Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

People mentioned

  • Abbey, Richard (1765–1837): a fairly prosperous and ambitious London tea dealer/broker and holder of some public offices; trustee of the Keats family legacy after the deaths of Keats’s mother and maternal grandparents (Abbey is appointed by Keats’s grandmother, Alice Jennings, in 1810; the other appointee, John Nowland Sandell, a well-to-do businessman, dies in 1816); Abbey is mistrusted by Keats and his sister, Fanny, who lives with the Abbey family for a spell; he strongly disapproves of Keats’s poetic aspirations (and politics); significantly, Keats is never fully aware of his finances in the form of inherited family money; brothers Tom and George at times work for Abbey.
  • Bailey, Benjamin (1791–1853): scholar with philosophical and literary interests, ordained church clergyman (curacy); meets Keats in spring 1817; shares interests in Wordsworth, Milton, Plato, Dante, and Hazlitt with Keats; Keats writes a few very important and theoretically explorative letters to Bailey, and Keats found him of noble disposition (he publicly defends Keats); Keats stays with Bailey at Oxford University (Magdalen Hall) in September 1818 into early October; visits Stratford with Keats; later in life, Bailey wrote minor poetry and sermons; eventually becomes an archdeacon.
  • Beaumont, Francis (1584–1616): Jacobean dramatist, poet; most famous as a collaborator with John Fletcher; Keats owned a copy of 4-volume 1811 edition of The Dramatic Works of Jonson, and Beaumont and Fletcher; Keats writes a poem about an evening spent at the Mermaid Inn in Cheapside, in which he imagines Jonson, Fletcher, Beaumont, and Shakespeare gathering: Lines on the Mermaid Tavern, written January 1818.
  • Bentham, Jeremy (1747-1832): Utilitarian philosopher, driven by pragmatic thinking and moral approach to understanding and describing human nature and human rights; interested in topics like penal reform, education, and hospitals.
  • Bewick, William (1795–1866): an art student of Keats’s very good friend, the historical painter Benjamin Robert Haydon; Bewick socializes with Keats via Haydon and others in Keats’s circle: in a letter of 11 February 1818, Bewick calls them very intellectual dinners, and he mentions the presence of Keats the poet, Hazlitt the critic, Haydon, Hunt the publisher, &c., &; Keats runs into Bewick at exhibitions; Bewick goes on to become a portrait and historical painter of average though professional qualities.
  • Boccaccio (1313–1375): Italian Renaissance humanist, writer, scholar, poet; most famous for his innovatively realistic poem, Decameron; Keats’s and his friend John Hamilton Reynolds entertain assembling a volume of poems based on Boccaccio’s Decameron; Keats’s somewhat interesting though indifferent poem Isabella (written 1818, published in the 1820 collection) is inspired by Boccaccio.
  • Brawne, Fanny (1800–65): born in London’s West End; likely meets Keats autumn 1818 via the Dilkes (she’s eighteen); with widowed, kindly mother and siblings, lives next door to Keats at Wentworth Place, spring 1819 (they take care of Keats, Aug. 1820); lively, social, smart (proficient in German and French), musical, keen perceptions, strong opinions, fashionable, middle-class, but disliked by some of Keats’s friends, who see her as flirtatious and vain (early Keats biographers tend to view her as unfit for Keats); perhaps unofficially betrothed to Keats in late 1818, but more likely a mutual declaration of love; Keats writes striking love letters to her, but when Keats becomes ill they devolve into overly longing and jealous rants as Keats becomes increasing ill and distraught that he might never again be with her (publication of Keats’s love letters in 1878 causes some literary commotion); she remarries in 1833 and has a daughter and two sons; dies in London; Fanny’s widowed mother, Frances, is very kind toward Keats.
  • Brougham, Henry (1778–1868): lawyer, founder and contributor of Edinburgh Review; member of Parliament on the Whig side, a leader in the House of Commons, known for liberal reforms (on abolition, education, criminal issues, voting reform), famous for his causes and speeches; later Lord Chancellor of Great Britain; as a politician, Brougham contests Westmorland, while Keats is very disappointed that William Wordsworth is a supporter of Lord Lowther, who controls the Tory side for Westmorland: sad—sad—sad— writes Keats 26 June 1818.
  • Brown, Charles Armitage (1787–1842): businessman, fur merchant, decent amateur artist, writer of a comic opera and some translations as well as a study of Shakespeare’s poems; some literary lectures; lived independently on inheritance money; one of Keats’s very closest friends (Keats is twenty-one when they meet), and knew Keats as well as anyone; extraordinarily supportive of and generous with Keats; lives with Keats on a few occasions; also travels with Keats, most famously on their long walking tour in the summer of 1818; kept a considerable collection of transcripts of Keats’s work; co-author with Keats of a somewhat indifferent play (never produced), Otho the Great; co-owner of Wentworth Place (two semi-detached houses), now Keats House; attempted a memoir of Keats.
  • Burns, Robert (1759–1796): Scottish poet and songwriter, celebrated for his use of Scots vernacular; exciseman in later life; ambitious, freethinking; likely dies of bacterial endocarditis, perhaps compromised by alcohol; a legend by Keats’s time, venerated by the Romantics; Keats’s northern walking tour with Charles Brown in the summer of 1818 has for one of its goals to gather some sense of Burns’ world; Keats remains confused about Burns, in particular his life and poetic subjects; though Keats has sympathies with Burns as a self-reliant outsider, he also importantly views Burns as a cautionary figure; Keats’s poem, On Visiting the Tomb of Burns, which, though weak, pairs Keats’s conjoined topics of beauty and suffering; Keats also writes This mortal body of a thousand days while in the cottage of Burn’s birth—Keats calls his lines bad.
