Imatges de pàgina

Leading to universal knowledge-see,

Great son of Dryope,

The many that are come to pay their vows
With leaves about their brows!"

In the subsequent discourse of Endymion and Peona he tells her the story of those celestial visitations which he scarce knows whether he has experienced or dreamed. In Keats's conception of his youthful heroes there is at all times a touch, not the wholesomest, of effeminacy and physical softness, and the influence of passion he is apt to make fever and unman them quite as indeed a helpless and enslaved submission of all the faculties to love proved, when it came to the trial, to be a weakness of his own nature. He partly knew it, and could not help it: but the consequence is that the love-passages of Endymion, notwithstanding the halo of beautiful tremulous imagery that often plays about them, can scarcely be read with pleasure. On the other hand, in matters of subordinate feeling he shows not only a great rhetorical facility, but the signs often of lively dramatic power; as for instance in the remonstrance wherein Peona tries to make her brother ashamed of his weakness:

"Is this the cause?

This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas!

That one who through this middle earth should pass

Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave

His name upon the harp-string, should achieve
No higher bard than simple maidenhood,
Sighing alone, and fearfully-how the blood
Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray
He knew not where; and how he would say, Nay,

If any said 'twas love: and yet 'twas love;
What could it be but love? How a ring-dove

Let fall a sprig of yew-tree in his path;

And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe

The gentle heart, as Northern blasts do roses.

And then the ballad of his sad life closes

With sighs, and an alas! Endymion !"

In the second book the hero sets out in quest of his felicity, and is led by obscure signs and impulses through a mysterious and all but trackless region of adventure. In the first vague imaginings of youth, conceptions of natural and architectural marvels, unlocalized and halfrealized in mysterious space, are apt to fill a large part, and to such imaginings Keats in this book lets himself go without a check. A Naiad in the disguise of a butterfly leads Endymion to her spring, and there reveals herself and bids him be of good hope; an airy voice next invites him to descend "Into the sparry hollows of the world;" which done, he gropes his way to a subterranean temple of dim and most un - Grecian magnificence, where he is admitted to the presence of the sleeping Adonis, and whither Venus herself presently repairing gives him encouragement. Thence, urged by the haunting passion within him, he wanders on by dizzy paths and precipices, and forests of leaping, ever-changing fountains. Through all this phantasmagoria, engendered by a brain still teeming with the rich first fumes of boyish fancy, and in great part confusing and inappropriate, shine out at intervals strokes of the true old-world poetry, admirably felt and expressed

"He sinks adown a solitary glen,

Where there was never sound of mortal men,
Saving, perhaps, some snow-light cadences

Melting to silence, when upon the breeze

Some holy bark let forth an anthem sweet
To cheer itself to Delphi,"

or presences of old religion strongly conceived and realized:

"Forth from a rugged arch, in the dusk below,

Came mother Cybele-alone-alone-
In sombre chariot; dark foldings thrown
About her majesty, and front death-pale,
With turrets crowned."

After seeing the vision of Cybele, Endymion, still travelling through the bowels of the earth, is conveyed on an eagle's back down an unfathomable descent, and alighting, presently finds a “jasmine bower," whither his celestial mistress again stoops to visit him. Next he encounters the streams, and hears the voices of Arethusa and Alpheus on their fabled flight to Ortygia; as they disappear down a chasm, he utters a prayer to his goddess in their behalf, and then

"He turn'd-there was a whelming sound-he stept,
There was a cooler light; and so he kept

Towards it by a sandy path, and lo!

More suddenly than doth a moment go,

The visions of the earth were gone and fled-
He saw the giant sea above his head."

Hitherto Endymion has been wholly absorbed in his own passion and adventures, but now the fates of others claim his sympathy: first, those of Alpheus and Arethusa, and next, throughout nearly the whole of the third book, those of Glaucus and Scylla. Keats handles this latter legend with great freedom, omitting its main point, the transformation of Scylla by Circe into a devouring monster, and making the enchantress punish her rival, not by this vile metamorphosis, but by death; or rather a trance resembling death, from which, after many ages, Glaucus is

enabled by Endymion's help to rescue her, and together with her the whole sorrowful fellowship of true lovers drowned at sea. From the point in the hero's submarine adventures where he first meets Glaucus,

"He saw far in the green concave of the sea
An old man sitting calm and peacefully.
Upon a weeded rock this old man sat,

And his white hair was awful, and a mat

Of weeds was cold beneath his cold thin feet"

-from this passage to the end of the book, in spite of redundance and occasional ugly flaws, Keats brings home his version of the myth with strong and often exquisite effect to the imagination. No picture can well be more vivid than that of Circe pouring the magic phial upon her victims, and no speech much more telling than that with which the detected enchantress turns and scathes her unhappy lover. In the same book the description of the sunk treasures cumbering the ocean floor challenges comparison, not all unequally, with the famous similar passage in Shakspeare's Richard III. In the halls of Neptune Endymion again meets Venus, and receives from her more explicit encouragement than heretofore. Thence Nereids bear him earthward in a trance, during which he reads in spirit words of still more reassuring omen written in starlight on the dark. Since, in his adventure with Glaucus, he has allowed himself to be diverted from his own quest for the sake of relieving the sorrows of others, the hope which before seemed ever to elude him draws at last nearer to fulfilment.

It might seem fanciful to suppose that Keats had really in his mind a meaning such as this, but for the conviction he habitually declares that the pursuit of beauty as an aim

in life is only justified when it is accompanied by the idea of devotion to human service. And in his fourth book he leads his hero through a chain of adventures which seem certainly to have a moral and allegorical meaning, or none at all. Returning in that book to upper air, Endymion before long half forgets his goddess for the charms of an Indian maiden, the sound of whose lamentations reaches him while he is sacrificing in the forest, and who tells him how she has come wandering in the train of Bacchus from the east. This mysterious Indian maiden proves in fact to be no other than his goddess herself in disguise. But it is long before he discovers this, and in the meantime he is conducted by her side through a bewildering series of ærial ascents, descents, enchanted slumbers, and Olympian visions. All these, with his infidelity, which is no infidelity after all, his broodings in the Cave of Quietude, his illusions and awakenings, his final farewell. to mortality and to Peona, and reunion with his celestial mistress in her own shape, make up a narrative inextricably confused, which only becomes partially intelligible when we take it as a parable of a soul's experience in pursuit of the ideal. Let a soul enamoured of the idealsuch would seem the argument-once suffer itself to forget its goal, and to quench for a time its longings in the real, nevertheless it will be still haunted by that lost vision; amidst all intoxications, disappointment and lassitude will still dog it, until it awakes at last to find that the reality which has thus allured it derives from the ideal its power to charm, that it is after all but a reflection from the ideal, a phantom of it. What chiefly or alone makes the episode. poetically acceptable is the strain of lyric poetry which Keats has put into the mouth of the supposed Indian maiden when she tells her story. His later and more

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