Keats and Chapman

Don’t even bother reading the below unless you’re familiar with Myles na gCopaleen’s Keats and Chapman stories.  I was moved to write this by the discovery that Google only records two hits for the concluding pun, although I would have thought it was quite an obvious one.


During a spring sojourn in the south of France with Chapman, Keats conceived a powerful affection for a local beauty. The object of this amour fou, however, was a sensible girl of good upbringing who had been warned off poets in general, and Keats in particular. No matter how thick he laid it on, the young lady remained unmoved. His entreaties were invariably met with a polite but emphatic “non“. Unused to rejection, Keats met each “non” with renewed determination to succeed, resorting to ever more desperate schemes to break through his loved one’s hauteur.

As spring turned to summer, and Chapman threatened to transplant the poet back to London for the sake of his own sanity, Keats began to despair of ever attaining fulfilment. He resolved to stake all on one last assault, and arranged for the girl to fall under the misapprehension that he was terminally ill with a condition known as “obfuscated bladder”. Chapman was enlisted to explain the symptoms of this pernicious ailment, which was supposed to cause a complete breakdown in urinary function before death set in in earnest. For his part, Keats essayed a convincing performance of picturesque suffering. He hoped that their combined efforts would speak to the girl’s innate sense of charity and lead her to view the poet in a different light.

Believing he had won her sympathy, Keats once again sought her affection, this time as a dying man seeking only a little happiness before being overtaken by a painful end. Unfortunately he had once again underestimated his loved one, who had quickly seen through his deep sighs and melodramatic leg crossing. She confronted him with the fact that “obfuscated bladder” was to be found in no medical textbook, and that he had surely invented the whole notion by way of deceiving her into a liaison. His charade being exposed, there was nothing for it but to flee back to England, knowing that this “non” would be the girl’s final word.

On the journey home, Chapman commiserated with his friend but chastised him for the convoluted nature of his plan. “Why did you have to pick such an obscure disease? What was with all that eye-rolling and leg crossing? And was it really necessary for the condition to be terminal?” Keats slung himself listlessly athwart the deck rail and, speaking into the ship’s wake, answered, “I was dying for a ‘oui‘.”

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