Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

  • Feb: Keats writes poetry, mainly influenced by Spenser
  • March: registered as a dresser for a surgeon, Guy’s Hospital, London; medical and traingin duties increase; has some immature poetic pretenses; writes a flimsy opening for a chivalric poem, Calidore; dresses in a somewhat pretentiously artistic, somewhat Byronic way—the persona of a poet; writes Woman! When I behold thee…
  • April: takes poetry seriously, April onwards; meets Severn, date uncertain, likely this spring, through his brother, George
  • May: first published poem, To Solitude; Abbey becomes sole trustee for family estate
  • June: writing sonnets; poem: To one who has been long in city pent
  • July: qualifies as apothecary
  • Aug-Sept: Keats holidays at Margate with brother Tom; begins some lingering obsession with poetic greatness
  • Aug: poem: To My Brother George (sonnet); To My Brother George (epistle)
  • Sept: poem: To Charles Cowden Clarke: moves to 8 Dean Street, Southwark, with his brothers
  • Oct: writes poem Chapman’s Homer; on the prospect of meeting Leigh Hunt: it will be an Era in my existence; very keen to meet Men who in the admiration of Poetry do not jumble together Shakespeare and Darwin; meets Hunt via Clarke, who calls it a red-letter day: Hunt says he becomes intimate on the spot with Keats; meets Reynolds and glorious Haydon; during the month he likely writes Keen, Fitful Gusts and On Leaving Some Friends
  • Oct-Dec: poems: Sleep and Poetry; I stood tip-toe
  • Nov: lives 76 Cheapside, London; I particularly want to look into the beautiful Scenery—for poetical purposes; Haydon says he is going to send some of Keats’s poetry to Wordsworth—Keats is breathless; poem: Great spirits now on earth are sojourning; 18 Nov: Keats’s youngest brother, Tom, turns seventeen
  • Dec: Keats listed as certified apothecary; Haydon sketches Keats and makes life-mask; publicly noted as a new young poet, with Chapman’s Homer published; drops medical career, which Abbey calls foolhardy; poems: To G. A. W., To Kosciusko, Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition, perhaps On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt and To the Ladies Who Saw Me Crown’d
  • 1816: Spa Field Riots, London; Lord Byron leaves England (April) to avoid scandal, lives in Italy; Byron publishes Canto III of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage; Percy Shelley with Mary Godwin and Claire Clairmont leave for Switzerland, where they meet Byron (Shelley marries Mary in December); Shelley publishes his Alastor collection; Beau Brummell leaves England to avoid scandal; Elgin Marbles purchased by the nation; Shelley publishes Alastor collection; Hunt publishes Rimini; Coleridge publishes Christabel, Kubla Khan, The Pains of Sleep; birth of Charlotte Brontë; Vauxhall Bridge opens; very unfavorable weather, some crop failure, some famine (a.k.a. The Year Without a Summer, likely due to the huge volcanic eruption in Indonesia); the year of the Great Re-coinage to reestablish currency stability; Humphry Davy tests lamp for coal mining; stethoscope invented (France); divorce abolished in France; in London, The Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace established; first performance of Rossini’s comic opera The Barber of Seville (in Rome)

August-September 1816: Margate & Scarce Knowing His Poetic Intent

Margate

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

Keats takes his younger brother, Tom, to the popular seaside destination of Margate. Tom, who is four years younger than Keats, has shown what seem to be precursor symptoms of consumption—tuberculosis. The symptoms of the disease can sometimes show a gradual, lingering presence before full onset.

We might imagine Keats wandering around the trendy resort town while also taking time to explore the striking coastline. No doubt he thinks about public popularity and takes his measure of middle-class, touristy preoccupations—yet in light of the strings of what immortal nature and his mortal imagination poetically play to each other. These are two worlds Keats, at this point, struggles to put in see of each other. Margate at this point might be a place to mull poetic purpose, poetic readiness, and poetic potential. No more, but no less. Or, perhaps Keats has in mind the idea that sea-bathing and sea air have some medical and curative properties, which was an idea that many well-do-to Londoners held as their purpose in visiting Margate. One might do worse than think of the odd but wonderful novel of 1813, with the exuberant title of Margate!!! or Sketches Amply Descriptive of that Celebrated Place of Resort, with its Environs, and Calculated to Inculcate in the Mind of Youth a Fondness for the Productions of Nature and Art, by Mrs. Pilkington. Yes, Keats might think: Nature and Art . . . .

Here Keats writes an epistle poem to his other brother, George (To My Brother George). Like other poems written at this time that end up in his first volume of poetry, Poems (1817), this one also expresses Keats’s desires about being a poet and the meaning of poetic fame (my mad ambition, he calls it—line 110), subjects that in fact clog up much of his early poetry. Keats is even confused about social relevance of his projected role of poet. In short, it is a vaguely inspired poem about the desire for inspiration. Keats takes a two-volume edition of William Wordsworth’s poetry with him on the trip, which signals coming poetic development. Keats would hardly have believed it at the time, but he will eventually meet Wordsworth (already a living legend) a number of times at a crucial moment in his poetic progress, in late 1817 and into early 1818, when Keats begins to understand the limitations of his own early poetry. He will come to determine what he believes he can take from Wordsworth (the poet’s philosophical depths that articulates an understanding of loss, suffering, and the connection between nature and human nature) and what he will attempt to avoid (a dominating subjectivity).

In this poem to George, as well as in a second poem written in Margate (To C.[harles] C.[owden] Clarke), it is clear that Keats holds Leigh Hunt (Libertas—44) in high esteem for his independence of mind and his ease with poetry. However, Hunt’s poetic influence will in some ways remain a sticky point in the path of Keats’s poetic development, and thus it is more against rather than with Hunt that Keats later develops his very best poetry; that is, Keats becomes very conscious of the necessity to go not just beyond Hunt but in a different direction. Keats also becomes aware that association with Hunt (who, via his paper, The Examiner, strongly represents liberal and reformist side of major social and political issues) will make Keats vulnerable to nasty and partisan criticism from Tory quarters. On the plus side, the Huntian impulses of sociability and poetry as entertainment no doubt loosen and force the practice of Keats’s pen, but these also, for the moment, highlight his need to develop a less affected style and to avoid random, ineffectual topics.

But the poem to Clarke is a genuinely heartfelt acknowledgment of how Clarke directed Keats’s early tastes in poetry, poetic forms (pleasures . . . of rhymes and measures—97-98), music (Mozart, Arne, Handel), and even the impulses of liberty. In the poem, Keats also worries over his lagging, uncertain poetic progress: he pictures himself sailing on the stream of rhyme [. . .] scarce knowing my intent (16-18). What is at least a little impressive the range of poetry to which Clarke exposes Keats. Keats at this point can only imagine paying back the debt to Clarke by, some day, composing verses of rich content (76-83). Indeed, he will return the favor, in that he will, in few years, have poetically developed enough to manage rich content with extraordinary tonal control, with intensity that can controls excess—and with purposes greater than confined, random moments of response, and without the necessity of sprinkling literary and classical over top if his poetry, as if to provide cultural cache.

But more about this sense of confined response. During this phase in this poetic career, Keats larger vision is somewhat bogged down in romance, and while he is steeped in knightly and chivalric imagery, themes, and narrative, no substantive work results from these mainly Spenserian enthusiasms. Keats would like to blame the influence of the city for his inability to write weighty poetry, but it is also the result of other circumstances: his relative immaturity and inexperience; his early infatuations with, for example, those chivalric portrayals and motifs; the temptation of random and occasional topics; an tendency toward overwriting and affective wording and sentiment; an effusive interest in fame and greatness; an undeveloped poetics; and his lack of digging into and understanding style and depths of poets like Milton, Wordsworth, and Shakespeare. But give him time: twenty-year-old Keats will get there in just over two years.

There is also a deeper more complex aspect of Spenser that Keats has not yet engaged: the tensions and relationship between the ideal and the real. Keats will attempt for do so in about a year when he returns to Margate, in a poem that, unfortunately, does not work all that well, as Keats comes to recognize in the process of writing it: Endymion.

The popular seaside destination of Margate
The popular seaside destination of Margate

Not long after returning from Margate, Keats meets Hunt in October 1816. Keats anticipates that this meeting will mark an Era in my existence (letters, 9 Oct). Indeed, the meeting immediately changes his London life and his poetic career extraordinarily, since his new associations (via and including Hunt) will support, guide, and challenge his poetic directions.

Keats will return to Margate in less than a year, hoping to gain some momentum in order to get on his largest poetic project, Endymion.

🗙

To My Brother George [1]

  • Many the wonders I this day have seen:
  • The sun, when first he kist away the tears
  • That fill’d the eyes of morn; — the laurel’d peers
  • Who from the feathery gold of evening lean; —
  • The ocean with its vastness, its blue green,
  • Its ships, its rocks, its caves, its hopes, its fears, —
  • Its voice mysterious, which whoso hears
  • Must think on what will be, and what has been.
  • E’en now, dear George, while this for you I write,
  • Cynthia is from her silken curtains peeping
  • So scantly, that it seems her bridal night,
  • And she her half-discover’d revels keeping.
  • But what, without the social thought of thee,
  • Would be the wonders of the sky and sea?
🗙

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
🗙

ENDYMION: A Poetic Romance.

[from the title page:]

“THE STRETCHED METRE OF AN ANTIQUE SONG”

[from the dedication page:]

INSCRIBED TO THE MEMORY OF THOMAS CHATTERTON.

PREFACE.

[on pages vii-ix of the original text]

KNOWING within myself the manner in which this Poem has been produced, it is not without a feeling of regret that I make it public.

What manner I mean, will be quite clear to the reader, who must soon perceive great inexperience, immaturity, and every error denoting a feverish attempt, rather than a deed accomplished. The two first books, and indeed the two last, I feel sensible are not of such completion as to warrant their passing the press; nor should they if I thought a year’s castigation would do them any good;—it will not: the foundations are too sandy. It is just that this youngster should die away: a sad thought for me, if I had not some hope that while it is dwindling I may be plotting, and fitting myself for verses fit to live.

This may be speaking too presumptuously, and may deserve a punishment: but no feeling man will be forward to inflict it: he will leave me alone, with the conviction that there is not fiercer hell than the failure in a great object. This is not written with the least atom of purpose to forestall criticisms of course, but from the desire I have to conciliate men who are competent to look, and who do look with a zealous eye, to the honour of English literature.

The imagination of a boy is healthy, and the mature imagination of a man is healthy; but there is a space of life between, in which the soul is in a ferment, the character undecided, the way of life uncertain, the ambition thick-sighted: thence proceeds mawkishness, and all the thousand bitters which those men I speak of must necessarily taste in going over the following pages.

I hope I have not in too late a day touched the beautiful mythology of Greece and dulled its brightness: for I wish to try once more, before I bid it farewel [sic].

Teignmouth,
April 10, 1818.

ENDYMION

BOOK 1.

