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come to town again 2° “I will,” says I, “let you have the MS. next week.” In both these cases I appeared to attribute an interested motive to each of my friends’ questions—the first made him flush, the second made him look angry :—and yet I am innocent in both cases; my mind leapt over every interval, to what I saw was, per se, a pleasant subject with him. You see I have no allowances to make—you see how far I am from supposing you could show me any neglect. I very much regret the long time I have been obliged to exile from you ; for I have one or two rather pleasant occasions to confer upon with you. What I have heard from George is favorable. I expect a letter from the settlement itself. Your sincere friend,
John KEATs. I cannot give any good news of Tom.
WENTwoRTH PLACE, HAMPSTEAD, 18 Dec. 1818. My DEAR WooDHOUSE, I am greatly obliged to you. I must needs feel flattered by making an impression on a set of ladies. I should be content to do so by meretricious romance verse, if they alone, and not men, were to judge. I should like very much to know those ladies—though look here, Woodhouse—I have a new leaf to turn over : I must work; I must read ; I must write. I am unable to afford time for new acquaintances. I am scarcely able to do my duty to those I have. Leave the matter to chance. But do not forget to give my remembrances to your cousin. Yours most sincerely, John KEATs.
MY DEAR REYNoLDs, & Sawt. of 2 Believe me, I have rather rejoiced at your happiness than fretted at your silence. Indeed I am grieved, on your account, that I am not at the same time happy. But I conjure you to think, at present, of nothing but pleasure ; “Gather the rose,” &c., gorge the honey of life. I pity you as much that it cannot last for ever, as I do myself now drinking bitters. Give yourself up to it—you cannot help it—and I have a consolation in thinking so. I never was in love, yet the voice and shape of a woman has haunted me these two days—at such a time when the relief, the feverish relief of poetry, seems a much less crime. This morning poetry has conquered—I have relapsed into those abstractions which are my only life—I feel escaped from a new, strange, and threatening sorrow, and I am thankful for it. There is an awful warmth about my heart, like a load of Immortality. Poor Tom—that woman and poetry were ringing changes in my senses. Now I am, in comparison, happy. I am sensible this will distress you—you must forgive me. Had I known you would have set out so soon I would have sent you the “Pot of Basil,” for I had copied it out ready. Here is a free translation of a Sonnet of Ronsard, which I think will please you. I have the loan of his works—they have great beauties.
“Nature withheld Cassandra in the skies,
* The second sonnet in the “Amours de Cassandre :" she was a damosel of Blois—“Ville de Blois—naissance de ma dame.”
“Nature ornant Cassandre, qui deuoit
I had not the original by me when I wrote it, and did not recollect the purport of the last lines.
I should have seen Rice ere this, but I am confined by Saw. ney’s mandate in the house now, and have, as yet, only gone out in fear of the damp night. I shall soon be quite recovered. Your offer I shall remember as though it had even now taken place in fact. I think it cannot be. Tom is not up yet—I cannot say he is better. I have not heard from George.
Your affectionate friend,
It may be as well at once to state that the lady alluded to in the above pages inspired Keats with the passion that only ceased with his existence. Where personal feelings of so profound a character are concerned, it does not become the biographer, in any case, to do more than to indicate their effect on the life of his hero, and where the memoir so nearly approaches the times of its subject that the persons in question, or, at any rate, their near relations, may be still alive, it will at once be felt how indecorous would be any conjectural analysis of such sentiments, or, indeed, any more intrusive record of them than is absolutely necessary for the comprehension of the real man. True, a poet's love is, above all other things, his life; true, a nature, such as that of Keats, in which the sensuous and the ideal were so interpenetrated that he might be said to think because he felt, cannot be understood without its affections; but no comment, least of all that of one personally a stranger, can add to the force of the glowing and solemn expressions that appear here and there in his corre
/ Comme vu tresor cherement sous ces ailles,
! Elle enrichit les Graces immortelles
De son beloeil quiles Dieux esmoutloit.—
spondence. However sincerely the devotion of Keats may have been requited, it will be seen that his outward circumstances soon became such as to render a union very difficult, if not impossible. Thus these years were passed in a conflict in which plain poverty and mortal sickness met a radiant imagination and a redundant heart. Hope was there, with Genius, his everlasting sustainer, and Fear never approached but as the companion of Necessity. The strong power conquered the physical man, and made the very intensity of his passion, in a certain sense, accessory to his death: he might have lived longer if he had lived less. But this should be no matter of self-reproach to the object of his love, for the same may be said of the very exercise of his poetic faculty, and of all that made him what he was. It is enough that she has preserved his memory with a sacred honor, and it is no vain assumption, that to have inspired and sustained the one passion of this noble being has been a source of grave delight and earnest thankfulness, through the changes and chances of her earthly pilgrimage. When Keats was left alone by his brother's death, which took place early in December, Mr. Brown pressed on him to leave his lodgings and reside entirely in his house: this he consented to, and the cheerful society of his friend seemed to bring back his spirits, and at the same time to excite him to fresh poetical exertions. It was then he began “Hyperion;” that poem full of the “large utterance of the early Gods,” of which Shelley said, that the scenery and drawing of Saturn dethroned by the fallen Titans supassed those of Satan and his rebellious angels, in “Paradise Lost.” He afterwards published it as a fragment, and still later re-cast it into the shape of a Vision, which remains equally unfinished. Shorter poems were scrawled, as they happened to suggest themselves, on the first scrap of paper at hand, which was afterwards used as a mark for a book, or thrown any where aside. It seemed as if, when his imagination was once relieved, by writing down its effusions, he cared so little about them that it required a friend at hand to prevent them from being utterly lost. The admirable “Ode to a Nightingale” was suggested by the continual song of the bird that, in the spring of 1819, had built her nest close to the house, and which often threw Keats into a sort of trance of tranquil pleasure. One morning he took his chair from the breakfast-table, placed it upon the grass-plot under a plum-tree, and sat there for two or three hours with some scraps of paper in his hands. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Brown saw him thrusting them away, as waste paper, behind some books, and had considerable difficulty in putting together and arranging the stanzas of the Ode. Other poems as literally “fugitive ’’ were rescued in much the same way—for he permitted Mr. Brown to copy whatever he could pick up, and sometimes assisted him. The odes “To the Nightingale” and “To a Grecian Urn.” were first published in a periodical entitled the “Annals of Fine Arts.” Soon after he had composed them, he repeated, or rather chanted, them to Mr. Haydon, in a sort of recitative that so well suited his deep grave voice, as they strolled together through Kilburn meadows, leaving an indelible impression on the mind of his surviving friend. The journal-letters to his brother and sister in America are the best records of his outer existence. I give them in their simplicity, being assured that thus they are the best. They are full of a genial life which will be understood and valued by all to whom a book of this nature presents any interest whatever: and, when it is remembered how carelessly they are written, how little the writer ever dreamt of their being redeemed from the far West or exposed to any other eyes than those of the most familiar affection, they become a mirror in which the individual character is shown with indisputable truth, and from which the fairest judgment of his very self can be drawn.
[1818–19.] MY DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER,
You will have been prepared, before this reaches you, for the worst news you could have, nay, if Haslam's letter arrived in proper time, I have a consolation in thinking the first shock will be passed before you receive this. The last days of poor Tom were of the most distressing nature; but his last moments were not so painful, and his very last was without a a pang. I will not enter into any parsonic comments on death. Yet the