  • Byron, George Gordon (Lord) (1778–1834): one of the most successful and controversial poets of the era; a handsome, flamboyant celebrity who came to represent liberty, individuality, and vitality; extraordinarily famous during his life as a published poet (and conflated with the heroes he creates), but, on a pan-European scale, legendary after his death; Keats unimpressed by Bryon’s style of poetry, perhaps tainted by some jealousy of Byron’s success; Byron initially finds Keats’s poetry juvenile and imaginatively indulgent, though based on an impression of his early work.
  • Chatterton, Thomas (1752–1770); boy wonder poet of wide, ambitious talents; most notable for his invention of some fifteenth-century poems, written by a fake poet, Thomas Rowley; commits suicide, aged 17; popular with other Romantic writers as the idealized youthful, martyred, suffering poet; Keats’s dedicates Endymion to him; one of Keats’s earliest known poem is his 1815 Oh Chatterton! How very sad thy fate, which mourns the sad outcome for the young genius who now sings among the stars; Keats comes to believe that Chatterton’s verse possesses a pure English idiom, as opposed to Milton’s extraordinary but beautiful corruptions of the language.
  • Chaucer, Geoffrey (?1343–1400): successful poet, member of the Royal Service, customs comptroller, diplomatic service officer/courtier, astronomer, translator; famous for his Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, The Legend of Good Women, and The Book of the Duchess; often favored as the father of English Literature; Keats is fully familiar with Chaucer (he has no problem quoting Chaucer fairly casually); with some nostalgia, Keats associates Chaucer with a high, noble point in English literary history; Keats writes one of his poems (This pleasant tale is like a copse) into a copy of a friend’s copy of Chaucer’s works, where Keats also makes textual markings in Troilus and Criseyde, indicating a close study of Chaucer’s observations and characterization—in a letter to his lover Fanny Brawne, Keats identifies with Troilus enough to express his fears to Fanny’s about her faithfulness (Feb 1820).
  • Christie, Jonathan (?-1876): barrister; London agent for William Blackwood, of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine; acting for his friend John Gibson Lockhart, who writes for Blackwood’s, Christie (as Lockhart’s second) in February 1821 kills the John Scott, editor of The London Magazine and defender of Hunt and Keats, in a duel over the integrity of Blackwood’s, which Scott has been slamming; tried for wilful murder and acquitted
  • Clairmont, Claire (Mary Jane) (1798–1879): illegitimate, freethinking daughter of William Godwin’s second wife; stepsister to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; mother to an illegitimate daughter (Allegra) with Lord Byron, who she pursued both before and after the birth of Allegra (who dies aged five); part of Percy Shelley’s entourage between 1814–1822; importantly, Claire introduces Shelley to Byron.
  • Clark, James (1788–1870): surgeon, trained at University of Edinburgh; treated Keats’s tuberculosis in Rome with care but in keeping with ill-informed contemporary practice (e.g., bloodletting, dieting, exercising). It might also be noted that, in 1821, Clark was in the early stage of his medical career, having gained his MD in 1817.
  • Clarke, Charles Cowden (1787–1877): teacher, publisher (including music), bookseller, informed musical and literary interests; later an art and theatre reviewer, extensive lectures on Shakespeare, and very minor poet; son of Keats’s headmaster at Enfield; widely connected to literary circles of the day; strong and important (if not crucial) early influence on Keats’s literary tastes, as well as, early on, very close to Keats; very significantly, he introduces Keats to Leigh Hunt in 1816, thus greatly expanding Keats’s London social network; he mainly drops out of Keats’s circle in 1817; strong defender of Keats’s posthumous reputation; Keats writes a verse letter to Clarke in October 1816, thanking him for tutoring his literary passions; marries Vincent Novello’s daughter, Mary.
  • Coleridge, Samuel Taylor (1772–1834): poet, critic, journalist, theologian, philosopher, lecturer, extraordinary conversationalist, and living legend by the time of Keats’s chance encounter with him in April 1819; a genius, compromised by addiction issues and an overly ambitious spread of intellectual interests; forever paired with William Wordsworth; Keats is fully acquainted with his poetry as well as some of his ideas and literary criticism.
  • Cox, Jane (?-?): a cousin of Keats’s of the Reynolds’ family, born in India; a woman whose shape, Keats writes, haunts him for a couple of days in September 1818; Keats still seems intrigued by her into October, when he describes her rich eastern look, how, when she enters a room, she makes an impression the same as the Beauty of a Leopardess, that she is a fine thing with magnetic powers, and how other women become jealous of her; Keats nominates her as Charmian (letter, 14 Oct 1818); interestingly, and consistent with his notion of the camelion poet that can enter and sympathetically assume the subjects he imaginatively contemplates, Keats writes, I forget myself entirely because I live in her.
  • Croker, John Wilson (1780–1857): member of Parliament (Tory), political expert, and fascinated by French Revolution documents; co-founder of and contributor to the Quarterly Review; writes a nasty review of Keats’s Endymion (published September 1818), nominating Keats as an unintelligible copyist of Leigh Hunt.
  • Dante (?1265–1321): Italian poet, highly influential, most famous for his poetic trilogy, The Divine Comedy; Keats read Henry Francis Cary’s 1805 translation, and certainly its first section, Inferno, into which he makes many markings; Keats begins to master Italian in order to read Dante more fully; Keats takes the three volumes of Cary’s translation taken on his Scottish walking tour; Dante’s influence is perhaps most apparent in The Fall of Hyperion.
  • The Davenports: Likely met via Brown or Dilke; the family live at 2 Church Row, Hampstead. Keats on occasion dines and goes to some parties there; Keats and Brown at least once reciprocate. Mrs. Davenport kindly helps to take care of Tom, November 1818. Mr. Burrage Davenport (or, at times, incorrectly, “Burridge” or “Benjamin”, 1778-1863) is a well-to-do merchant banker in London. A gift copy of Keats’s last collection (1920) given to the Davenports contains Keats’s angry comment about the book’s advertisement written by the publisher, that wrongly claims that his Hyperion poem in the collection is unfinished because Keats was upset about reviews.