  • A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
  • Its loveliness increases; it will never
  • Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
  • A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
  • Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
  • Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
  • A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
  • Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
  • Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
  • Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
  • Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
  • Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
  • From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
  • Trees old, and young sprouting a shady boon
  • For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
  • With the green world they live in; and clear rills
  • That for themselves a cooling covert make
  • ’Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
  • Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
  • And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
  • We have imagined for the mighty dead;
  • All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
  • An endless fountain of immortal drink,
  • Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.
  • Nor do we merely feel these essences
  • For one short hour; no, even as the trees
  • That whisper round a temple become soon
  • Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,
  • The passion poesy, glories infinite,
  • Haunt us till they become a cheering light
  • Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
  • That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,
  • They alway must be with us, or we die.
  • Therefore, ’tis with full happiness that I
  • Will trace the story of Endymion.
  • The very music of the name has gone
  • Into my being, and each pleasant scene
  • Is growing fresh before me as the green
  • Of our own vallies: so I will begin
  • Now while I cannot hear the city’s din;
  • Now while the early budders are just new,
  • And run in mazes of the youngest hue
  • About old forests; while the willow trails
  • Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
  • Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
  • Grows lush in juicy stalks, I’ll smoothly steer
  • My little boat, for many quiet hours,
  • With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
  • Many and many a verse I hope to write,
  • Before the daisies, vermeil rimm’d and white,
  • Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
  • Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
  • I must be near the middle of my story.
  • O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
  • See it half finished: but let autumn bold,
  • With universal tinge of sober gold,
  • Be all about me when I make an end.
  • And now at once, adventuresome, I send
  • My herald thought into a wilderness:
  • There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
  • My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
  • Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.
  • Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread
  • A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed
  • So plenteously all weed-hidden roots
  • Into o’er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits.
  • And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep,
  • Where no man went; and if from shepherd’s keep
  • A lamb strayed far a-down those inmost glens,
  • Never again saw he the happy pens
  • Whither his brethren, bleating with content,
  • Over the hills at every nightfall went.
  • Among the shepherds, ’twas believed ever,
  • That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever
  • From the white flock, but pass’d unworried
  • By angry wolf, or pard with prying head,
  • Until it came to some unfooted plains
  • Where fed the herds of Pan: ay great his gains
  • Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many,
  • Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny,
  • And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly
  • To a wide lawn, whence one could only see
  • Stems thronging all around between the swell
  • Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell
  • The freshness of the space of heaven above,
  • Edg’d round with dark tree tops? through which a dove
  • Would often beat its wings, and often too
  • A little cloud would move across the blue.
  • Full in the middle of this pleasantness
  • There stood a marble altar, with a tress
  • Of flowers budded newly; and the dew
  • Had taken fairy phantasies to strew
  • Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve,
  • And so the dawned light in pomp receive.
  • For ’twas the morn: Apollo’s upward fire
  • Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre
  • Of brightness so unsullied, that therein
  • A melancholy spirit well might win
  • Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine
  • Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine
  • Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;
  • The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run
  • To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;
  • Man’s voice was on the mountains; and the mass
  • Of nature’s lives and wonders puls’d tenfold,
  • To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.
  • Now while the silent workings of the dawn
  • Were busiest, into that self-same lawn
  • All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped
  • A troop of little children garlanded;
  • Who gathering round the altar, seemed to pry
  • Earnestly round as wishing to espy
  • Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited
  • For many moments, ere their ears were sated
  • With a faint breath of music, which ev’n then
  • Fill’d out its voice, and died away again.
  • Within a little space again it gave
  • Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave,
  • To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking
  • Through copse-clad vallies, — ere their death, o’ertaking
  • The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.
  • And now, as deep into the wood as we
  • Might mark a lynx’s eye, there glimmered light
  • Fair faces and a rush of garments white,
  • Plainer and plainer shewing, till at last
  • Into the widest alley they all past,
  • Making directly for the woodland altar.
  • O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter
  • In telling of this goodly company,
  • Of their old piety, and of their glee:
  • But let a portion of ethereal dew
  • Fall on my head, and presently unmew
  • My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring,
  • To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing.
  • Leading the way, young damsels danced along,
  • Bearing the burden of a shepherd song;
  • Each having a white wicker over brimm’d
  • With April’s tender younglings: next, well trimm’d,
  • A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks
  • As may be read of in Arcadian books;
  • Such as sat listening round Apollo’s pipe,
  • When the great deity, for earth too ripe,
  • Let his divinity o’er-flowing die
  • In music, through the vales of Thessaly:
  • Some idly trailed their sheep-hooks on the ground,
  • And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound
  • With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these,
  • Now coming from beneath the forest trees,
  • A venerable priest full soberly,
  • Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye
  • Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept,
  • And after him his sacred vestments swept.
  • From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white,
  • Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light;
  • And in his left he held a basket full
  • Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull:
  • Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still
  • Than Leda’s love, and cresses from the rill.
  • His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath,
  • Seem’d like a poll of ivy in the teeth
  • Of winter hoar. Then came another crowd
  • Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud
  • Their share of the ditty. After them appear’d,
  • Up-followed by a multitude that rear’d
  • Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car,
  • Easily rolling so as scarce to mar
  • The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown:
  • Who stood therein did seem of great renown
  • Among the throng. His youth was fully blown,
  • Shewing like Ganymede to manhood grown;
  • And, for those simple times, his garments were
  • A chieftain king’s: beneath his breast, half bare,
  • Was hung a silver bugle, and between
  • His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen.
  • A smile was on his countenance; he seem’d,
  • To common lookers on, like one who dream’d
  • Of idleness in groves Elysian:
  • But there were some who feelingly could scan
  • A lurking trouble in his nether lip,
  • And see that oftentimes the reins would slip
  • Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh,
  • And think of yellow leaves, of owlet’s cry,
  • Of logs piled solemnly. — Ah, well-a-day,
  • Why should our young Endymion pine away!
  • Soon the assembly, in a circle rang’d,
  • Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang’d
  • To sudden veneration: women meek
  • Beckon’d their sons to silence; while each cheek
  • Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear.
  • Endymion too, without a forest peer,
  • Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face,
  • Among his brothers of the mountain chase.
  • In midst of all, the venerable priest
  • Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least,
  • And, after lifting up his aged hands,
  • Thus spake he: “Men of Latmos! shepherd bands!
  • Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks:
  • Whether descended from beneath the rocks
  • That overtop your mountains; whether come
  • From vallies where the pipe is never dumb;
  • Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs
  • Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze
  • Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge
  • Nibble their fill at ocean’s very marge,
  • Whose mellow reeds are touch’d with sounds forlorn
  • By the dim echoes of old Triton’s horn:
  • Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare
  • The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air;
  • And all ye gentle girls who foster up
  • Udderless lambs, and in a little cup
  • Will put choice honey for a favoured youth:
  • Yea, every one attend! for in good truth
  • Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan.
  • Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than
  • Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains
  • Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains
  • Green’d over April’s lap? No howling sad
  • Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had
  • Great bounty from Endymion our lord.
  • The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour’d
  • His early song against yon breezy sky,
  • That spreads so clear o’er our solemnity.”
  • Thus ending, on the shrine he heap’d a spire
  • Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire;
  • Anon he stain’d the thick and spongy sod
  • With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god.
  • Now while the earth was drinking it, and while
  • Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile,
  • And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright
  • ’Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light
  • Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang:
  • “O thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang
  • From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth
  • Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death
  • Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness;
  • Who lov’st to see the hamadryads dress
  • Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken;
  • And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken
  • The dreary melody of bedded reeds —
  • In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds
  • The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth;
  • Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth
  • Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx — do thou now,
  • By thy love’s milky brow!
  • By all the trembling mazes that she ran,
  • Hear us, great Pan!
  • “O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles
  • Passion their voices cooingly ’mong myrtles,
  • What time thou wanderest at eventide
  • Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side
  • Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom
  • Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom
  • Their ripen’d fruitage; yellow girted bees
  • Their golden honeycombs; our village leas
  • Their fairest blossom’d beans and poppied corn;
  • The chuckling linnet its five young unborn,
  • To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries
  • Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies
  • Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year
  • All its completions — be quickly near,
  • By every wind that nods the mountain pine,
  • O forester divine!
  • “Thou, to whom every faun and satyr flies
  • For willing service; whether to surprise
  • The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit;
  • Or upward ragged precipices flit
  • To save poor lambkins from the eagle’s maw;
  • Or by mysterious enticement draw
  • Bewildered shepherds to their path again;
  • Or to tread breathless round the frothy main,
  • And gather up all fancifullest shells
  • For thee to tumble into Naiads’ cells,
  • And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping;
  • Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping,
  • The while they pelt each other on the crown
  • With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown —
  • By all the echoes that about thee ring,
  • Hear us, O satyr king!
  • “O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears,
  • While ever and anon to his shorn peers
  • A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn,
  • When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn
  • Anger our huntsmen: Breather round our farms,
  • To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:
  • Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,
  • That come a swooning over hollow grounds,
  • And wither drearily on barren moors:
  • Dread opener of the mysterious doors
  • Leading to universal knowledge — see,
  • Great son of Dryope,
  • The many that are come to pay their vows
  • With leaves about their brows!
  • “Be still the unimaginable lodge
  • For solitary thinkings; such as dodge
  • Conception to the very bourne of heaven,
  • Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,
  • That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
  • Gives it a touch ethereal — a new birth:
  • Be still a symbol of immensity;
  • A firmament reflected in a sea;
  • An element filling the space between;
  • An unknown — but no more: we humbly screen
  • With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending,
  • And giving out a shout most heaven rending,
  • Conjure thee to receive our humble paean,
  • Upon thy Mount Lycean!”
  • Even while they brought the burden to a close,
  • A shout from the whole multitude arose,
  • That lingered in the air like dying rolls
  • Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals
  • Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine.
  • Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine,
  • Young companies nimbly began dancing
  • To the swift treble pipe, and humming string.
  • Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly
  • To tunes forgotten — out of memory:
  • Fair creatures! whose young childrens’ children bred
  • Thermopylae its heroes — not yet dead,
  • But in old marbles ever beautiful.
  • High genitors, unconscious did they cull
  • Time’s sweet first-fruits — they danc’d to weariness,
  • And then in quiet circles did they press
  • The hillock turf, and caught the latter end
  • Of some strange history, potent to send
