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Fair and foul I love together.
Meadows sweet where flames are under,
And a giggle at a wonder;
Visage sage at pantomime;
WHAT THE THRUSH SAID
In a long letter to Reynolds, dated February 19, 1818, Keats writes earnestly of the sources of inspiration to a poet, and especially of the need of a receptive attitude: 'Let us open our leaves like a flower, and be passive and receptive; budding patiently under the eye of Apollo and taking hints from every noble insect that favours us with a visit-Sap will be given us for meat, and dew for drink. I was led into these thoughts, my dear Reynolds, by the beauty of the morning operating on a sense of Idleness. I have not read any Book
Blue! 'Tis the life of waters And all its vassal streams, pools numberless,
May rage, and foam, and fret, but never can
Subside, if not to dark blue nativeness. Blue ! Gentle cousin of the forest-green, Married to green in all the sweetest
flowers, Forget-me-not, — the blue bell, — and, that queen
Of secrecy, the violet: what strange powers
Hast thou, as a mere shadow! But how great,
When in an Eye thou art, alive with fate!
TO JOHN HAMILTON
Undated, but placed by Lord Houghton directly after the preceding in Life, Letters and Literary Remains.
O THAT a week could be an age, and we Felt parting and warm meeting every week;
Then one poor year a thousand years would be,
The flush of welcome ever on the cheek: So could we live long life in little space, So time itself would be annihilate, So a day's journey in oblivious haze
To serve our joys would lengthen and dilate.
O to arrive each Monday morn from Ind! To land each Tuesday from the rich Levant!
In little time a host of joys to bind,
And keep our souls in one eternal pant !
This morn, my friend, and yester-evening taught
Me how to harbor such a happy thought.
THE HUMAN SEASONS
This sonnet was sent by Keats in a letter to Benjamin Bailey, from Teignmouth, March 13, 1818, and was printed the next year in Leigh Hunt's Literary Pocket-Book, but Keats did not include the verses in his 1820 volume.
FOUR Seasons fill the measure of the year; There are four seasons in the mind of
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear
To ruminate, and by such dreaming high
Pass by unheeded as a threshold brook. He has his Winter too of pale misfeature, Or else he would forego his mortal nature.
KEATS began this poem in the spring of 1817 and finished it and saw it through the press in just about a year. It is interesting to follow in his correspondence the growth of the poem. The subject in general had been in his mind at least since the summer of 1816, when he wrote I stood tiptoe upon a little hill, and the poem Sleep and Poetry hints also at the occupation of his mind, though through all the earlier and partly imitative period of his poetical growth he was drawn almost equally by the romance to which Spenser and Leigh Hunt introduced him, and the classic themes which his early studies, Chapman and the Elgin marbles, all conspired to make real. In April, 1817, he writes as one absorbed in the delights of poetry and stimulated by it to production. 'I find,' he writes to Reynolds from Carisbrooke, April 18, 'I cannot exist without Poetry-half the day will not do the whole of it - I began with a little, but habit has made me a Leviathan. I had become all in a Tremble from not having written anything of late
the Sonnet overleaf [On the Sea] did me good. I slept the better last night for it - this morning, however, I am nearly as bad again. Just now I opened Spenser, and the first lines I saw were these "The noble heart that harbours virtuous thought,
And is with child of glorious great intent,
.. I shall forthwith begin my Endymion, which I hope I shall have got some way with by the time you come, when we will read our verses in a delightful place I have set my heart upon, near the Castle.'
He reported progress to his friends from time to time during the summer: the poem
was his great occupation, and he had the alternate exhilaration and depression which such an undertaking naturally would produce in a temperament as sensitive as his; indeed, one is not surprised to find him near the end of September expressing himself to Haydon as tired of the poem, and looking forward to a Romance to which he meant to devote himself the next summer, for so did his mind swing back and forth, though in truth romance was always uppermost, whether expressed in terms of Grecian mythology or mediævalism. But the main significance of Endymion, as one traces the growth of Keats's mind, is in the strong impulse which possessed him to try his wings in a great flight. In a letter to Bailey, October 8, 1817, he quotes from his own letter to George Keats in the spring,' and thus at the very time of his setting forth on his great venture, the following notable passage:
'As to what you say about my being a Poet, I can return no answer but by saying that the high idea I have of poetical fame makes me think I see it towering too high above me. At any rate I have no right to talk until Endymion is finished - it will be a test, a trial of my Powers of Imagination, and chiefly of my invention, which is a rare thing indeed-by which I must make 4000 lines of one bare circumstance, and fill them with Poetry: and when I consider that this is a great task, and that when done it will take me but a dozen paces towards the temple of fame-it makes me say: God forbid that I should be without such a task! I have heard Hunt
they may pick and choose, and in which the images are so numerous that many are forgotten and found new in a second reading: which may be food for a week's stroll in summer? Do not they like this better than what they can read through before Mrs. Williams comes down stairs? a morning work at most.
