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from it, and indestructible without the ruin at the same time of everything else. There is not only the absence of art, but a spirit antagonistic to that of art. Yet this wildness and turbulence may, after all, have been only an affluence of true power too great to be soon or easily brought under regulation, the rankness of a tropic vegetation, coming of too rich a soil and too much light and heat. Certainly to no one of his contemporaries had been given more of passionate intensity of conception (the life of poetry) than to Keats. Whatever he thought or felt came to him in vision, and wrapped and thrilled him. Whatever he wrote burns and blazes. And his most wanton extravagances had for the most part a soul of good in them. His very affectations were mostly prompted by excess of love and reverence. In his admiration and worship of our Elizabethan poetry he was not satisfied without mimicking the obsolete syllabication of the language which he found there enshrined, and, as he conceived, consecrated. Even the most remarkable of all the peculiarities of his manner altogether, we should think, without a parallel in our literature, to which he surrenders himself in writing to the guidance of the mere wave of sound upon which he happens to have got afloat, often, one would almost say, making ostentation of his acquiescence and passiveness — is a fault only in its excess, and such a fault, moreover, as only a true poet could run into. Sound is of the very essence of song; and the music must always in so far guide the movement of the verse, as truly as it does that of the dance. It only is not the all in all. If the musical form be the mother of the verse, the sense to be expressed is the father. Yet Keats, by what he has thus produced in blind obedience to the tune that had taken possession of him, — allowing the course of the composition to be directed simply by the rhyme sometimes for whole pages, – has shown the same sensibility to the musical element in poetry, and even something of the same power of moulding language to his will, which we find in all our greatest poets
in Spenser especially, whose poetry is ever as rich with the charm of music as with that of picture, and who makes us feel in so many a victorious stanza that there is nothing his wonder-working mastery over words cannot make them do for him. Keats's Endymion was published in 1817; his Lamia, Isabella, Eve of St. Agnes, and the
1 "If any one,” Leigh Hunt has said, “could unite the vigor of Dryden with the ready and easy variety of pause in the works of the late Mr. Crabbe and the
remarkable fragment, Hyperion, together in 1820, a few months before his death. The latter, volume also contained several shorter pieces, one of which, of great beauty, the Ode to a Nightingale, may serve as a companion to Shelley's Skylark :
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
One minute past, and Lethe-ward had sunk:
But being too happy in thine happiness, –
In some melodious plot
O for a draught of vintage that hath been
Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sun-burnt mirth!
Full of the true, the blissful Hippocrene,
And purple-stained mouth;
Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies ;
And leaden-eyed despairs ;
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, lovely poetic consciousness in the Lamia of Keats, in which the lines seem to take pleasure in the progress of their own beauty, like sea-nymphs luxuriating through the water, he would be a perfect master of rhyming heroic verse.”
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards !
And haply the Queen-moon is on her throne,
But here there is no light
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine ;
And mid-day's eldest child,
Darkling I listen, and, for many a time,
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
To seize upon the midnight with no pain,
In such an ecstasy!
Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird !
No hungry generations tread thee down;
In ancient days by emperor and clown;
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home
She stood in tears amid the alien corn ; i Shelley had probably this line in his ear, when in the Preface to his Adonais, which is an elegy on Keats, he wrote - describing the romantic and lonely cemetery of the Protestants” at Rome, where his friend was buried — “The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.”
The same that oft-times hath
Forlorn ! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my soul's self!
As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
In the next valley-glades :
THESE last names can hardly be mentioned without suggesting another that of one who has only the other day been taken from us. Leigh Hunt, the friend of Shelley and Keats, had attracted the attention of the world by much that he had done, both in verse and prose, long before the appearance of either. His Story of Rimini, published in 1816, being, as it was, indisputably the finest inspiration of Italian song that had yet been heard in our modern English literature, had given him a place of his own as distinct as that of any other poetical writer of the day. Whatever may be thought of some peculiarities in his manner of writing, nobody will now be found to dispute either the originality of his genius, or his claim to the title of a true poet. Into whatever he has written he has put a living soul; and much of what he has produced is brilliant either with wit and humor, or with tenderness and beauty. In some of the best of his pieces too there is scarcely to be found a trace of anything illegitimate or doubtful in the matter of diction or versification. Where, for example, can we have more unexceptionable English than in the following noble version of the Eastern Tale ?
There came a man, making his hasty moan,
And crying out “My sorrow is my right,
“ A fiend has got into my house,”
The Sultan comforted the man, and said,
In three days' time, with haggard eyes and beard,
The man went in. There was a cry, and hark !
“ Now light the light,” the Sultan cried aloud. 'Twas done ; he took it in his hand, and bowed Over the corpse, and looked upon the face;