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“ Life's gay

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malady; and, though there was as yet Deep on thy soul, before its powers no distinct symptom of consumption in

Are yet by vice enslaved,

Be thy Creator's glorious name Keats, he was often flushed and fever

And character engraved." ish, and had his secret fears. He had many hours of sprightliness, however, How remorselessly Wordsworth would when these fears would vanish, and he have torn this passage to pieces—as, would be full of frolic and life. In indeed, he did a similar paraphrase of allusion to this occasional excess of fun Scripture by Dr. Johnson ! and animal spirits, his friends punned morn !” “sprightly youth!” he would

! upon his name, shortening it from have said, - meaningless expressions, “John Keats" into “Junkets." Still, used because it is considered poetical to amid all--in his times of despondency, stick an adjective before every noun, as well as in his seasons of hope- and “gay” and “sprightly" are adjecPoetry was his ceaseless thought, and tives conveniently in stock! Then, to be a Poet his one ambition.

"sprightly youth with vital ardour

glows"--what is this but slip-shod ; “O for ten years, that I may overwhelm and, besides, why tug the verb to the Myself in Poesy ! So I may do the deed end of the phrase, and say That my own soul has to itself decreed!"

vital ardour glows" instead of "glows

with vital ardour," as you would do in Of what kind this intended deed was natural speech? O, of course, the we have also some indication. Like all

rhyme! Yes; but who asked you to the fresher young poets of his time, rhyme at all, in the first place ? and, in Keats had imbibed, partly from con- the next place, if you were bent on stitutional predisposition, partly from rhyming, and found "ardour” would conscious reasoning, that theory of Poetry not suit at the end of your precious which, for more than twenty years,

line, that was your difficulty, not mine! Wordsworth had been disseminating by

What are you a poet for but to overprecept and by example through the

come such difficulties, or what right literary mind of England. This theory, have you to extract the rhythms and in its historical aspect, I will venture to rhymes that you want in your craft as call Pre-Drydenism. Its doctrine, his

a versifier by the mere torture of honest torically, was that the age of true Eng- prose ? And then, worse and worse, lish Poetry was the period anterior to

“ Youth,” already“ glowing” with this Dryden-the period of Chaucer, Spenser, “ vital ardour,” also, it seems, “shines,” Shakespeare, Fletcher

, and Milton; and and (marvellous metaphor !) shines "with that, with a few exceptions, the subse

charms"-which "charms" (metaphor quent period, from Dryden inclusively

still more helpless !) are “the fairest down to the time of Wordsworth's own

charms disclosed by beauty !” And so appearance as a poet, had been a prosaic

on he would have gone, pointing out interregnum, during which what passed the flaws of meaning and of expression for poetry was either an inflated style in the next stanza in the same stern of diction which custom had rendered

Pass, he would have said at pleasing, or, at best, shrewd sense and

last, from this poor jingle of words to wit, or miscellaneous cogitation more or the simple and beautiful text of which less weighty, put into metre.

it is offered as a paraphrase : “RememTake an example. Here are two

“ber now thy Creator in the days of stanzas from a well-known paraphrase “thy youth, while the evil days come of Scripture, still sung in churches over

not, nor the years draw nigh, when a large part of the kingdom.

“ thou shalt say,

I have no pleasure in

“ them.” The defects he would have " In life's gay morn, when sprightly youth With vital ardour glows,

continued, seen on a small scale in the And shines in all the fairest charms

foregoing metrical version of this pas

manner.

ance

or where he and Shelley, sat when such touched the attention of the public, and such a poem was recited, or the though it served to show his power to exact spot in a path through the fields his immediate friends. He was then twowhere. Coleridge took leave of him and and-twenty years of age; and his appear

· Charles Lamb, to dawdle back to his was rather singular. Coleridge, home at Highgate, and where Lamb, who once shook hands with him, when while the departing skirts of the sage he met him with Hunt in a lane near were still visible, stuttered out some Highgate, describes him as “a loose, pun about his personal appearance and slack, not well-dressed youth.” The his last metaphysical monologue. At descriptions of Hunt and others are the particular time of which we are more particular. He was considerably now speaking, Leigh Hunt was living under middle height—his lower limbs