  • A young mind from its bodily tenement.
  • Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent
  • On either side; pitying the sad death
  • Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath
  • Of Zephyr slew him, — Zephyr penitent,
  • Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,
  • Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain.
  • The archers too, upon a wider plain,
  • Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft,
  • And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft
  • Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top,
  • Call’d up a thousand thoughts to envelope
  • Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee
  • And frantic gape of lonely Niobe,
  • Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young
  • Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue
  • Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip,
  • And very, very deadliness did nip
  • Her motherly cheeks. Arous’d from this sad mood
  • By one, who at a distance loud halloo’d,
  • Uplifting his strong bow into the air,
  • Many might after brighter visions stare:
  • After the Argonauts, in blind amaze
  • Tossing about on Neptune’s restless ways,
  • Until, from the horizon’s vaulted side,
  • There shot a golden splendour far and wide,
  • Spangling those million poutings of the brine
  • With quivering ore: ’twas even an awful shine
  • From the exaltation of Apollo’s bow;
  • A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe.
  • Who thus were ripe for high contemplating
  • Might turn their steps towards the sober ring
  • Where sat Endymion and the aged priest
  • ’Mong shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas’d
  • The silvery setting of their mortal star.
  • There they discours’d upon the fragile bar
  • That keeps us from our homes ethereal;
  • And what our duties there: to nightly call
  • Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather;
  • To summon all the downiest clouds together
  • For the sun’s purple couch; to emulate
  • In ministring the potent rule of fate
  • With speed of fire-tailed exhalations;
  • To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons
  • Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these,
  • A world of other unguess’d offices.
  • Anon they wander’d, by divine converse,
  • Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse
  • Each one his own anticipated bliss.
  • One felt heart-certain that he could not miss
  • His quick gone love, among fair blossom’d boughs,
  • Where every zephyr-sigh pouts, and endows
  • Her lips with music for the welcoming.
  • Another wish’d, mid that eternal spring,
  • To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails,
  • Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales:
  • Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind,
  • And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind;
  • And, ever after, through those regions be
  • His messenger, his little Mercury.
  • Some were athirst in soul to see again
  • Their fellow huntsmen o’er the wide champaign
  • In times long past; to sit with them, and talk
  • Of all the chances in their earthly walk;
  • Comparing, joyfully, their plenteous stores
  • Of happiness, to when upon the moors,
  • Benighted, close they huddled from the cold,
  • And shar’d their famish’d scrips. Thus all out-told
  • Their fond imaginations, — saving him
  • Whose eyelids curtain’d up their jewels dim,
  • Endymion: yet hourly had he striven
  • To hide the cankering venom, that had riven
  • His fainting recollections. Now indeed
  • His senses had swoon’d off: he did not heed
  • The sudden silence, or the whispers low,
  • Or the old eyes dissolving at his woe,
  • Or anxious calls, or close of trembling palms,
  • Or maiden’s sigh, that grief itself embalms:
  • But in the self-same fixed trance he kept,
  • Like one who on the earth had never stept —
  • Aye, even as dead-still as a marble man,
  • Frozen in that old tale Arabian.
  • Who whispers him so pantingly and close?
  • Peona, his sweet sister: of all those,
  • His friends, the dearest. Hushing signs she made,
  • And breath’d a sister’s sorrow to persuade
  • A yielding up, a cradling on her care.
  • Her eloquence did breathe away the curse:
  • She led him, like some midnight spirit nurse
  • Of happy changes in emphatic dreams,
  • Along a path between two little streams, —
  • Guarding his forehead, with her round elbow,
  • From low-grown branches, and his footsteps slow
  • From stumbling over stumps and hillocks small;
  • Until they came to where these streamlets fall,
  • With mingled bubblings and a gentle rush,
  • Into a river, clear, brimful, and flush
  • With crystal mocking of the trees and sky.
  • A little shallop, floating there hard by,
  • Pointed its beak over the fringed bank;
  • And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank,
  • And dipt again, with the young couple’s weight, —
  • Peona guiding, through the water straight,
  • Towards a bowery island opposite;
  • Which gaining presently, she steered light
  • Into a shady, fresh, and ripply cove,
  • Where nested was an arbour, overwove
  • By many a summer’s silent fingering;
  • To whose cool bosom she was used to bring
  • Her playmates, with their needle broidery,
  • And minstrel memories of times gone by.
  • So she was gently glad to see him laid
  • Under her favourite bower’s quiet shade,
  • On her own couch, new made of flower leaves,
  • Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves
  • When last the sun his autumn tresses shook,
  • And the tann’d harvesters rich armfuls took.
  • Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest:
  • But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest
  • Peona’s busy hand against his lips,
  • And still, a sleeping, held her finger-tips
  • In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps
  • A patient watch over the stream that creeps
  • Windingly by it, so the quiet maid
  • Held her in peace: so that a whispering blade
  • Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling
  • Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling
  • Among sere leaves and twigs, might all be heard.
  • O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,
  • That broodest o’er the troubled sea of the mind
  • Till it is hush’d and smooth! O unconfin’d
  • Restraint! imprisoned liberty! great key
  • To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy,
  • Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves,
  • Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves
  • And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world
  • Of silvery enchantment! — who, upfurl’d
  • Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour,
  • But renovates and lives? — Thus, in the bower,
  • Endymion was calm’d to life again.
  • Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain,
  • He said: “I feel this thine endearing love
  • All through my bosom: thou art as a dove
  • Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings
  • About me; and the pearliest dew not brings
  • Such morning incense from the fields of May,
  • As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray
  • From those kind eyes, — the very home and haunt
  • Of sisterly affection. Can I want
  • Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears?
  • Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears
  • That, any longer, I will pass my days
  • Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise
  • My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more
  • Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar:
  • Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll
  • Around the breathed boar: again I’ll poll
  • The fair-grown yew tree, for a chosen bow:
  • And, when the pleasant sun is getting low,
  • Again I’ll linger in a sloping mead
  • To hear the speckled thrushes, and see feed
  • Our idle sheep. So be thou cheered, sweet,
  • And, if thy lute is here, softly intreat
  • My soul to keep in its resolved course.”
  • Hereat Peona, in their silver source,
  • Shut her pure sorrow drops with glad exclaim,
  • And took a lute, from which there pulsing came
  • A lively prelude, fashioning the way
  • In which her voice should wander. ’Twas a lay
  • More subtle cadenced, more forest wild
  • Than Dryope’s lone lulling of her child;
  • And nothing since has floated in the air
  • So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare
  • Went, spiritual, through the damsel’s hand;
  • For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann’d
  • The quick invisible strings, even though she saw
  • Endymion’s spirit melt away and thaw
  • Before the deep intoxication.
  • But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon
  • Her self-possession — swung the lute aside,
  • And earnestly said: “Brother, ’tis vain to hide
  • That thou dost know of things mysterious,
  • Immortal, starry; such alone could thus
  • Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn’d in aught
  • Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught
  • A Paphian dove upon a message sent?
  • Thy deathful bow against some dear-herd bent,
  • Sacred to Dian? Haply, thou hast seen
  • Her naked limbs among the alders green;
  • And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace
  • Something more high perplexing in thy face!”
  • Endymion look’d at her, and press’d her hand,
  • And said, “Art thou so pale, who wast so bland
  • And merry in our meadows? How is this?
  • Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss! —
  • Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change
  • Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange?
  • Or more complete to overwhelm surmise?
  • Ambition is no sluggard: ’tis no prize,
  • That toiling years would put within my grasp,
  • That I have sigh’d for: with so deadly gasp
  • No man e’er panted for a mortal love.
  • So all have set my heavier grief above
  • These things which happen. Rightly have they done:
  • I, who still saw the horizontal sun
  • Heave his broad shoulder o’er the edge of the world,
  • Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl’d
  • My spear aloft, as signal for the chace —
  • I, who, for very sport of heart, would race
  • With my own steed from Araby; pluck down
  • A vulture from his towery perching; frown
  • A lion into growling, loth retire —
  • To lose, at once, all my toil breeding fire,
  • And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast
  • Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest.
  • “This river does not see the naked sky,
  • Till it begins to progress silverly
  • Around the western border of the wood,
  • Whence, from a certain spot, its winding flood
  • Seems at the distance like a crescent moon:
  • And in that nook, the very pride of June,
  • Had I been used to pass my weary eves;
  • The rather for the sun unwilling leaves
  • So dear a picture of his sovereign power,
  • And I could witness his most kingly hour,
  • When he doth tighten up the golden reins,
  • And paces leisurely down amber plains
  • His snorting four. Now when his chariot last
  • Its beams against the zodiac-lion cast,
  • There blossom’d suddenly a magic bed
  • Of sacred ditamy, and poppies red:
  • At which I wondered greatly, knowing well
  • That but one night had wrought this flowery spell;
  • And, sitting down close by, began to muse
  • What it might mean. Perhaps, thought I, Morpheus,
  • In passing here, his owlet pinions shook;
  • Or, it may be, ere matron Night uptook
  • Her ebon urn, young Mercury, by stealth,
  • Had dipt his rod in it: such garland wealth
  • Came not by common growth. Thus on I thought,
  • Until my head was dizzy and distraught.
  • Moreover, through the dancing poppies stole
  • A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul;
  • And shaping visions all about my sight
  • Of colours, wings, and bursts of spangly light;
  • The which became more strange, and strange, and dim,
  • And then were gulph’d in a tumultuous swim:
  • And then I fell asleep. Ah, can I tell
  • The enchantment that afterwards befel?
  • Yet it was but a dream: yet such a dream
  • That never tongue, although it overteem
  • With mellow utterance, like a cavern spring,
  • Could figure out and to conception bring
  • All I beheld and felt. Methought I lay
  • Watching the zenith, where the milky way
  • Among the stars in virgin splendour pours;
  • And travelling my eye, until the doors
  • Of heaven appear’d to open for my flight,
  • I became loth and fearful to alight
  • From such high soaring by a downward glance:
  • So kept me stedfast in that airy trance,
  • Spreading imaginary pinions wide.
  • When, presently, the stars began to glide,
  • And faint away, before my eager view:
  • At which I sigh’d that I could not pursue,
  • And dropt my vision to the horizon’s verge;
  • And lo! from the opening clouds, I saw emerge
  • The loveliest moon, that ever silver’d o’er
  • A shell for Neptune’s goblet: she did soar
  • So passionately bright, my dazzled soul
  • Commingling with her argent spheres did roll
  • Through clear and cloudy, even when she went
  • At last into a dark and vapoury tent —
  • Whereat, methought, the lidless-eyed train
  • Of planets all were in the blue again.
  • To commune with those orbs, once more I rais’d
  • My sight right upward: but it was quite dazed
  • By a bright something, sailing down apace,
  • Making me quickly veil my eyes and face:
  • Again I look’d, and, O ye deities,
  • Who from Olympus watch our destinies!
  • Whence that completed form of all completeness?
  • Whence came that high perfection of all sweetness?
  • Speak, stubborn earth, and tell me where, O where
  • Hast thou a symbol of her golden hair?
  • Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun;
  • Not — thy soft hand, fair sister! let me shun
  • Such follying before thee — yet she had,
  • Indeed, locks bright enough to make me mad;
  • And they were simply gordian’d up and braided,
  • Leaving, in naked comeliness, unshaded,
  • Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow;
  • The which were blended in, I know not how,
  • With such a paradise of lips and eyes,
  • Blush-tinted cheeks, half smiles, and faintest sighs,
  • That, when I think thereon, my spirit clings
  • And plays about its fancy, till the stings
  • Of human neighbourhood envenom all.
  • Unto what awful power shall I call?
  • To what high fane? — Ah! see her hovering feet,
  • More bluely vein’d, more soft, more whitely sweet
  • Than those of sea-born Venus, when she rose
  • From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows
  • Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion;
  • ’Tis blue, and over-spangled with a million
  • Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed,
  • Over the darkest, lushest blue-bell bed,
  • Handfuls of daisies.” — “Endymion, how strange!
  • Dream within dream!” — “She took an airy range,
  • And then, towards me, like a very maid,
  • Came blushing, waning, willing, and afraid,
  • And press’d me by the hand: Ah! ’twas too much;
  • Methought I fainted at the charmed touch,
  • Yet held my recollection, even as one
  • Who dives three fathoms where the waters run
  • Gurgling in beds of coral: for anon,
  • I felt upmounted in that region
  • Where falling stars dart their artillery forth,
  • And eagles struggle with the buffeting north
  • That balances the heavy meteor-stone; —
  • Felt too, I was not fearful, nor alone,
  • But lapp’d and lull’d along the dangerous sky.
  • Soon, as it seem’d, we left our journeying high,
  • And straightway into frightful eddies swoop’d;
  • Such as aye muster where grey time has scoop’d
  • Huge dens and caverns in a mountain’s side:
  • There hollow sounds arous’d me, and I sigh’d
  • To faint once more by looking on my bliss —
  • I was distracted; madly did I kiss
  • The wooing arms which held me, and did give
  • My eyes at once to death: but ’twas to live,
  • To take in draughts of life from the gold fount
  • Of kind and passionate looks; to count, and count
  • The moments, by some greedy help that seem’d
  • A second self, that each might be redeem’d
  • And plunder’d of its load of blessedness.
  • Ah, desperate mortal! I ev’n dar’d to press
