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Which nought but vagrant bird, or wanton wind,
Now shone upon the forest, one vast mass
Hither the poet came. His eyes beheld
Of that still fountain; as the human heart,
But undulating woods, and silent well,
And rippling rivulet, and evening gloom
Obedient to the light
Beside the grassy shore Of the small stream he went ; he did impress On the green moss his tremulous step, that caught Strong shuddering from his burning limbs. As one Roused by some joyous madness from the couch Of fever, he did move; yet, not like him, Forgetful of the grave, where, when the flame Of his frail exultation shall be spent, He must descend. With rapid steps he went Beneath the shade of trees, beside the flow Of the wild babbling rivulet; and now The forest's solemn canopies were changed For the uniform and lightsome evening sky. Gray rocks did peep from the spare moss, and stemmed The struggling brook: tall spires of windlestrae Threw their thin shadows down the rugged slope, And nought but gnarled roots of ancient pines, Branchless and blasted, clenched with grasping roots The unwilling soil. A gradual change was here, Yet ghastly. For, as fast years flow away, The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin And white; and where irradiate dewy eyes Had shone, gleam stony orbs: so from his steps Bright flowers departed, and the beautiful shade Of the green groves, with all their odorous winds And musical motions. Calm, he still pursued The stream, that with a larger volume now Rolled through the labyrinthine dell; and there Fretted a path through its descending curves With its wintry speed. On every side now rose Rocks, which, in unimaginable forms, Lifted their black and barren pinnacles In the light of evening, and its precipice Obscuring the ravine, disclosed above, "Mid toppling stones, black gulfs, and yawning caves, Whose windings gave ten thousand various tongues To the loud stream. Lo! where the pass expands Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks, And seems, with its accumulated crags, To overhang the world; for wide expand Beneath the wan stars and descending moon Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams, Dim tracks and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom Of leaden-coloured even, and fiery hills Mingling their flames with twilight, on the *:::
Of the remote horizon. The near scene,
Stanzas Written in Dojection, near Naples.
The sun is warm, the sky is clear,
Around its unexpanded buds; Like many a voice of one delight, The winds, the birds, the ocean floods, The city's voice itself is soft, like solitude's.
I see the deep’s untrampled floor With green and o sea-weeds strown; I see the waves upon the shore, Like light dissolved in star-showers thrown; I sit upon the sands alone, The lightning of the noontide ocean Is flashing round me, and a tone Arises from its measured motion; How sweet, did any heart now share in my emotion
Alas! I have nor hope, nor health, Nor peace within, nor calm around, Nor that content, surpassing wealth, The sage in meditation found, And walked with inward glory crowned ; Nor faine, nor power, nor love, nor leisure. Others I see whom these surround— Siniling they live, and call life pleasure; To me that cup has been dealt in another measure.
Yet now despair itself is mild, Even as the winds and waters are ; I could lie down like a tired child, And weep away the life of care Which I have borne, and yet must bear, Till death like sleep might steal on me, And I might feel in the warm air My cheek grow cold, and hear the sea Breathe o'er my dying brain its last monotony.
' A line seems to have been lost at this place, probably by an oversight of the transcriber.
