« AnteriorContinuar »
for pure nature-painting, and the love for Hellenic myths,
Two other notable characteristics of Keats should be also
l. 13 What forst inspired: It was fortunate for Keats and
If the attraction of the Grecian world to Keats is repre-
l. 39 thy lov'd Libertas: a name under which Keats, in this first volume, euphemistically signifies Leigh Hunt. There is, however, no nearer affinity between Hunt and Spenser in regard to their respective gifts in poetry, than between Spenser's severe Elizabethan politics, pushing
12 justice itself into injustice, and the other's vague emo
tional creed:--between the almost ascetic loftiness of manhood which underlies the Faerie Queene, and the slipshod morality of Rimini and Hero.
13 Calidore may be a rather earlier piece than the two which
precede it;-the use of elegantly, of soft luxury, the
It is the essence of chivalry—its picturesqueness, its tenderness to woman, its manly elevation, which we already find in this Fragment. But the tale itself is yet wanting ; – we have the artist's palette, rather than his §." 14, 1. 21 cat's eyes: Country name for the
peedwell, Veronica Chamaedrys, Linn.
17 To some Ladies: This and the next two poems, without
the aid given by the note on p. 4, might, upon internal evidence of manner, be safely referred to the earliest surviving work of Keats, written perhaps before he was twenty, or had fully resigned himself to the magic of Spenser. The style here is manifestly formed on the model of the “elegant” writers of the beginning of this century, whose influence is similarly perceptible in the first poems of Byron or Moore. And it is curious to note how wholly different is the effect between the picture of the knight given us in Calidore, (with all its immaturity in writing), and that given in the stanzas before us (p. 18, 19):—how, in place of the chivalric melody and Šišić of Spenser, we have something not far removed from melodramatic tinsel, nor free from descent into simple prosaicism.
18 l. 4 Mrs. Tighe (died 1810) is still faintly remembered
as authoress of “Psyche, or The Legend of Love,” six cantos in the metre of the Faerie Queene, a poem popular when Keats wrote, and which is in truth a really graceful piece of pure and delicate work. It might be a short lyric, “written for her niece,” and published in 1816, which is here alluded to as “the blessings of Tighe.” I give the first lines:
Sweetest l if thy fairy hand
Smiling hear me thus demand
But, if so, the poem, (or the stanza), can hardly belong to the earliest work of Keats.
In st. ii, l. 2, 4, the rhyme in the poet's mind answering to bedezws was probably muse.
PAGE 20 Had'st thou lived: An early effort, perhaps, in the beautiful metre, (rarely seen in our serious poetry since Milton's youth, probably from its great difficulty), brought to perfection by Keats in his last volume.
23 This Imitation is, the earliest known poem by Keats, according to Lord Houghton, who dates it in 1812. A somewhat later date would appear to me more probable.
24 Woman: What union of manly sense and exquisite tenderness, not without amusing boyish candour, -in these three Sonnets —which, for chivalrous devotion and picturesqueness, I would class between the best of Dante and Petrarch. There are here faults of taste, doubtless, due to early youth and the bad example of some among the models by whom Keats was then influenced : but they will be pardoned easily not only by the lovers of poetry itself, but by those who know how strangely rare, in our recent verse, is the note of disinterested passion.— “One saying of yours,” he says, in a letter of 23 Jan. 1818 to his friend Mr. Bailey, “I shall never forget: you may not recollect it : . . . merely you said, ‘Why should woman suffer?” Aye, why should she? “By heavens, I’d coin my very soul, and drop my blood for drachmas!’ These things are, and he, who feels how incompetent the most skyey knight-errantry is, to heal this bruised fairness, is like a sensitive leaf on the hot hand of thought.”—But this is a noble sensitiveness.
25 G. F. Mathew: An early friend of Keats, described by Lord Houghton as “of high literary merit.”
26 l. 13 far different cares: His surgical training between 1810 and 1817.
28 George Keats: Elder brother to John: died in Kentucky, 1841.
3ol. 33 The fear's : Apparently, Tears arise from the very pleasure of smiling.
31 l. 21 The scarlet-coats: So in a letter from Carisbrooke (Ap. 17, 1817) Keats remarks: “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.”
32 C. C. Clarke: Son to the master of the school at Enfield where Keats was educated till the summer of 1810. Mr. Clarke, who was a man of considerable literary accomplishment, died in 1877.
