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PAGE 67 l. 411. The last word of this line, with eight others in Endymion, is, I do not doubt, intentionally,–left without a rhyme.
69 l. 472-3 One of the rare touches of exquisite human feeling which Keats has allowed himself, perhaps, which his chosen subject and treatment allowed him, in Endymion: —a poem, under this aspect, curiously contrasted with the Isabella and the St. Agnes.
— 493-5 “A substantive,” says Professor Earle, “may suddenly by a yigorous stroke of art be transformed into an adverb, as forest in the following passage :
more forest wild.” (Philology of the English Tongue: 1873).
71 l. 555 ditamy, dittany: In Old French, dictame; whence, probably, the spelling used by Keats.
75 l. 748-757 This analysis of Sleep and Dream is worthy of hakespeare, in Shakespeare's best manner.
83 l. #. Keats here alludes to the ill-success of his volume of 1817.
90 l. 319 “zephyr-boughs .."; the common reading here, was probably in the mind of Keats. But with a poet of literary training so incomplete, so unconventional, and of such imaginative force, conjectural emendation, to which his abnormal phrases and rhythms tempt, is even more than ordinarily uncertain and undesirable.—The verbal peculiarities of Keats I have hence, also, in general left unnoticed. . He copied much, no doubt, from our elder poets: but he also invents with the freedom which is one of the prerogatives of all Poetry, and of all language in a vital condition.
— 1. 446 Vertumnus: This name, with Pomona, after the fashion of the Italian Renaissance, carries us abruptly from Hellenic to Graeco-Roman mythology.—The Cupid picture (1.506) is classical, but in a similar vein.
1oo 1.763 In this amorous extravagance,—which reminds us of the conceits of Lovelace, rather than of the Ancients, it is probably idle to enquire why Ida is introduced.
103 1. 879 Hermes' Afte: Argus was thus lulled to sleep as he Ž. guarding Io, and slain by Hermes at command of cus.
108 l, 1-20 “It was an unfortunate occurrence,” writes Lord Houghton, narrating the introduction of Keats to Leigh Hunt and his associates, “that Keats became unwittingly PAGE 108 identified, not only with a literary coterie, with whose specialities he had little in common, but with a supposed political association for revolutionary objects with which he entertained nothing beyond the vaguest sympathy.”— In this atmosphere it is no wonder that the Poet's wing should flag, and his verse go heavily. But he soon renews his mighty youth;-nor has the whole poem a lovelier passage, nor one more deeply felt, than the moonlight landscape which concludes the paragraph. Lines 395-400, on the other hand, are a specimen of the singular prose matter which occasionally occurs, entwined in the golden tissue of the song. This lapse seems to me especially to characterize the transitions, (always so difficult to manage), in the story.
111 l. 121 Two other magnificent pictures of the world beneath sea may be compared with this : Clarence's dream in Richard III, and the vision related by Panthea in Prometheus Unbound, Act iv.–Keats, at twenty-two, fairly rises to his place beside Shakespeare and Shelley.
118 l. 408 Hercules: From Gades to Egypt.
133 1. Ioro Doris: daughter to Oceanus, and wife of the wise Nereus, Hnamed sometimes the Aegaean, as finding in that sea his chief seat of empire.
137 l. 99 in twain should here, doubtless, follow for them. 146 l. 461 daedale: Appears used for variable.
147 l. 487 throe: possibly, to tremble: or, to throw, in its sense of twisting and turning.
1481.515-545 This strongly felt and written psychological picture seems to reveal the seriousness of the poet's later
ears, when the sensuous beauty-world of boyhood was no
onger sufficient to distract the soul from the “burthen of the mystery,” which no highly-gifted spirit can long escape recognizing.
150 l. 602 shent: disgraced.
152 l. 671 This line presents the single clear trace of experience derived from his medical training which I am aware of, in all the poetry of Keats. The absence of such is remarkable; for anatomy and physiology are fertile in suggestive images, beautiful or powerful, for poetry.
— I. 695-714 The sustained flow and clear diction of these beautiful lines, like those noticed (515-545),=foreshadow the poet's maturest style. There is in #: book,+apparently not written in immediate sequence with the preceding, an ideal character, strangely blended with a few notes of i. human feeling, which seems to me similarly preusive.
162 For this note Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, the publishers,
appear to be responsible. The reason here alleged for the
163 Lamia, in hand by July 12, was finished by September
5, 1819. I give these and similar dates, because in the short life and (if the phrase may be admitted) tropical rapidity of growth in the mind and powers of Keats, months count like the years of advance in case of ordinary mortals. Lamia, placed first in the volume of 1820, may, however, be considered as his last poem: written “with great care, and after much study of Dryden's versification.” “I have great hopes of success,” says Keats in his letter of 12 July 1819, “because I make use of my judgment more deliberately than I have yet done; but in case of failure with the world, I shall find my content.” The clear, close narration, and the metre of Zamia, reveal at once the influence of Dryden's Tales: Keats here freely admits the Alexandrine, and the coupletstructure is much more marked than in Endymion or the Epistles: while he has admirably found and sustained the balance between a blank-verse treatment of the “Heroic” and the epigrammatic form carried to perfection by Pope. A little of the early mannerism remains : but those overdaring strokes of imaginative diction, those epithets jarringly bold or familiar, which we find in the volumes of 1817 and 1818, have here given place to the secure and lucid touches of masterly art. Details no longer urge themselves forward in lavish and bewildering profusion: the whole is supreme over the parts, every word in its place, and yielding its effect in fulness. The rhyme, in Endymion often forced, is managed with an “opulent ease,” a Spenserian fluency. Lamia leaves on my ear an echo like the delicate richness of Vergil's hexameter in the Eclogues : the note of his magical inner sweetness is, in some degree, reached upon a different instrument. I offer this as an illustration, without wishing to press far the parallel between the two great Poets; yet we are reminded of Vergil's grand style by the exquisite skill with which Lamia's love-song (p. 17o, l. 2832), like that of Silenus in Eclogue VI, is brought in without breaking the current and continuity of the metre.
