Poem or fragment, the following lines of Keats cannot be too much admired.
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d — see here it is
I hold it towards you —
Devoted to Shakespeare as its author was, it is natural to suppose that Titus Andronicus had some part in instructing his imagination. Surely, I say to myself, play and poem have been brought together by scholars; in fact, a few moments’ googling produces Katherine Rowe’s Dead Hands: Fictions of Agency, Renaissance to Modern, a book even more abounding in hands than Titus, which has some eighty of ’em—in a limited preview, but not so limited as to omit p. 118, where both are cited, or the surrounding pages, which have much to say about the poem. Here I want only to suggest that Keats is echoing a few words of the play, in the way poets do. Near the end the Boy says,
Would I were dead, so you did live again.
The sentiment is commonplace, but I feel that in his sixth line Keats has adapted “so you did live again”; as in the play, “heart” occurs in the line before. Shakespeare’s was no dead hand (and my title has no typo).