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Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Tue Oct 20, 2015 7:47 pm
by Ravenwing
Wow, last night in my country of Canada, there did occur the 42nd Canadian general election which I did participate. It resulted in Canada having elected a new Prime Minister--in this instance, the leader of a party that amongst many other things, did strongly campaign to fully legalize marijuana for all adults in Canada, similar to the way that alcohol is fully legalized for all adults in Canada.

A recent article in Time Magazine ( ... uana-high/) reports on a study which discovered traces of cannabis on the remains of clay pipes which were dated to be from the time of Shakespeare and found in Shakespeare’s garden; the author of that study suggests that Shakespeare himself did use cannabis. In mine own opinion, it is possible that Keats did use cannabis, because in Keats’ “Welcome Joy, and Welcome Sorrow” poem, he wrote:

Welcome Joy, and Welcome Sorrow
by John Keats (1818).

Welcome joy, and welcome sorrow,
Lethe's weed and Hermes' feather;
Come to-day and come to-morrow,
I do love you both together!

Source: ... wel01.html

When reading some months ago the recent medical literature as pertaining to cannabis, I noticed it mentioned that one of the side-effects of cannabis can be temporary forgetfulness, and that is why it is used in Israel, the U.S.A., and Canada to treat soldiers and first responders that unfortunately suffer from P.T.S.D. In ancient Greek mythology, the river Lethe is known as the river of forgetfulness.

It seems to me that “Hermes’ feather” refers to the quill which the poet used that is quickly filled with poetic inspiration from his having used “Lethe’s weed.”

What is your opinion? We already know that Keats did use snuff, wine, and opium. Did he also use cannabis?

From Ravenwing.

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 7:28 pm
by Cybele
In my opinion, it's entirely possible. Historically, hemp was used medicinally. (I believe this may have been as a tincture, rather than smoked.) I don't know if hemp was grown in the UK as a crop, but it may have been common in medicinal gardens. And it seems to me Mr Keats was interested in medicinal herbs. (I may be projecting, here, since I find the topic fascinating.)
However, I don't think there's any way to prove that he and his friends did or did not use cannabis recreationally. I also don't know if, in the UK, it's as common growing wild as it is here in Ohio.

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:35 pm
by Ravenwing

In reflecting upon your reply, I did remember that the village of Hampstead, which is where the Keats House is located, is actually named after the hemp plant, as are all hamlets, villages, towns, and cities which have “Hamp” as a part of their name, including those of the Hamptons in New York State.

If Keats’ Hampstead did continue to live up to its name into the early 19th century, that means its farmers did mainly grow hemp as a crop during the lifetime of Keats; not only that, but he was probably surrounded by it, especially whenever he did walk along the paths and roads near Hampstead's many hemp fields.

If that is what Keats himself did witness, then yes, we can indeed agree that “it may have been common in medicinal gardens" to quote your earlier post in this thread. Perhaps cannabis was cultivated by Keats in a special part of the Keats House' garden, orchard, or field.

Cybele, I love that you are into medicinal herbs. Are you into probiotic foods and prebiotic foods, too? Around three weeks ago, I did begin to add at least one probiotic food and at least one prebiotic food as ingredients to every meal, and in doing so, I feel really good. I think that this is something which everybody should do.

As for Keats and cannabis, I suppose that if Keats did grow cannabis on the grounds of Keats House in Hampstead, then he probably used it by means of his smoking pipe, at least when his throat was not too inflamed from the tuberculosis which he did suffer from. His having studied as an apothecary probably meant that he knew how to make cannabis tincture and cannabis oil. To buy cannabis tincture or oil from a fellow apothecary was probably more expensive than his making it himself, and than his growing it, curing it, and then smoking it in his pipe.

Perhaps Keats smoked cannabis when he could, and used cannabis tincture or cannabis oil if his throat was inflamed from tuberculosis during the cold, damp weather. Perhaps he did eat medicinal cannabis-butter infused foods. At the very least, he probably did regularly eat foods made of non-psychoactive hemp seed, as hemp seed was probably a dietary staple in all hemp-centred hamlets, villages, and towns, as probably was the Hampstead of his day and age.

In mine own opinion, the verse "Lethe's weed and Hermes' feather" seems to indicate that he did smoke cannabis, because from what I have read, cannabis flower when eaten, including when as a tincture or oil has a different effect than when smoked. Apparently, when eaten, its effects are mostly physical. As the speaker in Keats’ “Welcome Joy, and Welcome Sorrow” poem declares their love for using “Lethe’s weed” with “Hermes’ feather,” it seems that says he does use cannabis, at least in part, for the sake of composing poems.

If hemp was grown in Hempstead during the lifetime of Keats, then it was possible that some, if not all, of Keats’ clothes were made of hemp, and that the very clothes which he did wear in his portraits were made of hemp. Perhaps even the canvases and papers themselves of his portraits painted and sketched by his friends are made of hemp, as perhaps is the paper which he wrote his poems and letters on.