  • Dilke, Charles Wentworth (1789–1864): Navy civil servant, legal training, literary and journal editor, scholarly interests in Renaissance drama; co-owner (with Charles Brown) of Wentworth place (now Keats House) in Hampstead, where Keats lives on a few occasions; Keats meets via Reynolds; Keats becomes very friendly with Dilke and Dilke’s family, which he often visits; however, they seem not to approve of Keats’s relationship with Fanny Brawne; the Dilke family is supportive of Keats’s other family members and of Keats’s posthumous reputation.
  • Elgin, Lord (Thomas Bruce) (1766–1841): Scottish nobleman, diplomat; his name is given over to marble sculptures from the Parthenon (c.500 B. C. E.) that Elgin organizes to preserve in England; after problems housing the Elgin Marbles, he eventually sells them to the nation, where they are displayed in the British Museum in 1816; Keats sees them in early March 1817; they immediately impact his artistic sensibilities and the way that, without knowing details about what is represented in the sculptures, they remain powerful in their trans-historical beauty; Keats writes two of his better early poems connected to his experience: On Seeing the Elgin Marbles and To Haydon with a Sonnet Written on Seeing the Elgin Marbles.
  • Elmes, James (1782-1862): distinguished architect, surveyor, engineer, writer and lecturer on the arts and architecture, magazine editor, biographer; founder of Annals of the Fine Arts, 1816-1820, during which he is close to Keats’s very close friend, Benjamin Robert Haydon; the Annals is the first to publish two of Keats’s best poems, his odes on a Grecian Urn and a Nightingale.
  • Fletcher, John (1579–1625): successful and versatile London dramatist; contemporary of Shakespeare; in January 1818, Keats writes a poem about an evening at the Mermaid Inn in Cheapside, where he imagines Jonson, Fletcher, Beaumont, and Shakespeare gathering: Lines on the Mermaid Tavern.
  • Godwin, William (1756–1836): minister (though later atheist), social philosopher, essayist, novelist, biographer; husband of Mary Wollstonecraft, father of Mary Shelley, father-in-law of Percy Shelley; inspirational for many Romantic-era writers, representing anarchist, radical, and individualist views, yet strong beliefs in reason, political justice, and human rights.
  • Hammond, Thomas (1766–1817): surgeon in Edmonton, family physician to Keats’s maternal family, the Jennings’; after being pulled from school (aged 14), Keats apprentices with Hammond 1811–1815; family money (generated by selling stocks) is used to pay Hammond’s supervisory fees; Keats later remembers that he had some defiant moments with Hammond (see letter, 21 Sept 1819), though the period with Hammond also has periods of relative security; perhaps the relationship is somewhat compromised by Keats’s growing interest in poetry and Hammond’s failing health.
  • Haslam, William (1795–1851): solicitor; generous, kind, and truly devoted friend of Keats when he is in need, as well as Keats’s siblings (especially to Keats’s brother, Tom, when he is sick); Keats likely meets him via brother George; Haslam is the one to suggest Severn accompany Keats to Italy, a trip he helps finance.
  • Haydon, Benjamin Robert (1786–1846): historical painter, diarist, lecturer; ambitious, volatile, combative; his artistic achievement compromised by pride, inflexible principles, and ego—and a very slow pace; passionate and devoted friend of Keats after meeting him via Leigh Hunt; true believer in Keats’s genius (and his own); Keats initially equally devoted to Haydon, but increasingly put off by his contentious personality; he thought a great deal about great art (which Keats, importantly, would have heard much about), but overestimated the greatness of his own; commits suicide after lengthy struggles with debt and professional failure; largely responsible for England retaining the Elgin Marbles.
  • Hazlitt, William (1778–1830): painter, philosopher, significant critic (literary, theatre, art), journalist, brilliant essayist, lecturer; blunt advocate of human rights and liberty, passionately opinionated, often quarrelsome, intellectually driven; meets Keats late 1816; through his lectures and writing, significantly influences Keats’s maturing tastes and ideas, especially about Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Elizabethan literature, literary worth, poetic genius, poetic originality, the principle of disinterestedness and gusto, and the sympathetic powers of imagination; becomes a friend and a formidable defender of Keats and his poetry, especially against the hypocrisy of partisan reviewing; acquaintance with many of the era’s leading literary figures.
  • Hessey, James (1785–1870): progressive publisher, bookseller; half of Keats’s publisher, Taylor & Hessey; strongly believes in Keats’s poetic potential, and with John Taylor basically sponsors Keats’s publishing career.
  • Hill, Thomas (1760–1840): book-collector, dry-salter; friend of Leigh Hunt; joint owner/editor of The Monthly Mirror (defunct by 1811); centre of a minor literary circle; Keats once dines with him.
  • Hogg, Thomas Jefferson (1792–1862): barrister, writer, biographer; very close friend to Percy Shelley, and his first biographer (1858); Keats dines with, 11 February 1818, along with Percy and Mary Shelley, Thomas Love Peacock, and Claire (Mary Jane) Clairmont.
  • Holmes, Edward (1797-1859): musician, music critic, and writer of books about music; his biographies on Mozart and Purcell of some note; though a bit younger, one of Keats’s school fellows; his recollections of schoolboy Keats are valuable; met with Keats on occasion in company; stayed within the circle of Keats’s friends throughout his life; likely the anonymous writer (Y) of a defence of Keats after Keats’s death, in The Morning Chronicle, 27 July 1821.
