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TO A LADY SEEN FOR A FEW MOMENTS AT VAUXHALL 123
TRANSLATION FROM A SONNET
all the day; Here, by turns, his dolphins all, Finny palmers, great and small, Come to pay devotion due, Each a mouth of pearls must strew! Many a mortal of these days Dares to pass our sacred ways; Dares to touch, audaciously, This cathedral of the sea ! I have been the pontiff-priest, Where the waters never rest, Where a fledgy sea-bird choir Soars for ever! Holy fire I have hid from mortal man; Proteus is my Sacristan! But the dulled eye of mortal Hath pass'd beyond the rocky portal; So for ever will I leave Such a taint, and soon unweave All the magic of the place.' So saying, with a Spirit's glance He dived !
Published in Life, Letters and Literary Remains in a letter to Reynolds, of which the probable date is September 22, 1818; in a letter to Charles Wentworth Dilke September 21, 1818, Keats quotes the last line with the remark: ‘You have passed your Romance, and I never gave in to it, or else I think this line a feast for one of your Lovers. The text of the sonnet will be found in the Appendix.
NATURE withheld Cassandra in the skies, For more adornment, a full thousand
years; She took their cream of Beauty's fairest
dyes, And shaped and tinted her above all
Peers: Meanwhile Love kept her dearly with his
wings, And underneath their shadow fill'd her
eyes With such a richness that the cloudy Kings
Of high Olympus utter'd slavish sighs. When from the Heavens I saw her est
descend, My heart took fire, and only burning
pains, They were my pleasures — they my Life's
sad end; Love pour'd her beauty into my warm
WRITTEN UPON THE TOP OF BEN NEVIS
Enclosed in a letter to Tom Keats from Letter Findlay, August 3, 1818.
Read me a lesson, Muse, and speak it loud
Upon the top of Nevis, blind in mist ! I look into the chasms, and a shroud Vaporous doth hide them, — just so
much I wist Mankind do know of hell; I look o'erhead,
And there is sullen mist, - even so much Mankind can tell of heaven; mist is spread Before the earth, beneath me,
such, Even so vague is man's sight of himself ! Here are the craggy stones beneath my
feet, Thus much I know that, a poor witless elf, I tread on them, — that all my eye doth
meet Is mist and crag, not only on this height, But in the world of thought and mental
TO A LADY SEEN FOR A FEW
MOMENTS AT VAUXHALL
First published in Hood's Magazine for April 1844, and afterward included in Life, Letters and Literary Remains. No date is given, and the poem is placed here from a fancied association with the lady whom Keats saw at Hastings and who started the train of thought in his letter to his brother and sister, October 25, 1818.
TIME's sea hath been five years at its slow Sit thee by the ingle, when ebb,
The sear faggot blazes bright, Long hours have to and fro let
the Spirit of a winter's night;
When the soundless earth is muffled,
When the Night doth meet the Noon
Sit thee there, and send abroad,
With a mind self-overawed, But to thy cheek my soul doth take its Fancy, high-commission'd: - send her! flight;
She has vassals to attend her:
fond ear, in fancy at thy lips Beauties that the earth hath lost; And hearkening for a love-sound, doth de- She will bring thee, all together,
All delights of summer weather; Its sweets in the wrong sense: - Thou All the buds and bells of May, dost eclipse
From dewy sward or thorny spray; Every delight with sweet remembering, All the heaped Autumn's wealth, And grief unto my darling joys dost bring. With a still, mysterious stealth:
She will mix these pleasures up
Like three fit wines in a cup, > FANCY
And thou shalt quaff it: -thou shalt hear Keats enclosed these lines, as lately written,
Distant harvest-carols clear; in a letter to George and Georgiana Keats,
Rustle of the reaped corn; January 2, 1819. He included the poem in the Sweet birds antheming the morn: 1820 volume. Mr. John Knowles Paine has And, in the same moment - bark ! published a cantata for soprano solo, chorus, 'T is the early April lark, and orchestra, entitled The Realm of Fancy, Or the rooks, with busy caw, using these lines for his book.
