John Keats (1795-1821) was part of the Romanticism movement in poetry. In 1816 he wrote “On the Grasshopper and Cricket” as a celebration of the natural world. In this poem, he highlights how these little insects carry on the “song” of nature throughout the year.
“On the Grasshopper and Cricket” by John Keats
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.
The lines I really enjoy in this poem are “The Poetry of the earth is never dead”, and then ‘The poetry of the earth is ceasing never”. With these lines, Keats notices that the earth continues to create, sing, and inspire poetry with its presence no matter the season.
Dan Beachy-Quick (b.1973) is an associate professor of English at Colorado State University and the author of seven books of poetry.
Beachy-Quick is also the author of A Brighter Word Than Bright: Keats at Work. In this book, Beachy-Quick provides a chronological examination of Keats’ life through his poems and letters.
And even though I couldn’t find any definitive proof that Beachy-Quick’s “The Cricket and the Grasshopper” is a direct response to Keats’ “On the Grasshopper and Cricket”, based on Beachy-Quick’s scholarly pursuits I can only assume it is.
“The Cricket and the Grasshopper” by Dan Beachy-Quick
The senseless leaf in the fevered hand Grows hot, near blood-heat, but never grows Green. Weeks ago the dove’s last cooing strain Settled silent in the nest to brood slow Absence from song. The dropped leaf cools On the uncut grass, supple still, still green, Twining still these fingers as they listless pull The tangle straight until the tangle tightens And the hand is caught, another fallen leaf. The poetry of the earth never ceases Ceasing — one blade of grass denies belief Until its mere thread bears the grasshopper’s Whole weight, and the black cricket sings unseen, Desire living in a hole beneath the tangle’s green.
Beachy-Quick repeats Keats’ line, “The poetry of the earth never ceases” and mirrors the silencing of bird song in the afternoon heat. There is also a parallel between Keats’ “He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed” and Beachy-Quick’s “Desire living in a hole beneath the tangle’s green.” I think it is safe to say this is a poetic response to Keats’ work.
NPR’s 2-Minute Listen on Insect Sounds
Not sure what all these insects sound like?
NPR’s Renee Montagne did a two-minute interview with evolutionary biologist Laurel Symes on insect sounds. You can listen here to find out the difference between crickets, cicadas, and katydids.
- PoetryFoundation.org: Keats, “On the Grasshopper and Cricket”
- PoetryFoundation.org: Beachy-Quick, “The Cricket and the Grasshopper”
- Beachy-Quick, Dan. A Brighter Word Than Bright: Keats at Work
- NPR’s 2-Minute Listen- “Insect Sounds: Telling Crickets, Cicadas And Katydids Apart”
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Yes, poetry can never kick the bucket.
Hi Eunice, That’s the best statement ever!
The earth and nature will always be there, likely changed from what we know. I haven’t heard or seen a grasshopper since I was a child so these poems also inform me about change. Lovely choice of poems, Mark, thank you 🙋♂️
Hi Ashley, I came across a grasshopper the other day and it was the first one I have seen in a bit. He was just hanging out on blade of grass. Glad you liked the poems. Be well,
My kids enjoyed this little grasshopper song “Grasshoppers Three” when they were very young: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVG5BwiqX80 I like the imagery in the song that the grasshoppers are fiddling.
That is one happy song! Thanks for sharing.
Crickets have an old folklore such as the “cricket on the hearth.” They represented spirits of the home and looked out for the family.
Thanks for sharing this! I am always interested in learning about how the natural world is woven into the stories that we tell each other.
These are beautiful poems, Mark. Thank goodness for the wealth of wonderful nature poetry the poets give us. I saw a grasshopper last week too . . . well, I heard them. It was hubby that pointed one out and it was sitting on a blade of grass like yours was. I say it was a grasshopper, but it could have been a cricket. I’ll have to learn the differences between them.
I loved the song that LizzieBird shared. 😀
Hi Lesley, I am so glad that you enjoyed these poems. It is very cool to see grasshoppers hanging on to blades of grass. They usually seem to be defying gravity as the grass barely bends beneath them. Be well!
And you too, Mark. 😀
I’ve missed a few posts as daughter was staying with us for a few days. I’ll enjoy catching up. 🙂
Thanks for sharing – I’d not read the Keats poem before.
Hi Caseby, Thanks for the comment. I am pretty new to a lot of poetry so I am enjoying this exploration. There will be many more poems to come in the future.
Oh, Grasshoppers! I wouldn’t call it poetry when they swarm in a large mass. I once had to avoid a locust swarm by jumping into an old, empty Coleman ice chest because it was closer to me than the house or the barn which I would not have made in time. Fortunately, I was a skinny wild thing of eight or nine and fit the ice chest about right. When you grab them they spit something that looks like tobacco juice into your hand. Yuck. I still like the little bright green ones around here. At least no one has to run for cover when they’re around!
Wow! That is a intense story! I have never experienced anything like that. I don’t think I have ever seen more than a couple of grasshoppers a day. Crazy!
It really is a sight to behold, which is why it was worthy of getting mentioned in the bible I suppose.