  • Homer (?7th, ?8th, or ?9th century, B. C. E.): name ascribed to the ancient Greek poet, proposed writer of the Iliad and Odyssey, often viewed as Western Culture’s most influential epic poems; Keats’s most famous engagement with Homer comes to us via what is sometimes considered Keats’s earliest accomplished poem, On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer ; Keats writes a second poem, To Homer, in 1818; which identifies with Homer for his insights in blindness; in assessing Homer, Keats writes he is very fine (letters 13 March 1818), and that he longs to feast upon old Homer (27 April 1818); according to one of Keats’s close friends, Benjamin Robert Haydon, Keats is especially taken by the figure of Achilles.
  • Hunt, John (1775–1848): Printer and publisher; elder brother of Leigh Hunt and co-founder of The Examiner.
  • Hunt, Leigh (1784–1859): poet, literary critic, editor, journalist, essayist, periodical publisher; charming, somewhat affected personality, energetic, poor with money; editor of the independent and free-thinking Examiner newspaper as well as other periodical publications; jailed two years for libeling the Prince Regent; first to publish Keats; Keats initially enthralled with Hunt, and Hunt fully struck by Keats’s personality and poetic potential; crucially, Hunt introduces Keats into literary London; Keats spends plenty of time with Hunt, and they know each other very well; Keats, though, comes to privately resent Hunt’s poetic pretensions and egotisms, yet Hunt’s kindness toward Keats continued; Keats is forever identified with Hunt as a member of maligned “Cockney School of Poetry.”
  • Hunt, Robert (fl. 1809): writer, older brother of Leigh Hunt, and contributor to the Examiner.
  • Hutchinson, Sarah (1775–1835): William Wordsworth’s sister-in-law, younger sister of Mary; once agonizingly pursued by Samuel Taylor Coleridge while he was in an unhappy marriage with another Sara (Fricker); Sara lives with the Wordsworths for a number of years; Keats meets her with the Wordsworths; Keats describes her as enchanting,,though he sees Wordsworth as living in protective Shell up north with his wife and sister (letters 21 March 1818); a little later Sara will offer some comments about Keats’s Endymion—that while it is beautiful, it is uninteresting.
  • The Jefferys: Keats and his younger two brothers, Tom and George, socialize (somewhat flirtatiously) with the two Jeffery sisters, Marian (variously, Marianne and Mary-Ann) and Sarah Francis (Fanny); in 1818, they are twenty and eighteen, respectively. [There have been earlier misspellings of the last name as Jeffrey.] They meet them in Teignmouth, Devon. Their mother, Margaret, a widow, is particularly unselfish in caring for Tom when he is ill. Keats writes a few fairly open, somewhat humorous but thoughtful letters to Marian mid-1819, mentioning possible future plans, so there is fairly clear degree of familiarity. In 1830, under her married name—Mrs. I. S. Prowse—Marian publishes a collection of poetry (Poems) that pays some allusive homage to Keats; it has a substantial list of subscribers.
  • Jennings, Alice (1736–1814): Keats’s maternal grandmother; tolerant and affectionate; generously takes take of Keats’s and his siblings after Keats’s father passes away and Keats’s mother’s unsteady behaviour; Keats holds her highly.
  • Jennings, Frances (1775–1810): Keats’s mother; small, attractive, capable, perhaps impulsive; in 1794 marries Thomas Keats, who works at the Jennings’ family business, the Swan and Hoop inn and stables as head ostler; after Keats’s father Thomas dies in 1804, she experiences some uneven moments, including a very hasty marriage a few months after Keats’s father passes, as well as gap in her whereabouts before she returns to her children; like Keats and his two younger brothers, she dies of consumption (TB) while young Keats passionately attends to her at his grandmother’s home.
  • Jennings, John (1730–1805): Keats’s maternal grandfather; marries Alice Jennings in 1774; owns the Swan and Hoop inn and stables, from which he does well and expands the business; retires 1802, leaving Keats’s father, Thomas, to run the business; leaves significant money to Keats and his siblings, though not all of it discovered until after Keats’s death.
  • Jennings, Robert (?1784-): publisher, printer, bookseller, with some associations with Leigh Hunt; Keats perhaps buys his 7-volume edition of Shakespeare from Jennings.
  • Jones, Isabella (unknown birth/death): attractive, mysterious, cultured woman, with whom Keats has some passing involvement in May 1817 that suggests some level of romantic intimacy; she may have suggested the Eve of St. Agnes and Eve of St. Mark as topics for Keats to write about; generous in some minor gifts to Keats and his brother, Tom; Keats may have written a few minor love poems that sound his attraction to and feelings for Isabella (“Unfelt, unheard, unseen,” “Hither, hither love,” “Hush, hush, tread softly”); she has some friends in Keats’s circle; Keats and Isabella agree to keep their passing relationship quiet.
  • Jonson, Ben (1572–1637): actor, poet, but especially successful and highly influential Jacobean playwright of comedy; contemporary of Shakespeare (Shakespeare may have acted in one Jonson’s early plays); a volatile, quarrelsome, intense, and self-regarding temperament; perhaps best known for Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fair (his poem, Song to Celia, has also become famous); because Jonson receives a pension from the royal family in 1616, he is some ways the first poet laureate; Keats owned a copy of The Dramatic Works of Jonson, and Beaumont and Fletcher (the 4-volume 1811 edition); in January 1818, Keats writes a poem about an evening at the Mermaid Inn in Cheapside, where he imagines Jonson, Fletcher, Beaumont, and Shakespeare gathering: Lines on the Mermaid Tavern.
  • Kean, Edmund (?1787/9-1833): controversial, celebrity actor, mainly in Shakespearean tragedies; perhaps most notable as Richard III; an uneven personality, plagued by vanity and insecurity, at times compromised by alcohol addiction; much praised by Keats’s friend, the critic William Hazlitt; Keats sees Kean perform on a few occasions and is struck by Kean’s forceful embodiment of actual words, which makes Keats reflect upon intensive yet controlled qualities he strives for in his own poetry.
