Imatges de pÓgina
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and lack of discipline and discrimination, not less than in its luxuriant strength and freshness, seems actually revived in him. He outdoes even Spenser in his proneness to let Invention ramble and loiter uncontrolled through what wildernesses she will, with Imagination at her heels to dress if possible in living beauty the wonders that she finds there; and sometimes Imagination is equal to the task

; and sometimes not: and even busy Invention herself occasionally flags, and is content to grasp at any idle clue the rhyme holds out to her:

"-a nymph of Dian's
Wearing a coronal of tender scions”-

“Does yonder thrush,
Schooling its half-fledged little ones to brush
About the dewy forest, whisper tales ?-
Speak not of grief, young stranger, or cold snails

Will slime the rose to-night." Chapman especially, among Keats's masters, had this trick of letting thought follow the chance dictation of rhyme. Spenser and Chapman—to say nothing of Chatterton-had farther accustomed his ear to experimental and rash dealings with their mother-tongue. English was almost as un

. settled a language for bim as for them, and he strives to extend its resources, and make them adequate to the range and freshness of his imagery, by the use of compound and other adjectival coinages in Chapman's spirit—" far-spooming Ocean," "eye-earnestly," "dead-drifting," “ their surly "

eyes brow-bidden,” nervy knees,” “surgy murmurs coinages sometimes legitimate or even happy, but often fantastic and tasteless, as well as by sprinkling his nineteenth-century diction with such archaisms as “shent,” "sith," and "seemlihed” from Spenser, “eterne" from Spenser and William Browne; or with arbitrary verbal

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forms, as "to folly," "to monitor," "gordian'd up," to

,' fragment up;" or with neuter verbs used as active, as to

travel” an eye, to “pace" a team of horses, and vice versa. Hence even when in the other qualities of poetry his work is good, in diction and expression it is apt to be lax and wavering, and full of oddities and discords.

In rhythm Keats adheres in Endymion to the method he had adopted in Sleep and Poetry, deliberately keeping the sentence independent of the metre, putting full panses anywhere in his lines rather than at the end, and avoiding any regular beat upon the rhyme. Leigh Hunt thought Keats had carried this method too far, even to the negation of metre. Some later critics have supposed the rhythm of Endymion to have been influenced by the Pharonnida of Chamberlayne: a fourth - rate poet, remarkable chiefly for two things—for the inextricable trailing involution of his sentences, exceeding that of the very worst prose of his time, and for a perverse persistency in ending bis heroic lines with the lightest syllables-prepositions, adverbs, and conjunctions-on which neither pause nor emphasis is possible. But Keats, even where his verse runs most diffusely,

The following is a fair and characteristic enough specimen of Chamberlayne:

“Upon the throne, in such a glorious state
As earth's adored favourites, there sat
The image of a monarch, vested in
The spoils of nature's robes, whose price had been
A diadem's redemption ; his large size,
Beyond this pigmy age, did equalize
The admired proportions of those mighty men
Whose cast-up bones, grown modern wonders, when
Found out, are carefully preserved to tell
Posterity how much these times are fell
From nature's youthful strength.”

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rarely fails in delicacy of musical and metrical ear, or in variety and elasticity of sentence structure. There is nothing in his treatment of the measure for which precedent may not be found in the work of almost every poet who employed it during the half-century that followed its brilliant revival for the purposes of narrative poetry by Marlowe. At most, he can only be said to make a rule of that which with the older poets was rather an exception; and to seek affinities for him among the tedious by-ways of provincial seventeenth-century verse seems quite superfluous.

As the best criticism on Keats's Endymion is in his own preface, so its best defence is in a letter he wrote six months after it was printed. “It is as good,” he says,

as I had power to make it by myself.” Hunt had warned him against the risks of a long poem, and Shelley against those of hasty publication. From much in his performance that was exuberant and crude the classical training and now ripening taste of Shelley might doubtless have saved him, had he been willing to listen. But he was determined that his poetry should at all times be the true spontaneous expression of his mind. “Had I been nervous,” he goes on, “about its being a perfect piece, and with that view asked advice, and trembled over every page, it would not have been written ; for it is not in my nature to fumble. I will write independently. I have written independently without judgment. I may write independently and with judgment hereafter. The genius of poetry must work out its own salvation in a

It cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itself.” How well Keats was able to turn the fruits of experience to the benefit of his art, how swift the genius of poetry in him was to work out, as he says, its own salvation, we shall see when we come to consider bis next labours.

man.

CHAPTER VI.

Northern Tour.—The Blackwood and Quarterly Reviews.—Death of

Tom Keats.—Removal to Wentworth Place.-Fanny Brawne.—Excursion to Chichester.—Absorption in Love and Poetry.-Haydon and Money Difficulties.-Family Correspondence.—Darkening Prospects.-Summer at Shanklin and Winchester.—Wise Resolutions.Return from Winchester. [June, 1818—October, 1819.]

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“I have many

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er.

WHILE Keats, in the spring of 1818, was still at Teignmouth, with Endymion on the eve of publication, he had been wavering between two different plans for the immediate future. One was to go for a summer's walking tour through Scotland with Charles Brown, reasons,” he writes to Reynolds, “ for going wonder-ways: to make my winter chair free from spleen; to enlarge my vision; to escape disquisitions on poetry, and Kingstoncriticism ; to promote digestion and economize shoe-leath

I'll have leather buttons and belt, and if Brown hold his mind, ‘over the hills we go. If my books will keep me to it, then will I take all Europe in turn, and see the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them.” A fortnight later we find him inclining to give up this purpose under an over-mastering sense of the inadequacy of his own attainments, and of the necessity of acquiring knowledge, and ever more knowledge, to sustain the flight of poetry :

“I was proposing to travel over the North this summer. There is but one thing to prevent me. I know nothing I have read nothing

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—and I mean to follow Solomon's directions, 'Get learning-get un. derstanding.' I find earlier days are gone by-I find that I can have no enjoyment in the world but continual drinking of knowledge. I find there is no worthy pursuit but the idea of doing some good to the world. Some do it with their society; some with their wit; some with their benevolence; some with a sort of power of conferring pleasure and good-humour on all they meet—and in a thousand ways, all dutiful to the command of great nature. There is but one way for

The road lies through application, study, and thought. I will pursue it; and for that end, purpose retiring for some years. I have been hovering for some time between an exquisite sense of the luxurious and a love for philosophy: were I calculated for the former I should be glad; but as I am not, I shall turn all my soul to the latter."

me.

;

After he had come back to Hampstead in May, however,

Keats allowed himself to be persuaded, no doubt partly by considerations of health, and the recollection of his failure to stand the strain of solitary thought a year before, to resume his original intention. It was agreed between him and Brown that they should accompany George Keats and his bride as far as Liverpool, and then start on foot from Lancaster. They left London accordingly on Monday, June 22d.' The coach stopped for dinner the first day at Redbourn, near St. Albans, where Keats's friend of medical-student days, Mr. Stephens, was in practice. He came to shake bands with the travelling party at the poet's request, and many years afterwards wrote an account of the interview, the chief point of which is a description of Mrs. George Keats. “Rather short, not what might be strictly called handsome, but looked like a being whom any man of moderate sensibility might easily love. She had the imaginative-poetical cast. Somewhat singular and girlish in her attire. ... There was something original about her, and John seemed to regard her as a be

See Appendix, p. 223.

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