  • Her very cheek against my crowned lip,
  • And, at that moment, felt my body dip
  • Into a warmer air: a moment more,
  • Our feet were soft in flowers. There was store
  • Of newest joys upon that alp. Sometimes
  • A scent of violets, and blossoming limes,
  • Loiter’d around us; then of honey cells,
  • Made delicate from all white-flower bells;
  • And once, above the edges of our nest,
  • An arch face peep’d, — an Oread as I guess’d.
  • “Why did I dream that sleep o’er-power’d me
  • In midst of all this heaven? Why not see,
  • Far off, the shadows of his pinions dark,
  • And stare them from me? But no, like a spark
  • That needs must die, although its little beam
  • Reflects upon a diamond, my sweet dream
  • Fell into nothing — into stupid sleep.
  • And so it was, until a gentle creep,
  • A careful moving caught my waking ears,
  • And up I started: Ah! my sighs, my tears,
  • My clenched hands; — for lo! the poppies hung
  • Dew-dabbled on their stalks, the ouzel sung
  • A heavy ditty, and the sullen day
  • Had chidden herald Hesperus away,
  • With leaden looks: the solitary breeze
  • Bluster’d, and slept, and its wild self did teaze
  • With wayward melancholy; and I thought,
  • Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought
  • Faint fare-thee-wells, and sigh-shrilled adieus! —
  • Away I wander’d — all the pleasant hues
  • Of heaven and earth had faded: deepest shades
  • Were deepest dungeons; heaths and sunny glades
  • Were full of pestilent light; our taintless rills
  • Seem’d sooty, and o’er-spread with upturn’d gills
  • Of dying fish; the vermeil rose had blown
  • In frightful scarlet, and its thorns out-grown
  • Like spiked aloe. If an innocent bird
  • Before my heedless footsteps stirr’d, and stirr’d
  • In little journeys, I beheld in it
  • A disguis’d demon, missioned to knit
  • My soul with under darkness; to entice
  • My stumblings down some monstrous precipice:
  • Therefore I eager followed, and did curse
  • The disappointment. Time, that aged nurse,
  • Rock’d me to patience. Now, thank gentle heaven!
  • These things, with all their comfortings, are given
  • To my down-sunken hours, and with thee,
  • Sweet sister, help to stem the ebbing sea
  • Of weary life.”
  • Thus ended he, and both
  • Sat silent: for the maid was very loth
  • To answer; feeling well that breathed words
  • Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords
  • Against the enchased crocodile, or leaps
  • Of grasshoppers against the sun. She weeps,
  • And wonders; struggles to devise some blame;
  • To put on such a look as would say, Shame
  • On this poor weakness! but, for all her strife,
  • She could as soon have crush’d away the life
  • From a sick dove. At length, to break the pause,
  • She said with trembling chance: “Is this the cause?
  • This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas!
  • That one who through this middle earth should pass
  • Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave
  • His name upon the harp-string, should achieve
  • No higher bard than simple maidenhood,
  • Singing alone, and fearfully, — how the blood
  • Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray
  • He knew not where; and how he would say, nay,
  • If any said ’twas love: and yet ’twas love;
  • What could it be but love? How a ring-dove
  • Let fall a sprig of yew tree in his path;
  • And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe
  • The gentle heart, as northern blasts do roses;
  • And then the ballad of his sad life closes
  • With sighs, and an alas! — Endymion!
  • Be rather in the trumpet’s mouth, — anon
  • Among the winds at large — that all may hearken!
  • Although, before the crystal heavens darken,
  • I watch and dote upon the silver lakes
  • Pictur’d in western cloudiness, that takes
  • The semblance of gold rocks and bright gold sands,
  • Islands, and creeks, and amber-fretted strands
  • With horses prancing o’er them, palaces
  • And towers of amethyst, — would I so tease
  • My pleasant days, because I could not mount
  • Into those regions? The Morphean fount
  • Of that fine element that visions, dreams,
  • And fitful whims of sleep are made of, streams
  • Into its airy channels with so subtle,
  • So thin a breathing, not the spider’s shuttle,
  • Circled a million times within the space
  • Of a swallow’s nest-door, could delay a trace,
  • A tinting of its quality: how light
  • Must dreams themselves be; seeing they’re more slight
  • Than the mere nothing that engenders them!
  • Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem
  • Of high and noble life with thoughts so sick?
  • Why pierce high-fronted honour to the quick
  • For nothing but a dream?” Hereat the youth
  • Look’d up: a conflicting of shame and ruth
  • Was in his plaited brow: yet, his eyelids
  • Widened a little, as when Zephyr bids
  • A little breeze to creep between the fans
  • Of careless butterflies: amid his pains
  • He seem’d to taste a drop of manna-dew,
  • Full palatable; and a colour grew
  • Upon his cheek, while thus he lifeful spake.
  • “Peona! ever have I long’d to slake
  • My thirst for the world’s praises: nothing base,
  • No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace
  • The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar’d —
  • Though now ’tis tatter’d; leaving my bark bar’d
  • And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope
  • Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope,
  • To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks.
  • Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks
  • Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
  • A fellowship with essence; till we shine,
  • Full alchemiz’d, and free of space. Behold
  • The clear religion of heaven! Fold
  • A rose leaf round thy finger’s taperness,
  • And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress
  • Of music’s kiss impregnates the free winds,
  • And with a sympathetic touch unbinds
  • Eolian magic from their lucid wombs:
  • Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs;
  • Old ditties sigh above their father’s grave;
  • Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave
  • Round every spot where trod Apollo’s foot;
  • Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,
  • Where long ago a giant battle was;
  • And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass
  • In every place where infant Orpheus slept.
  • Feel we these things? — that moment have we stept
  • Into a sort of oneness, and our state
  • Is like a floating spirit’s. But there are
  • Richer entanglements, enthralments far
  • More self-destroying, leading, by degrees,
  • To the chief intensity: the crown of these
  • Is made of love and friendship, and sits high
  • Upon the forehead of humanity.
  • All its more ponderous and bulky worth
  • Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth
  • A steady splendour; but at the tip-top,
  • There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop
  • Of light, and that is love: its influence,
  • Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense,
  • At which we start and fret; till in the end,
  • Melting into its radiance, we blend,
  • Mingle, and so become a part of it, —
  • Nor with aught else can our souls interknit
  • So wingedly: when we combine therewith,
  • Life’s self is nourish’d by its proper pith,
  • And we are nurtured like a pelican brood.
  • Aye, so delicious is the unsating food,
  • That men, who might have tower’d in the van
  • Of all the congregated world, to fan
  • And winnow from the coming step of time
  • All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime
  • Left by men-slugs and human serpentry,
  • Have been content to let occasion die,
  • Whilst they did sleep in love’s elysium.
  • And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb,
  • Than speak against this ardent listlessness:
  • For I have ever thought that it might bless
  • The world with benefits unknowingly;
  • As does the nightingale, upperched high,
  • And cloister’d among cool and bunched leaves —
  • She sings but to her love, nor e’er conceives
  • How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood.
  • Just so may love, although ’tis understood
  • The mere commingling of passionate breath,
  • Produce more than our searching witnesseth:
  • What I know not: but who, of men, can tell
  • That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
  • To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,
  • The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,
  • The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,
  • The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,
  • Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,
  • If human souls did never kiss and greet?
  • “Now, if this earthly love has power to make
  • Men’s being mortal, immortal; to shake
  • Ambition from their memories, and brim
  • Their measure of content; what merest whim,
  • Seems all this poor endeavour after fame,
  • To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim
  • A love immortal, an immortal too.
  • Look not so wilder’d; for these things are true,
  • And never can be born of atomies
  • That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies,
  • Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I’m sure,
  • My restless spirit never could endure
  • To brood so long upon one luxury,
  • Unless it did, though fearfully, espy
  • A hope beyond the shadow of a dream.
  • My sayings will the less obscured seem,
  • When I have told thee how my waking sight
  • Has made me scruple whether that same night
  • Was pass’d in dreaming. Hearken, sweet Peona!
  • Beyond the matron-temple of Latona,
  • Which we should see but for these darkening boughs,
  • Lies a deep hollow, from whose ragged brows
  • Bushes and trees do lean all round athwart,
  • And meet so nearly, that with wings outraught,
  • And spreaded tail, a vulture could not glide
  • Past them, but he must brush on every side.
  • Some moulder’d steps lead into this cool cell,
  • Far as the slabbed margin of a well,
  • Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye
  • Right upward, through the bushes, to the sky.
  • Oft have I brought thee flowers, on their stalks set
  • Like vestal primroses, but dark velvet
  • Edges them round, and they have golden pits:
  • ’Twas there I got them, from the gaps and slits
  • In a mossy stone, that sometimes was my seat,
  • When all above was faint with mid-day heat.
  • And there in strife no burning thoughts to heed,
  • I’d bubble up the water through a reed;
  • So reaching back to boy-hood: make me ships
  • Of moulted feathers, touchwood, alder chips,
  • With leaves stuck in them; and the Neptune be
  • Of their petty ocean. Oftener, heavily,
  • When love-lorn hours had left me less a child,
  • I sat contemplating the figures wild
  • Of o’er-head clouds melting the mirror through.
  • Upon a day, while thus I watch’d, by flew
  • A cloudy Cupid, with his bow and quiver;
  • So plainly character’d, no breeze would shiver
  • The happy chance: so happy, I was fain
  • To follow it upon the open plain,
  • And, therefore, was just going; when, behold!
  • A wonder, fair as any I have told —
  • The same bright face I tasted in my sleep,
  • Smiling in the clear well. My heart did leap
  • Through the cool depth. — It moved as if to flee —
  • I started up, when lo! refreshfully,
  • There came upon my face, in plenteous showers,
  • Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers,
  • Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight,
  • Bathing my spirit in a new delight.
  • Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss
  • Alone preserved me from the drear abyss
  • Of death, for the fair form had gone again.
  • Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain
  • Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth
  • On the deer’s tender haunches: late, and loth,
  • ’Tis scar’d away by slow returning pleasure.
  • How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure
  • Of weary days, made deeper exquisite,
  • By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night!
  • Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still,
  • Than when I wander’d from the poppy hill:
  • And a whole age of lingering moments crept
  • Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept
  • Away at once the deadly yellow spleen.
  • Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen;
  • Once more been tortured with renewed life.
  • When last the wintry gusts gave over strife
  • With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies
  • Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes
  • In pity of the shatter’d infant buds, —
  • That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs,
  • My hunting cap, because I laugh’d and smil’d,
  • Chatted with thee, and many days exil’d
  • All torment from my breast; — ’twas even then,
  • Straying about, yet, coop’d up in the den
  • Of helpless discontent, — hurling my lance
  • From place to place, and following at chance,
  • At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck,
  • And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck
  • In the middle of a brook, — whose silver ramble
  • Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble,
  • Tracing along, it brought me to a cave,
  • Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave
  • The nether sides of mossy stones and rock, —
  • ’Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock
  • Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead,
  • Hung a lush screen of drooping weeds, and spread
  • Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph’s home.
  • `Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?’
  • Said I, low voic’d `ah, whither! ’tis the grot
  • Of Proserpine, when hell, obscure and hot,
  • Doth her resign; and where her tender hands
  • She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands:
  • Or ’tis the cell of Echo, where she sits,
  • And babbles thorough silence, till her wits
  • Are gone in tender madness, and anon,
  • Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone
  • Of sadness. O that she would take my vows,
  • And breathe them sighingly among the boughs,
  • To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head,
  • Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed,
  • And weave them dyingly — send honey-whispers
  • Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers
  • May sigh my love unto her pitying!
  • O charitable Echo! hear, and sing
  • This ditty to her! — tell her’ — so I stay’d
  • My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid,
  • Stood stupefied with my own empty folly,
  • And blushing for the freaks of melancholy.
  • Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name
  • Most fondly lipp’d, and then these accents came:
  • ’Endymion! the cave is secreter
  • Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir
  • No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise
  • Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys
  • And trembles through my labyrinthine hair.’
  • At that oppress’d I hurried in. — Ah! where
  • Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled?
  • I’ll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed
  • Sorrow the way to death; but patiently
  • Bear up against it: so farewel, sad sigh;
  • And come instead demurest meditation,
  • To occupy me wholly, and to fashion
  • My pilgrimage for the world’s dusky brink.
  • No more will I count over, link by link,
  • My chain of grief: no longer strive to find
  • A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind
  • Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see,
  • Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be;
  • What a calm round of hours shall make my days.
  • There is a paly flame of hope that plays
  • Where’er I look: but yet, I’ll say ’tis naught —
  • And here I bid it die. Have not I caught,
  • Already, a more healthy countenance?
  • By this the sun is setting; we may chance
  • Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car.”
  • This said, he rose, faint-smiling like a star
  • Through autumn mists, and took Peona’s hand:
  • They stept into the boat, and launch’d from land.
🗙

