Page images
[blocks in formation]

[On the 12th of July 1819 Keats wrote to Reynolds that he had "proceeded pretty well with ' Lamia', finishing the first part, which consists of about four hundred lines." He adds, "I have great hopes of success, because I make use of my judgment more deliberately than I yet have done; but in case of failure with the world, I shall find my content." Lord Houghton records, on the authority of Charles Armitage Brown, that Lamia "had been in hand some time", and that Keats wrote it "with great care, after much study of Dryden's versification." In August Keats wrote to Baily from Winchester mentioning the "half-finished" Lamia among recent work. On the 5th of September 1819 he wrote to Taylor that he had finished Lamia since finishing "the tragedy" (Otho the Great). The manuscript of Lamia consists of twenty-six leaves, foolscap folio, generally written upon one side only. It is a carefully written manuscript, finally revised for the press, and shows unmistakeable evidence of having been used for printer's copy. The extract from Burton does not figure in it; but there is the following foot-note on page 1:- -"The ground work of this story will be found in Burton's 'Anatomy of Melancholy' Part 3. Sect. 3. Memb. 1st. Subs. 1st."-H. B. F.]



UPON a time, before the faery broods

Drove Nymph and Satyr from the prosperous woods,
Before King Oberon's bright diadem,

Sceptre, and mantle, clasp'd with dewy gem,
Frighted away the Dryads and the Fauns

From rushes green, and brakes, and cowslip'd lawns,
The ever-smitten Hermes empty left

His golden throne, bent warm on amorous theft :
From high Olympus had he stolen light,

On this side of Jove's clouds, to escape the sight
Of his great summoner, and made retreat
Into a forest on the shores of Crete.

For somewhere in that sacred island dwelt
A nymph, to whom all hoofed Satyrs knelt;
At whose white feet the languid Tritons poured
Pearls, while on land they wither'd and adored.




(4) The manuscript shows a cancelled reading, sandals for mantle.

(15) Cancelled manuscript reading, And at whose feet.

Fast by the springs where she to bathe was wont,
And in those meads where sometime she might haunt,
Were strewn rich gifts, unknown to any Muse,
Though Fancy's casket were unlock'd to choose.
Ah, what a world of love was at her feet!
So Hermes thought, and a celestial heat
Burnt from his winged heels to either ear,
That from a whiteness, as the lilly clear,
Blush'd into roses 'mid his golden hair,
Fallen in jealous curls about his shoulders bare.



In vain; the sweet nymph might nowhere be found,
And so he rested, on the lonely ground,
Pensive, and full of painful jealousies

Of the Wood-Gods, and even the very trees.
There as he stood, he heard a mournful voice,
Such as once heard, in gentle heart, destroys
All pain but pity: thus the lone voice spake :
"When from this wreathed tomb shall I awake!
"When move in a sweet body fit for life,
"And love, and pleasure, and the ruddy strife
"Of hearts and lips! Ah, miserable me!"
The God, dove-footed, glided silently
Round bush and tree, soft-brushing, in his speed,
The taller grasses and full-flowering weed,
Until he found a palpitating snake,
Bright, and cirque-couchant in a dusky brake.

She was a gordian shape of dazzling hue,


From vale to vale, from wood to wood, he flew,
Breathing upon the flowers his passion new,
And wound with many a river to its head,

To find where this sweet nymph prepar'd her secret





[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Strip'd like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Ey'd like a peacock, and all crimson barr'd;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv'd, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries—
So rainbow-sided, touch'd with miseries,
She seem'd, at once, some penanc'd lady elf,
Some demon's mistress, or the demon's self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne's tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
She had a woman's mouth with all its pearls complete: 60
And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there
But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?
As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air.
Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake
Came, as through bubbling honey, for Love's sake,
And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay,
Like a stoop'd falcon ere he takes his prey.

"Fair Hermes, crown'd with feathers, fluttering light, "I had a splendid dream of thee last night : "I saw thee sitting, on a throne of gold, "Among the Gods, upon Olympus old,





(48) Originally, Cerulean-spotted. Hunt says of this passage (see Appendix)-"The admiration, pity, and horror, to be excited by humanity in a brute shape, were never perhaps called upon by a greater mixture of beauty and deformity than in the picture of this creature. Our pity and suspicions are begged by the first word: the profuse and vital beauties with which she is covered seem proportioned to her misery and natural rights; and lest we should lose sight of them in this gorgeousness, the 'woman's mouth' fills us at once with shuddering and compassion."

(69) The manuscript reads silver for splendid.

« PreviousContinue »