Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

  • 1730: John Jennings born (Keats’s maternal grandfather to-be)
  • 1736: Alice Whalley born (Keats’s maternal grandmother to-be)
  • 1774: Alice Whalley and John Jennings marry; John leases and renovates Swan and Hoop Livery Stables in Moorfields (London); they live next door at 24 The Pavement (Row), Moorfields
  • Other 1774 history: William Southey born; Oliver Goldsmith dies
  • 1775: Francis Jennings born to Alice and John Jennings
  • Other 1775 history: born: Jane Austen, Charles Lamb
  • 1794: Keats’s parents to-be—Francis Jennings and Thomas Keat[e]s—marry; Thomas works at the livery
  • Other 1794 history: arrest of radicals in England; Robespierre executed; France invades Holland; Godwin publishes Caleb Williams; Coleridge meets Southey; Radcliffe Observatory at the University of Oxford completed; Erasmus Darwin, Zoonomia
  • 1795: Keats born, 31 October, perhaps at the Swan and Hoop Livery Stables
  • Other 1795 history: France abolishes slavery; famine issues in England; laws against assemblies in England; Wordsworth regularly meets with Godwin; Hannah More publishes her Cheap Repository tracks; Coleridge marries Sara Fricker; death of James Boswell; Southey publishes Joan of Arc; Rosetta Stone discovered
  • 1797: Keats’s brother George born, 28 February
  • Other 1797 history: death of Edmund Burke; birth of Mary Godwin and death of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft; Coleridge’s second edition of Poems; Ann Radcliff’s The Italian; discovery: diamonds are made of carbon
  • 1799: Keats’s brother Tom born, 18 Nov; the growing family moves to Craven Street, London
  • Other 1799 history: Wordsworth and sister, Dorothy, move to Dove Cottage, Grasmere; British government bans unions and political societies; Napoleon invades Syria, becomes First Consul; Rosetta Stone found
  • 1801: Keats’s brother Edward born, 28 April (likely dies Dec 1802)
  • Other 1801 history: first census of England/Wales; General Enclosure Act; Battle of Copenhagen; ultra violent radiation discovered; first use of the pie chart; patent on first continuous paper-making machine; Lord Elgin begins to bring back to England parts of the Greek Parthenon; ultraviolet radiation discovered
  • 1802: maternal grandparents Alice and John Jennings retire; Keats’s father and mother take over management of Swan and Hoop Livery Stables
  • Other 1802 history : truce (Peace of Amiens) with France (ends 1803); Letitia Landon born; first electrochemical cell; meteorites discovered to be extraterrestrial
  • 1803: sister Fanny born, 3 June; with George, Keats boards at school in Enfield (where he had uncles attend), run by Rev. John Clarke; eventually does well at school, winning some prizes (he leaves Clarke’s academy 1811 for medical training)
  • Other 1803 history: truce with France ends; Hazlitt paints Wordsworth and Coleridge; uprising in Ireland; invasion by the French hangs over England
  • 1804: Keats’s father (age 30) dies in midnight riding accident, 16 April; mother Frances hastily remarries a young bank clerk, William Rawlings, 27 June—this does not last long, and her whereabouts for a few years is not clear; children live with maternal grandparents at Ponders End
  • Other 1804 history: William Blake tried/acquitted for sedition; Corn Laws enacted for protectionism; Napoleon plans to invade England; Napoleon proclaims himself emperor; war declared on Spain; deaths: Joseph Priestly, Immanuel Kant; first steam locomotive built
  • 1805: maternal grandfather John Jennings dies, leaving considerable funds; children move to Edmonton with maternal grandmother Alice Jennings
  • Other 1805 history: Napoleon declared King of Italy; Battle of Trafalgar, major victory for the British Royal Navy; Napoleon defeats Russian/Austrian armies; Hazlitt’s first book, An Essay on the Principles of Human Action
  • 1806: Keats’s mother leaves Rawlings, and for a few years, her activities and whereabouts are not clear
  • Other 1806 history: born: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, John Stuart Mill; Napoleon defeats Prussians, wants to blockade Britain; carbon paper patented
  • 1809: Keats’s mother ill and she returns to her mother’s home; Keats devoted to her care
  • Other 1809 history: Byron, English Bards and Scotch Reviewers; William Blake exhibits paintigs; Napoleon arrests the Pope; born: Charles Darwin, Edgar Allan Poe; deaths: Haydn and Thomas Paine
  • 1810: Keats’s mother Frances dies of tuberculosis, March; guardians Abbey and Sandall appointed for the Keats children, July (Sandall passes away 1816)
  • Other 1810 history: Walter Scott publishes The Lady of the Lake; born: Frédéric François Chopin, Robert Schumann, Elizabeth Gaskell; Mary Tighe dies
  • 1811: Keats leaves Clarke’s Enfield school; works on prose translation of Virgil’s The Aeneid; takes up apothecary apprenticeship, Edmonton, with Thomas Hammond, initially for five years, but cut short, perhaps out of difficulties with Hammond
  • Other 1811 history: Shelley expelled from Oxford; Lord Elgin wants to sell the Elgin Marbles to the British Government; established: the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church in England and Wales; Prince of Wales declared Regent after George III declared incompetent; Luddite uprisings; Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility; Leigh Hunt, The Feast of the Poets; Mary Tighe, Psyche; the Great Comet discovered; Mexican wars of independence; born: Liszt and Thackeray
  • 1812: Dickens and Browning born; Byron gives speech in the House of Lords and publishes Childe Harold I and II; Colerdidge lectures on Shakespeare; Napoleon declares war on Russia; America declares war on Britian; Percy Shelley meets Mary Godwin; Anna Laetitia Barbauld publishes Eighteen Hundred and Eleven: A Poem and is upbraided by reviewers
  • 1813: Leigh Hunt sentenced for two years for slandering Prince Regent; Jane Austen publishes Pride and Prejudice; Percy Shelley publishes Queen Mab; William Southey becomes Poet Laureate; Kierkegaard and Wagner born
  • 1814-1816: Keats trains at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospitals, and though association and some training extends this into 1817
  • 1814: Keats’s maternal grandmother, Alice Jennings, dies; first evidence of Keats writing poetry, perhaps spurred by reading Spenser with Charles Cowden Clarke (son of Rev. John Clarke); notable poems: Imitation of Spenser and On Peace; poem: Keats writes poem expressing his feeling, As from the darkening gloom a silver dove; poem: To Lord Byron
  • Other 1814 history: Napoleon exiled to Elba; Byron publishes instant hit, The Corsair; Cary’s translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy; Edmund Kean makes his debut; Wordsworth publishes The Excursion; Percy Shelley elopes to Europe with Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin; some gas lighting in London; first correct scientific explanation of dew
  • 1815: Keats begins to write more poetry; poem: Written on the Day That Mr. Hunt Left Prison; February; poem: Ode to Apollo; other poems: Give me women, wine, and snuff, To George Felton Mathew, Oh Chatterton, To Hope, To Some Ladies; Keats buys Wordsworth’s 2-volume collection of poems; registers to become student at Guy’s Hospital, October; as medical student, lives at 28 St Thomas’s Street, London, October, with other medical students; begins to write poetry about wanting to write enduring poetry; Apothecaries Act prohibits unlicensed medical practice in the United Kingdom (after going to Margate Aug-Sept 1816, Keats moves from St Thomas’s Street to 8 Dean Street, Southwark, Sept 1816)
  • Other 1815 history: Byron marries Annabella Milbanke; Leigh Hunt released from jail; Napoleon escapes from Elba; Napoleon defeated at Waterloo; restrictive Corn Laws; massive eruption of Mount Tambora; Jane Austen’s Emma published anonymously (dated 1816); Byron and Walter Scott meet

