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ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE.
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk :
Haydon, in one of his letters to Miss Mitford (Correspondence &c., Volume II, page 72), says of Keats—“The death of his brother wounded him deeply, and it appeared to me from that hour he began to droop. He wrote his exquisite 'Ode to the Nightingale' at this time, and as we were one evening walking in the Kilburn meadows he repeated it to me, before he put it to paper,
in a low, tremulous under-tone which affected me extremely.” Lord Houghton says the Ode was suggested by the continued song of a nightingale which, in the spring of 1819, had built its nest close to Wentworth Place. “Keats," says his Lordship (Aldine edition, 1876, page 237), “ took great pleasure in her song, and one morning took his chair from the breakfast-table to the grass plot under a plum tree, where he remained between two and three hours. He then reached the house with some scraps of paper in his hand, which he soon put together in the form of this Ode.” The anecdote as told in the Life, Letters, &c. (Volume 1, page 245 of the 1848 edition, and page 207 of the 1867 edition) represents Brown as detecting the poet in the act of thrusting the scraps of the Ode away “as waste paper, behind some books," and names Brown as the person who put them together. I presume Lord Houghton saw afterwards that Brown must have mistaken the bearing of Keats's action, inasmuch as the other evidence does not square with the carelessness implied. It is well to put the two forms of the story
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
In some melodious plot
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
together, because the earlier version is a favourite cutting for magazine and anthology notes. The fair copy of the Ode written at the end of the Endymion in Sir Charles Dilke's collection is dated “ May 1819.” The poem was printed as long ago as July 1819, in a quarterly magazine called Annals of the Fine Arts, which was edited by James Elmes, but to a great extent informed by Haydon. The ode is the last thing in Number XIII, and is signed with a “dagger” (t). This original version corresponds in the main with Sir Charles Dilke's manuscript ; and both are headed Ode to the Nightingale, not a Nightingale.
(1) Lord Houghton and Mr. Palgrave follow the editions of Galignani and Smith in printing thy for thine in the sixth line of this stanza ; but I am not aware of any authority for the change.
(2) Of Keats's partiality for claret enough and too much has been made ; but with his delightful list of desiderata given to his sister in a letter, now before me, it is impossible to resist citing as a prose parallel to these two splendid lines of poetry, the words, “and, please heaven, a little claret wine cool out of a cellar a mile deepwith a few or a good many ratafia cakes.” In the first line of this stanza the manuscript and the Annals read has for hath, in the sixth true and blushful; and both are without the wordaway which, in the subsequent version published with Lamia &c., makes the final line of this stanza an Alexandrine. I do not think the circumstances warrant the reduction of this wonderful line to the metric standard of the rest, albeit Lord Houghton has been taken to task for leaving it in its loveliness. The evidence of one manuscript and
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
And purple-stained mouth;
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
3. Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known, The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
And leaden-ey'd despairs,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
one printed text, especially when another manuscript certainly existed though not forthcoming, is insufficient. To me the introduction of the word away in the version finally given forth by Keats is too redolent of genius to pass for a mere accident. The perfection thus lent to the echo opening the next stanza exceeds a thousand times in value the regularity got by dropping the word; and that one line with its lingering motive has ample reason to be longer than any other in the poem. Hunt must have been familiar enough with the poem before it was embodied in the Lamia volume ; and it is more than possible that he knew all about the history of that one word's introduction. Therefore it is worth while to set down as external evidence that when he quoted the poem entire in The Indicator and again when he printed it in Imagination and Fancy, he gave the author's last copy that preference which a textual critic is bound to give.
(3) In the third stanza the manuscript reads have for hast in line 2 and other's for other in line 4; but the Annals reads as in
4 Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
But here there is no light,
5. I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
And mid-May's eldest child,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
the text of 1820. The sixth line very clearly bears out Haydon's words connecting the sadness of the poem with the death of Tom Keats, and should be compared with the passage about his sister in the letter to Brown written from Rome on the 30th of November 1820,—“my sister—who walks about my imagination like a ghost -she is so like Tom.” In the same letter he says “it runs in my head we shall all die young".
(5) In the last line but one of this stanza, both the manuscript and the Annals read sweetest wine.
6. Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
In such an ecstasy!
To thy high requiem become a sod.
7 Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
The same that oft-times hath
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
(6) Compare with the second line Shelley's words in the Preface to Adonais, “ It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.” In line 7 of this stanza, both the manuscript and the Annals read thus for forth, and line 10 is as follows :
For thy high requiem, become a sod. (7) In the last line of this stanza the word fairy instead of faery V stands in the manuscript and in the Annals ; but the Lamia volume reads faery, which enhances the poetic value of the line in the subtlest manner-eliminating all possible connexion of fairy-land with Christmas trees, tinsel, and Santa Claus, and carrying the