163 After the remarks on the Hellenism of Keats in my note upon Endymion, it may be enough here to add that Lamia is truly Greek in its direct lucidity of phrase, in its touches fresh from Nature, in its descriptive details subordinated to serious human interest. It is Greek also, (though of a lower phase), in its simple sensuousness, which indeed, at times, though rarely, (as in p. 171, l. 20-25), passes the line of taste : whilst here, also, the Peris and Adam touch a dissonant chord. Some writers of modern date have gained the praise of being Greek by linguistic turns, quaint archaeological accuracy, or baldness supposed statuesque:–Keats cares for none of these things; so far as he is Greek, he is so by birthright; yet, as mere truthful description, nothing, probably, can be found more true to Hellenic life than such a picture as that given, -p. 172, l. 1-12,-of Corinth at night-fall.
Damia is, however, essentially “romantic” rather than “classical,”—as the Eze of St. Agnes is a frank piece of mediaeval legend.
Poetry more absolutely and triumphantly poetical than these two tales display, I know in no literature: if the estimate may be hazarded, they appear to me emphatically the masterpieces among the Poet's longer j.
165 l. 12 the star of Lethe : Hermes, apparently, is here thus named in allusion to his office of soul-leader from life to Tartarus.
1671. 24 Whither fled Lamia : Cenchréae is a seaport on the south side of the Isthmus of Corinth ; the Peraea, a mountainous district to north-west. Cleone lies to the southward.
168 l. 12 unshent: Keats here seems to use this, one of his favourite old words, as equivalent to maiden.
183 Isabella: finished by 27 Ap. 1818, at Teignmouth. The source is Boccaccio's Decamerone, Gior. iv, Nov. 5, where the tale is placed in the mouth of Philomena. But the story, rather baldly told, is without the fine detail, the touches of character, the depth of sentiment, the poetry, in short, with which Keats has clothed it. In st. xix he makes a graceful apology for his enlargement of the original theme by the episode upon Isabella's brothers and their trading ventures. Boccaccio, true to his usual creeping morality, treats their conduct to Lorenzo as a piece of natural common sense. — The old literary superstition, (analogous to that which placed Ariosto among the supreme poets, or Guido among the supreme painters, of the world), clinging still about Boccaccio, influenced Leigh Hunt, and, probably through him, Keats. But although the Decamerone had great value in its own day as a master; work in style, singularly graceful and lucid in point of narrative diction, yet it really contains very few stories
183 which, even, looking to bare plan and form, have any poetical merit: whilst in his moralization and the general character of his tales, Boccaccio is own brother to Polonius. Even the skill and taste of Keats have not here fully succeeded in turning the coarse, physical motives common to the Decamerone and other mediaeval stories, into beauty. Yet the pathos and picturesqueness of the whole is such that we have no reason to regret that song upon the fate of the lovers which, (according to oil. “anchora hoggi si canta,”—in Naples or Messina.
185 st. ix. Some overcolour, some overpressure of the phrase remains here: so in st. xiii:—Keats has not yet reached the self-restraint and clearness of his latest work. But the rhyme is very rarely forced.
187 st. xvi, xvii. The general sense of these stanzas is more intelligible than the expression, in which closeness and condensation pass into obscurity. Hawks of the o: mast forests. I take to be, Ready to pounce on the trading-vessels as they come in : Malay, Oriental trade in general.
195 st. 1, l. 1 the Perséan sword: Perseus, the slayer of Medusa.
196 st. liv, l. 8 leasts: In this pretty diminutive, (whether borrowed by Keats or coined), the analogy of 770 weret may have been followed.
200 The Eze of St. Agnes : Keats, doubtless, was indebted for his subject to Brand’s “Popular Antiquities,” 1795. “On the eve of her day,” 21 Jan., that writer says, “many kinds of divination were practised by virgins to discover their future husbands.” He cites some lines, assigned to Ben Jonson, upon the subject, and refers to Burton's “Anatomy of Melancholy,” as speaking of “Maid's fasting on St. Agnes' Eve, to know who shall be their first husband.” A long quotation from an old chap-book then gives the legend in detail;—furnishing obviously the outline of our poem. St. Agnes' wool (st. xiii) is that shorn from two lambs which, (allusive to the Saint's name), were upon that day brought to Mass, and offered whilst the Agnus was chanted. The wool was then spun, dressed, and woven by the hand of Nuns. It is, apparently, as a poetical contrast to the fasting which was generally accepted as the due method by which a maiden was to prepare herself for the Vision, that the gorgeous supper-picture of st. xxx was introduced. Keats, who was Leigh Hunt's guest at the time when this volume appeared, read aloud the passage to Hunt, with manifest Fo in his work :- the sole instance I can recall when the poet,_modest in proportion to
his greatness, yielded even to so innocent an impulse of vanity.