Negative Capability

We are indebted to John Gray, writing in his beautifully provocative new book The Soul of the Marionette, for reminding us of an endlessly suggestive aside penned by John Keats, in a letter to his brothers.

The most frequently cited phrase is highlighted below. Yet there are other noteworthy ideas, even in this abbreviated version of the letter: his keen understanding of the intensity of art; the distinction between humor and wit, and the frequent collapse of the latter into snobbery; the subtle parsing of dispute and disquisition; and the heightening of overcome with obliterate. Ah, Keats, what more might you have given us, had you lived even to the age of thirty?

The image between the excerpts: Saturnia, Eastward Crossing, by Antonio Dias, whose work radiates the sort of achievement that Keats isolates; the ability to be at home among the mysteries and uncertainties, beyond the reach of fact and reason.




We shall have more to say about John Gray’s Soul of the Marionette in weeks to come, though we leave soon on one of our periodic peregrinations along the Appalachian Trail, among Civil War ghosts. Until the next, then, we leave DP readers with an offering from DP corresponding poet Jon Swan, with a nod to another entity – Emily –  who was no stranger to the Penetralium of mystery:


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