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from the most delicate and airy fancy. He says of the lovers in their happiness,
Parting they seemed to tread upon the air,
Twin roses by the zephyrs blown apart
The inward fragrance of each other's heart.
These pictures of their intercourse terribly aggravate the gloom of what follows. Lorenzo, when lured away to be killed, is taken unknowingly out of his joys, like a lamb out of the pasture. The following masterly anticipation of his end, conveyed in a single word, has been justly admired :
So the two brothers and their murder'd man
Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno's stream
They passed the water
When Mr. Keats errs in his poetry, it is from the ill management of a good thing,—exuberance of ideas. Once or twice, he does so in a taste positively bad, like Marino or Cowley, as in a line in his Ode to Psyche
At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love ;
but it is once or twice only, in his present volume. Nor has he erred much in it in a nobler way. What we allude to is one or two passages in which he over-informs the occasion or the speaker ; as where the brothers, for instance, whom he describes as a couple of mere “money-bags,” are gifted with the power of uttering the following exquisite metaphor :
"To day we purpose, ay, this hour we mount
To spur three leagues towards the Apennine :
His dewy rosary on the eglantine.”
But to return to the core of the story.-Observe the fervid misery of the following.'
It is curious to see how the simple pathos of Boccaccio, or (which is the same thing) the simple intensity of the heroine's feelings, suffices our author more and more, as he gets to the end of his story. And he has related it as happily, as if he had never written any poetry but that of the heart. The passage about the tone of her voice, the poor lost-witted coaxing,—the "chuckle,” in which she asks after her Pilgrim and her Basil,—is as true and touching an instance of the effect of a happy familiar word, as any in all poetry. The poet bids his imagination depart,
For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die ;
Now they have ta’en away her Basil sweet.? The Eve of St. Agnes, which is rather a picture than a story, may be analysed in a few words. It is an account of a young beauty, who going to bed on the eve in question to dream of her lover, while her rich kinsmen, the opposers of his love, are keeping holiday in the rest of the house, finds herself waked by him in the night, and in the hurry of the moment agrees to elope with him. The portrait of the heroine, preparing to go to bed, is remarkable for its union of extreme richness and good taste; not that those two properties of description are naturally distinct; but that they are too often separated by very good poets, and that the passage affords a striking
· The expression the core of the story, not altogether a commonplace phrase, is to be found in Shelley's paper on Mandeville, which had appeared in The Examiner for the 28th of December 1817. Hunt quotes at this point stanzas XLVI to XLVIII.
2 Hunt goes on to quote stanzas LXII and LXII. In regard to the seeming misunderstanding about the pilgrim, see note at page 66.
specimen of the sudden and strong maturity of the author's genius. When he wrote Endymion he could not have resisted doing too much. To the description before us, it would be a great injury either to add or diminish. It falls at once gorgeously and delicately upon us, like the colours of the painted glass. Nor is Madeline hurt by all her encrusting jewelry and rustling silks. Her gentle, unsophisticated heart is in the midst, and turns them into so many ministrants to her loveliness.
As a specimen of the Poems, which are all lyrical, we must indulge ourselves in quoting entire the Ode to a Nightingale. There is that mixture in it of real melancholy and imaginative relief, which poetry alone presents us in her "charmed cup," and which some over-rational critics have undertaken to find wrong because it is not true. It does not follow that what is not true to them, is not true to others. If the relief is real, the mixture is good and sufficing. A poet finds refreshment in his imaginary wine, as other men do in their real; nor have we the least doubt, that Milton found his grief for the loss of his friend King, more solaced by the allegorical recollections of Lycidas, (which were exercises of his mind, and recollections of a friend who would have admired them) than if he could have anticipated Dr. Johnson's objections, and mourned in nothing but broadcloth and matter of fact. He yearned after the poetical as well as social part of his friend's nature; and had as much right to fancy it straying in the wilds and oceans of
1 The stanzas here given in illustration are XXIV to XXVII ; and Hunt merely adds “ Is not this perfectly beautiful? (Want of room compels us to break off here. We cannot leave the reader at a better place. The remainder of the criticism must occupy the beginning of our next number.]”. It occupied the whole, as it had of that number, being decorated with very large extracts.
romance, where it had strayed, as in the avenues of Christ's College where his body had walked. In the same spirit the imagination of Mr. Keats betakes itself, like the wind, "where it listeth," and is as truly there, as if his feet could follow it. The poem will be the more striking to the reader, when he understands what we take a friend's liberty in telling him, that the author's powerful mind has for some time past been inhabiting a sickened and shaken body, and that in the mean while it has had to contend with feelings that make a fine nature ache for its species, even when it would disdain to do so for itself;—we mean, critical malignity,—that unhappy envy, which would wreak its own tortures upon others, especially upon those that really feel for it already.'
The Hyperion is a fragment,-a gigantic one, like a ruin in the desart, or the bones of the mastodon. It is truly of a piece with its subject, which is the downfall of the elder gods. It opens with Saturn, dethroned, sitting in a deep and solitary valley, benumbed in spite of his huge powers with the amazement of the change.”
By degrees, the Titans meet in one spot, to consult how they may regain their lost empire ; but Clymene the gentlest, and Oceanus the most reflective of those earlier deities, tell them it is irrecoverable. A very grand and deep-thoughted cause is assigned for this by the latter. Intellect, he gives them to understand, was inevitably displacing a more brute power.'
* This passage (followed by the entire Ode to a Nightingale) must not be forgotten in considering the effect of The Quarterly Review article upon Keats. Hunt was intimate enough with Keats to know very well what he was talking about.
* This paragraph is followed by the first 41 lines of Hyperion.
* Here Hunt quotes from Great Saturn, thou, in line 182 of Book II, to line 190, and from line 202 to Darkness in line 215.
The more imaginative parts of the poem are worthy of this sublime moral. Hyperion, the God of the Sun, is the last to give way; but horror begins to visit his old beatitude with new and dread sensations. The living beauty of his palace, whose portals open like a rose, the awful phænomena that announce a change in heaven, and his inability to bid the day break as he was accustomed, all this part, in short, which is the core and inner diamond of the poem, we must enjoy with the reader.1
The other Titans, lying half lifeless in their valley of despair, are happily compared to
A dismal cirque
The Heaven itself, is blinded throughout night. The fragment ends with the deification of Apollo. It strikes us that there is something too effeminate and human in the way in which Apollo receives the exaltation which his wisdom is giving him. He weeps and wonders somewhat too fondly; but his powers gather nobly on him as he proceeds. He exclaims to Mnemosyne, the Goddess of Memory,
Knowledge enormous makes a God of me,
After this speech, he is seized with a glow of aspiration,
The passage here quoted is from His palace bright in line 176 of Book I to line 304. VOL. II.