  • Keats, Fanny (1803–89): Keats’s younger sister; some suggestion of resemblance to brother Tom; after 1814 and until 1824, she was the ward of Richard Abbey, the family trustee, who at times thwarted contact between Fanny and Keats; Keats is very, protective of her from an early age; some of his final thoughts are of Fanny; she marries a Spanish diplomat and writer in 1826.
  • Keats, George (1797–1841): older of Keats two younger brothers; attended same school (in Enfield) as Keats; introduces Keats to some lasting friends; outgoing, fairly ambitious, great belief in Keats’s poetic aspirations; very close to Keats; lives with his brothers at certain points; emigrates to America, June 1818, only to experience business failure; returns to England in 1820 to refinance himself from the family estate, which leads Keats to have some uncertainty about George’s motives; financial and personal success on second trip to America (settling in Kentucky); Keats writes some very important journal letters to George and his wife, Georgiana; dies of consumption.
  • Keats, Georgiana (née Wylie) (1798–1879): wife of Keats’s brother, George (they marry 28 March 1818); Keats very fond of her, and admired her modesty and intelligence; Keats writes completely openly to her in some important journal letters co-addressed to George, especially after the couple immigrates to America in June 1818.
  • Keats, Tom (1799–1818): Keats’s youngest brother; like Keats, educated at Clarke’s school; tall and thin, considered gentle with good humour; longstanding heath issues; as an adult, lived with Keats on a few occasions; temporarily works for Abbey; much loved by Keats, with great mutual understanding of each other; Keats nurses Tom to his death from tuberculosis.
  • Keats, Thomas (?1773–1804): Keats’s father [sometimes spelled Keates]; works the Swan and Hoop inn and livery stables after meeting Keats’s mother there; her parents (John and Alice Jennings) own the Swan and Hoop; not long after the marriage and after he had been head ostler, he begins to manage the business; known to be sensible, energetic, and respectful; dies in late-night riding accident—the cause unclear.
  • Kingston, John (?-?): comptroller at the Stamp Office in London, and technically William Wordsworth’s superior, since Wordsworth was stamp comptroller for Westmoreland; a very awkward and unintentionally humorous presence at Benjamin Robert Haydon’s so-called immortal dinner (of Sunday, 28 Dec 1817), which Keats attends, along with Wordsworth, Charles Lamb, and others; Haydon is anxious to show his very large canvas, an ambitious historical painting entitled Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem: Keats, Lamb, and Wordsworth are painted into the scene as spectators.
  • Lamb, Charles (1775–1834): first-rate essayist, second-rate poet; witty, acute, eloquent; an acquaintance of Keats; close to some of Keats’s friends, including Leigh Hunt and Benjamin Robert Haydon; perhaps best known for his Tales From Shakespeare (1807), written with his sister, Mary Ann, whom he takes care of despite a life-long mental illness; long, close friendship with William and Dorothy Wordsworth; Keats meets Lamb at Haydon’s so-called immortal dinner, 28 December 1817, and likely sees him in other circumstances; Lamb in a July 1820 review strongly commends Keats’s 1820 volume. Very much a London man.
  • Lockhart, John Gibson (1794–1854): legally trained, but noteworthy as editor, reviewer, writer, literary critic, minor translator; biographer, novelist; after 1820, son-in-law of Sir Walter Scott, of whom he writes a biography; contributor to the Whig Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, in which he (with a measured conflation of wit and venom) anonymously (“Z”) pillories Leigh Hunt, founder of what he calls “the Cockney school of poetry,” and then Keats, as Hunt’s underling; later editor of Quarterly Review.
  • Lowther, Lord (1787–1872): (William Lowther; Earl of Lonsdale) politician; Keats very disappointed that William Wordsworth is an active supporter of Lord Lowther, who, as the area’s largest landowner, controls the Tory side of parliamentary representation for Westmorland: sad—sad—sad— writes Keats 26 June 1818 about this circumstance, even though at this time he is attempting to see Wordsworth during a walking expedition through Westmorland, heading north to Scotland.
  • Mackintosh, James (1765–1832): knighted 1804; lawyer, doctor, writer (history, philosophy, journalism), politician (Whig), professor, judge; admires Keats, and in July 1818 is upset by attacks on Keats’s Endymion (he apparently writes to Keats’s publisher to express his admiration and asks about Keats’s high designs); Macintosh’s Miscellaneous Works (3 vols.) are published in 1846 (edited by his son).
  • Mathew, George Felton (1795-?): early London friend of Keats, met via his brother, George, mid-1815; some over-estimated poetic aspirations; Keats enjoys some social events with Mathew and his female cousins; Mathew publishes an upbeat poem to Keats in October 1816; Keats writes an epistle to Mathew that appears in his first collection, the 1817 Poems; conservative Mathew evolves some resentment over Keats’s poetic gifts (and politics), and he reviews Keats’s first collection; as their friendships peters (by late 1816), Keats moves into more a more serious and progressive cultural circle via Leigh Hunt.
  • Milman, H. H. (1791–1868): [Henry Hart] poet, hymn writer, historian, dramatist, professor, editor, translator ecclesiastic (Dean of St. Paul’s); prolific contributor to the Quarterly Review; Keats sees Milman’s verse drama Fazio (previously billed, unbeknownst to Milman, as The Italian Wife) on opening night at Covent Garden, 5 February 1818—the play, Keats says, hung rather heavily me.
  • Milton, John (1608–1674): pamphleteer and polemical writer, lyric and epic poet, particularly noteworthy for Paradise Lost; staunch republican sympathies; Keats studies Milton very deeply, as noted by his detailed marginalia in his copy of Paradise Lost; though he decides that while Milton’s accomplishment is a “wonder,” and that his imaginative scope is almost unapproachably grand, aspects of his style may be to artful (or just not natural enough) for him to pursue, though Keats’s unfinished Hyperion projects are ways for Keats to come to terms with Milton’s poetic powers.