1803-1811: Clarke’s Academy in Enfield, Keats’s Education, & the Headmaster’s Son

Enfield, Clarke’s Academy

Middlesex, with Enfield circled (and Ponders End). Click to enlarge.true
Middlesex, with Enfield circled (and Ponders End). Click to enlarge.

Beginning August 1803, and with his younger brother George, Keats (aged 7) attends Reverend John Clarke’s boarding school for boys (sometimes called Enfield School or Academy, and also known at the time as Mr. Clarke’s, Enfield). Keats’s youngest brother, Tom, will later go to Enfield. In Keats’s time, somewhere between 70-80 students attend. Clarke retires as the principal of the school in 1810, close to when Keats leaves for a medical apprenticeship.

The Keats brothers perhaps go to Clarke’s because of a little family history: a couple of their uncles on the mother’s side also go to the school, including the somewhat impressive Midgley John Jennings, a seasoned military (naval) man, who apparently sometime later occasionally dined with the Reverend Clarke at the academy.

Clarke’s Academy is significant inasmuch as it represents a continuous, predictable part of Keats’s life between 1803 and 1811, the period during which his father dies (1804), his mother hastily remarries (1804), he moves to live with maternal grandparents (1804), his maternal grandfather passes away (1805), and his mother dies (1810).

Physically, the school (on Nags Head Road, Enfield Town, about 10 miles north of London), with its large, airy rooms, is by no means gloomy. Outside there is a good-sized playground, as well as a large garden where some of the boys can cultivate their own little plot of land. Beyond the school grounds stretch some accessible meadows, though in adjacent areas there may have been some commercial development in the form of potash and brick manufacturing. The school is also quite close to Keats’s grandparents’ residence at Ponders End, where they retire in 1802. According to recollections of the headmaster’s son, Charles Cowden Clarke (who is eight years older than Keats), Keats’s parents—Thomas and Frances—were known to take their gig to visit the children at the academy; the unpretentious Keats family is apparently liked and respected by those running the school.