Calidore: A Fragment

  • Young Calidore is paddling o’er the lake;
  • His healthful spirit eager and awake
  • To feel the beauty of a silent eve,
  • Which seem’d full loath this happy world to leave;
  • The light dwelt o’er the scene so lingeringly.
  • He bares his forehead to the cool blue sky,
  • And smiles at the far clearness all around,
  • Until his heart is well nigh over wound,
  • And turns for calmness to the pleasant green
  • Of easy slopes, and shadowy trees that lean
  • So elegantly o’er the waters’ brim
  • And show their blossoms trim.
  • Scarce can his clear and nimble eye-sight follow
  • The freaks, and dartings of the black-wing’d swallow,
  • Delighting much, to see it half at rest,
  • Dip so refreshingly its wings, and breast
  • ’Gainst the smooth surface, and to mark anon,
  • The widening circles into nothing gone.
  • And now the sharp keel of his little boat
  • Comes up with ripple, and with easy float,
  • And glides into a bed of water lillies:
  • Broad leav’d are they and their white canopies
  • Are upward turn’d to catch the heavens’ dew.
  • Near to a little island’s point they grew;
  • Whence Calidore might have the goodliest view
  • Of this sweet spot of earth. The bowery shore
  • Went off in gentle windings to the hoar
  • And light blue mountains: but no breathing man
  • With a warm heart, and eye prepared to scan
  • Nature’s clear beauty, could pass lightly by
  • Objects that look’d out so invitingly
  • On either side. These, gentle Calidore
  • Greeted, as he had known them long before.
  • The sidelong view of swelling leafiness,
  • Which the glad setting sun in gold doth dress;
  • Whence ever and anon the jay outsprings,
  • And scales upon the beauty of its wings.
  • The lonely turret, shatter’d, and outworn,
  • Stands venerably proud; too proud to mourn
  • Its long lost grandeur: fir trees grow around,
  • Aye dropping their hard fruit upon the ground.
  • The little chapel with the cross above
  • Upholding wreaths of ivy; the white dove,
  • That on the window spreads his feathers light,
  • And seems from purple clouds to wing its flight.
  • Green tufted islands casting their soft shades
  • Across the lake; sequester’d leafy glades,
  • That through the dimness of their twilight show
  • Large dock leaves, spiral foxgloves, or the glow
  • Of the wild cat’s eyes, or the silvery stems
  • Of delicate birch trees, or long grass which hems
  • A little brook. The youth had long been viewing
  • These pleasant things, and heaven was bedewing
  • The mountain flowers, when his glad senses caught
  • A trumpet’s silver voice. Ah! it was fraught
  • With many joys for him: the warder’s ken
  • Had found white coursers prancing in the glen:
  • Friends very dear to him he soon will see;
  • So pushes off his boat most eagerly,
  • And soon upon the lake he skims along,
  • Deaf to the nightingale’s first under-song;
  • Nor minds he the white swans that dream so sweetly:
  • His spirit flies before him so completely.
  • And now he turns a jutting point of land,
  • Whence may be seen the castle gloomy, and grand:
  • Nor will a bee buzz round two swelling peaches,
  • Before the point of his light shallop reaches
  • Those marble steps that through the water dip:
  • Now over them he goes with hasty trip,
  • And scarcely stays to ope the folding doors:
  • Anon he leaps along the oaken floors
  • Of halls and corridors.
  • Delicious sounds! those little bright-eyed things
  • That float about the air on azure wings,
  • Had been less heartfelt by him than the clang
  • Of clattering hoofs; into the court he sprang,
  • Just as two noble steeds, and palfreys twain,
  • Were slanting out their necks with loosened rein;
  • While from beneath the threat’ning portcullis
  • They brought their happy burthens. What a kiss,
  • What gentle squeeze he gave each lady’s hand!
  • How tremblingly their delicate ancles spann’d!
  • Into how sweet a trance his soul was gone,
  • While whisperings of affection
  • Made him delay to let their tender feet
  • Come to the earth; with an incline so sweet
  • From their low palfreys o’er his neck they bent
  • And whether there were tears of languishment,
  • Or that the evening dew had pearl’d their tresses,
  • He feels a moisture on his cheek, and blesses
  • With lips that tremble, and with glistening eye,
  • All the soft luxury
  • That nestled in his arms. A dimpled hand,
  • Fair as some wonder out of fairy land,
  • Hung from his shoulder like the drooping flowers
  • Of whitest cassia, fresh from summer showers:
  • And this he fondled with his happy cheek
  • As if for joy he would no further seek;
  • When the kind voice of good Sir Clerimond
  • Came to his ear, like something from beyond
  • His present being: so he gently drew
  • His warm arms, thrilling now with pulses new,
  • From their sweet thrall, and forward gently bending,
  • Thank’d heaven that his joy was never ending;
  • While ’gainst his forehead he devoutly press’d
  • A hand heaven made to succour the distress’d;
  • A hand that from the world’s bleak promontory
  • Had lifted Calidore for deeds of glory.
  • Amid the pages, and the torches’ glare,
  • There stood a knight, patting the flowing hair
  • Of his proud horse’s mane: he was withal
  • A man of elegance, and stature tall:
  • So that the waving of his plumes would be
  • High as the berries of a wild ash tree,
  • Or as the winged cap of Mercury.
  • His armour was so dexterously wrought
  • In shape, that sure no living man had thought
  • It hard, and heavy steel: but that indeed
  • It was some glorious form, some splendid weed,
  • In which a spirit new come from the skies
  • Might live, and show itself to human eyes.
  • ’Tis the far-fam’d, the brave Sir Gondibert,
  • Said the good man to Calidore alert;
  • While the young warrior with a step of grace
  • Came up, — a courtly smile upon his face,
  • And mailed hand held out, ready to greet
  • The large-eyed wonder, and ambitious heat
  • Of the aspiring boy; who as he led
  • Those smiling ladies, often turned his head
  • To admire the visor arched so gracefully
  • Over a knightly brow; while they went by
  • The lamps that from the high-roof’d hall were pendent,
  • And gave the steel a shining quite transcendent.
  • Soon in a pleasant chamber they are seated;
  • The sweet-lipp’d ladies have already greeted
  • All the green leaves that round the window clamber,
  • To show their purple stars, and bells of amber.
  • Sir Gondibert has doff’d his shining steel,
  • Gladdening in the free, and airy feel
  • Of a light mantle; and while Clerimond
  • Is looking round about him with a fond,
  • And placid eye, young Calidore is burning
  • To hear of knightly deeds, and gallant spurning
  • Of all unworthiness; and how the strong of arm
  • Kept off dismay, and terror, and alarm
  • From lovely woman: while brimful of this,
  • He gave each damsel’s hand so warm a kiss,
  • And had such manly ardour in his eye,
  • That each at other look’d half staringly;
  • And then their features started into smiles
  • Sweet as blue heavens o’er enchanted isles.
  • Softly the breezes from the forest came,
  • Softly they blew aside the taper’s flame;
  • Clear was the song from Philomel’s far bower;
  • Grateful the incense from the lime-tree flower;
  • Mysterious, wild, the far heard trumpet’s tone;
  • Lovely the moon in ether, all alone:
  • Sweet too the converse of these happy mortals,
  • As that of busy spirits when the portals
  • Are closing in the west; or that soft humming
  • We hear around when Hesperus is coming.
  • Sweet be their sleep.
🗙

Woman, when I behold thee flippant, vain

  • Woman! when I behold thee flippant, vain,
  • Inconstant, childish, proud, and full of fancies;
  • Without that modest softening that enhances
  • The downcast eye, repentant of the pain
  • That its mild light creates to heal again:
  • E’en then, elate, my spirit leaps, and prances,
  • E’en then my soul with exultation dances
  • For that to love, so long, I’ve dormant lain:
  • But when I see thee meek, and kind, and tender,
  • Heavens! how desperately do I adore
  • Thy winning graces;—to be thy defender
  • I hotly burn—to be a Calidore—
  • A very Red Cross Knight—a stout Leander—
  • Might I be loved by thee like these of yore.
  • Light feet, dark violet eyes, and parted hair;
  • Soft dimpled hands, white neck, and creamy breast,
  • Are things on which the dazzled senses rest
  • Till the fond, fixed eyes forget they stare.
  • From such fine pictures, heavens! I cannot dare
  • To turn my admiration, though unpossess’d
  • They be of what is worthy,—though not drest
  • In lovely modesty, and virtues rare.
  • Yet these I leave as thoughtless as a lark;
  • These lures I straight forget,—e’en ere I dine,
  • Or thrice my palate moisten: but when I mark
  • Such charms with mild intelligences shine,
  • My ear is open like a greedy shark,
  • To catch the tunings of a voice divine.
  • Ah! who can e’er forget so fair a being?
  • Who can forget her half retiring sweets?
  • God! she is like a milk-white lamb that bleats
  • For man’s protection. Surely the All-seeing,
  • Who joys to see us with his gifts agreeing,
  • Will never give him pinions, who intreats
  • Such innocence to ruin,—who vilely cheats
  • A dove-like bosom. In truth there is no freeing
  • One’s thoughts from such a beauty; when I hear
  • A lay that once I saw her hand awake,
  • Her form seems floating palpable, and near;
  • Had I e’er seen her from an arbour take
  • A dewy flower, oft would that hand appear,
  • And o’er my eyes the trembling moisture shake.
🗙

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 one who has been long in city pent

  • To one who has been long in city pent,
  • ’Tis very sweet to look into the fair
  • And open face of heaven, — to breathe a prayer
  • Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
  • Who is more happy, when, with heart’s content,
  • Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair
  • Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair
  • And gentle tale of love and languishment?
  • Returning home at evening, with an ear
  • Catching the notes of Philomel, — an eye
  • Watching the sailing cloudlet’s bright career,
  • He mourns that day so soon has glided by:
  • E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear
  • That falls through the clear ether silently.
🗙

To My Brother George [2]

  • Full many a dreary hour have I past,
  • My brain bewilder’d, and my mind o’ercast
  • With heaviness; in seasons when I’ve thought
  • No spherey strains by me could e’er be caught
  • From the blue dome, though I to dimness gaze
  • On the far depth where sheeted lightning plays;
  • Or, on the wavy grass outstretch’d supinely,
  • Pry ’mong the stars, to strive to think divinely:
  • That I should never hear Apollo’s song,
  • Though feathery clouds were floating all along
  • The purple west, and, two bright streaks between,
  • The golden lyre itself were dimly seen:
  • That the still murmur of the honey bee
  • Would never teach a rural song to me:
  • That the bright glance from beauty’s eyelids slanting
  • Would never make a lay of mine enchanting,
  • Or warm my breast with ardour to unfold
  • Some tale of love and arms in time of old.
  • But there are times, when those that love the bay,
  • Fly from all sorrowing far, far away;
  • A sudden glow comes on them, nought they see
  • In water, earth, or air, but poesy.
  • It has been said, dear George, and true I hold it,
  • (For knightly Spenser to Libertas told it,)
  • That when a Poet is in such a trance,
  • In air he sees white coursers paw, and prance,
  • Bestridden of gay knights, in gay apparel,
  • Who at each other tilt in playful quarrel,
  • And what we, ignorantly, sheet-lightning call,
  • Is the swift opening of their wide portal,
  • When the bright warder blows his trumpet clear,
  • Whose tones reach nought on earth but Poet’s ear.
  • When these enchanted portals open wide,
  • And through the light the horsemen swiftly glide,
  • The Poet’s eye can reach those golden halls,
  • And view the glory of their festivals:
  • Their ladies fair, that in the distance seem
  • Fit for the silv’ring of a seraph’s dream;
  • Their rich brimm’d goblets, that incessant run
  • Like the bright spots that move about the sun;
  • And, when upheld, the wine from each bright jar
  • Pours with the lustre of a falling star.
  • Yet further off, are dimly seen their bowers,
  • Of which, no mortal eye can reach the flowers;
  • And ’tis right just, for well Apollo knows
  • ’Twould make the Poet quarrel with the rose.
  • All that’s reveal’d from that far seat of blisses,
  • Is, the clear fountains’ interchanging kisses,
  • As gracefully descending, light and thin,
  • Like silver streaks across a dolphin’s fin,
  • When he upswimmeth from the coral caves,
  • And sports with half his tail above the waves.
  • These wonders strange he sees, and many more,
  • Whose head is pregnant with poetic lore.
  • Should he upon an evening ramble fare
  • With forehead to the soothing breezes bare,
  • Would he naught see but the dark, silent blue
  • With all its diamonds trembling through and through?
  • Or the coy moon, when in the waviness
  • Of whitest clouds she does her beauty dress,
  • And staidly paces higher up, and higher,
  • Like a sweet nun in holy-day attire?
  • Ah, yes! much more would start into his sight —
  • The revelries, and mysteries of night:
  • And should I ever see them, I will tell you
  • Such tales as needs must with amazement spell you.
  • These are the living pleasures of the bard:
  • But richer far posterity’s award.
  • What does he murmur with his latest breath,
  • While his proud eye looks through the film of death?
  • “What though I leave this dull, and earthly mould,
  • Yet shall my spirit lofty converse hold
  • With after times. — The patriot shall feel
  • My stern alarum, and unsheath his steel;
  • Or, in the senate thunder out my numbers
  • To startle princes from their easy slumbers.
  • The sage will mingle with each moral theme
  • My happy thoughts sententious; he will teem
  • With lofty periods when my verses fire him,
  • And then I’ll stoop from heaven to inspire him.
  • Lays have I left of such a dear delight
  • That maids will sing them on their bridal night.
  • Gay villagers, upon a morn of May,
  • When they have tired their gentle limbs with play,
  • And form’d a snowy circle on the grass,
  • And plac’d in midst of all that lovely lass
  • Who chosen is their queen, — with her fine head
  • Crowned with flowers purple, white, and red:
  • For there the lily, and the musk-rose, sighing,
  • Are emblems true of hapless lovers dying:
  • Between her breasts, that never yet felt trouble,
  • A bunch of violets full blown, and double,
  • Serenely sleep: — she from a casket takes
  • A little book, — and then a joy awakes
  • About each youthful heart, — with stifled cries,
  • And rubbing of white hands, and sparkling eyes:
  • For she’s to read a tale of hopes, and fears;
  • One that I foster’d in my youthful years:
  • The pearls, that on each glist’ning circlet sleep,
  • Gush ever and anon with silent creep,
  • Lured by the innocent dimples. To sweet rest
  • Shall the dear babe, upon its mother’s breast,
  • Be lull’d with songs of mine. Fair world, adieu!
  • Thy dales, and hills, are fading from my view:
  • Swiftly I mount, upon wide spreading pinions,
  • Far from the narrow bounds of thy dominions.
  • Full joy I feel, while thus I cleave the air,
  • That my soft verse will charm thy daughters fair,
  • And warm thy sons!” Ah, my dear friend and brother,
  • Could I, at once, my mad ambition smother,
  • For tasting joys like these, sure I should be
  • Happier, and dearer to society.
  • At times, ’tis true, I’ve felt relief from pain
  • When some bright thought has darted through my brain:
  • Through all that day I’ve felt a greater pleasure
  • Than if I’d brought to light a hidden treasure.
  • As to my sonnets, though none else should heed them,
  • I feel delighted, still, that you should read them.
  • Of late, too, I have had much calm enjoyment,
  • Stretch’d on the grass at my best lov’d employment
  • Of scribbling lines for you. These things I thought
  • While, in my face, the freshest breeze I caught.
  • E’en now I’m pillow’d on a bed of flowers
  • That crowns a lofty clift, which proudly towers
  • Above the ocean-waves. The stalks, and blades,
  • Chequer my tablet with their quivering shades.
  • On one side is a field of drooping oats,
  • Through which the poppies show their scarlet coats;
  • So pert and useless, that they bring to mind
  • The scarlet coats that pester human-kind.
  • And on the other side, outspread, is seen
  • Ocean’s blue mantle streak’d with purple, and green.
  • Now ’tis I see a canvass’d ship, and now
  • Mark the bright silver curling round her prow.
  • I see the lark down-dropping to his nest,
  • And the broad winged sea-gull never at rest;
  • For when no more he spreads his feathers free,
  • His breast is dancing on the restless sea.
  • Now I direct my eyes into the west,
  • Which at this moment is in sunbeams drest:
  • Why westward turn? ’Twas but to say adieu!
  • ’Twas but to kiss my hand, dear George, to you!
  • August, 1816
🗙