  • Monkhouse, Thomas (1783–1825): well-to-do London merchant; close cousin of Mary Wordsworth (née Hutchinson), wife of William Wordsworth; in late 1817, Benjamin Robert Haydon arranges for Keats to meet Wordsworth via Monkhouse at Monkhouse’s residence; Keats will have a few subsequent meetings with Wordsworth; a few later, Monkhouse runs into Keats and invites him to meet with Wordsworth again in June 1820, but health problems warn him off.
  • Montagu, Basil (1770–1851): barrister, member of Chancery bar, writer on topics related to copyright, bankruptcy, the death penalty, human rights, prevention of cruelty to animals, Lord Bacon; good friends with Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth (to whom he is introduced by William Godwin; during a difficult period Montagu’s life, Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy care for Montagu’s son); Montagu represents Keats’s acquaintance Percy Shelley in a custody case; on 16 February 1817, Montagu is present at a dinner with Shelley and his wife Mary, Leigh Hunt, William Hazlitt, and Godwin, where they read Keats’s On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer, of which Hunt has a copy—they apparently deem it extraordinary.
  • Moore, Thomas (1779–1852): poet, editor, satirist, biographer, historian, composer; good friend of Lord Byron; contributor to and then editor of The Edinburgh Review; during Keats lifetime, perhaps most famous for his poem Lalla Rookh (1817) and gatherings of Irish Melodies; Keats: I like that Moore (3 May 1818) and does not admire Moore (18 Feb 1819); Percy Shelley summons Moore (among other poets) as a mourner of Keats in his elegy on Keats, Adonais (1821).
  • Newton, Isaac (1642-1727): singularly significant English physicist and mathematician who gave mathematical descriptions and explanations of light, gravity, and planetary motion. Some Romantic thinkers debated the practice of reducing the understanding of nature to scientific explanation.
  • The Novellos: Via Leigh Hunt’s circle, Keats has some social contact with this highly musical and large family, headed by the mother, Mary, and father, Vincent (1781-1861), though Keats also finds the overly witty behaviour of their company fairly tiresome. Vincent is central to the musical society of the day: organist, pianist, music teacher, composer, choir master, conductor, a founding member of the Philharmonic Society, and, importantly, musical publisher; besides Hunt, Novello circle Charles Ollier, Charles and Mary Lamb, Henry Robinson, Charles Ollier, and many others. A few of his daughters will become established singers. In 1828, one of Novello’s daughters, Mary Victoria, will marry Keats’s earliest mentor, Charles Cowden Clarke.
  • Ollier, Charles (Ollier brothers, Charles [1788–1859] and James [1795–1851]): publishers, stationers, booksellers; on commission, publishers of Keats’s first collection, Poems, by John Keats, 1817; Charles has some interest in writing poetry; as publishers, James covers more of the business end; publisher of others in Keats’s circle, including Leigh Hunt, Percy Shelley, Charles Lamb; after his first collection, Keats drops the Olliers (for Taylor & Hessey), in part because he does not want to pay for publication, and the Olliers complain that the volume did not sell—Keats felt they did not promote the collection enough; in truth, Poems is a bit of a mess, even at the level of layout; the Olliers are within Hunt’s circle, and Keats does occasional socializing with them.
  • Ollier, James (Ollier brothers, Charles [1788–1859] and James [1795–1851]): publishers, stationers, booksellers; on commission, publishers of Keats’s first collection, Poems, by John Keats, 1817; publisher of others in Keats’s circle, including Leigh Hunt, Percy Shelley, Charles Lamb; as publishers, James mainly covers the business end; after his first collection, Keats drops the Olliers (for Taylor & Hessey), in part because he does not want to pay for publication, and the Olliers complain that the volume did not sell—Keats felt they did not promote it enough; in truth, Poems is a bit of a mess, even at the level of layout.
  • Peacock, Thomas Love (1785–1866): essayist, poet, novelist; mainly self-educated; opinionated, observant; rises to a senior position in the East India Company; most famous for his satirical novels, Headlong Hall (1816), Melincourt (1817), and Nightmare Abbey (1818), which, propelled by conversation, intelligently mock political and philosophical subjects and positions; Peacock’s most noteworthy poetry is Rhododaphne (1818); close friends with Percy Shelley; Keats meets Peacock via Leigh Hunt, early 1818.
  • Quincey, Thomas de (1785–1859): editor, essayist, journalist, translator; friends with William Wordsworth, William Southey, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Lamb, and William Hazlitt; most famous for The Confessions of an English Opium-Eater: Being an Extract from the Life of a Scholar (1821/1822).
  • Randall, Jack (1794–1828): popular bare-knuckle boxer (16-0-1), known as the Nonpareil and the prime Irish Lad, and the first professional boxer to retire undefeated; Keats sees Randall battle Ned Turner in Sussex, 5 December 1818 (Randall knocks Turner out in the 34th round); the prize fight is just a few days after the death of Keats’s younger brother, Tom (Keats’s friends likely think the outing might be a good distraction).
  • Reynolds, John Hamilton (1794–1852): clerk, poet, reviewer, novelist, playwright, lawyer; witty, outgoing; meets Keats via Leigh Hunt, becomes a very close and supportive friend of Keats, and seems to get the direction and level of Keats’s poetic aspirations; Keats writes some significant letters to Reynolds about poetry and his role as a poet; connects Keats with other important friends; Keats also writes a casual verse epistle to Reynolds in March 1818, containing some meandering ideas about art, the imagination, and intensity—key subjects for Keats; Reynolds provides critical feedback to Keats during Keats’s poetic development; Keats friendly with Reynolds’ sister, Jane and Mariane; eventually bankrupt by 1838; on his tombstone: The Friend of Keats.