Plan of the Parish of Enfield, 1803/1823: Clarke’s Academy grounds are
        marked by the green square. Click to enlarge.true
Plan of the Parish of Enfield, 1803/1823: Clarke’s Academy grounds are marked by the green square. Click to enlarge.

The school has a dissenting, nonconformist tradition. Clarke, upon the death of previous headmaster, John Collett Ryland (1723-1792), strives through his pedagogy to background knowledge with faith, but always in the spirit of genuine curiosity, experience, and discovery. Clarke inherits much of his educational philolsophy and approach from Ryland. As Ryland articulates in his innovative 1792 A Plan of Education, besides scriptural knowledge, the Ingenuous Youth of Great-Britain should be exposed to a wide range of subjects, both academic and practical, as well as being fully conversant with all branches of science. Ryland was especially keen on math, geographical facts, and astronomy; he developed fully innovative pedagogical methods, such as learning card games, based on (as he let it be known) his near Fifty Years of teaching. (Today, we might call some of Ryland’s approach active learning.) As Clarke succeeds Ryland, and on the more ideological side, no doubt some republican (and therefore radical) sympathies filter through the school’s students; this would have been touchy stance given Britain’s ongoing war with France, which is more or less continuous, 1793-1815.

Clarke’s Academy, before demolition in 1872, after serving as a railway station;
        photo by E. E. Leggatt at the Victoria & Albert Museum (no.324-1907) and via the Enfield
        Society.* Click to enlarge.true
Clarke’s Academy, before demolition in 1872, after serving as a railway station; photo by E. E. Leggatt at the Victoria & Albert Museum (no.324-1907) and via the Enfield Society.* Click to enlarge.

Correspondent with those republican sympathies, it noteworthy that the school also takes copies of Leigh Hunt’s Examiner, an independent, progressive, and often controversial newspaper, with Hunt being something of a celebrity journalist for his outspoken views, and for being jailed for sedition in 1813 (he was famously imprisoned for two years). In fact, the newspaper will be formative in Keats’s career in ways that Keats, as a schoolboy, could hardly have imagined: his first published poem—O Solitude—will be in The Examiner (5 May 1816). How did this happen? It is Charles Cowden Clarke, in fact, who eventually tells Hunt about Keats, and then he introduces young, unknown Keats to Hunt in October 1816; but Keats likely took it upon himself to send his sonnet to Hunt, prior to having any direct connection with Hunt. Crucially, meeting Hunt via Clarke immediately connects Keats with an important faction of London’s literary network of publishers, journalists, publishers, poets, artists, and writers, and this changes everything for him. The meeting solidifies Keats’s determination to become a poet.

[This graph of Keats’s social network shows the importance of Clarke and Hunt as hubs.]

The school greatly encourages its students to pursue all forms of knowledge and, at times, to set their own consequences for negative behaviors or indifferent commitment. The boys are fully encouraged to take responsibility for what they learn—merit is given for volunteered and independent learning. There is no fagging at Clarke’s, though it was an accepted practice at the more elite British public schools.

Enfield Church, 1813. Click to enlarge. true
Enfield Church, 1813. Click to enlarge.

The sustaining idea at Clarke’s school is to produce self-motivated freethinkers; the pedagogical style is to reward rather than to punish. That some of Keats’s poetry comes to challenge accepted conservative tastes, and that he develops an independent voice, is not surprising; likewise, that Keats develops highly independent religious views is hardly surprising.

Keats, then, receives a very good, if not exceptional, education at the academy. He gets his French, Latin, and core subjects, but also exposure to science and to widening subjects ranging from optics to gardening. Moreover, after a somewhat undirected beginning at the school, when undersized, feisty Keats is more than willing to take on the bullies, Keats eventually becomes known for his stamina as a reader and for after-hours study. According to Charles Cowden Clarke, it seems Keats reads most, if not all, of the books in the library, and he often reads during meals; Clarke recalls Keats’s reading habits: he devoured rather than read. It seems he is especially taken with Greek mythology.

Much of this becomes extraordinarily significant in the narrative of Keats’s poetic progress, where he often makes it clear that he needs—on his own terms, on his own time—to deliberately study poetry in order to achieve his emerging, genuinely lofty ambitions. Keats recognizes that such progress will require work, what he will call the drinking in of Knowledge, which can only be gained through application study and thought (letters, 24 April 1818). His goal, as he later writes just before his 23rd birthday: to be among the English Poets after my death (letters, 14-25 Oct. 1818).

In his final terms at school, Keats is formally rewarded for his hard work, winning merit prizes in the form of books: in 1909, C. H. Kauffman’s 1803 Dictionary of Merchandize and Nomenclature in All Language; and in 1811 he is awarded a copy John Bonnycastle’s 1807 An Introduction to Astronomy. Further, in 1810, he receives a silver PRIZE MEDAL that acknowledges his diligent scholarship; and in 1812, after he leaves the Academy, he receives what seems to be a further book prize (noting his emeritus status), in a copy of an 1806 Latin edition of Ovid’s Metamorphoseon.

