Imatges de pàgina

ond Book. Again, in conceiving and animating these colossal shapes of early gods, with their personalities between the elemental and the human, what masterly justice of instinct does he show-to take one point only-in the choice of similitudes, drawn from the vast inarticulate sounds of nature, by which he seeks to make us realise their voices. Thus of the assembled gods when Saturn is

about to speak:

"There is a roaring in the bleak-grown pines

When Winter lifts his voice; there is a noise
Among immortals when a God gives sign,
With hushing finger, how he means to load
His tongue with the full weight of utterless thought,
With thunder, and with music, and with pomp:
Such noise is like the roar of bleak-grown pines."

Again, of Oceanus answering his fallen chief:

"So ended Saturn; and the God of the Sea,
Sophist and sage, from no Athenian grove,
But cogitation in his watery shades,
Arose, with locks not oozy, and began

In murmurs, which his first-endeavouring tongue
Caught infant-like from the far-foamed sands."

And once more, of Clymene followed by Enceladus in debate:

"So far her voice flow'd on, like timorous brook

That, lingering along a pebbled coast,

Doth fear to meet the sea; but sea it met,
And shudder'd; for the overwhelming voice
Of huge Enceladus swallow'd it in wrath;
The ponderous syllables, like sullen waves
In the half-glutted hollows of reef-rocks,
Came booming thus."

This second book of Hyperion, relating the council of the dethroned Titans, has neither the sublimity of the first, where the solemn opening vision of Saturn fallen is followed by the resplendent one of Hyperion threatened in his "lucent empire," nor the intensity of the unfinished third, where we leave Apollo undergoing a convulsive change under the afflatus of Mnemosyne, and about to put on the full powers of his godhead. But it has a rightness and controlled power of its own which places it, to my mind, quite on a level with the other two.

With a few slips and inequalities, and one or two instances of verbal incorrectness, Hyperion, as far as it was written, is indeed one of the grandest poems in our language, and in its grandeur seems one of the easiest and most spontaneous. Keats, however, had never been able to apply himself to it continuously, but only by fits and starts. Partly this was due to the distractions of bereavement, of material anxiety, and of dawning passion amid which it was begun and continued; partly (if we may trust the statement of the publishers) to disappointment at the reception of Endymion; and partly, it is clear, to something not wholly congenial to his powers in the task itself. When, after letting the poem lie by through the greater part of the spring and summer of 1819, he in September made пр his mind to give it up, he wrote to Reynolds explaining his reasons as follows: "There were too many Miltonic inversions in it-Miltonic verse cannot be written but in an artful, or rather artist's, humour. I wish to give myself up to other sensations. English ought to be kept up." In the same connection he declares that Chatterton is the purest writer in the English language. "He has no French idiom or particles, like Chaucer: it is genuine English idiom in English words." In writing about the

same time to his brother, he again expresses similar opinions both as to Milton and Chatterton.

The influence, and something of the majesty, of Paradise Lost are in truth to be found in Hyperion; and the debate of the fallen Titans in the second book is obviously to some extent modelled on the debate of the fallen angels. But Miltonic the poem hardly is in any stricter sense. Passing by those general differences that arise from the contrast of Milton's age with Keats's youth, of his austerity with Keats's luxuriance of spirit, and speaking of palpable and technical differences only, in the matter of rhythm Keats's blank verse has not the flight of Milton's. Its periods do not wheel through such stately evolutions to so solemn and far-foreseen a close, though it indeed lacks neither power nor music, and ranks unquestionably with the finest blank-verse written since Milton-beside that of Shelley's Alastor, perhaps a little below that of Wordsworth, when Wordsworth is at his infrequent best. As to diction and the poetic use of words, Keats shows almost as masterly an instinct as Milton himself; but while of Milton's diction the characteristic colour is derived from reading and meditation, from an impassioned conversance with the contents of books, the characteristic colour of Keats's diction is rather derived from conversance with nature and with the extreme refinements of physical sensation. He is no match for Milton in a passage of this kind:

"Eden stretch'd her line

From Auran eastward to the royal towers
Of great Seleucia, built by Grecian kings,
Or where the sons of Eden long before
Dwelt in Telassar."

But then neither is Milton a match for Keats in work like


"Throughout all the isle

There was no covert, no retired cave

Unhaunted by the murmurous noise of waves,
Though scarcely heard in many a green recess.'

After the pomp and glow of learned allusion, the second chief technical note of Milton's style is his partiality for a Latin use of the relative pronoun and the double negative, and for scholarly Latin turn and constructions generally. Already in Isabella Keats is to be found attempting both notes, thus:

"With duller steel than the Persean sword

They cut away no formless monster's head."

Similar Miltonic echoes occur in Hyperion, as in the introduction already quoted to the speech of Oceanus; or again thus:

"Then, as was wont, his palace-door flew ope
In smoothest silence, save what solemn tubes,
Blown by the serious Zephyrs, gave of sweet
And wandering sounds, slow-breathed melodies."

But they are not frequent, nor had Keats adopted as much of Milton's technical manner as he seems to have supposed; yet he had adopted more of it than was natural to him or than he cared to maintain.

In turning away from Milton to Chatterton, he was going back to one of his first loves in literature. What he says of Chatterton's words and idioms seems paradoxical enough, as applied to the archaic jargon concocted by the Bristol boy out of Kersey's Dictionary.' But it is true that through that jargon can be discerned, in the Rowley

1 We are not surprised to hear of Keats, with his instinct for the best, that what he most liked in Chatterton's work was the minstrel's song in Ella, that fantasia, so to speak, executed really with genius on the theme of one of Ophelia's songs in Hamlet.

poems, not only an ardent feeling for romance and an extraordinary facility in composition, but a remarkable gift of plain and flowing construction. And after Keats had for some time moved, not perfectly at his ease, though with results to us so masterly, in the paths of Milton, we find him in fact tempted aside on an excursion into the regions beloved by Chatterton. We know not how much of Hyperion had been written when he laid it aside in January to take up the composition of St. Agnes's Eve, that unsurpassed example-nay, must we not rather call it unequalled?—of the pure charm of coloured and romantic narrative in English verse. As this poem does not attempt the elemental grandeur of Hyperion, so neither does it approach the human pathos and passion of Isabella. Its personages appeal to us, not so much humanly and in themselves as by the circumstances, scenery, and atmosphere amidst which we see them move. Herein lies the strength, and also the weakness, of modern romance-its strength, inasmuch as the charm of the medieval colour and mystery is unfailing for those who feel it at all; its weakness, inasmuch as under the influence of that charm both writer and reader are too apt to forget the need for human and moral truth; and without these no great literature can exist.

Keats takes in this poem the simple, almost threadbare theme of the love of an adventurous youth for the daughter of a hostile house-a story wherein something of Romeo and Juliet is mixed with something of young Lochinvar- and brings it deftly into association with the old popular belief as to the way a maiden might on this anniversary win sight of her lover in a dream. Choosing happily for such a purpose the Spenserian stanza, he adds to the melodious grace, the "sweet-slipping movement," as it

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