  • Rice, James (1792–1832): lawyer, well read; known in the Keats circle as wise, unconditionally kind, noble, witty, sensible, and gentlemanly; poor health; Keats stays with him for about a month on the Isle of Wight; Keats meets via Reynolds; one of the financial supporters in getting Keats to Italy; becomes Fanny Keats’s lawyer.
  • Richards, Charles
  • Richards, Thomas (?-?): government worker (ordnance office), sometimes theatre reviewer; a casual friend to Keats and some in Keats’s circle; Keats apparently gets so drunk at a gathering at Richards’ on 14 December 1816 that he is useless the next day (a whoreson night, he calls it—the weather or his state?); he also dines with Richards occasionally through the next few years, up until early 1820; on 17 January 1820, Keats compares Richards to two of his other friends, with the suggestion that Richards is hard to fathom; Charles Richards, Thomas’ brother, is the printer of Keats’s 1817 collection, Poems, though result suggests some inexperience on the part of Charles; the connection with the Richards brothers comes from the circumstance of both of them attending the same school as Keats at Enfield.
  • Scott, John (1784–1821): editor of various magazines, including The London Magazine and earlier The Champion; publishes many important writers of the era; often contributor to his magazines; strong liberal sympathies with some idealist tendencies; public supporter of the reputation of Keats and his circle; Tom Keats gives copy book of Keats’s poetry to Scott in Paris, 1817; in February 1821 is wounded and then dies in a duel over literary matters peripherally related to a defence of Keats, after Scott’s constant attacks on the integrity of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, with mutual abuse returned from Blackwood’s.
  • Scott, Walter (1771–1832): Scottish poet and novelist; also editor, literary critic, biographer, historian, though originally trained as a lawyer; perhaps the most popular and influential writer of Keats’s era; especially famous for The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Marmion (1808), The Lady of the Lake (1810—all ballad epics), and the Waverly novels; extraordinary early success is levelled by financial stress beginning in 1813 and increasing by 1825-26, when Scott is forced to confront bankruptcy; prolific output continues, but mainly to pay off creditors; Keats assesses Scott as two of the three literary kings in our Time: the poet Scott, the novelist Scott, and Lord Byron (letters, ?29 Dec 1818).
  • Severn, Joseph (1793–1897): versatile and devoted painter, but mainly a subject painter; attended Royal Academy; initially a friend of Keats, believer in Keats’s genius and in promoting it; introduces some art to Keats; paints famous miniature of Keats (exhibited May 1818); as a last-moment decision, he accompanies Keats to Rome and closely nurses Keats through his final, agonizing months (and details it), which is a defining feature of Severn’s reputation—this earns Severn clear intimacy with Keats; some suggestion that Severn was keen to accompany Keats to Italy because of an illegitimate child; has some early success as a painter in Rome; later British Consul in Rome; buried beside Keats in Rome in matching graves; profited by (and culturally nurtured) his association with Keats.
  • Shakespeare, William (1564–1616): playwright, poet, theatre owner; Shakespeare’s reputation very high in the Romantic era as a creative, poetic genius, an unparalleled seer-into nature and human nature; Keats deliberately studies Shakespeare until he feels he understands Shakespeare to his depths; Keats attempts to emulate aspects of Shakespeare’s dramatic and poetic powers, and in particular the poet’s imaginative absorption into the subject.
  • Shelley, Mary (1797–1851): novelist (most famously of Frankenstein, 1818), editor, biographer; intellectual, generally private; daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft; marries Percy Shelley; Keats meets on a few occasions.
  • Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1792–1822): poet; unrelenting radical and reformist enthusiasms, anti-authoritarian, dedicated pursuit of idealised, visionary truths and social justice; eccentric, intellectually precocious, generous, sometimes erratic; marries Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (author of Frankenstein, editor of Shelley’s poetry after his death), William Godwin’s daughter; both Percy and Mary acquainted with Keats via Leigh Hunt, and they do some socializing with Keats; Percy is more enthused by Keats than Keats with him; Shelley invites Keats to Italy to stay with him when Keats is ill—Keats declines; implicit competition and pairing with Keats; writes brilliant elegy to Keats, Adonais; drowns in a sailing accident, aged 29, with Keats’s final collection stuffed into his pocket; buried not too far from Keats in Rome.
  • Smith, Horace (Horatio) (1779–1849): stockbroker, quite successful as a journal and newspaper contributor, but a very minor poet, writer of historical novels and parody; known to Percy Shelley as generous.
  • Southey, Robert (1774–1843): poet, critic, historian; prolific, popular, but generally considered unimaginative and unintense as a poet; Poet Laureate from 1813 until his death; strong early connections to Wordsworth and Coleridge, as well as to the Quarterly Review; because, over time, his early radical sympathies are perceived to be compromised, by some he is lampooned for his turn to conservatism (notably by Lord Byron and Thomas Love Peacock; also disliked by William Hazlitt); Keats did not admire him.
  • Spenser, Edmund (?1552–1599): key poet of the English high middle ages, most famously of the masterful and allusive The Faerie Queen, a long epic romance embedded with allegorical intent that brushes up against politics, morality, and religion; innovative stylist (the Spenserian stanza, in particular); highly influential in guiding Keats’s very early poetical aspirations, though Spencer is never fully left behind in Keats’s poetic progress, ranging from the level of diction to Keats’s attraction to romance.
  • Spurgin, John (1797-1866): medical student, then physician, sometimes writer on medical matters, as well as occasional inventor; long-serving Chairman of the Swedenborg Society of London. Keats may have met Spurgin via the Mathews’ social events or through St. Thomas’s Hospital, where Spurgin trained 1813-1815. In a long, detailed December 1815 letter, he attempts to attune Keats to Swedenborgian teachings; earlier, the two must have exchanged some books as well as ideas about religion and belief; it is clear Spurgin hopes to convert skeptical Keats. He fades from Keats’s circle.
