1795-1821)
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.
John Koethe Comments:
John Keats' poems are of course some of the most magnificent in the language, yet sometimes that magnificence can seem almost overwhelming, and you wish you could experience some of their glories on a smaller and more intimate scale. That's when you might turn to "On the Grasshopper and Cricket," the product of a sonnet-writing contest Keats had with Leigh Hunt in 1816 on the theme of two insects (Hunt cheerfully conceded that Keats' sonnet was infinitely superior to his own). The poem has some of the mellow sweetness of "To Autumn," but is a true miniature, and the anachronistic connotations of "... when tired out with fun / He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed" even give the grasshopper's recreations a slangy contemporary air. And then it turns to the cricket, whose winter chirps effect a beautiful and almost Proustian recollection of the grasshopper's summer song.
About John Koethe:
John Koethe has just retired as Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is spending this semester at Princeton as the Bain-Swiggett Professor of Poetry. He has published eight books of poetry including, most recently, Ninety-fifth Street. His collection Falling Water won the Kingsley Tufts Award. North Point North: New and Selected Poems was a finalist