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

15 October 1815: Keats’s Continues Medical Training; But a Poet He Will Be—he hopes

Guy’s Hospital, London

Click the map to see a larger version.true
Click the map to see a larger version.

In October 1815, Keats is registered at Guy’s Hospital as a medical student for a year-long course of studies, when he could have just taken an available six-month course. Guy’s at the time is affiliated with St Thomas’ Hospital (they are known as the United Hospitals); between them, they are the leading teaching hospitals in Britain, and they are particularly known for their expertise in surgery and anatomical studies, mainly because of a few of their progressive faculty, while also charitably driven by attempting to serve the poor. There was much experimentation at the hospitals.

Guy’s Hospital
Guy’s Hospital

By the end of October, Keats is meritoriously selected from a large range of students as a dresser to surgeons (possibly for the next position available), which would have afforded him a small refund on his tuition. About five months later, by early March 1816, Keats is officially a dresser, assigned to supervised for a year with a surgeon (in Keats’s case, it was with the rather reckless—and somewhat deaf—William Billy Lucas, Junior). The end result would work toward credentialing Keats. Testimonials were part of the review process.

How did Keats get to this position, to what we might call the second phase of his medical training?

The first phase begins in 1811, when Keats is apprenticed—indentured—for five years to a reputable surgeon, Thomas Hammond, at the fee of 210 guineas (which also included room and board). With Hammond, Keats would have had experience with everything ranging from applying leeches to pulling teeth and delivering babies, along with acquiring general diagnostic knowledge. This arrangement with Hammond is cut short for uncertain reasons, but is possibly related to Keats’s unhappiness with his master; or perhaps, quite the opposite, he is presented with the opportunity to move into higher training via college certification with Hammond’s blessing and support; that is, Hammond would of course have to provide some documentation to attest to Keats’s completion of the apprenticeship. Hammond was himself a student at Guy’s.

Keats’s motives for continuing with this second phase of his training are, then, complex, beyond the fact that it would have eventually provided him with a decent living. There is the personal side: Keats does not like the idea of performing surgery; as Keats tells his friend Charles Brown, he was utterly fearful that, during surgery, he might make a lethal mistake with just one small slip of the lancet (Brown records this in his memoir about Keats). Indeed, surgery at the beginning of the nineteenth century was often brutal, bloody, and chancy, and not for the faint of heart—neither antiseptic surgical practice nor anesthesiology as yet exist. Despite this, Keats would have been very well trained, gaining much practical experience beyond his wide-ranging lectures by routinely visiting the wards and assisting, though places like the hectic dissecting rooms were gruesome, with the cadavers practiced upon (secured illegally by professional and well paid body snatchers—so-called resurrection-men) not always in the best of shape—maggots were common to the scene. Nevertheless, Keats’s training and the training facilities at the United Hospitals was among the best in Europe, and some of his teachers—like Astley Cooper and Henry Cline—also among the leading teachers of anatomy and surgery. Cooper is in fact later knighted for his work, and no doubt Cooper’s famous oratorial gifts that combined passion, eloquence, and profound subject knowledge struck Keats the poet.

Thomas Rowlandson’s 1815 depiction of the dissection room (Spencer Collection, New York Public Library). Click to enlarge.  
Thomas Rowlandson’s 1815 depiction of the dissection room (Spencer Collection, New York Public Library). Click to enlarge.

What remains somewhat uncertain, then, is the degree of Keats’s commitment to the medical profession, though his efforts (and evidence from some close to him) suggest he was genuinely interested in the medical profession. But if surgery puts him off, why might he accept the dressership? If he had not shown some strong signs of both skill and dedication, why would he have been selected for the much sought-after dressership, and, along with it, the testing and increased responsibilities of a duty dresser? Nothing suggests that, as a medical student, Keats was anything but diligent; his medical notebook that survives shows that he attended lectures and took fairly good notes, despite the occasional flower doodle in the margins. Much later, when Keats seems to have moved beyond his medical career and fully into his life as poet, he still holds with him the idea and value of studying medicine (letter, 3 May 1818, to Reynolds); and as late as March 1819, when on the verge of writing his greatest poetry, he entertains moving to Edinburgh to study for a physician (letter, 3 March, to the George Keates).

Portable Surgical Kit, c.1812, Science Museum, London
Portable Surgical Kit, c.1812, Science Museum, London

Some background: Before 1815, apothecaries were not professionalized or licensed by examination, and there was a fair amount of quackery under the nomination. But in mid 1815, just as Keats finishes his apprenticeship with Hammond and begins training to become an apothecary-surgeon, the Apothecaries’ Act is passed, thus pointing Keats toward a very decent, legitimate livelihood under the umbrella of practical medicine.

Surrounded by other students, and living in the middle of town, Keats no doubt learns much about London’s varied inner life in the varied inner city, though in a poem likely written during the period—the Petrarchan sonnet To Solitude—he imaginatively transports himself from the jumbled heap / Of murky buildings to wax upon the bliss of Nature—a Wordsworthian-inspired sentiment, no doubt, and something of a common Romantic trope. (We sometimes know the poem as O Solitude, and it becomes Keats’s first published poem—in Leigh Hunt’s The Examiner, 5 May 1816.)

Noteworthy: this autumn Keats purchases the two-volume Poems by William Wordsworth, published earlier in the year; it will, however, take a few years for Keats to absorb and, crucially, critically assess the nature and qualities of Wordsworth’s accomplishment. We have to imagine Keats writing poetry while, at the same time, and with conflicted purposes, studying for his medical exams.

Keats’s medical notebook (Keats House, City of London). Click to
Keats’s medical notebook (Keats House, City of London). Click to enlarge.

