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he was an idle fellow, who would never come to any good; but he felt within himself a conviction that he could make his way successfully through the world. His guardian, a wise old London merchant, shared this opinion, and always predicted that George would turn out well.
His first act on coming of age did not seem, to the worldly wise, to favor this view. He married a young lady, the daughter of a British Colonel, but without fortune, and came with her to America. They did not, however, act without reflection. George had only four or five thousand dollars, and knew that if he remained in London, he could not be married for years. Nor would he be able to support his wife in any of the Atlantic cities, in the society to which they had been accustomed. But by going at once to the West, they might live, without much society, to be sure, but yet with comfort, and the prospect of improving their condition. Therefore see this boy and girl, he twentyone and she sixteen, leaving home and friends, and going to be happy in each other's love, in the wild regions beyond the Alleghanies. Happy is he whose first great step in life is the result not of outward influences, but of his own well considered purpose. Such a step seems to make him free for the rest of his days.
Journeys were not made in those days as they are now. Mr. Keats bought a carriage and horses in Philadelphia, with which he travelled to Pittsburgh, and then they descended the Ohio in a keel-boat, sending their horses on by land to Cincinnati. This voyage of six hundred miles down the river was full of romance to these young people. No steam-boat then disturbed, with its hoarse pantings, the sleep of those beautiful shores. Day after day, they floated tranquilly on, as through a succession of fairy lakes, sometimes in the shadow of the lofty and wooded bluff, sometimes by the side of wide-spread meadows, or beneath the graceful overhanging branches of the cotton-wood and sycamore. Sometimes, while the boat floated lazily along, the young people would go ashore and walk through the woods across a point, around which the river made a bend. All uncertain as their prospects were, they could easily, amid the luxuriance of nature, abandon themselves to the enjoyment of the hour.
Mr. Keats made a visit of some months to Henderson, 63
VOL. III. — NO. IV.
Ky., where he resided in the same house with Mr. Audubon, the naturalist. He was still undetermined what to do. One day, he was trying to chop a log, and Audubon, who had watched him for some time, at last said, “I am sure you will do well in this country, Keats. A man who will persist, as you have been doing, in chopping that log, though it has taken you an hour to do what I could do in ten minutes, will certainly get along here." Mr Keats said that he accepted the omen, and felt encouraged by it.
After investing the greatest part of his money in a boat, and losing the whole of it, he took charge of a flour mill, and worked night and day with such untiring energy, that he soon found himself making progress. After a while he left this business and engaged in the lumber trade, by which in the course of some years he accumulated a handsome fortune. In the course of this business he was obliged. to make visits to the lumberers, which often led him into wild scenes and adventures. Once, when he was taking a journey on horseback, to visit some friends on the British Prairie, he approached the Wabash in the afternoon, at a time when the river had overflowed its banks. Following the horse path, for there was no carriage road, he came to a succession of little lakes, which he was obliged to ford. But when he reached the other side it was impossible to find the path again, and equally difficult to, regain it by recrossing. The path here went through a canebrake, and the cane grew so close together that the track could only be distinguished when you were actually upon it. What was to be done? There was no human being for miles around, and no one might pass that way for weeks. To stop or to go on seemed equally dangerous. But at last Mr. Keats discovered the following expedient, the only one perhaps, that could have saved him. The direction of the path he had been travelling was east and west. He turned and rode toward the south, until he was sure that he was to the South of the track. He then returned slowly to the North, carefully examining the ground as he passed along, until at last he found himself crossing the path, which he took, and reached the river in safety.
George Keats not only loved his brother John, but reverenced his genius, and enjoyed his poetry, believing him to belong to the front rank of English bards. Modern
criticism seems disposed to concur with this judgment. A genuine and discriminating appreciation of his brother's poetry always gave him great pleasure. He preserved and highly prized John's letters, and unpublished verses, the copy of Spenser filled with his works, which he had read when a boy, and which had been to him a very valuable source of poetic inspiration, and a Milton in which were preserved in a like manner John's marks and comments. From a fly-leaf of this book, I was permitted to copy the passages I now send you. I know not whether you will agree with me in their being among the most striking criticisms we possess upon this great author. That the love of the brothers was mutual, appears from the following lines from one of John's poems, inscribed "To my brother George."
"As to my sonnets, though none else should heed them,
Of late too, I have had much calm enjoyment,
Less than two years ago, in the prime of life and the midst of usefulness, George Keats passed into the spiritual world. The city of Louisville lost in him one of its most public-spirited and conscientious citizens. The Unitarian Society of that place lost one, who, though he had been confirmed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, was too honest not to leave the popular and fashionable church for an unpopular faith, which was more of a home to his mind. For myself, I have ever felt that it was quite worth my while to go and live in Louisville, if I had gained thereby nothing but the knowledge and friendship of such a man. I did not see him in his last days. I was already living in a distant region. But when he died, I felt that I had indeed lost a friend. We cannot hope to find many such in this world. We are fortunate if we find any. Yet I could not but believe that he had gone to find his brother again among
"The spirits and intelligences fair,
And angels waiting on the Almighty's chair."
The love for his brother, which continued through his life to be among the deepest affections of his soul, was a pledge of their reunion again in the spirit-land.
Perhaps I have spoken too much of one who was necessarily a stranger to most of your readers. But I could not bear that he should pass away and nothing be said to tell the world how much went with him. And the Dial, which he always read, and in whose aims he felt a deep interest, though not always approving its methods, seems not an improper place, nor this a wholly unsuitable occasion, for thus much to be said concerning GEORGE KEats. With much regard yours,
Boston, March 13, 1843.
J. F. C.
REMARKS ON JOHN MILTON, BY JOHN KEATS, WRITTEN IN THE FLYLEAF OF PARADISE LOST.
The genius of Milton, more particularly in respect to its span in immensity, calculated him by a sort of birthright for such an argument as the Paradise Lost. He had an exquisite passion for what is properly, in the sense of ease and pleasure, poetical luxury; and with that it appears to me he would fain have been content, if he could, so doing, preserve his self-respect and feel of duty performed; but there was working in him, as it were, that same sort of thing which operates in the great world to the end of a prophecy's being accomplished. Therefore he devoted himself rather to the ardors than the pleasures of song, solacing himself at intervals with cups of old wine; and those are, with some exceptions, the finest parts of the poem. With some exceptions; for the spirit of mounting and adventure can never be unfruitful nor unrewarded. Had he not broken through the clouds which envelope so deliciously the Elysian fields of verse, and committed himself to the Extreme, we should never have seen Satan as described,
"But his face
Deep scars of thunder had entrenched." &c.
There is a greatness which the Paradise Lost possesses over every other Poem, the magnitude of contrast, and that is softened by the contrast being ungrotesque to a
degree. Heaven moves on like music throughout. Hell is also peopled with angels; it also moves on like music, not grating and harsh, but like a grand accompaniment in the bass to Heaven.
There is always a great charm in the openings of great Poems, particularly where the action begins, as that of Dante's Hell. Of Hamlet, the first step must be heroic and full of power; and nothing can be more impressive and shaded than the commencement of the action here.
"Round he throws his baleful eyes
That witnessed huge affliction and dismay,
The dismal situation, waste and wild;
As one great furnace, flamed; yet from those flames
Served only to discover sights of woe,
With ever burning sulphur unconsumed;
Par. Lost, Book I. Ul. 56-81.
"To slumber here, as in the vales of Heaven."
Book I. 1. 321.
There is a cool pleasure in the very sound of vale. The English word is of the happiest chance. Milton has put vales in Heaven and Hell with the very utter affection and yearning of a great Poet. It is a sort of