Foraging for sticks and straw. Ever let the Fancy roam,
Thou shalt, at one glance, behold Pleasure never is at home:
The daisy and the marigold; At a touch sweet Pleasure melteth, White-plumed lilies, and the first * Like to bubbles when rain pelteth;
Hedge-grown primrose that hath burst; 50 Then let winged Fancy wander
Shaded hyacinth, alway Through the thought still spread beyond Sapphire queen of the mid-May; her:
And every leaf, and every flower Open wide the mind's cage-door,
Pearled with the self-same shower. She 'll dart forth, and cloudward soar. Thou shalt see the field-mouse peep O sweet Fancy ! let her loose;
Meagre from its celled sleep; Summer's joys are spoilt by use,
And the snake all winter-thin And the enjoying of the Spring
Cast on sunny bank its skin; Fades as does its blossoming;
Freckled nest-eggs thou shalt see Autumn's red-lipp'd fruitage too,
Hatching in the hawthorn-tree, Blushing through the mist and dew, When the ben-bird's wing doth rest Cloys with tasting : What do then? Quiet on her mossy nest;
Then the hurry and alarm
With the spheres of sun and moon;
Ob, sweet Fancy ! let her loose; Every thing is spoilt by use; Where's the cheek that doth not fade, Too much gazed at ? Where 's the maid Whose lip mature is ever new ? Where's the eye, however blue, Doth not weary? Where's the face One would meet in every place ? Where's the voice, however soft, One would hear so very oft ? At a touch sweet Pleasure melteth Like to bubbles when rain pelteth. Let, then, winged Fancy find Thee a mistress to thy mind: Dulcet-eyed as Ceres' daughter Ere the God of Torment taught her How to frown and how to chide; With a waist and with a side White as Hebe's, when her zone Slipt its golden clasp, and down Fell her kirtle to her feet, While she eld the goblet sweet, And Jove grew languid. — Break the mesh Of the Fancy's silken leash; Quickly break her prison-string, And such joys as these she 'll bring. – Let the winged Fancy roam, Pleasure never is at home.
Thus ye live on high, and then
other souls are joying, Never slumber'd, never cloying. Here, your earth-born souls still speak To mortals, of their little week; Of their sorrows and delights; Of their passions and their spites; Of their glory and their shame; What doth strengthen and what maim. Thus ye teach us, every day, Wisdom, though fled far away.
But no sooner was this written, than the poet became conscious that the coarseness of the contrast would destroy the general effect of luxurious tenderness which it was the object of the poem to produce, and he confined the gross notion of Melancholy to less violent images, and let the ode at once begin, -'
>ODE ON MELANCHOLY
Published in Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of St. Agnes and other Poems, 1820. There is no date affixed to it, but if it takes its color at all from Keats's own experience, it might not be amiss to refer it to the early part of 1819, when he had come under the influence of his passion for Fanny Brawne. In a letter to Haydon, written between January 7 and 14, 1819, Keats says: 'I have been writing a little now and then lately : but nothing to speak of
being discontented and as it were moulting. Yet I do not think I shall ever come to the rope or the pistol. For after a day or two's melancholy, although I smoke more and more my own insufficiency - I see by little and little more of what is to be done, and how it is to be done, should I ever be able to do it.'
Lord Houghton, in the Aldine edition of 1876, makes the following prefatory note : • A singular instance of Keats's delicate perception occurred in the composition of this Ode. In the original manuscript he had intended to represent the vulgar conception of Melancholy with gloom and horror, in contrast with the emotion that incites to
No, no ! go not to Lethe, neither twist Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poison
ous wine; Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine; Make not your rosary of yew-berries, Nor let the beetle, or the death-moth be Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy
owl A partner in your sorrow's mysteries; For shade to shade will come too drows
ily, And drown the wakeful anguish of the
“glut thy sorrow on a morning rose Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave, Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
But when the melancholy fit shall fall Sudden from heaven like a weeping
cloud, That fosters the droop-headed flowers all, And hides the green hills in an April
shroud; Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose, Or on the rainbow of the salt-sand wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies; Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows, Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave, And feed deep, deep upon her peerless
and which essentially
“ lives in Beauty - Beauty that must die, And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips Bidding adieu."
And silent was the flock in woolly fold: Numb were the Beadsman's fingers, while
he told His rosary, and while his frosted breath, Like pious incense from a censer old, Seem'd taking flight for heaven, without
a death, Past the sweet Virgin's picture, while his
That ancient Beadsman heard the pre
lude soft; And so it chanced, for many a door was
wide, From hurry to and fro. Soon, up aloft, The silver, snarling trumpets 'gan to
chide: The level chambers, ready with their
pride, Were glowing to receive a thousand
guests: The carved angels, ever eager-eyed,
prayer he saith.