John Keats’ letters are full of wry humour and playfulness, interwoven with a rage to live and frustration and despair at the TB which killed him within a few years.
Here, writing to his beloved Fanny Brawne, I delighted in his offering to be to her as wine in the cellar, in particular, wine forgotten about in some back bin.
‘Falerne’ refers to a specific and celebrated wine from Campania, and by extension I take it to imply that the longer you leave Keats lolling in the back bin of life, the more like a fine vintage he will be.
‘I will be to you wine in the cellar and the more modestly or rather indolently I retire into the backward Bin, the more falerne will I be at the drinking.’
See an equally arresting simile, more bitter in taste.
Source: John Keats (21, 25 May 1818), Selected Letters, ed. Robert Gittings (Oxford World Classics, 2002/2009), p. 92
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