Imatges de pàgina

lapse into his old fault of overloading, partly through a desire to give expression to thoughts and feelings which were pressing on his mind. His new plan was to relate the fall of the Titans, not, as before, in direct narrative, but in the form of a vision revealed and interpreted to him by a goddess of the fallen race. The reader remembers how he had broken off his work on Hyperion at the point where Mnemosyne is enkindling the brain of Apollo with the inspiration of her ancient wisdom. Following a clue which he had found in a Latin book of mythology he had lately bought,' he now identifies this Greek Mnemosyne, the mother of the Muses, with the Roman Moneta, and (being possibly also aware that the temple of Juno Moneta on the Capitol at Rome was not far from that of Saturn) makes his Mnemosyne-Moneta the priestess and guardian of Saturn's temple. His vision takes him first into a grove or garden of delicious fruits, having eaten of which he sinks into a slumber, and awakes to find himself on the floor of a huge primeval temple. Presently a voice, the voice of Moneta, whose form he cannot yet see for the fumes of incense, summons him to climb the steps leading to an image beside which she is offering sacrifice. Obeying her with difficulty, he questions her concerning the mysteries of the place, and learns from her, among other knowledge, that he is standing in the temple of Saturn. Then she withdraws the veils from her face, at sight of which he feels an irresistible desire to learn her thoughts; and thereupon finds himself conveyed in a trance by her

1 Auctores Mythographi Latini, ed. Van Staveren, Leyden, 1742. Keats's copy of the book was bought by him in 1819, and passed after his death into the hands first of Brown, and afterwards of Archdeacon Bailey (Houghton MSS.). The passage about Moneta which .had wrought in Keats's mind occurs at p. 4, in the notes to Hyginus.

side to the ancient scene of Saturn's overthrow. "Deep in the shady sadness of a vale,” etc.—from this point Keats begins to weave into the new tissue of his Vision the text of the original Hyperion, with alterations which are in almost all cases for the worse. Neither does the new portion of his work well match the old. Side by side with impressive passages, it contains others where both rhythm and diction flag, and in comparison depends for its beauty far more on single lines and passages, and less on sustained effects. Keats has indeed imagined nothing richer or purer than the feast of fruits at the opening of the Vision; and of supernatural presences he has perhaps conjured up none of such melancholy beauty and awe as that of the priestess when she removes her veils. But the especial interest of the poem lies in the light which it throws on the inward distresses of his mind, and on the conception he had by this time come to entertain of the poet's character and lot. When Moneta bids him mount the steps to her side, she warns him that if he fails to do so he is bound to perish utterly where he stands. In fact, he all but dies before he reaches the stair, but reviving, ascends and learns from her the meaning of the ordeal:

"None can usurp this height," returned that shade,

"But those to whom the miseries of the world

Are misery, and will not let them rest.

All else who find a haven in the world,

Where they may thoughtless sleep away their days,
If by a chance into this fane they come,
Rot on the pavement where thou rottedst half.”
"Are there not thousands in the world," said I,
Encouraged by the sooth voice of the shade,
"Who love their fellows even to the death,
Who feel the giant agony of the world,
And more, like slaves to poor humanity,

Labour for mortal good? I sure should see
Other men here, but I am here alone."

"Those whom thou spakest of are no visionaries,”
Rejoin'd that voice; "they are no dreamers weak;
They seek no wonder but the human face,

No music but a happy-noted voice:

They come not here, they have no thought to come;
And thou art here, for thou art less than they.
What benefit canst thou do, or all thy tribe,
To the great world? Thou art a dreaming thing,
A fever of thyself: think of the earth-
What bliss, even in hope, is there for thee?
What haven? Every creature hath its home,
Every sole man hath days of joy and pain,
Whether his labours be sublime or low-
The pain alone, the joy alone, distinct:
Only the dreamer venoms all his days,
Bearing more woe than all his sins deserve.
Therefore, that happiness be somewhat shared,
Such things as thou art are admitted oft
Into like gardens thou didst pass erewhile,
And suffer'd in these temples." 1

Tracing the process of Keats's thought through this somewhat obscure imagery-the poet, he means, is one who to indulge in dreams withdraws himself from the wholesome activities of ordinary men. At first he is lulled to sleep by the sweets of poetry (the fruits of the garden); awakening, he finds himself on the floor of a solemn temple, with Mnemosyne, the mother and inspirer of song, enthroned all but inaccessibly above him. If he is a trifler, indifferent to the troubles of his fellow men, he is condemned to perish swiftly and be forgotten; he is suffered to approach the goddess, to commune with her and catch

1 Mrs. Owen was the first of Keats's critics to call attention to this passage, without, however, understanding the special significance it derives from the date of its composition.

her inspiration, only on condition that he shares all those troubles and makes them his own. And even then his portion is far harder and less honourable than that of common men. In the conception Keats here expresses of the human mission and responsibility of his art there is nothing new. Almost from the first dawning of his ambition he had looked beyond the mere sweets of poetry towards

66 a nobler life;

Where I may find the agonies, the strife

Of human hearts."

What is new is the bitterness with which he speaks of the poet's lot even at its best:

"Only the dreamer venoms all his days,

Bearing more woe than all his sins deserve."

Through what a circle must the spirit of Keats, when this bitter cry broke from him, have travelled since the days, only three years before, when he was never tired of singing by anticipation the joys and glories of the poetic life:

"These are the living pleasures of the bard,

But richer far posterity's award.

What shall he murmur with his latest breath,

When his proud eye looks through the film of death ?"

His present cry in its bitterness is in truth a cry not so much of the spirit as of the flesh, or rather of the spirit vanquished by the flesh. The wasting of his vital powers by latent disease was turning all his sensations and emotions into pain-at once darkening the shadow of impending poverty, increasing the natural importunity of ill-boding instincts at his heart, and exasperating into agony the unsatisfied cravings of his passion. In verses at this time

addressed, though doubtless not shown, to his mistress, he exclaims once and again in tones like this:

"Where shall I learn to get my peace again?"

"O for some sunny spell

To dissipate the shadows of this hell;"

or at the conclusion of a piteous sonnet:

"Yourself your soul-in pity give me all,
Withhold no atom's atom or I die,

Or living on perhaps, your wretched thrall,
Forget, in the mist of idle misery,
Life's purposes-the palate of the mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind."

That he might win peace by marriage with the object of his passion does not seem to have occurred to Keats as possible in the present state of his fortunes. "However selfishly I may feel," he had written to her some months earlier, "I am sure I could never act selfishly." The Brawnes on their part were comfortably off, but what his instincts of honour and independence forbade him to ask, hers of tenderness could perhaps hardly be expected to offer. As the autumn wore into winter, Keats's sufferings, disguise them as he might, could not escape the notice of his affectionate comrade Brown. Without understanding the cause, Brown was not slow to perceive the effect, and to realise how vain were the assurances Keats had given him at Winchester, that the pressure of real troubles would stiffen him against troubles of imagination, and that he was not and would not allow himself to be unhappy.

"1 quickly perceived," writes Brown, "that he was more so than I had feared; his abstraction, his occasional lassitude of mind, and, frequently, his assumed tranquillity of countenance gave me great un

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