, at Hampstead, where also lived Mr. being small, in comparison with the Armitage Brown, a retired merchant of

upper, to a degree that marred his whole literary tastes, and others of whom it proportion. His shoulders were very is not necessary to take note ; and there, broad for his size ; his face was strongly in the evenings, at the houses of such cut, yet delicately mobile, expressing men, artists and others would drop in; an unusual combination of determinaand then, O ye future critics of Black- tion with sensibility—its worst feature wood and the Quarterly, what wit there being the mouth, which had a projecting would be, what music, what portfolios upper lip, and altogether a savage pugiof sketches and engravings, what white listic look. Nor did the look belie him. casts from the antique, what talk about He had great personal courage, and once poetry and literature ! From that time, took the trouble to thrash a butcher for with scarcely an exception, Hampstead some insolent conduct in a regular was the London home of Keats—first stand-up fight. His hair was brown, as a guest of Leigh Hunt, or a lodger and his eyes large, and of a dark, glowing near to him ; and afterwards, and more blue. “ His head," says Leigh Hunt, permanently, as a guest of Mr. Armitage was a puzzle for the phrenologists, Brown. Indeed, just as Wordsworth and “ being remarkably small in the skullhis associates were supposed to have a singularity which he had in common constituted themselves into a school by with Byron and Shelley, whose hats I retiring to Cumberland and Westmore- “ could not get on.” His voice, unlike land, in order to be in closer relations Shelley's, was deep and grave. His entire to nature, as exhibited in that district expression was that of eager power; and, of lake and mountain, so it might have in contradiction of what was observed of been suggested maliciously of Keats, him at an earlier period, he was now Hunt, and the rest of their set, that easily, though still apparently against the difference between them and this his will, betrayed into signs of veheelder school was, that what they called ment emotion. “ At the recital of a nature was nature as seen from Hamp- “noble action, or a beautiful thought," stead Heath. As the one set of poets says Mr. Hunt, “ his eyes would suffuse had received from their Edinburgh with tears, and his mouth trembled.” critics the name of "the Lakists," so, On hearing of some unmanly conduct, to make the joke correspond, the others, he once burst out, “ Why is there instead of being called “the Cockney “ not a human dust-hole into which to poets,” might have been named the " tumble such fellows ?Evidently Hampstead Heath-ens.

ill-health, as well as imaginative temKeats signalized his accession to this perament, had to do with this inability peculiar literary group by publishing, to restrain tears and other signs of in 1817, a little volume of poems, con

agitated feeling. His mother had died taining some of his sonnets and other of consumption at a comparatively early pieces now appended to his longer and age ;

his younger brother, Tom, was later compositions. The volume scarcely already far gone in the same fatal

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O,

malady; and, though there was as yet Deep on thy soul, before its powers no distinct symptom of consumption in

Are yet by vice enslaved,

Be thy Creator's glorious name Keats, he was often flushed and fever

And character engraved.” ish, and had his secret fears. He had many hours of sprightliness, however, How remorselessly Wordsworth would when these fears would vanish, and he have torn this passage to pieces—as, would be full of frolic and life. In indeed, he did a similar paraphrase of allusion to this occasional excess of fun Scripture by Dr. Johnson! “Life's gay and animal spirits, his friends punned morn !” “sprightly youth !” he would upon his name, shortening it from have said, - meaningless expressions, John Keats" into “Junkets." Still, used because it is considered poetical to amid all-in his times of despondency, stick an adjective before every noun, as well as in his seasons of hope and "gay" and "sprightly” are adjec

““ Poetry was his ceaseless thought, and tives conveniently in stock! Then, to be a Poet his one ambition.

“sprightly youth with vital ardour

glows"-what is this but slip-shod ; "O for ten years, that I may overwhelm and, besides, why tug the verb to the Myself in Poesy ! So I may do the deed end of the phrase, and say “ with That my own soul has to itself decreed!"

vital ardour glows" instead of “glows

with vital ardour," as you would do in Of what kind this intended deed was natural speech ? of course,

the we have also some indication. Like all

rhyme! Yes; but who asked you to the fresher young poets of his time, rhyme at all, in the first place ? and, in Keats had imbibed, partly from con- the next place, if you were bent on stitutional predisposition, partly from rhyming, and found "ardour" would conscious reasoning, that theory of Poetry not suit at the end of your precious which, for more than twenty years, line, that was your difficulty, not mine! Wordsworth had been disseminating by What are you a poet for but to overprecept and by example through the

come such difficulties, or what right literary mind of England. This theory,

have you to extract the rhythms and in its historical aspect, I will venture to rhymes that you want in your craft as call Pre-Drydenism. Its doctrine, his

a versifier by the mere torture of honest torically, was that the age of true Eng- prose? And then, worse and worse, lish Poetry was the period anterior to