Bookplate: 1811 Reward of Merit to Ma [Master] John Keats in
        Bonnycastle’s An Introduction to Astronomy. My thanks to the Huntington Library’s
        rare book collection for this image. Click to enlarge.true
Bookplate: 1811 Reward of Merit to Ma [Master] John Keats in Bonnycastle’s An Introduction to Astronomy. My thanks to the Huntington Library’s rare book collection for this image. Click to enlarge.

A side narrative: While Keats moves through the academy, Cowden Clarke had begun to encourage and direct Keats’s early poetic tastes; now, as Keats concludes these final terms, this continues, and they are close friends up until 1817.

Keats will recognize Clarke’s encouragement in the September 1816 epistle To Charles Cowden Clarke. The poem stumbles around Keats’s somewhat immature desires to be an enduring poet, but it genuinely thanks Clarke for first teaching him all the sweets of song (53). At this point, these aspirations falter between insecurity and a little pretentiousness, which, given Keats’s age and experience, is to be expected: that is, Keats is nowhere close to finding anything like a relatively mature poetic voice or coming up with inventive subjects—he has not yet evolved a poetic persona less concerned with fame and poetic affectation and more concerned with capturing something universally deep, clear, and original.

Imagined: Clarke’s Academy in better days
Imagined: Clarke’s Academy in better days

After leaving school, while he begins medical training, Keats’s school-based task to complete translating Virgil’s epic, The Aeneid, continues. With the project, Keats doesn’t show his continuing interest in literary scholarship, but in the process he apparently evaluatively assesses the classical work, thus pointing to Keats’s early critical acumen: Cowden Clarke recalls that Keats, barely a teenager, actually finds flaws in Virgil’s narrative structure!

Bottom line: the style and regiment of Clarke’s Academy, Cowden Clarke’s interest in tutoring Keats even after leaving the Academy, along with him engineering Keats’s meeting with Leigh Hunt, are key in setting Keats’s direction as a poet, and so the narrative of Keats’s poetic progress has clear origins at Enfield.

Town square, Enfield, 1805, which Keats no doubt was acquainted with (British
        Museum 1927,1126.1.26.67). Click to enlarge.true
Town square, Enfield, 1805, which Keats no doubt was acquainted with (British Museum 1927,1126.1.26.67). Click to enlarge.

*My sincere thanks to Leonard Will and Dave Cockle of the Enfield Society for images and information about the school and its location. Something about the building: According to the Victoria & Albert Museum, the frontage of the school-house was based on designs by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723): The station was demolished in 1872; the façade however was saved, and originally purchased for the Structural Collection of the Science Museum, then part of the South Kensington Museum […] The acquisition of the façade is recorded in a contemporary publication about Enfield by Edward Ford. He noted: …it was taken down brick by brick, with the greatest care, all being numbered and packed in boxes of sawdust for carriage. Nothing could exceed the beauty of the workmanship, the bricks having been ground down to a perfect face, and joined with bee-wax and rosin, nor mortar or lime being used. In this manner the whole front has been first built in a solid block, the circular-headed niches, with their carved cherubs and festoons of fruit and foliage, being afterwards cut out with the chisel. The building also came to be known as THE OLD HOUSE.


O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell

  • O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
  • Let it not be among the jumbled heap
  • Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
  • Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
  • Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
  • May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
  • ’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
  • Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
  • But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
  • Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
  • Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
  • Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
  • Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
  • When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