Besides, a long poem is a test of invention, which I take to be the polar star of Poetry, as Fancy is the sails, and Imagination the rudder. Did our great Poets ever write short Pieces? I mean in the shape of Tales of late years to have been forgotten as a poetical excellence But enough of this; I put on no laurels till I shall have finished Endymion.'
this same invention seems indeed
Keats was drawing near the end of his task when he wrote to Bailey November 22: At present I am just arrived at Dorking-to change the scene, change the air
and give me a spur to wind up my Poem, of which there are wanting 500 lines.' And at the end of the first draft is written' Burford Bridge [near Dorking] November 28, 1817.' Early in January, 1818, Keats gave the first book to Taylor, who 'seemed,' he says, 'more than satisfied with it,' and to Keats's surprise proposed issuing it in quarto if Haydon would make a drawing for a frontispiece. Haydon, when asked, was more eager to paint a picture from some scene in the book, but proposed now to make a finished chalk sketch of Keats's head to be engraved for a frontispiece; for some unmentioned reason, this plan was not carried out.
Keats was copying out the poem for the printer, giving it in book by book and reading the proofs until April, when it was ready save the Preface. This with dedication and title-page he had sent to his Publishers March 21. They were as follows:
dozen whom I was unacquainted with, who did not.
Now, when a dozen human beings are at words with another dozen, it becomes a matter of anxiety to side with one's friends — more especially when excited thereto by a great love of Poetry. I fought under disadvantages. Before I began I had no inward feel of being able to finish; and as I proceeded my steps were all uncertain. So this Poem must rather be considered as an endeavour than as a thing accomplished; a poor prologue to what, if I live, I humbly hope to do. In duty to the Public I should have kept it back for a year or two, knowing it to be so faulty; but I really cannot do so, by repetition my favourite passages sound vapid in my ears, and I would rather redeem myself with a new Poem should this one be found of any interest.
I have to apologize to the lovers of simplicity for touching the spell of loneliness that hung about Endymion; if any of my lines plead for me with such people I shall be proud.
It has been too much the fashion of late to consider men bigoted and addicted to every word that may chance to escape their lips; now I here declare that I have not any particular affection for any particular phrase, word, or letter in the whole affair. I have written to please myself, and in hopes to please others, and for a love of fame; if I neither please myself, nor others, nor get fame, of what consequence is Phraseology.
I would fain escape the bickerings that all works not exactly in chime bring upon their begetters—but this is not fair to expect, there must be conversation of some sort and to object shows a man's consequence. In case of a London drizzle or a Scotch mist, the following quotation from Marston may perhaps 'stead me as an umbrella for an hour or so: 'let it be the curtesy of my peruser rather to pity my selfhindering labours than to malice me.' - for we cannot help
One word more
'Since you all agree that the thing is bad, it must be so- though I am not aware there is anything like Hunt in it (and if there is, it is my natural way, and I have something in common with Hunt). Look it over again, and examine into the motives, the seeds, from which any one sentence sprung - I have not the slightest feel of humility toward the public — or to anything in existence, but the eternal Being, the Principle of Beauty, and the Memory of Great Men. When I am writing for myself for the mere sake of the moment's enjoyment, perhaps nature has its course with me but a Preface is written to the Public; a thing I cannot help looking upon as an Enemy, and which I cannot address without feelings of Hostility. If I write a Preface in a supple or subdued style, it will not be in character with me as a public speaker I would be subdued before my friends, and thank them for subduing me but among Multitudes of Men - I have no feel of stooping; I hate the idea of humility to them.