Youth,” already “glowing” with this Dryden- the period of Chaucer, Spenser, “ vital ardour," also, it seems, "shines,” Shakespeare, Fletcher, and Milton; and and (marvellous metaphor !) shines “with that, with a few exceptions, the subse- charms"-which

charms"

(metaphor quent period, from Dryden inclusively still more helpless !) are “the fairest down to the time of Wordsworth's own charms disclosed by beauty !” And so appearance as a poet, had been a prosaic

on he would have gone, pointing out interregnum, during which what passed the flaws of meaning and of expression for poetry was either an inflated style in the next stanza in the same stern of diction which custom had rendered

Pass, he would have said at pleasing, or, at best, shrewd sense and last, from this poor jingle of words to wit, or miscellaneous cogitation more or the simple and beautiful text of which less weighty, put into metre.

it is offered as a paraphrase : “RememTake an example. Here are two

“ ber now thy Creator in the days of stanzas from a well-known paraphrase “thy youth, while the evil days come of Scripture, still sung in churches over

“not, nor the years draw nigh, when a large part of the kingdom.

“ thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in

“ them.” The defects he would have “In life's gay morn, when sprightly youth With vital ardour glows,

continued, seen on a small scale in the And shines in all the fairest charms

foregoing metrical version of this pas

manner.

I am

essence.

whole course of English poetry after which he had been struggling that a Milton—with here and there, as in modified Pre-Drydenism was universally Thomson and Dyer, a remarkable excep- diffused through English literary society; tion. There was then no faithfulness and the so-called Cockney, or Hampto fact in description or in imagery from stead-Heath, School, with which accident nature, ro natural speech in verse, no- had associated Keats, were largely tinged thing save more or less of intellectual with it. They did not, indeed, go all vigour exhibited through an artificial the length with Wordsworth in depreform of diction, to which men had ciating Dryden and Pope (as who grown so accustomed that they had could ?); but a superior relish for the ceased to inspect it logically. Even older poets was one of their avowed men of real genius, such as Dryden characteristics. But in this, I believe, himself and Pope, were in the bulk of Keats went beyond the rest of them. their writings but splendid practitioners It may be perceived, I think, that, with of a false style, which, when men had all his esteem for Hunt and Shelley, been educated to see its viciousness, both as lind personal friends and as would mar their fame as poets.

poets, he had notions respecting himself not here discussing Words- which led him, even while in their worth's theory; I am only stating it. society and accounted one of them, to Keats, I repeat, had adopted this theory, fix his gaze with steadier reverence than if not in all its particulars, at least in its they did on the distant veteran of Rydal Thus, in one of his pieces,

Mount. To Wordsworth alone does he after speaking of the greatness of his seem to have looked as, all in all, a subfavourite old Engish poets, he says- limity among contemporary poets.

So far, however, as Keats had yet “Could all this be forgotten? Yes, a schism been publicly heard of, it was only as · Nurtured by foppery and barbarism Made great Apollo blush for this his land.

one fledgling more in the brood of poets Men were thought wise who could not un- whose verses were praised in the Eraderstand

miner. What he had yet published His glories : with a puling infant's force were but little studies in language and They sway'd about upon a rocking horse

versification preparatory to something And thought it Pegasus. Ah, dismal-soul'd! The winds of heaven blew, the ocean roll'd

that could be called a poem.