Shelley, “are described to me to have resembled insanity, and it was by assiduous watching that he was restrained from effecting purposes of suicide. The agony of his sufferings at length produced the rup
ture of a blood-vessel in the lungs, and the usual process of consumption appears to have begun.” The process had begun, as was too soon apparent; but Keats continued his studies, and in 1820 brought out his second volume—Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St Agnes, and other Poems. These falling into the hands of Jeffrey, were criticised in the Edinburgh Review in a spirit of kindliness and just appreciation, which must have soothed the wounded feelings of the poet, and, with an author of a more healthy and robust frame, would have amply atoned for the previous injustice that had been done him. “Mr Keats,’ says the eloquent critic, ‘is, we understand, | still a very young man; and his whole works, indeed, bear evidence enough of the fact. They manifestly require, therefore, all the indulgence that can be claimed for a first attempt; but we think it no less plain that they deserve it; for they are flushed all over with the rich lights of fancy, and so coloured and bestrown with the flowers of poetry, that, even while perplexed and bewildered in their labyrinths, it is impossible to resist the intoxication of their sweetness, or to shut our hearts to the enchantments they so lavishly present. The models upon which he has formed himself in the “Endymion,” the earliest and by much the most considerable of his poems, are obviously the Faithful Shepherdess of Fletcher, and the Sad Shepherd of Ben Jonson, the exquisite metres and inspired diction of which he has copied with great boldness and fidelity; and, like his great originals, has also contrived to impart to the whole piece that true rural and poetical air which breathes only in them and in Theocritus—which is at once homely and majestic, luxurious and rude, and sets before us the genuine sights, and sounds, and smells of the country, with all the magic and grace of Elysium. His subject has the disadvantage of being | mythological; and in this respect, as well as on account of the raised and rapturous tone it consequently assumes, his poetry may be better compared perhaps to the Comus and the Arcades of Milton, of which, also, there are many traces of imitation. The great distinction, however, between him and these
consumption. As a last resource, he resolved to try the milder climate of Italy—going first to Naples, and from thence to Rome. “He suffered so much in his lingering,’ says Mr Leigh Hunt, “that he used to watch the countenance of his physician for the favourable and fatal sentence, and express his regret when he found it delayed. Yet no impatience escaped him—he was manly and gentle to the last, and grateful for all services. A little before he died, he said that he felt the daisies growing over him.’ He died on the 27th of December 1820, and was buried, as his friend Shelley relates, ‘in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the Protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now mouldering and desolate, which formed the circuit of ancient Rome. The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.”
* Preface to Adonais, an elegy on the death of Keats. In Shelley's correspondence is a letter by Mr Finch, giving an account of Keats's last moments, less pleasing, but much more striking than that of Hunt. “Almost despairing of his case, he left his native shores by sea in a merchant-vessel for Naples, where he arrived, having received no benefit during the passage, and brooding over the most melancholy and mortifying reflections; and nursing a deeply-rooted disgust to life and to the world, owing to having been infamously treated by the very persons whom his generosity had rescued from want and wo. He journeyed from Naples to Rome, and occupied, at the latter place, lodgings which I had, on former occasions, more than once inhabited. Here he soon took to his bed, from which he never rose more. His passions were always violent, and his sensibility most keen. It is extraordinary that, proportionally as his strength of body declined, these acquired fresh vigour; and his temper at length became so outrageously violent, as to injure himself, and annoy every one around him. He eagerly wished for death. After leaving England, I believe that he seldom courted the muse. He was accompanied by a friend of
mine, Mr severn, a young painter, who will, I think, one day be the Coryphaeus of the English school. He left all, and sacrificed
every prospect, to accompany and watch over his friend Keats. For many weeks previous to his death, he would see no one but Mr Severn, who had almost risked his own life by unwearied attendance upon his friend, who rendered his situation doubly
r t by the viol of his p exhibited even towards him, so much that he might be judged insane. His intervals of remorse, too, were poignantly bitter. I believe that Mr Severn, the heir of what little Keats left behind him at Rome, has only come into possession of very few manuscripts of his friend. The poetical volume which was the inseparable companion of Keats, and which he took for his most darling model in composition, was the Minor Poems of Shakspeare.” Byron (who thought the death of Keats a loss to our literature, and who said, “His fragment of Hyperion seems actually inspired by the Titans, and is as sublime as Eschylus') alludes,
It was the misfortune of Keats, as a poet, to be either extravagantly praised or unmercifully condemned. The former was owing to the generous partialities of friendship, somewhat obtrusively displayed; the latter, in some degree, to resentment of that friendship, connected as it was with party politics and peculiar views of society as well as of poetry. In the one case his faults, and in the other his merits, were entirely overlooked. An interval of more than twenty years should have dispelled these illusions and prejudices. Keats was a true poet: he had the creative fancy, the ideal enthusiasm, and the nervous susceptibility of the poetical temperament. If we consider his extreme youth and delicate health, his solitary and interesting self-instruction, the severity of the attacks made upon him by his hostile and powerful critics, and, above all, the original richness and picturesqueness of his conceptions and imagery, even when they run to waste, he appears to be one of the greatest of the young self-taught poets. Michael Bruce or Henry Kirke White cannot for a moment be compared with him : he is more like the Milton of “Lycidas,” or the Spenser of the ‘Tears of the Muses.” What easy, finished, statuesque beauty and classic expression, for example, are displayed in this picture of Saturn and Thea –
Deep in the shady sadness of a vale
She was a goddess of the infant world; By her in stature the tall Amazon Had stood a pigmy's height: she would have ta'en | Achilles by the hair, and bent his neck; | Or with a finger stayed Ixion's wheel. Her face was large as that of Memphian sphinx, | Pedestaled haply in a palace court, When sages looked to Egypt for their lore. But oh how unlike marble was that face 1 How beautiful, if sorrow had not made
playfully and wittily, in his Don Juan, to the death of the
Sorrow more beautiful than Beauty's self!