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

  • Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
  • And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
  • Round many western islands have I been
  • Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
  • Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
  • That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
  • Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
  • Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
  • Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
  • When a new planet swims into his ken;
  • Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
  • He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
  • Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
  • Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
🗙

Keen, fitful gusts are whisp’ring here and there

  • Keen, fitful gusts are whisp’ring here and there
  • Among the bushes half leafless, and dry;
  • The stars look very cold about the sky,
  • And I have many miles on foot to fare.
  • Yet feel I little of the cool bleak air,
  • Or of the dead leaves rustling drearily,
  • Or of those silver lamps that burn on high,
  • Or of the distance from home’s pleasant lair:
  • For I am brimfull of the friendliness
  • That in a little cottage I have found;
  • Of fair-hair’d Milton’s eloquent distress,
  • And all his love for gentle Lycid drown’d;
  • Of lovely Laura in her light green dress,
  • And faithful Petrarch gloriously crown’d.
🗙

On Leaving Some Friends at an Early Hour

  • Give me a golden pen, and let me lean
  • On heap’d up flowers, in regions clear, and far;
  • Bring me a tablet whiter than a star,
  • Or hand of hymning angel, when ’tis seen
  • The silver strings of heavenly harp atween:
  • And let there glide by many a pearly car,
  • Pink robes, and wavy hair, and diamond jar,
  • And half discovered wings, and glances keen.
  • The while let music wander round my ears,
  • And as it reaches each delicious ending,
  • Let me write down a line of glorious tone,
  • And full of many wonders of the spheres:
  • For what a height my spirit is contending!
  • ’Tis not content so soon to be alone.
🗙

Sleep and Poetry

“As I lay in my bed slepe full unmete
Was unto me, but why that I ne might
Rest I ne wist, for there n’as erthly wight
[As I suppose] had more of hertis ese
Than I, for I n’ad sickness nor disese.”