— 1. 33.8w M.ulla's stream : The reference is to Spenser.—The critical estimates of poetry given here (whilst never falling below the high level of imaginative, as opposed to epigrammatic, verse) are of singular truth and beauty: note especially the “and more, Miltonian tenderness”; a feature in that great Poet which is often overlooked.
PAGE 34 l. 32 divine Mozart: Keats here, as usual, shows his true Poet's intuition. Of all musicians, Mozart is the one in whom the passion for beauty, the cry of humanity, are most eminent, most constantly audible. Hence the supremacy naturally and rightly assigned to him.
36 III. The day that Mr. Leigh Hunt left Prison: 3 Feb. 1815. To this fortunate incarceration Hunt has owed no small part of his later celebrity:-although its direct result, his politico-literary alliance with Lord Byron,<was unsatisfactory for both. For this, Hunt, in his Autobiography, generously if justly, takes the blame to himself.
37 W. To a Friend: Charles Wells, who gave in his early poem, Joseph and his Brethren, a promise which was never fulfilled,—with Joseph Severn, to the last the faithful friend of Keats, *:::.. him to 1879.
4o XI Chapman's fine paraphrase was put before Keats by his friend C. C. Clarke, and they sat up together till daylight to read it: “Keats shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck his imagination. At ten o'clock the next morning, Mr. Clarke found the sonnet on his breakfast-table.”
- 41 XII 1.7 diamond far: Meant to express the flashing of diamonds as they move and clash?
42 XIV That frequent absence of prophetic insight as to the future fame of contemporaries which marks not a few of Spenser's judgments on his fellow-poets in the magnificent Colin Clout, is shared by Keats in this Sonnet. Time, indeed, “the wisest witness,” has confirmed the verdict given upon Wordsworth : but Hunt, despite his real merits, is far too wanting in good taste and in power, to deserve the “collateral glory” here assigned : whilst of Haydon we may now say, when the sad story of his life lies far behind us, that the pictures which he left testif to inborn incapacity for valid success in the art to whic he devoted himself with unhappily mistaken ardour and perseverance :—
ibi omnis Effusus labor
43 XVI 1. s And: Are is conjecturally read in the Aldine text. If conjecture be needed, I would retain And, inserting are before ever.
44 Sleep and Poetry: This fine, though unequal, soliloquy was manifestly intended by Keats to form the Epilogue to his first venture, as the “I stood” (p. 5) is the young poet's Prologue. A more sincere avowal was never made. We see here with what modest self-consciousness, how truly, he understood his art:-It alone would justify me (were justification needed), for this literal reprint of the text which passed before his clear and sensitive eyes. Keats here shows that whilst yielding, (as in the Epistles and other pieces which begin the volume of 1817),
page 44 to the pleasure of frank and simple description of Nature, he was aware how Poetry, in the high and serious sense with which all who deserve to be called Poets always regard their art, must have far other and higher aims;
—the agonies, the strife Of human hearts:—
that Beauty alone, even to this Poet of the Beautiful, is
49 l. 20 my boundly reverence : Boundly seems an invention by Keats to signify what he felt bound to give.
50 l. 1-6 These lines are harshly and obscurely expressed : Keats appears to be thinking of certain “themes,” unfit for imaginative literature, which had tempted,—or might tempt, —his contemporaries to poetry in which Beauty should be supplanted by simple Strength:—comparing such subjects to the clubs, (altered to cuès in most editions), with which Polyphemus and his fellows pursued Ulysses.— It is, however, difficult to identify the apparent allusion.
51 1.5 It is doubtful whether we should supply me, or him, after reach ; or whether Keats here thought of reach as a dissyllable:—as (p. 52, l. 23) grand seems to have been considered.
53 l. 15 liny marble: The epithet, if Keats here describes, not the veining, but the sharp thin flutings and friezemouldings of a Greek Temple, is singularly felicitous.
— 1. 3o unshent: used apparently for Aurifted, or free from.
57 As with other ancient legends, several variations of the story of Endymion have reached us. Keats has followed little except the mere outline of the simplest form: treating him as a Carian King, who slept on Mount Latmos, and was there visited by Selene. He has passed over the perpetual sleep which is the common point in the old stories, and, in itself, is sufficient to show that the modern interpretation, confidently making Endymion the Sun, and resolving the poetry of the myth into a mode of saying, “The sun sets behind a mountain, and the Moon rises over it,” is as lame as it is prosaic. Keats may have framed Peona, the name assigned to the sister with whom he provides Endymion, from Paeana, one of the minor heroines of the Faerie Queene (B. iv, C. 8 and 9); or he may have had in view Paean, the Healer or