To Charles Cowden Clarke

  • Oft have you seen a swan superbly frowning,
  • And with proud breast his own white shadow crowning;
  • He slants his neck beneath the waters bright
  • So silently, it seems a beam of light
  • Come from the Galaxy anon he sports,—
  • With outspread wings the Naiad Zephyr courts,
  • Or ruffles all the surface of the lake
  • In striving from its crystal face to take
  • Some diamond water drops, and them to treasure
  • In milky nest, and sip them off at leisure.
  • But not a moment can he there insure them,
  • Nor to such downy rest can he allure them;
  • For down they rush as though they would be free,
  • And drop like hours into eternity.
  • Just like that bird am I in loss of time,
  • Whene’er I venture on the stream of rhyme;
  • With shatter’d boat, oar snapt, and canvass rent,
  • I slowly sail, scarce knowing my intent;
  • Still scooping up the water with my fingers,
  • In which a trembling diamond never lingers.
  • By this, friend Charles, you may full plainly see
  • Why I have never penn’d a line to thee
  • Because my thoughts were never free, and clear,
  • And little fit to please a classic ear;
  • Because my wine was of too poor a savour
  • For one whose palate gladdens in the flavour
  • Of sparkling Helicon — small good it were
  • To take him to a desert rude, and bare,
  • Who had on Baiae’s shore reclin’d at ease,
  • While Tasso’s page was floating in a breeze
  • That gave soft music from Armida’s bowers,
  • Mingled with fragrance from her rarest flowers
  • Small good to one who had by Mulla’s stream
  • Fondled the maidens with the breasts of cream;
  • Who had beheld Belphoebe in a brook,
  • And lovely Una in a leafy nook,
  • And Archimago leaning o’er his book
  • Who had of all that’s sweet tasted, and seen,
  • From silv’ry ripple, up to beauty’s queen;
  • From the sequester’d haunts of gay Titania,
  • To the blue dwelling of divine Urania
  • One, who, of late, had ta’en sweet forest walks
  • With him who elegantly chats, and talks —
  • The wrong’d Libertas, — who has told you stories
  • Of laurel chaplets, and Apollo’s glories;
  • Of troops chivalrous prancing through a city,
  • And tearful ladies made for love, and pity
  • With many else which I have never known.
  • Thus have I thought; and days on days have flown
  • Slowly, or rapidly — unwilling still
  • For you to try my dull, unlearned quill.
  • Nor should I now, but that I’ve known you long;
  • That you first taught me all the sweets of song
  • The grand, the sweet, the terse, the free, the fine;
  • What swell’d with pathos, and what right divine
  • Spenserian vowels that elope with ease,
  • And float along like birds o’er summer seas;
  • Miltonian storms, and more, Miltonian tenderness;
  • Michael in arms, and more, meek Eve’s fair slenderness.
  • Who read for me the sonnet swelling loudly
  • Up to its climax and then dying proudly?
  • Who found for me the grandeur of the ode,
  • Growing, like Atlas, stronger from its load?
  • Who let me taste that more than cordial dram,
  • The sharp, the rapier-pointed epigram?
  • Shew’d me that epic was of all the king,
  • Round, vast, and spanning all like Saturn’s ring?
  • You too upheld the veil from Clio’s beauty,
  • And pointed out the patriot’s stern duty;
  • The might of Alfred, and the shaft of Tell;
  • The hand of Brutus, that so grandly fell
  • Upon a tyrant’s head. Ah! had I never seen,
  • Or known your kindness, what might I have been?
  • What my enjoyments in my youthful years,
  • Bereft of all that now my life endears?
  • And can I e’er these benefits forget?
  • And can I e’er repay the friendly debt?
  • No, doubly no; — yet should these rhymings please,
  • I shall roll on the grass with two-fold ease
  • For I have long time been my fancy feeding
  • With hopes that you would one day think the reading
  • Of my rough verses not an hour misspent;
  • Should it e’er be so, what a rich content!
  • Some weeks have pass’d since last I saw the spires
  • In lucent Thames reflected — warm desires
  • To see the sun o’er peep the eastern dimness,
  • And morning shadows streaking into slimness
  • Across the lawny fields, and pebbly water;
  • To mark the time as they grow broad, and shorter;
  • To feel the air that plays about the hills,
  • And sips its freshness from the little rills;
  • To see high, golden corn wave in the light
  • When Cynthia smiles upon a summer’s night,
  • And peers among the cloudlet’s jet and white,
  • As though she were reclining in a bed
  • Of bean blossoms, in heaven freshly shed —
  • No sooner had I stepp’d into these pleasures
  • Than I began to think of rhymes and measures
  • The air that floated by me seem’d to say
  • Write! thou wilt never have a better day.
  • And so I did. When many lines I’d written,
  • Though with their grace I was not oversmitten,
  • Yet, as my hand was warm, I thought I’d better
  • Trust to my feelings, and write you a letter.
  • Such an attempt required an inspiration
  • Of peculiar sort, — a consummation; —
  • Which, had I felt, these scribblings might have been
  • Verses from which the soul would never wean
  • But many days have past since last my heart
  • Was warm’d luxuriously by divine Mozart;
  • By Arne delighted, or by Handel madden’d;
  • Or by the song of Erin pierc’d and sadden’d
  • What time you were before the music sitting,
  • And the rich notes to each sensation fitting;
  • Since I have walk’d with you through shady lanes
  • That freshly terminate in open plains,
  • And revel’d in a chat that ceased not
  • When at night-fall among your books we got
  • No, nor when supper came, nor after that, —
  • Nor when reluctantly I took my hat;
  • No, nor till cordially you shook my hand
  • Mid-way between our homes: — your accents bland
  • Still sounded in my ears, when I no more
  • Could hear your footsteps touch the grav’ly floor.
  • Sometimes I lost them, and then found again;
  • You chang’d the footpath for the grassy plain.
  • In those still moments I have wish’ed you joys
  • That well you know to honour: — “Life’s very toys
  • With him,” said I, “will take a pleasant charm;
  • It cannot be that ought will work him harm.
  • These thoughts now come o’er me with all their might —
  • Again I shake your hand, — friend Charles, good night.
  • September, 1816