Chaucer

  • What is more gentle than a wind in summer?
  • What is more soothing than the pretty hummer
  • That stays one moment in an open flower,
  • And buzzes cheerily from bower to bower?
  • What is more tranquil than a musk-rose blowing
  • In a green island, far from all men’s knowing?
  • More healthful than the leafiness of dales?
  • More secret than a nest of nightingales?
  • More serene than Cordelia’s countenance?
  • More full of visions than a high romance?
  • What, but thee Sleep? Soft closer of our eyes!
  • Low murmurer of tender lullabies!
  • Light hoverer around our happy pillows!
  • Wreather of poppy buds, and weeping willows!
  • Silent entangler of a beauty’s tresses!
  • Most happy listener! when the morning blesses
  • Thee for enlivening all the cheerful eyes
  • That glance so brightly at the new sun-rise.
  • But what is higher beyond thought than thee?
  • Fresher than berries of a mountain tree?
  • More strange, more beautiful, more smooth, more regal,
  • Than wings of swans, than doves, than dim-seen eagle?
  • What is it? And to what shall I compare it?
  • It has a glory, and nought else can share it:
  • The thought thereof is awful, sweet, and holy,
  • Chacing away all worldliness and folly;
  • Coming sometimes like fearful claps of thunder,
  • Or the low rumblings earth’s regions under;
  • And sometimes like a gentle whispering
  • Of all the secrets of some wond’rous thing
  • That breathes about us in the vacant air;
  • So that we look around with prying stare,
  • Perhaps to see shapes of light, aerial lymning,
  • And catch soft floatings from a faint-heard hymning;
  • To see the laurel wreath, on high suspended,
  • That is to crown our name when life is ended.
  • Sometimes it gives a glory to the voice,
  • And from the heart up-springs, rejoice! rejoice!
  • Sounds which will reach the Framer of all things,
  • And die away in ardent mutterings.
  • No one who once the glorious sun has seen,
  • And all the clouds, and felt his bosom clean
  • For his great Maker’s presence, but must know
  • What ’tis I mean, and feel his being glow:
  • Therefore no insult will I give his spirit,
  • By telling what he sees from native merit.
  • O Poesy! for thee I hold my pen
  • That am not yet a glorious denizen
  • Of thy wide heaven—Should I rather kneel
  • Upon some mountain-top until I feel
  • A glowing splendour round about me hung,
  • And echo back the voice of thine own tongue?
  • O Poesy! for thee I grasp my pen
  • That am not yet a glorious denizen
  • Of thy wide heaven; yet, to my ardent prayer,
  • Yield from thy sanctuary some clear air,
  • Smoothed for intoxication by the breath
  • Of flowering bays, that I may die a death
  • Of luxury, and my young spirit follow
  • The morning sun-beams to the great Apollo
  • Like a fresh sacrifice; or, if I can bear
  • The o’erwhelming sweets, ’twill bring to me the fair
  • Visions of all places: a bowery nook
  • Will be elysium—an eternal book
  • Whence I may copy many a lovely saying
  • About the leaves, and flowers—about the playing
  • Of nymphs in woods, and fountains; and the shade
  • Keeping a silence round a sleeping maid;
  • And many a verse from so strange influence
  • That we must ever wonder how, and whence
  • It came. Also imaginings will hover
  • Round my fire-side, and haply there discover
  • Vistas of solemn beauty, where I’d wander
  • In happy silence, like the clear meander
  • Through its lone vales; and where I found a spot
  • Of awfuller shade, or an enchanted grot,
  • Or a green hill o’erspread with chequered dress
  • Of flowers, and fearful from its loveliness,
  • Write on my tablets all that was permitted,
  • All that was for our human senses fitted.
  • Then the events of this wide world I’d seize
  • Like a strong giant, and my spirit teaze
  • Till at its shoulders it should proudly see
  • Wings to find out an immortality.
  • Stop and consider! life is but a day;
  • A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way
  • From a tree’s summit; a poor Indian’s sleep
  • While his boat hastens to the monstrous steep
  • Of Montmorenci. Why so sad a moan?
  • Life is the rose’s hope while yet unblown;
  • The reading of an ever-changing tale;
  • The light uplifting of a maiden’s veil;
  • A pigeon tumbling in clear summer air;
  • A laughing school-boy, without grief or care,
  • Riding the springy branches of an elm.
  • O for ten years, that I may overwhelm
  • Myself in poesy; so I may do the deed
  • That my own soul has to itself decreed.
  • Then will I pass the countries that I see
  • In long perspective, and continually
  • Taste their pure fountains. First the realm I’ll pass
  • Of Flora, and old Pan: sleep in the grass,
  • Feed upon apples red, and strawberries,
  • And choose each pleasure that my fancy sees;
  • Catch the white-handed nymphs in shady places,
  • To woo sweet kisses from averted faces,—
  • Play with their fingers, touch their shoulders white
  • Into a pretty shrinking with a bite
  • As hard as lips can make it: till agreed,
  • A lovely tale of human life we’ll read.
  • And one will teach a tame dove how it best
  • May fan the cool air gently o’er my rest;
  • Another, bending o’er her nimble tread,
  • Will set a green robe floating round her head,
  • And still will dance with ever varied ease,
  • Smiling upon the flowers and the trees:
  • Another will entice me on, and on
  • Through almond blossoms and rich cinnamon;
  • Till in the bosom of a leafy world
  • We rest in silence, like two gems upcurl’d
  • In the recesses of a pearly shell.
  • And can I ever bid these joys farewell?
  • Yes, I must pass them for a nobler life,
  • Where I may find the agonies, the strife
  • Of human hearts: for lo! I see afar,
  • O’er sailing the blue cragginess, a car
  • And steeds with streamy manes — the charioteer
  • Looks out upon the winds with glorious fear:
  • And now the numerous tramplings quiver lightly
  • Along a huge cloud’s ridge; and now with sprightly
  • Wheel downward come they into fresher skies,
  • Tipt round with silver from the sun’s bright eyes.
  • Still downward with capacious whirl they glide;
  • And now I see them on a green-hill’s side
  • In breezy rest among the nodding stalks.
  • The charioteer with wond’rous gesture talks
  • To the trees and mountains; and there soon appear
  • Shapes of delight, of mystery, and fear,
  • Passing along before a dusky space
  • Made by some mighty oaks: as they would chase
  • Some ever-fleeting music on they sweep.
  • Lo! how they murmur, laugh, and smile, and weep:
  • Some with upholden hand and mouth severe;
  • Some with their faces muffled to the ear
  • Between their arms; some, clear in youthful bloom,
  • Go glad and smilingly athwart the gloom;
  • Some looking back, and some with upward gaze;
  • Yes, thousands in a thousand different ways
  • Flit onward—now a lovely wreath of girls
  • Dancing their sleek hair into tangled curls;
  • And now broad wings. Most awfully intent
  • The driver of those steeds is forward bent,
  • And seems to listen: O that I might know
  • All that he writes with such a hurrying glow.
  • The visions all are fled—the car is fled
  • Into the light of heaven, and in their stead
  • A sense of real things comes doubly strong,
  • And, like a muddy stream, would bear along
  • My soul to nothingness: but I will strive
  • Against all doubtings, and will keep alive
  • The thought of that same chariot, and the strange
  • Journey it went.
  • Is there so small a range
  • In the present strength of manhood, that the high
  • Imagination cannot freely fly
  • As she was wont of old? prepare her steeds,
  • Paw up against the light, and do strange deeds
  • Upon the clouds? Has she not shewn us all?
  • From the clear space of ether, to the small
  • Breath of new buds unfolding? From the meaning
  • Of Jove’s large eye-brow, to the tender greening
  • Of April meadows? Here her altar shone,
  • E’en in this isle; and who could paragon
  • The fervid choir that lifted up a noise
  • Of harmony, to where it aye will poise
  • Its mighty self of convoluting sound,
  • Huge as a planet, and like that roll round,
  • Eternally around a dizzy void?
  • Ay, in those days the Muses were nigh cloy’d
  • With honors; nor had any other care
  • Than to sing out and sooth their wavy hair.
  • Could all this be forgotten? Yes, a schism
  • Nurtured by foppery and barbarism,
  • Made great Apollo blush for this his land.
  • Men were thought wise who could not understand
  • His glories: with a puling infant’s force
  • They sway’d about upon a rocking horse,
  • And thought it Pegasus. Ah dismal soul’d!
  • The winds of heaven blew, the ocean roll’d
  • Its gathering waves—ye felt it not. The blue
  • Bared its eternal bosom, and the dew
  • Of summer nights collected still to make
  • The morning precious: beauty was awake!
  • Why were ye not awake? But ye were dead
  • To things ye knew not of,—were closely wed
  • To musty laws lined out with wretched rule
  • And compass vile: so that ye taught a school
  • Of dolts to smooth, inlay, and clip, and fit,
  • Till, like the certain wands of Jacob’s wit,
  • Their verses tallied. Easy was the task:
  • A thousand handicraftsmen wore the mask
  • Of Poesy. Ill-fated, impious race!
  • That blasphemed the bright Lyrist to his face,
  • And did not know it,—no, they went about,
  • Holding a poor, decrepid standard out
  • Mark’d with most flimsy mottos, and in large
  • The name of one Boileau!
  • O ye whose charge
  • It is to hover round our pleasant hills!
  • Whose congregated majesty so fills
  • My boundly reverence, that I cannot trace
  • Your hallowed names, in this unholy place,
  • So near those common folk; did not their shames
  • Affright you? Did our old lamenting Thames
  • Delight you? Did ye never cluster round
  • Delicious Avon, with a mournful sound,
  • And weep? Or did ye wholly bid adieu
  • To regions where no more the laurel grew?
  • Or did ye stay to give a welcoming
  • To some lone spirits who could proudly sing
  • Their youth away, and die? ‘Twas even so:
  • But let me think away those times of woe:
  • Now ’tis a fairer season; ye have breathed
  • Rich benedictions o’er us; ye have wreathed
  • Fresh garlands: for sweet music has been heard
  • In many places;—some has been upstirr’d
  • From out its crystal dwelling in a lake,
  • By a swan’s ebon bill; from a thick brake,
  • Nested and quiet in a valley mild,
  • Bubbles a pipe; fine sounds are floating wild
  • About the earth: happy are ye and glad.
  • These things are doubtless: yet in truth we’ve had
  • Strange thunders from the potency of song;
  • Mingled indeed with what is sweet and strong,
  • From majesty: but in clear truth the themes
  • Are ugly clubs, the Poets Polyphemes
  • Disturbing the grand sea. A drainless shower
  • Of light is poesy; ’tis the supreme of power;
  • ’Tis might half slumb’ring on its own right arm.
  • The very archings of her eye-lids charm
  • A thousand willing agents to obey,
  • And still she governs with the mildest sway:
  • But strength alone though of the Muses born
  • Is like a fallen angel: trees uptorn,
  • Darkness, and worms, and shrouds, and sepulchres
  • Delight it; for it feeds upon the burrs,
  • And thorns of life; forgetting the great end
  • Of poesy, that it should be a friend
  • To sooth the cares, and lift the thoughts of man.
  • Yet I rejoice: a myrtle fairer than
  • E’er grew in Paphos, from the bitter weeds
  • Lifts its sweet head into the air, and feeds
  • A silent space with ever sprouting green.
  • All tenderest birds there find a pleasant screen,
  • Creep through the shade with jaunty fluttering,
  • Nibble the little cupped flowers and sing.
  • Then let us clear away the choaking thorns
  • From round its gentle stem; let the young fawns,
  • Yeaned in after times, when we are flown,
  • Find a fresh sward beneath it, overgrown
  • With simple flowers: let there nothing be
  • More boisterous than a lover’s bended knee;
  • Nought more ungentle than the placid look
  • Of one who leans upon a closed book;
  • Nought more untranquil than the grassy slopes
  • Between two hills. All hail delightful hopes!
  • As she was wont, th’ imagination
  • Into most lovely labyrinths will be gone,
  • And they shall be accounted poet kings
  • Who simply tell the most heart-easing things.
  • O may these joys be ripe before I die.
  • Will not some say that I presumptuously
  • Have spoken? that from hastening disgrace
  • ’Twere better far to hide my foolish face?
  • That whining boyhood should with reverence bow
  • Ere the dread thunderbolt could reach? How!
  • If I do hide myself, it sure shall be
  • In the very fane, the light of Poesy:
  • If I do fall, at least I will be laid
  • Beneath the silence of a poplar shade;
  • And over me the grass shall be smooth shaven;
  • And there shall be a kind memorial graven.
  • But off Despondence! miserable bane!
  • They should not know thee, who athirst to gain
  • A noble end, are thirsty every hour.
  • What though I am not wealthy in the dower
  • Of spanning wisdom; though I do not know
  • The shiftings of the mighty winds that blow
  • Hither and thither all the changing thoughts
  • Of man: though no great minist’ring reason sorts
  • Out the dark mysteries of human souls
  • To clear conceiving: yet there ever rolls
  • A vast idea before me, and I glean
  • Therefrom my liberty; thence too I’ve seen
  • The end and aim of Poesy. ’Tis clear
  • As any thing most true; as that the year
  • Is made of the four seasons—manifest
  • As a large cross, some old cathedral’s crest,
  • Lifted to the white clouds. Therefore should I
  • Be but the essence of deformity,
  • A coward, did my very eye-lids wink
  • At speaking out what I have dared to think.
  • Ah! rather let me like a madman run
  • Over some precipice; let the hot sun
  • Melt my Dedalian wings, and drive me down
  • Convuls’d and headlong! Stay! an inward frown
  • Of conscience bids me be more calm awhile.
  • An ocean dim, sprinkled with many an isle,
  • Spreads awfully before me. How much toil!
  • How many days! what desperate turmoil!
  • Ere I can have explored its widenesses.
  • Ah, what a task! upon my bended knees,
  • I could unsay those—no, impossible!
  • Impossible!
  • For sweet relief I’ll dwell
  • On humbler thoughts, and let this strange assay
  • Begun in gentleness die so away.
  • E’en now all tumult from my bosom fades:
  • I turn full hearted to the friendly aids
  • That smooth the path of honour; brotherhood,
  • And friendliness the nurse of mutual good.
  • The hearty grasp that sends a pleasant sonnet
  • Into the brain ere one can think upon it;
  • The silence when some rhymes are coming out;
  • And when they’re come, the very pleasant rout:
  • The message certain to be done to-morrow.
  • ’Tis perhaps as well that it should be to borrow
  • Some precious book from out its snug retreat,
  • To cluster round it when we next shall meet.
  • Scarce can I scribble on; for lovely airs
  • Are fluttering round the room like doves in pairs;
  • Many delights of that glad day recalling,
  • When first my senses caught their tender falling.
  • And with these airs come forms of elegance
  • Stooping their shoulders o’er a horse’s prance,
  • Careless, and grand — fingers soft and round
  • Parting luxuriant curls; — and the swift bound
  • Of Bacchus from his chariot, when his eye
  • Made Ariadne’s cheek look blushingly.
  • Thus I remember all the pleasant flow
  • Of words at opening a portfolio.
  • Things such as these are ever harbingers
  • To trains of peaceful images: the stirs
  • Of a swan’s neck unseen among the rushes:
  • A linnet starting all about the bushes:
  • A butterfly, with golden wings broad parted,
  • Nestling a rose, convuls’d as though it smarted
  • With over pleasure — many, many more,
  • Might I indulge at large in all my store
  • Of luxuries: yet I must not forget
  • Sleep, quiet with his poppy coronet:
  • For what there may be worthy in these rhymes
  • I partly owe to him: and thus, the chimes
  • Of friendly voices had just given place
  • To as sweet a silence, when I ’gan retrace
  • The pleasant day, upon a couch at ease.
  • It was a poet’s house who keeps the keys
  • Of pleasure’s temple. Round about were hung
  • The glorious features of the bards who sung
  • In other ages—cold and sacred busts
  • Smiled at each other. Happy he who trusts
  • To clear Futurity his darling fame!
  • Then there were fauns and satyrs taking aim
  • At swelling apples with a frisky leap
  • And reaching fingers, ’mid a luscious heap
  • Of vine leaves. Then there rose to view a fane
  • Of liny marble, and thereto a train
  • Of nymphs approaching fairly o’er the sward:
  • One, loveliest, holding her white hand toward
  • The dazzling sun-rise: two sisters sweet
  • Bending their graceful figures till they meet
  • Over the trippings of a little child:
  • And some are hearing, eagerly, the wild
  • Thrilling liquidity of dewy piping.
  • See, in another picture, nymphs are wiping
  • Cherishingly Diana’s timorous limbs;—
  • A fold of lawny mantle dabbling swims
  • At the bath’s edge, and keeps a gentle motion
  • With the subsiding crystal: as when ocean
  • Heaves calmly its broad swelling smoothness o’er
  • Its rocky marge, and balances once more
  • The patient weeds; that now unshent by foam
  • Feel all about their undulating home.
  • Sappho’s meek head was there half smiling down
  • At nothing; just as though the earnest frown
  • Of over thinking had that moment gone
  • From off her brow, and left her all alone.
  • Great Alfred’s too, with anxious, pitying eyes,
  • As if he always listened to the sighs
  • Of the goaded world; and Kosciusko’s worn
  • By horrid suffrance—mightily forlorn.
  • Petrarch, outstepping from the shady green,
  • Starts at the sight of Laura; nor can wean
  • His eyes from her sweet face. Most happy they!
  • For over them was seen a free display
  • Of out-spread wings, and from between them shone
  • The face of Poesy: from off her throne
  • She overlook’d things that I scarce could tell.
  • The very sense of where I was might well
  • Keep Sleep aloof: but more than that there came
  • Thought after thought to nourish up the flame
  • Within my breast; so that the morning light
  • Surprised me even from a sleepless night;
  • And up I rose refresh’d, and glad, and gay,
  • Resolving to begin that very day
  • These lines; and howsoever they be done,
  • I leave them as a father does his son.
🗙

