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Even if the only poetry you’ve ever read was in high school when the teacher made you do so — blasted adults — you likely intuited that there was something rather different, scope-wise, about the verse of winter from the verse of the warmer seasons.

The latter often enough featured the imagery of green fields and forests fit for Robin Hood to come strolling along and challenge all to an archer’s contest, with fireflies in the night and, if you were reading for deeper meanings, boundless futures comfortingly equipped with boundless possibilities. A poetry one might consider as more laden with hope than head — as I think of it, that special cognizance that has little to do with external vistas and more to do with buffeting internal winds. That is the poetry of the winter.

Not terribly cheery, you might say, and not what we think of at Christmas, but it was perhaps the most winter-based of all poets, in terms of the ideas coursing through his poems, who had his greatest epiphany during the season. More… “A Keatsian Christmas”

Colin Fleming writes on art, literature, film, rock, jazz, classical music, and sports for Rolling Stone, JazzTimes, The Atlantic, Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and a number of other publications. His fiction has recently appeared in AGNI, Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Commentary, and Post Road, and he’s the author of The Anglerfish Comedy Troupe: Stories from the Abyss (Dzanc), and is writing a memoir, Many Moments More: A Story About the Art of Endurance, and a novel about a reluctant piano genius, age seven or eight, called The Freeze Tag Sessions. He’s a regular contributor to NPR’s Weekend Edition. His tattered, on-the-mend website is colinfleminglit.com, and he highly recommends reading The Smart Set daily, along with ten mile coastal walks and lots of Keats and hockey for the soul.
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Successes of the Silver Age:  Pluto, Denisova, and Sinosauropteryx
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Astronomers have discovered nearly 6,000 planets in the last 20 years. And Neanderthals had red hair and freckles.

We are living in a great age of natural science.

In “On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer,” John Keats described the wonder he felt on reading the translations of The Iliad and the Odyssey published in 1616 by Shakespeare’s contemporary George Chapman (1559-1634):

	Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
		When a new planet swims into his ken;
	Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
		He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men
	Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —
		Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

It was Balboa, not Cortes, who was the first Spanish explorer to see the Pacific from Central America (Keats was corrected but let the line stand). The “watcher of the skies” who delights “when a new planet swims into his ken” was the astronomer William Herschel, who discovered Uranus in 1781.
More… “Our Silver Age of Natural Science”

Michael Lind is a contributing writer of The Smart Set, a fellow at New America in Washington, D.C., and author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States.
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