Immortal Bird / Delinquent Library Patron

06/14/2011  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

Another paper treasure from the Key West library: the last library card of great American playwright Tennessee Williams; paired with the “urgent request” to return an overdue biography of John Keats, whose “Ode to a Nightingale,” includes the line “Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!”

Tennessee Williams's library card

Tennessee, nicknamed “Bird” by Gore Vidal, may have had good reason for missing this due date. His death came in a hotel room in New York just one month later. Keats seems pitch-perfect reading for that final winter of 1982-83:

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
    My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
    One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
    But being too happy in thine happiness, —
       That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
         In some melodious plot
    Of beechen green, and shadows numberless
       Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

from “Ode to a Nightingale,” John Keats

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