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That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
The image of the “Eagle” is beautiful in itself, and interesting in its application.
TO HAY DON. (witH THE ABOVE.)
Haydon forgive me that I cannot speak
In the previous autumn Keats was in the habit of frequently passing the evening in his friend's painting-room, where many men of genius were wont to meet, and, sitting before some picture on which he was engaged, criticise, argue, defend, attack, and quote their favorite writers. Keats used to call it “Making us wings for the night.” The morning after one of these innocent and happy symposia, Haydon received a note inclosing the picturesque Sonnet
“Great Spirits now on Earth are sojourning,” &c.
Keats adding, that the preceding evening had wrought him up, and he could not forbear sending it. Haydon in his acknowledgment, suggested the omission of part of it; and also mentioned that he would forward it to Wordsworth; he received this reply:—
My DEAR SIR,
Your letter has filled me with a proud pleasure, and shall be kept by me as a stimulus to exertion. I begin to fix my T. eyes on an horizon. My feelings entirely fall in with yours with regard to the ellipsis, and I glory in it. The idea of your sending it to Wordsworth puts me out of breath—you know with what reverence I would send my well-wishes to him.
It should here be remembered that Wordsworth was not then what he is now, that he was confounded with much that was thought ridiculous and unmanly in the new school, and that it was something for so young a student to have torn away the veil of prejudice then hanging over that now-honored name, and to have proclaimed his reverence in such earnest words, while so many men of letters could only scorn or jeer.
The uncongenial profession to which Keats had attached himself now became every day more repulsive. A book of very careful annotations, preserved by Mr. Dilke, attests his diligence, although a fellow-student,” who lodged in the same house, describes him at the lectures as scribbling doggerel rhymes among the notes, particularly if he got hold of another student’s syllabus. Of course, his peculiar tastes did not find much sympathy in that society. Whenever he showed his graver poetry to his companions, it was pretty sure to be ridiculed and severely handled. They were therefore surprised when, on presenting himself for examination at Apothecaries' Hall, he passed his examination with considerable credit. When, however, he entered on the practical part of his business, although successful in all his operations, he found his mind so oppressed during the task with an over-wrought apprehension of the possibility of doing harm, that he came to
* Mr. H. Stephens.
the determined conviction that he was unfit for the line of life on which he had expended so many years of his study and a considerable part of his property. “My dexterity,” he said, “used to seem to me a miracle, and I resolved never to take up a surgical instrument again,” and thus he found himself, on his first entrance into manhood, thrown on the world almost without the means of daily subsistence, but with many friends interested in his fortunes, and with the faith in the future which generally accompanies the highest genius. Mr. Haydon seems to have been to him a wise and prudent counselor, and to have encouraged him to brace his powers by undistracted study, while he advised him to leave London for awhile, and take more care of his health. The following note, written in March, shows that Keats did as he was recommended :
MY DEAR REYNoLDs,
My brothers are anxious that I should go by myself into the country; they have always been extremely fond of me, and now that Haydon has pointed out how necessary it is that I should be alone to improve myself, they give up the temporary pleasure of being with me continually for a great good which I hope will follow ; so I shall soon be out of town. You must soon bring all your present troubles to a close, and so must I, but we must, like the Fox, prepare for a fresh swarm of flies. Banish money—Banish sofas—Banish wine–Banish music; but right Jack Health, honest Jack Health, true Jack Health. Banish Health and banish all the world.
Your sincere friend,
During his absence he wrote the following letters. The correspondence with Mr. Reynolds will form so considerable a portion of this volume, and will so distinctly enunciate the invaluable worth of his friendship to Keats, that one can only regret that both portions of it are not preserved.”
* It is also to be lamented that Mr. Reynolds's own remarkable verse is not better known. Lord Byron speaks with praise of several pieces, and attributes some to Moore. “The Fancy,” published under the name of Peter Corcoran, and “The Garden of Florence,” under that of John Hamilton, are full of merit, especially the former, to which is prefixed one of the liveliest specimens of fictitious biography I know.
CARIs BRooke, April 17th, 1817. My DEAR REYNoLDs,
Ever since I wrote to my brother from Southampton, I have been in a taking, and at this moment I am about to become settled, for I have unpacked my books, put them into a snug corner, pinned up Haydon, Mary Queen [of] Scots, and Milton with his daughters in a row. In the passage I found a head of Shakspeare, which I had not before seen. It is most likely the same that George spoke so well of, for I like it extremely. Well, this head I have hung over my books, just above the three in a row, having first discarded a French Ambassador; now this, alone, is a good morning's work. Yesterday I went to Shanklin, which occasioned a great debate in my mind whether I should live there or at Carisbrooke. Shanklin is a most beautiful place; sloping wood and meadow ground reach round the Chine, which is a cleft between the cliffs, of the depth of nearly 300 feet, at least. This cleft is filled with trees and bushes in the narrow part; and as it widens becomes bare, if it were not for primroses on one side, which spread to the very verge of the sea, and some fishermen's huts on the other, perched midway in the balustrades of beautiful green hedges along the steps down to the sands. But the sea, Jack, the sea, the little waterfall, then the white cliff, then St. Catherine’s Hill, “the sheep in the meadows, the cows in the corn.” Then why are you at Carisbrooke 2 say you. Because, in the first place, I should be at twice the expense, and three times the inconvenience; next, that from here I can see your continent from a little hill close by, the whole north angle of the Isle of Wight, with the water between us; in the third place, I see Carisbrooke Castle from my window, and have found several delightful wood alleys and copses, and quiet freshes; as for primroses, the island ought to be called Primrose Island, that is, if the nation of Cowslips agree thereto, of which there are divers clans just beginning to lift up their heads. Another reason of my fixing is, that I am more in reach of the places around me. I intend to walk over the Island, east, west, north, south. I have not seen many specimens of ruins. I don’t think, however, I shall ever see one to surpass Carisbrooke Castle. The trench is overgrown with the smoothest turf, and the walls with ivy. The Keep within side is one bower of ivy; a colony of jackdaws have been there for many years. I dare say I have seen many a descendant of some old cawer who peeped through the bars at Charles the First, when he was there in confinement. On the road from Cowes to Newport I saw some extensive Barracks, which disgusted me extremely with the Government for placing such a nest of debauchery in so beautiful a place. I asked a man on the coach about this, and he said that the people had been spoiled. In the room where I slept at Newport, I found this on the window;-“O Isle spoilt by the milatary !” The wind is in a sulky fit, and I feel that it would be no bad thing to be the favorite of some fairy, who would give one the power of seeing how our friends got on at a distance. I should like, of all loves, a sketch of you, and Tom, and George, in ink: which Haydon will do if you tell him how I want them. From want of regular rest I have been rather marvus, and the passage in Lear, “Do you not hear the sea s” has haunted me intensely.
“It keeps eternal whisperings around,” &c. *
I’ll tell you what—on the 23d was Shakspeare born. Now if I should receive a letter from you, and another from my brother on that day, 'twould be a parlous good thing. Whenever you write, say a word or two on some passage in Shakspeare that may have come rather new to you, which must be continually happening, notwithstanding that we read the same play forty times—for instance, the following from the Tempest never struck me so for. cibly as at present:—
* See the “Literary Remains.”