Imitation of Spenser

  • Now Morning from her orient chamber came,
  • And her first footsteps touch’d a verdant hill;
  • Crowning its lawny crest with amber flame,
  • Silv’ring the untainted gushes of its rill;
  • Which, pure from mossy beds, did down distill,
  • And after parting beds of simple flowers,
  • By many streams a little lake did fill,
  • Which round its marge reflected woven bowers,
  • And, in its middle space, a sky that never lowers.
  • There the king-fisher saw his plumage bright
  • Vieing with fish of brilliant dye below;
  • Whose silken fins, and golden scales light
  • Cast upward, through the waves, a ruby glow:
  • There saw the swan his neck of arched snow,
  • And oar’d himself along with majesty;
  • Sparkled his jetty eyes; his feet did show
  • Beneath the waves like Afric’s ebony,
  • And on his back a fay reclined voluptuously.
  • Ah! could I tell the wonders of an isle
  • That in that fairest lake had placed been,
  • I could e’en Dido of her grief beguile;
  • Or rob from aged Lear his bitter teen:
  • For sure so fair a place was never seen,
  • Of all that ever charm’d romantic eye:
  • It seem’d an emerald in the silver sheen
  • Of the bright waters; or as when on high,
  • Through clouds of fleecy white, laughs the coerulean sky.
  • And all around it dipp’d luxuriously
  • Slopings of verdure through the glassy tide,
  • Which, as it were in gentle amity,
  • Rippled delighted up the flowery side;
  • As if to glean the ruddy tears, it tried,
  • Which fell profusely from the rose-tree stem!
  • Haply it was the workings of its pride,
  • In strife to throw upon the shore a gem
  • Outvieing all the buds in Flora’s diadem.

On Peace

  • O Peace! and dost thou with thy presence bless
  • The dwellings of this war-surrounded isle;
  • Soothing with placid brow our late distress,
  • Making the triple kingdom brightly smile?
  • Joyful I hail thy presence; and I hail
  • The sweet companions that await on thee;
  • Complete my joy — let not my first wish fail,
  • Let the sweet mountain nymph thy favourite be,
  • With England’s happiness proclaim Europa’s liberty.
  • O Europe! let not sceptred tyrants see
  • That thou must shelter in thy former state;
  • Keep thy chains burst, and boldly say thou art free;
  • Give thy kings law — leave not uncurbed the great;
  • So with the horrors past thou’lt win thy happier fate!

As from the darkening gloom a silver dove

  • As from the darkening gloom a silver dove
  • Upsoars, and darts into the eastern light,
  • On pinions that nought moves but pure delight;
  • So fled thy soul into the realms above,
  • Regions of peace and everlasting love;
  • Where happy spirits, crown’d with circlets bright
  • Of starry beam, and gloriously bedight,
  • Taste the high joy none but the blest can prove.
  • There thou or joinest the immortal quire
  • In melodies that even heaven fair
  • Fill with superior bliss, or, at desire
  • Of the omnipotent Father, cleavest the air,
  • On holy message sent. — What pleasures higher?
  • Wherefore does any grief our joy impair?

To Lord Byron

  • Byron, how sweetly sad thy melody!
  • Attuning still the soul to tenderness,
  • As if soft Pity, with unusual stress
  • Had touch’d her plaintive lute; and thou, being by,
  • Hadst caught the tones, nor suffer’d them to die.
  • O’ershading sorrow doth not make thee less
  • Delightful: thou thy griefs dost dress
  • With a bright halo, shining beamily;
  • As when a cloud the golden moon doth veil,
  • Its sides are ting’d with a resplendent glow,
  • Through the dark robe oft amber rays prevail,
  • And like fair veins in sable marble flow.
  • Still warble, dying swan, —still tell the tale,
  • The enchanting tale —the tale of pleasing woe.

Written on the Day That Mr. Leigh Hunt Left Prison

  • What though, for showing truth to flatter’d state,
  • Kind Hunt was shut in prison, yet has he,
  • In his immortal spirit, been as free
  • As the sky-searching lark, and as elate.
  • Minion of grandeur! think you he did wait?
  • Think you he nought but prison walls did see,
  • Till, so unwilling, thou unturn’dst the key?
  • Ah, no! far happier, nobler was his fate!
  • In Spenser’s halls he strayed, and bowers fair,
  • Culling enchanted flowers; and he flew
  • With daring Milton through the fields of air:
  • To regions of his own his genius true
  • Took happy flights. Who shall his fame impair
  • When thou art dead, and all thy wretched crew?