I stood tip-toe upon a little hill

Places of nestling green for Poets made

Story of Rimini

  • I stood tip-toe upon a little hill,
  • The air was cooling, and so very still,
  • That the sweet buds which with a modest pride
  • Pull droopingly, in slanting curve aside,
  • Their scantly leaved, and finely tapering stems,
  • Had not yet lost those starry diadems
  • Caught from the early sobbing of the morn.
  • The clouds were pure and white as flocks new shorn,
  • And fresh from the clear brook; sweetly they slept
  • On the blue fields of heaven, and then there crept
  • A little noiseless noise among the leaves,
  • Born of the very sigh that silence heaves:
  • For not the faintest motion could be seen
  • Of all the shades that slanted o’er the green.
  • There was wide wand’ring for the greediest eye,
  • To peer about upon variety;
  • Far round the horizon’s crystal air to skim,
  • And trace the dwindled edgings of its brim;
  • To picture out the quaint, and curious bending
  • Of a fresh woodland alley, never ending;
  • Or by the bowery clefts, and leafy shelves,
  • Guess were the jaunty streams refresh themselves.
  • I gazed awhile, and felt as light, and free
  • As though the fanning wings of Mercury
  • Had played upon my heels: I was light-hearted,
  • And many pleasures to my vision started;
  • So I straightway began to pluck a posey
  • Of luxuries bright, milky, soft and rosy.
  • A bush of May flowers with the bees about them;
  • Ah, sure no tasteful nook would be without them;
  • And let a lush laburnum oversweep them,
  • And let long grass grow round the roots to keep them
  • Moist, cool and green; and shade the violets,
  • That they may bind the moss in leafy nets.
  • A filbert hedge with wild briar overtwined,
  • And clumps of woodbine taking the soft wind
  • Upon their summer thrones; there too should be
  • The frequent chequer of a youngling tree,
  • That with a score of light green brethren shoots
  • From the quaint mossiness of aged roots:
  • Round which is heard a spring-head of clear waters
  • Babbling so wildly of its lovely daughters
  • The spreading blue bells: it may haply mourn
  • That such fair clusters should be rudely torn
  • From their fresh beds, and scattered thoughtlessly
  • By infant hands, left on the path to die.
  • Open afresh your round of starry folds,
  • Ye ardent marigolds!
  • Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,
  • For great Apollo bids
  • That in these days your praises should be sung
  • On many harps, which he has lately strung;
  • And when again your dewiness he kisses,
  • Tell him, I have you in my world of blisses:
  • So haply when I rove in some far vale,
  • His mighty voice may come upon the gale.
  • Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
  • With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
  • And taper fulgent catching at all things,
  • To bind them all about with tiny rings.
  • Linger awhile upon some bending planks
  • That lean against a streamlet’s rushy banks,
  • And watch intently Nature’s gentle doings:
  • They will be found softer than ring-dove’s cooings.
  • How silent comes the water round that bend;
  • Not the minutest whisper does it send
  • To the o’erhanging sallows: blades of grass
  • Slowly across the chequer’d shadows pass.
  • Why, you might read two sonnets, ere they reach
  • To where the hurrying freshnesses aye preach
  • A natural sermon o’er their pebbly beds;
  • Where swarms of minnows show their little heads,
  • Staying their wavy bodies ‘gainst the streams,
  • To taste the luxury of sunny beams
  • Temper’d with coolness. How they ever wrestle
  • With their own sweet delight, and ever nestle
  • Their silver bellies on the pebbly sand.
  • If you but scantily hold out the hand,
  • That very instant not one will remain;
  • But turn your eye, and they are there again.
  • The ripples seem right glad to reach those cresses,
  • And cool themselves among the em’rald tresses;
  • The while they cool themselves, they freshness give,
  • And moisture, that the bowery green may live:
  • So keeping up an interchange of favours,
  • Like good men in the truth of their behaviours
  • Sometimes goldfinches one by one will drop
  • From low hung branches; little space they stop;
  • But sip, and twitter, and their feathers sleek;
  • Then off at once, as in a wanton freak:
  • Or perhaps, to show their black, and golden wings,
  • Pausing upon their yellow flutterings.
  • Were I in such a place, I sure should pray
  • That nought less sweet, might call my thoughts away,
  • Than the soft rustle of a maiden’s gown
  • Fanning away the dandelion’s down;
  • Than the light music of her nimble toes
  • Patting against the sorrel as she goes.
  • How she would start, and blush, thus to be caught
  • Playing in all her innocence of thought.
  • O let me lead her gently o’er the brook,
  • Watch her half-smiling lips, and downward look;
  • O let me for one moment touch her wrist;
  • Let me one moment to her breathing list;
  • And as she leaves me may she often turn
  • Her fair eyes looking through her locks aubùrne.
  • What next? A tuft of evening primroses,
  • O’er which the mind may hover till it dozes;
  • O’er which it well might take a pleasant sleep,
  • But that ‘tis ever startled by the leap
  • Of buds into ripe flowers; or by the flitting
  • Of diverse moths, that aye their rest are quitting;
  • Or by the moon lifting her silver rim
  • Above a cloud, and with a gradual swim
  • Coming into the blue with all her light.
  • O Maker of sweet poets, dear delight
  • Of this fair world, and all its gentle livers;
  • Spangler of clouds, halo of crystal rivers,
  • Mingler with leaves, and dew and tumbling streams,
  • Closer of lovely eyes to lovely dreams,
  • Lover of loneliness, and wandering,
  • Of upcast eye, and tender pondering!
  • Thee must I praise above all other glories
  • That smile us on to tell delightful stories.
  • For what has made the sage or poet write
  • But the fair paradise of Nature’s light?
  • In the calm grandeur of a sober line,
  • We see the waving of the mountain pine;
  • And when a tale is beautifully staid,
  • We feel the safety of a hawthorn glade:
  • When it is moving on luxurious wings,
  • The soul is lost in pleasant smotherings:
  • Fair dewy roses brush against our faces,
  • And flowering laurels spring from diamond vases;
  • O’er head we see the jasmine and sweet briar,
  • And bloomy grapes laughing from green attire;
  • While at our feet, the voice of crystal bubbles
  • Charms us at once away from all our troubles:
  • So that we feel uplifted from the world,
  • Walking upon the white clouds wreath’d and curl’d.
  • So felt he, who first told, how Psyche went
  • On the smooth wind to realms of wonderment;
  • What Psyche felt, and Love, when their full lips
  • First touch’d; what amorous, and fondling nips
  • They gave each other’s cheeks; with all their sighs,
  • And how they kist each other’s tremulous eyes:
  • The silver lamp,—the ravishment,—the wonder—
  • The darkness,—loneliness,—the fearful thunder;
  • Their woes gone by, and both to heaven upflown,
  • To bow for gratitude before Jove’s throne.
  • So did he feel, who pull’d the boughs aside,
  • That we might look into a forest wide,
  • To catch a glimpse of Fawns, and Dryades
  • Coming with softest rustle through the trees;
  • And garlands woven of flowers wild, and sweet,
  • Upheld on ivory wrists, or sporting feet:
  • Telling us how fair, trembling Syrinx fled
  • Arcadian Pan, with such a fearful dread.
  • Poor nymph,—poor Pan,—how he did weep to find,
  • Nought but a lovely sighing of the wind
  • Along the reedy stream; a half heard strain,
  • Full of sweet desolation—balmy pain.
  • What first inspired a bard of old to sing
  • Narcissus pining o’er the untainted spring?
  • In some delicious ramble, he had found
  • A little space, with boughs all woven round;
  • And in the midst of all, a clearer pool
  • Than e’er reflected in its pleasant cool,
  • The blue sky here, and there, serenely peeping
  • Through tendril wreaths fantastically creeping.
  • And on the bank a lonely flower he spied,
  • A meek and forlorn flower, with naught of pride,
  • Drooping its beauty o’er the watery clearness,
  • To woo its own sad image into nearness:
  • Deaf to light Zephyrus it would not move;
  • But still would seem to droop, to pine, to love.
  • So while the Poet stood in this sweet spot,
  • Some fainter gleamings o’er his fancy shot;
  • Nor was it long ere he had told the tale
  • Of young Narcissus, and sad Echo’s bale.
  • Where had he been, from whose warm head out-flew
  • That sweetest of all songs, that ever new,
  • That aye refreshing, pure deliciousness,
  • Coming ever to bless
  • The wanderer by moonlight? to him bringing
  • Shapes from the invisible world, unearthly singing
  • From out the middle air, from flowery nests,
  • And from the pillowy silkiness that rests
  • Full in the speculation of the stars.
  • Ah! surely he had burst our mortal bars;
  • Into some wond’rous region he had gone,
  • To search for thee, divine Endymion!
  • He was a Poet, sure a lover too,
  • Who stood on Latmus’ top, what time there blew
  • Soft breezes from the myrtle vale below;
  • And brought in faintness solemn, sweet, and slow
  • A hymn from Dian’s temple; while upswelling,
  • The incense went to her own starry dwelling.
  • But though her face was clear as infant’s eyes,
  • Though she stood smiling o’er the sacrifice,
  • The Poet wept at her so piteous fate,
  • Wept that such beauty should be desolate:
  • So in fine wrath some golden sounds he won,
  • And gave meek Cynthia her Endymion.
  • Queen of the wide air; thou most lovely queen
  • Of all the brightness that mine eyes have seen!
  • As thou exceedest all things in thy shine,
  • So every tale, does this sweet tale of thine.
  • O for three words of honey, that I might
  • Tell but one wonder of thy bridal night!
  • Where distant ships do seem to show their keels,
  • Phoebus awhile delayed his mighty wheels,
  • And turned to smile upon thy bashful eyes,
  • Ere he his unseen pomp would solemnize.
  • The evening weather was so bright, and clear,
  • That men of health were of unusual cheer;
  • Stepping like Homer at the trumpet’s call,
  • Or young Apollo on the pedestal:
  • And lovely women were as fair and warm,
  • As Venus looking sideways in alarm.
  • The breezes were ethereal, and pure,
  • And crept through half closed lattices to cure
  • The languid sick; it cool’d their fever’d sleep,
  • And soothed them into slumbers full and deep.
  • Soon they awoke clear eyed: nor burnt with thirsting,
  • Nor with hot fingers, nor with temples bursting:
  • And springing up, they met the wond’ring sight
  • Of their dear friends, nigh foolish with delight;
  • Who feel their arms, and breasts, and kiss and stare,
  • And on their placid foreheads part the hair.
  • Young men, and maidens at each other gaz’d
  • With hands held back, and motionless, amaz’d
  • To see the brightness in each others’ eyes;
  • And so they stood, fill’d with a sweet surprise,
  • Until their tongues were loos’d in poesy.
  • Therefore no lover did of anguish die:
  • But the soft numbers, in that moment spoken,
  • Made silken ties, that never may be broken.
  • Cynthia! I cannot tell the greater blisses,
  • That follow’d thine, and thy dear shepherd’s kisses:
  • Was there a Poet born?—but now no more,
  • My wand’ring spirit must no further soar.—
🗙

Addressed to the Same

  • Great spirits now on earth are sojourning;
  • He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
  • Who on Helvellyn’s summit, wide awake,
  • Catches his freshness from archangel’s wing:
  • He of the rose, the violet, the spring,
  • The social smile, the chain for freedom’s sake:
  • And lo! — whose stedfastness would never take
  • A meaner sound than Raphael’s whispering.
  • And other spirits there are standing apart
  • Upon the forehead of the age to come;
  • These, these will give the world another heart,
  • And other pulses. Hear ye not the hum
  • Of mighty workings? —
  • Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb.
🗙

To G. A. W.

  • Nymph of the downward smile, and sidelong glance,
  • In what diviner moments of the day
  • Art thou most lovely? when gone far astray
  • Into the labyrinths of sweet utterance?
  • Or when serenely wand’ring in a trance
  • Of sober thought? or when starting away,
  • With careless robe, to meet the morning ray,
  • Thou spar’st the flowers in thy mazy dance?
  • Haply ’tis when thy ruby lips part sweetly,
  • And so remain, because thou listenest:
  • But thou to please wert nurtured so completely
  • That I can never tell what mood is best.
  • I shall as soon pronounce which Grace more neatly
  • Trips it before Apollo than the rest.
🗙

To Kosciusko

  • Good Kosciusko, thy great name alone
  • Is a full harvest whence to reap high feeling;
  • It comes upon us like the glorious pealing
  • Of the wide spheres — an everlasting tone.
  • And now it tells me, that in worlds unknown,
  • The names of heroes, burst from clouds concealing,
  • Are changed to harmonies, for ever stealing
  • Through cloudless blue, and round each silver throne.
  • It tells me too, that on a happy day,
  • When some good spirit walks upon the earth,
  • Thy name with Alfred’s and the great of yore
  • Gently commingling, gives tremendous birth
  • To a loud hymn, that sounds far, far away
  • To where the great God lives for evermore.
🗙

Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition

  • The church bells toll a melancholy round,
  • Calling the people to some other prayers,
  • Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
  • More heark’ning to the sermon’s horrid sound.
  • Surely the mind of man is closely bound
  • In some black spell; seeing that each one tears
  • Himself from fireside joys, and Lydian airs,
  • And converse high of those with glory crown’d.
  • Still, still they toll, and I should feel a damp,
  • A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
  • That they are dying like an outburnt lamp;
  • That ’tis their sighing, wailing ere they go
  • Into oblivion; — that fresh flowers will grow,
  • And many glories of immortal stamp.
🗙

On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt

  • Minutes are flying swiftly; and as yet
  • Nothing unearthly has enticed my brain
  • Into a delphic labyrinth — I would fain
  • Catch an unmortal thought to pay the debt
  • I owe to the kind poet who has set
  • Upon my ambitious head a glorious gain —
  • Two bending laurel sprigs — ’tis nearly pain
  • To be conscious of such a coronet.
  • Still time is fleeting, and no dream arises
  • Gorgeous as I would have it — only I see
  • A trampling down of what the world most prizes,
  • Turbans and crowns, and blank regality;
  • And then I run into most wild surmises
  • Of all the many glories that may be.
🗙

To the Ladies Who Saw Me Crown’d

  • What is there in the universal earth
  • More lovely than a wreath from the bay tree?
  • Haply a halo round the moon — a glee
  • Circling from three sweet pair of lips in mirth;
  • And haply you will say the dewy birth
  • Of morning roses — riplings tenderly
  • Spread by the halcyon’s breast upon the sea —
  • But these comparisons are nothing worth.
  • Then is there nothing in the world so fair?
  • The silvery tears of April? — Youth of May?
  • Or June that breathes out life for butterflies?
  • No — none of these can from my favourite bear
  • Away the palm; yet shall it ever pay
  • Due reverence to your most sovereign eyes.

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Blank, G. Kim. “August-September 1816: Margate & Scarce Knowing His Poetic Intent.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1816-08-09.html.

Chicago Style: Note

G. Kim Blank, “August-September 1816: Margate & Scarce Knowing His Poetic Intent,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1816-08-09.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Blank, G. Kim. “August-September 1816: Margate & Scarce Knowing His Poetic Intent.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/1816-08-09.html.