Such a Its gathering waves ;-ye felt it not. The blue poem he now resolved to write. Always Bared its eternal bosom, and the dew drawn by a kind of mental affinity to Of summer-night collected still to make The morning precious; Beauty was awake!

the sensuous Mythology of the Greeks, Why were ye not awake! But ye were dead

he had chosen for his subject the legend To things ye knew not of, -- were closely wed of Endymion, the youthful lover of the To musty laws, lined out with wretched rule

moon-goddess Artemis. “A long poem,” And compass vile; so that ye taught a school Of dolts to smoothe, inlay, and clip and fit,

he said, “is the test of invention ; and Till, like the certain wands of Jacob's wit,

it will be a test of my invention if I Their verses tallied. Easy was the task : can make 4,000 lines out of this one A thousand handicraftsmen wore the mask bare circumstance, and fill them with Of poesy. Ill-fated, impious race ! That blasphemed the bright Lyrist to his

poetry.” To accomplish his task, he faoe,

left London in the spring of 1817, and And did not know it! No, they went about, took up his abode first in the Isle of Holding a poor decrepit standard out, Wight, then at Margate (at both of Mark'd with most flimsy mottoes, and, in which places he revelled in the views of

large, The name of one Boileau !"

the sea as a newly-found pleasure), and

then, successively, at Canterbury, OxKeats, then, was a Pre-Drydenist in ford, and other places inland. In the his notions of poetry, and in his own winter of 1817-18 he returned to intentions as

a poetic artist. But I Hampstead with the four books of his will say more.

Wordsworth had then Endymion completed. The absence of so far conquered the opposition through seven or eight months, during which

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this poem was written, was also the waywardness in the sequence of the period during which many of those thoughts, arising from a passive deletters to his friends were written which pendence of the matter at every point have been edited by Mr. Monckton on the mere suggestion of the rhyme ! Milnes, in his Memoir of the poet. These and other such objections were These letters have hardly received the heard on all hands. Worst of all, attention they deserve. They are very

Wordsworth had no approbation to remarkable letters. One can see, indeed, give. At Haydon's, one evening, when that they are the letters of an intellectual Wordsworth was present, Keats was ininvalid, of a poor youth too conscious of duced to repeat to him the famous Hymn " the endeavour of this present breath," to Pan, which Shelley had praised as watching incessantly his own morbid that in the whole poem which “gave symptoms, and communicating them to “the surest sign of ultimate excellence.” his friends. There is also in them a The iron-grey poet heard it to the end, somewhat unnatural straining after and then only remarked that it was quaint and facetious conceits, as if he pretty piece of paganism." And so, would not write common-place, but

with no

more encouragement than would force himself by the mere brief usually falls to the lot of a young man rumination of the moment into some in such cases, Keats had to keep his minute originality or whim of fancy. own counsel, and look forward to other On the whole, however, with the proper works, in which, choosing more solid allowance, the letters may be read with- subjects, he should exert his powers. out any injury to the highest notion of more compactly and impressively, and him that may be formed from his com- win, by better-disciplined strokes, the positions that were meant for publica- recognition which the world yields so tion; and there have not been many slowly to forms of genius differing from young poets of whose casual letters as those to which it has been accustomed. much could be said. They abound in His was certainly a new faculty, which shrewd observations, in delicate and had to create and educate the taste by subtle criticisms, in fine touches of de- which it should itself be appreciated; scription, and in thoughts of a philoso- and his hope, therefore, lay with the phical kind that are at once comprehen- body of the growing youth of the land, sive and deep.

whose perpetual privilege it is that they Endymion : A Poetic Romance," ap- alone can receive and enjoy without peared in the beginning of 1818. Its criticising. No man was ever fully and reception was not wholly satisfactory. heartily accepted, among his own sex, It made Keats's name more widely except by those younger than himself. known; it procured him visits and in- Keats, there is no doubt, was previtations; and, when he attended Haz- pared to wait and work on.

The story litt's lectures, ladies to whom he was of his having been killed by the savage pointed out looked at him instead of article in the Quarterly is proved to listening to the lecturer.

But Hunt, have been wholly untrue. He had Shelley, and the rest, though they ad- sense enough and pluck enough to get mired the poem, and thought some over that chagrin within the usual passages in it very wonderful, had many period of twenty-four hours, which, if faults to find. The language in many there is any use for human spirits in parts was juvenile, not to say untasteful; the earth's rotation, ought to bring them such phrases as “honey-feel of bliss” as well as other things round again to were too frequent; it was impossible

the status quo.

But other causes were for

any understanding of a rational sort at work, some of which are but dimly to reconcile itself to such a bewildering revealed by his biographer, but the

a plenitude of luxuriant invention raised chief of which was

was his hereditary on such a mere nothing of a basis ; and, malady of consumption. In the winter

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