As when, upon a tranced summer night,
The antique grace and solemnity of passages like
this must be felt by every reader of poetry. The chief defects of Keats are his want of distinctness and precision, and the carelessness of his style. There would seem to have been even affectation in his disregard of order and regularity; and he heaps up images and conceits in such profusion, that they often form grotesque and absurd combinations, which fatigue the reader. Deep feeling and passion are rarely given to young poets redolent of fancy and warm from the perusal of the ancient authors. The difficulty with which Keats had mastered the classic mythology gave it an undue importance in his mind: a more perfect knowledge would have harmonised its materials, and shown him the beauty of chaste
ness and simplicity of style—the last but the greatest
advantage of classic studies. In poets like Gray, Rogers, and Campbell, we see the ultimate effects of this taste; in Keats we have only the materials, unselected, and often shapeless. is imagination was prolific of forms of beauty and grandeur, but the judgment was wanting to symmetrise and arrange them, assigning to each its due proportion and its proper place. His fragments, however, are the fragments of true genius—rich, original, and various; and Mr Leigh Hunt is right in his opinion, that the poems of Keats, with all their defects, will be the ‘sure companions in field and grove' of those who love to escape ‘out of the strife of commonplaces into the haven of solitude and imagination.'
[The Lady Madeline at her Devotions.] [From the “Eve of St Agnes']
Out went the taper as she hurried in; Its little smoke in pallid moonshine died: She closed the door, she panted, all akin To spirits of the air and visions wide: No uttered syllable, or, wo betide 1 But to her heart her heart was voluble, Paining with eloquence her balmy side; As though a tongueless nightingale should swell Her throat in vain, and die heart-stifled in her dell.
A casement high and triple-arched there was, All garlanded with carven imageries Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass, And diamonded with panes of quaint device Innumerable, of stains and splendid dyes, As are the tiger-moth's deep damasked wings; And in the midst, 'mong thousand heraldries, And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings, A shielded scutcheon blushed with blood of queens and kings. Full on this casement shone the wintry moon, And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast, As down she knelt for Heaven's grace and boon; Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest, And on her silver cross soft amethyst, And on her hair a glory like a saint: She seemed a splendid angel newly drest, Save wings, for heaven; Porphyro grew faint: She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint.
And gather up all fancifullest shells
O hearkener to the loud-clapping shears, While ever and anon to his shorn peers A ram goes bleating: winder of the horn, When snouted wild boars routing tender corn Anger our huntsmen: breather round our farms, To keep off mildews and all weather harms: Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds, That come a-swooning over hollow grounds, And wither drearily on barren moors: Dread opener of the mysterious doors Leading to universal knowledge—see, Great son of Dryope, The many that are come to pay their vows With leaves about their brows 1
Be still the unimaginable lodge For solitary thinkings; such as dodge Conception to the very bourne of heaven, Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven, That, spreading in this dull and clodded earth, Gives it a touch ethereal—a new birth: Be still a symbol of immensity; A firmament reflected in a sea; An element filling the space between ; An unknown—but no more : we humbly screen With uplift hands our foreheads lowly bending, And giving out a shout most heaven-rending, Conjure thee to receive our humble Paean, Upon thy Mount Lycean
Ode to a Nightingale.
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
0 for a draught of vintage, that hath been
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
Away! away ! for I will fly to thee