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Written in answer to a Sonnet ending thus :
Dark eyes are dearer far
By J. H. REYNOLDS.
Blue! 'Tis the life of heaven,—the domain
Of Cynthia,—the wide palace of the sun,The tent of Hesperus, and all his train,
The bosomer of clouds, gold, grey and dun. Blue ! 'Tis the life of waters :-Ocean
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,
The sonnet of John Hamilton Reynolds to which this is a reply appeared in 1821 in The Garden of Florence &c., and will be found in the Appendix. From a letter signed “A. J. Horwood” which was published in The Athenæum of the 3rd of June 1876, it would seem that this poem, like many others, must have been written out more than once by Keats; for, in a copy of The Garden of Florence mentioned in that letter, Keats's sonnet is transcribed, seemingly, from a different manuscript from that used by Lord Houghton when he gave the sonnet in the Life, Letters, and Literary Remains (Volume II, page 295) in 1848. The transcript quoted in The Athenæum reads hue for life in line 1, and bright for wide in line 2, and gives line 6 thus
With all his tributary streams, pools numberless, a foot too long : it also reads to for of in line 9. These strike me
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!
as decidedly genuine variations, but indicative of an earlier state of the poem than that adopted in the text. The punctuation of The Atheneum version is characteristic of Keats, and I have adopted it in part. Lord Houghton dates the sonnet February 1818.
To John Hamilton Reynolds.
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 !
And keep our souls in one eternal pant !
First given among the Literary Remains, in the Life, Letters &c. (1848), not dated, but standing next to the sonnet on blue eyes, which is dated February 1818.
SENT IN A LETTER TO B. R. HAYDON.
HERE all the summer could I stay, ,
For there's Bishop's teign
And King's teign
Where close by the stream
You may have your cream
There's arch Brook
And there's larch Brook
And cooling the drouth
Of the salmon's mouth,
Keats's correspondence for the Spring of 1818 shows that on his arrival in Devonshire he had on his hands, besides attendance on his sick brother, the final work connected with the publication of Endymion. At the end of the first ten days he writes to Haydon of having copied the fourth book for the press ; and between the completion of that operation and the end of April, when the poem was out, he must have been more or less busy with it. Probably also the greater part of Isabella was composed at Teignmouth,
There is Wild wood,
A Mild hood
Where the golden furze,
With its green, thin spurs,
With its spear grass harsh-
Where the maidens sweet
Of the Market Street,
seeing that it was from that place that he wrote of it to Reynolds towards the end of his stay, as about to be copied out. These circumstances would account for the limited extent of the series of poems special to Devonshire. These, although inferior in interest to the Scottish series of the Summer of 1818, are full of the individuality of Keats. The first piece we may safely assign to the 14th of March 1818. It occurs in a letter to Haydon published by Mr. Tom Taylor in Haydon's Autobiography without any date beyond “Teignmouth, Saturday morning”; but the verses form, with the next song, the staple of the letter, and appear from the context to have been written off as a part of it, and not copied into it. The date of the letter is to be fixed thus : Keats says in the prose paragraph of which the verses are the continuation—“The six first days I was here it did nothing but rain ; and at that time, having to write to a friend, I gave Devonshire a good blowing-up. It has been fine for almost three days, and I was coming round a bit, but to-day it rains again. With me the county is on its good behaviour. I have enjoyed the most delightful walks these three fine days, beautiful enough to make me content.” Now on the 25th of March Keats wrote to Reynolds of the weather as if the county's trial had lasted three weeks : this gives the 4th as the day of his arrival ;