Ode to Apollo

  • 1
  • In thy western halls of gold
  • When thou sittest in thy state,
  • Bards, that erst sublimely told
  • Heroic deeds, and sang of fate,
  • With fervour seize their adamantine lyres,
  • Whose chords are solid rays, and twinkle radiant fires.
  • 2
  • There Homer with his nervous arms
  • Strikes the twanging harp of war,
  • And even the western splendour warms,
  • While the trumpets sound afar;
  • But, what creates the most intense surprise,
  • His soul looks out through renovated eyes.
  • 3
  • Then, through thy temple wide, melodious swells
  • The sweet majestic tone of Maro’s lyre;
  • The soul delighted on each accent dwells, —
  • Enraptured dwells, — not daring to respire,
  • The while he tells of grief around a funeral pyre.
  • 4
  • ’Tis awful silence then again:
  • Expectant stand the spheres;
  • Breathless the laurell’d peers,
  • Nor move, till ends the lofty strain,
  • Nor move till Milton’s tuneful thunders cease,
  • And leave once more the ravish’d heavens in peace.
  • 5
  • Thou biddest Shakspeare wave his hand,
  • And quickly forward spring
  • The Passions — a terrific band —
  • And each vibrates the string
  • That with its tyrant temper best accords,
  • While from their master’s lips pour forth the inspiring words.
  • 6
  • A silver trumpet Spenser blows,
  • And, as its martial notes to silence flee,
  • From a virgin chorus flows
  • A hymn in praise of spotless chastity.
  • ’Tis still! wild warblings from the Aeolian lyre
  • Enchantment softly breathe, and tremblingly expire.
  • 7
  • Next thy Tasso’s ardent numbers
  • Float along the pleased air,
  • Calling youth from idle slumbers,
  • Rousing them from pleasure’s lair: —
  • Then o’er the strings his fingers gently move,
  • And melt the soul to pity and to love.
  • 8
  • But when thou joinest with the Nine,
  • And all the powers of song combine,
  • We listen here on earth:
  • The dying tones that fill the air,
  • And charm the ear of evening fair,
  • From thee, great God of Bards, receive their heavenly birth.

Give me women, wine, and snuff

  • Give me women, wine and snuff
  • You may do so sans objection
  • Till the day of resurrection;
  • For bless my beard they aye shall be
  • My beloved trinity.

To George Felton Mathew

  • Sweet are the pleasures that to verse belong,
  • And doubly sweet a brotherhood in song;
  • Nor can remembrance, Mathew! bring to view
  • A fate more pleasing, a delight more true
  • Than that in which the brother Poets joy’d,
  • Who with combined powers, their wit employ’d
  • To raise a trophy to the drama’s muses.
  • The thought of this great partnership diffuses
  • Over the genius loving heart, a feeling
  • Of all that’s high, and great, and good, and healing.
  • Too partial friend! fain would I follow thee
  • Past each horizon of fine poesy;
  • Fain would I echo back each pleasant note
  • As o’er Sicilian seas, clear anthems float
  • ’Mong the light skimming gondolas far parted,
  • Just when the sun his farewell beam has darted:
  • But ’tis impossible; far different cares
  • Beckon me sternly from soft “Lydian airs,”
  • And hold my faculties so long in thrall,
  • That I am oft in doubt whether at all
  • I shall again see Phoebus in the morning:
  • Or flush’d Aurora in the roseate dawning!
  • Or a white Naiad in a rippling stream;
  • Or a rapt seraph in a moonlight beam;
  • Or again witness what with thee I’ve seen,
  • The dew by fairy feet swept from the green,
  • After a night of some quaint jubilee
  • Which every elf and fay had come to see:
  • When bright processions took their airy march
  • Beneath the curved moon’s triumphal arch.
  • But might I now each passing moment give
  • To the coy muse, with me she would not live
  • In this dark city, nor would condescend
  • ’Mid contradictions her delights to lend.
  • Should e’er the fine-eyed maid to me be kind,
  • Ah! surely it must be whene’er I find
  • Some flowery spot, sequester’d, wild, romantic,
  • That often must have seen a poet frantic;
  • Where oaks, that erst the Druid knew, are growing,
  • And flowers, the glory of one day, are blowing;
  • Where the dark-leav’d laburnum’s drooping clusters
  • Reflect athwart the stream their yellow lustres,
  • And intertwined the cassia’s arms unite,
  • With its own drooping buds, but very white;
  • Where on one side are covert branches hung,
  • ’Mong which the nightingales have always sung
  • In leafy quiet: where to pry, aloof,
  • Atween the pillars of the sylvan roof,
  • Would be to find where violet beds were nestling,
  • And where the bee with cowslip bells was wrestling.
  • There must be too a ruin dark, and gloomy,
  • To say “joy not too much in all that’s bloomy.”
  • Yet this is vain — O Mathew lend thy aid
  • To find a place where I may greet the maid —
  • Where we may soft humanity put on,
  • And sit, and rhyme and think on Chatterton;
  • And that warm-hearted Shakespeare sent to meet him
  • Four laurell’d spirits, heaven-ward to intreat him.
  • With reverence would we speak of all the sages
  • Who have left streaks of light athwart their ages:
  • And thou shouldst moralize on Milton’s blindness,
  • And mourn the fearful dearth of human kindness
  • To those who strove with the bright golden wing
  • Of genius, to flap away each sting
  • Thrown by the pitiless world. We next could tell
  • Of those who in the cause of freedom fell;
  • Of our own Alfred, of Helvetian Tell;
  • Of him whose name to ev’ry heart’s a solace,
  • High-minded and unbending William Wallace.
  • While to the rugged north our musing turns
  • We well might drop a tear for him, and Burns.
  • Felton! without incitements such as these,
  • How vain for me the niggard muse to tease:
  • For thee, she will thy every dwelling grace,
  • And make “a sun-shine in a shady place”:
  • For thou wast once a flowret blooming wild,
  • Close to the source, bright, pure, and undefil’d,
  • Whence gush the streams of song: in happy hour
  • Came chaste Diana from her shady bower,
  • Just as the sun was from the east uprising;
  • And, as for him some gift she was devising,
  • Beheld thee, pluck’d thee, cast thee in the stream
  • To meet her glorious brother’s greeting beam.
  • I marvel much that thou hast never told
  • How, from a flower, into a fish of gold
  • Apollo chang’d thee; how thou next didst seem
  • A black-eyed swan upon the widening stream;
  • And when thou first didst in that mirror trace
  • The placid features of a human face:
  • That thou hast never told thy travels strange,
  • And all the wonders of the mazy range
  • O’er pebbly crystal, and o’er golden sands;
  • Kissing thy daily food from Naiad’s pearly hands.
  • November, 1815