From Ravenwing.

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 11:36 pm
by Raphael
Cannabis/hemp can't be grown outdoors here in England- it's too cold and wet.

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 9:31 am
by Saturn
Possible, of course but very highly unlikely.

The modern ise of the word 'weed' would be totally unknown to Keats.

'Weed' in the sense that Keats uses it there refers to literally the weeds of the fabled river of Lethe in the underworld from classical mythology.

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Fri Nov 06, 2015 1:59 pm
by Raphael
Saturn wrote:Possible, of course but very highly unlikely.

The modern use of the word 'weed' would be totally unknown to Keats.

'Weed' in the sense that Keats uses it there refers to literally the weeds of the fabled river of Lethe in the underworld from classical mythology.

Exactly! :lol:

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:32 pm
by Cybele
Raphael, I was surprised when you said that hemp wouldn't grow in the UK, so I looked it up.
I was surprised because -- heh, heh, how can I state this? :oops: -- back when I was a university student in the late 60s, the common wisdom was that the "good stuff" (meaning nice, potent marijauna) came from British Columbia. A friend who lives in BC recently pointed out to me that the "good stuff" still comes from that province. My point is: If you want cold and wet, the west coast of Canada has more than enough cold and wet to go around.

A few years ago, I purchased some beautiful hemp yarn in Manitoba that was supposed to have been grown in MB. (I'm an avid knitter. This yard had a beautiful hand, and was very much like a nice linen yarn.) And if you're looking for cold, Manitoba's got it. They get hit with any kind of weird weather that blows across the prairies since they have no deep, large bodies of water or tall mountains to mitigate Mother Nature's sense of humor.

Known mostly as "pot," "weed" was not as common a nickname for the plant back in the day. As I mentioned, it grows wild in Ohio. It seems to favor boggy areas. In fact, that's where I've most often seen it growing -- on the edges of bogs, sometimes in really mucky areas. (The soil's fertile, but wet.)

There are, of course, different varieties, with some varieties more suitable for the production of fiber, others for building materials, and still others for "recreational opportunities."

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Sat Mar 09, 2019 6:31 pm
by Ravenwing
I'm sure this information is probably going to be irksome for any squares who visit this forum, but it is nonetheless a fact that the Broken Coast Cannabis company in Canada has for sale (when it is in stock) at the legal provincial online cannabis stores their "Keats" strain:

The street name of that strain is White Walker Kush:

I mention this at The John Keats Forum, because a friend of mine whom is a talented poet was interested in trying "Keats", simply because like the rest of us, he is an admirer of our favourite poet.

When I contacted Broken Coast Cannabis by e-mail, they unfortunately replied by saying that all of their dried flower products (including their "Keats" product) is electron beam sterilized—which is a form of irradiation that ruins terpenes, and thus a process that basically makes all cannabis strains that were irradiated to smell and taste the same (which is to say that irradiated cannabis has little to no smell or taste, and thus that it is junk-cannabis). So this specific product (or any product by Broken Coast Cannabis) is not at all something that I would recommend.

Hopefully, the Broken Coast Cannabis company will someday produce non-irradiated cannabis, including its Keats strain.

From Ravenwing.

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2020 10:19 pm
by Cathat906
I think the evidence that Keats was likely to have used cannabis is vanishingly small. He did however have exposure to other psychoactive plants as part of his medical training. He certainly used laudanum, in fact Severn removed a bottle of it from him in Rome to prevent him committing suicide. An act that Brian Livesley in his 2009 book The Dying Keats, A Case for Euthanasia thought was particularly cruel. The other substance that he may have personally used was hemlock, referenced directly in Ode to a Nightingale. It was being used in the early 19th Century (in sub fatal doses) often in combination with opium for analgesia and sedation. This was associated with surgical procedures (and we know Keats performed a number, including removing a pistol ball from a woman's skull), as inhalatory anaesthetics weren't invented until the 1840's. Would Keats have been tempted to try this tincture? Sadly we will probably never know. This article by Gareth Evans in the Keats Shelley Review makes for interesting reading, as does Hermione de Almedia's magnificently comprehensive Romantic Medicine and John Keats. ... w_smlr.pdf

Re: Keats and Cannabis

PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2020 1:09 pm
by Cathat906
The other substance he might have had access to is henbane which contains a number of potent alkaloids. This was used as an adjunct for pain relief but was well known from antiquity to also have psychoactive properties. Sheldrake in 2005 (DOI: 10.1177/096777200501300306 ) reports in an article on Joseph Green (one of Keats surgical demonstrators) that '15 minims of tincture of henbane' was combined with port wine as part of an attempt at post operative pain relief on a woman who had a thyroid tumour removed, who later died it appears of gangrene.