Cricket ball on field

John Keats: Ode to a Black Eye

On the first day of the Ashes Test at Lord’s, here is a cricketing curiosity – a Romantic poet picking up an injury in the winter nets.  And evidence that the team physio of the early 19th century always kept the leeches handy.

On Sunday 14th February, 1819, the poet John Keats sat down to write to his brother George and his wife Georgiana.  They had recently emigrated to Louisville, Kentucky, where George worked in a sawmill.  Keats seems to have been easily distracted, because it took him almost three months to complete and send this letter.

Friday 19th – Yesterday I got a black eye – the first time I took a Cricket Young  man with cricket batbat.  Brown who is always one’s friend in a disaster applied a leech to the eyelid, and there is no inflammation this morning though the ball hit me torn on the sight – ’twas a white ball.  

A white ball? Must have been a one-day specialist.

I am glad it was not a clout.  This is the second black eye I have had since leaving school – during all my school days I never had one at all – we must eat a peck before we die – This morning I am in a sort of temper indolent and supremely careless: I long after a stanza or two of Thompson’s Castle of indolence.  My passions are all asleep from my having slumbered till nearly eleven and weakened the animal fibre all over me to a delightful sensation about three degrees on this side of faintness – if I had teeth of pearl and the breath of lillies I should call it langour – but as I am – especially as I have a black eye – I must call it Laziness.  

That artistic temperament, eh?  Keats was evidently more of a Gower than a Gooch.

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