Oh Chatterton! how very sad thy fate

  • O Chatterton! how very sad thy fate!
  • Dear child of sorrow — son of misery!
  • How soon the film of death obscur’d that eye,
  • Whence genius wildly flash’d, and high debate.
  • How soon that voice, majestic and elate,
  • Melted in dying numbers! Oh! how nigh
  • Was night to thy fair morning. Thou didst die
  • A half-blown flow’ret which cold blasts amate.
  • But this is past. Thou art among the stars
  • Of highest heaven; to the rolling spheres
  • Thou sweetly singest —naught thy hymning mars,
  • Above the ingrate world and human fears.
  • On earth the good man base detraction bars
  • From thy fair name, and waters it with tears.

To Hope

  • When by my solitary hearth I sit,
  • And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;
  • When no fair dreams before my “ mind’s eye ” flit,
  • And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
  • Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
  • And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.
  • Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
  • Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
  • Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
  • And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
  • Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
  • And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.
  • Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
  • Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
  • When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
  • Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
  • Chace him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
  • And fright him as the morning frightens night!
  • Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
  • Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
  • O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
  • Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
  • Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
  • And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!
  • Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
  • From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
  • O let me think it is not quite in vain
  • To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
  • Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
  • And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!
  • In the long vista of the years to roll,
  • Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
  • O let me see our land retain her soul,
  • Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
  • From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed —
  • Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!
  • Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
  • Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
  • With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
  • Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
  • But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
  • That fill the skies with silver glitterings!
  • And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
  • Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
  • Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
  • So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
  • Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
  • Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head.

To Some Ladies

  • What though while the wonders of nature exploring,
  • I cannot your light, mazy footsteps attend;
  • Nor listen to accents that, almost adoring,
  • Bless Cynthia’s face, the enthusiast’s friend:
  • Yet over the steep, whence the mountain stream rushes,
  • With you, kindest friends, in idea I muse;
  • Mark the clear tumbling crystal, its passionate gushes,
  • Its spray that the wild flower kindly bedews.
  • Why linger you so, the wild labyrinth strolling?
  • Why breathless, unable your bliss to declare?
  • Ah! you list to the nightingale’s tender condoling,
  • Responsive to sylphs, in the moon beamy air.
  • ’Tis morn, and the flowers with dew are yet drooping,
  • I see you are treading the verge of the sea:
  • And now! ah, I see it — you just now are stooping
  • To pick up the keep-sake intended for me.
  • If a cherub, on pinions of silver descending,
  • Had brought me a gem from the fret-work of heaven;
  • And, smiles with his star-cheering voice sweetly blending,
  • The blessings of Tighe had melodiously given;
  • It had not created a warmer emotion
  • Than the present, fair nymphs, I was blest with from you,
  • Than the shell, from the bright golden sands of the ocean
  • Which the emerald waves at your feet gladly threw.
  • For, indeed, ’tis a sweet and peculiar pleasure,
  • (And blissful is he who such happiness finds,)
  • To possess but a span in the hour of leisure,
  • In elegant, pure, and aerial minds.

× Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Blank, G. Kim. “1803-1811: Clarke’s Academy in Enfield, Keats’s Education, & the Headmaster’s Son.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology. Edition 3.26 , University of Victoria, 12 July 2023.

Chicago Style: Note

G. Kim Blank, “1803-1811: Clarke’s Academy in Enfield, Keats’s Education, & the Headmaster’s Son,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.26 , last modified 12th July 2023.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Blank, G. Kim. “1803-1811: Clarke’s Academy in Enfield, Keats’s Education, & the Headmaster’s Son.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.26 , last modified 12th July 2023.