By July 1816, aged twenty, Keats completes and passes a fairly involved four-part medical exam that qualifies him to practice; permission to even write the exam was reserved for only a few. In December 1816, he is officially listed as a certified apothecary. Then, to the horror of the family trustee, Richard Abbey, Keats begins to express his desire to give up medicine for poetry, though Keats, it seems, likely continues some work as a surgical dresser into until early March 1817—exactly when his first volume of poetry is published—but his decision is then fixed. A poet he will be. Keats was, at the time of telling Abbey, fully confident in his calling and potential: I know that I possess Abilities greater than most Men, and therefore I am determined to gain my Living by exercising them (as reported by Keats’s friend, supporter, and publisher, John Taylor, 23 April 1827). This is something of a remarkable statement for a young, unknown, wanna-be poet; the confidence predicts an even more remarkable statement, when, 14 October 1818, he writes, I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death (written to his brother and sister-in-law, George and Georgian Keats).

Falling into and embraced by a kind of progressive literary and artistic circle based around poet, critic, and celebrity journalist Leigh Hunt in late 1816 plays a crucial role in Keats’s poetic aspirations relative to his a medical career.* Thus the year-long course of studies that begins in October 1815 begins to wane exactly a year later when he is introduced to Hunt and, immediately, into Hunt’s wide circle. At various difficult moments in his later life as a poet (translation: having no immediate success as a poet), Keats nevertheless has passing thoughts of returning to the medical profession; and no doubt Keats’s very close encounters with the precarious physicality of medical profession works its way into his views and philosophy, as well as into his poetry. In an age of fairly brutal surgery and haphazard diagnosis, how could Keats not know something of suffering and mortality?

To look for: at least some of Keats’s acquired medical lexicon, his considerable training, and the varied knowledge associated with medicine in the early 19th-century works itself into his poetry. Thus, for example, words like sensation hold possibly expanded meanings; likewise, the mystery of the living, creative mind beyond the pure physiology of the brain and body no doubt challenges and profitably complicates his own poetics and poetry. And, obviously, Keats’s front-line medical training (some of it the equivalent of emergency-room experience) would have had him necessary face human pain, suffering, and frailty in ways more direct than almost any other poet. Thus we might, for example, consider more carefully a probing passage like this (in an equally probing letter), which ingeniously both links and separates the physical and metaphysical mind, while invoking the poetic achievement of Wordsworth: I am continually running away from the subject—sure this cannot be exactly the case with a complex Mind—one that is imaginative and at the same time careful of its fruits—who would exist partly on sensation [and] partly on thought—to whom it is necessary that years should bring the Philosophic Mind (to Benjamin Bailey, 22 Nov 1817). And when we hear poet Keats address mortality and human suffering, as he does so graphically in the third stanza of Ode to a Nightingale, where he pictures illness, pain, and suffering as something to both face and escape from, we might also picture medical Keats.

So, in terms of Keats’s progress, this period in Keats’s life should give us some pause to consider the complexity of both Keats and his situation. What we do know is that, for the year-and-a-half that Keats is affiliated with Guy’s Hospital—from October 1815 until March 1817—he composes somewhere around forty poems; we also know he is doing well at his medical training; we know that when Keats’s speaks of the mystery of the body, that his medical experience must form at least part of thinking; and, as mentioned, almost in the middle of this period, his social-cultural network explodes via meeting Hunt in October 1816.*

What’s a young, brilliant, good-looking lad to do?

[*See here for a mapping of Keats’s social network and Hunt’s place in it.]

The statue of Keats at Guy’s Hospital, by Stuart Williamson, unveiled October
The statue of Keats at Guy’s Hospital, by Stuart Williamson, unveiled October 2007

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.

Ode to a Nightingale


  • My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
  • My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
  • Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
  • One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
  • ’Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
  • But being too happy in thine happiness,
  • That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
  • In some melodious plot
  • Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
  • Singest of summer in full-throated ease.


  • O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
  • Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,
  • Tasting of Flora and the country green,
  • Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
  • O for a beaker full of the warm South,
  • Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
  • With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
  • And purple-stained mouth;
  • That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
  • And with thee fade away into the forest dim:


  • 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;
  • Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
  • Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
  • Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
  • And leaden-eyed despairs,
  • Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
  • Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.


  • Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
  • Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
  • But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
  • Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
  • Already with thee! tender is the night,
  • And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
  • Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;
  • But here there is no light,
  • Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
  • Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.


  • 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
  • The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
  • White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
  • Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
  • And mid-May’s eldest child,
  • The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
  • The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.


  • Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
  • I have been half in love with easeful Death,
  • Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
  • To take into the air my quiet breath;
  • Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
  • To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
  • While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
  • In such an ecstasy!
  • Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
  • To thy high requiem become a sod.


  • Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
  • No hungry generations tread thee down;
  • The voice I hear this passing night was heard
  • In ancient days by emperor and clown:
  • Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
  • Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
  • She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
  • The same that oft-times hath
  • Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
  • Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.


  • Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
  • To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
  • Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
  • As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
  • Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
  • Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
  • Up the hill-side; and now ‘tis buried deep
  • In the next valley-glades:
  • Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
  • Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?

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. “15 October 1815: Keats’s Continues Medical Training; But a Poet He Will Be—he hopes.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology. Edition 3.26 , University of Victoria, 12 July 2023.

Chicago Style: Note

G. Kim Blank, “15 October 1815: Keats’s Continues Medical Training; But a Poet He Will Be—he hopes,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.26 , last modified 12th July 2023.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Blank, G. Kim. “15 October 1815: Keats’s Continues Medical Training; But a Poet He Will Be—he hopes.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.26 , last modified 12th July 2023.