  • Taylor, John (1781–1864): scholarly, progressive publisher and bookseller; editor, minor writer, pyramidologist; half of Keats’s publisher, Taylor & Hessey; Keats meets through Reynolds; extremely generous with Keats; very loyal to and supportive of Keats and his poetry; helpful biographical knowledge about Keats; along with Hessey, he more or less sponsors Keats’s later publishing; Keats in his will wants, somehow, Taylor to be repaid for his friendship and generosity.
  • Turner, Ned (1792–1826): bare-knuckle prize fighter and the first Welsh champion, known as the pugilistic Prince of Wales; he spent a few months in jail for killing a man in the ring in 1816; Keats sees him defeated by Jack Randal, 5 December 1818.
  • Virgil (70-19 BCE): classical Roman poet, most famous for The Aeneid; Keats, as a teen-aged student, and under the general guidance of his headmaster’s son at Enfield (Charles Cowden Clarke), takes up the challenge to translate The Aeneid, and confident and smart enough to suggest flaws in the poem’s narrative structure; Keats no doubts gets some first sense of epic grandeur (and passion for poetry’s scope and power) by undertaking the translation; Keats is utterly conversant with Virgil, as demonstrated in various quotes from him thrown into his letters, as well as occasional allusions.
  • Voltaire (1694–1778): French dramatist, poet, philosopher, novelist, historian; best known for his satirical novel Candide and his free-thinking, humanistically-styled sense of virtues, tempered by skepticism; Keats is familiar with Voltaire, reinforced, perhaps, by his friend, the critic William Hazlitt; Keats casually quotes from and refers to Voltaire in passing on a few occasions, and we know he is reading Voltaire’s Le Siècle de Louis XIV in early 1819.
  • Webbe, Cornelius (1789–1850?) [also Webb]: fairly prolific poet of the second rank, with some popularity and critical approval; later an essayist, again of minor note; great admirer of Keats; Webbe writes a glowing, over-poeticized sonnet (To John Keats, on his First Poems) that celebrates Keats’s earliest collection and its connection with Spencer, who he deems Keats’s sire; Webbe is forever connected with Keats as poets of the Cockney school under the tutelage of Leigh Hunt; Keats knows Webbe via Hunt and Hampstead gatherings; Keats gives a copy of his 1817 Poems to Webbe; Webbe is perhaps most famous for, in a poem, placing Keats and Hunt alongside Chaucer, Spencer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron, and Wordsworth, as if Hunt and Keats are their poetic equals: Z (John Gibson Lockhart) abuses Webbe’s words (capitalizing HUNT, and KEATS) to begin a devastating assault on Hunt, published in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, October 1817 (Webbe will also be nominated as Corny Webb, just as Keats is little Johnny); Keats in a letter of 3 November 1817 says he has never read any thing so virulent, and he anticipates a forthcoming attack on himself.
  • Wells, Charles (1800–1879): solicitor; spirited friend of Keats; sometimes dramatist and poet; friend, too, of Keats’s youngest brother, Tom, who schooled with Wells; Keats writes an early poem to Wells; Keats gives an inscribed copy of his first collection the 1817 Poems, by John Keats, to Wells; Keats later very upset with Wells when, in 1818, he looks at the fake letters that Wells, as a joke, had sent to Tom back in 1816; has some reputation with the Pre-Raphaelites.
  • West, Benjamin (1738–1820): prominent American painter, primarily of historical topics (though many portraits); perhaps the first American painter to carefully study Italian art in Italy; influential in England, France, as well as in the United States (leaving a legacy of painters); one of the founders of London’s Royal Academy; at points he benefits from the patronage of George III and William Beckford; crucially, Keats sees one of West’s more famous canvases, Death on a Pale Horse, in December 1817, which, in a letter of 21 (?27) December 1817, directly triggers some of Keats’s most important pronouncements: how truly excellent art must possess intensity, and with it, the power to evaporate all “disagreeables” in having close relationship with Beauty & Truth (Keats emphasizes that West’s painting does not possess such intensity)—this line of thinking leads Keats, in the same letter, to a seminal articulation in his poetic development: Negative Capability.
  • Westbrook, Harriet (1795–1816): smart, pleasant, lively, graceful; the first wife of Keats’s acquaintance and fellow poet Percy Shelley, who is also a member of the Leigh Hunt circle; in 1811, Shelley (19) and Harriet (16) marry in Scotland (they remarry in London, March 1814); they spend little time together; she gives birth to a daughter (Eliza Ianthe) in June 1813, and a son (Charles Bysshe), in November 1814; Shelley subsequently elopes with Mary Godwin (16), daughter of William Godwin, in July 1814 and a month later he writes a letter inviting Harriet to Switzerland to live as friends; Harriet commits suicide late November, drowning herself, aged 21, in a state of advanced pregnancy; Shelley is not likely the father; Shelley blames Harriet’s detestable family for the tragedy; Shelley is denied custody of his two children; Keats is aware of all of this, having some contact with Shelley and Mary during the public legal proceedings, which made the newspapers.
  • Woodhouse, Richard (1788–1834): educated at Eton; scholar, writer, conveyancer, legal advisor to Keats’s publisher, Taylor & Hessey; organizes Keats’s copyright transfer to them before Keats is off to Italy; singularly important collector of Keatsiana; practical and detail oriented; extraordinarily generous with Keats, and a close friend to the end; absolutely sure of Keats’s poetic genius; Keats writes his famous “poetical Character” and “camelion poet” letter to Woodhouse, 27 October 1818; central in organizing Keats’s trip to Italy; dies of tuberculosis.
  • Wordsworth, Mary (1770–1859): (née Hutchinson); wife of poet William Wordsworth (married 4 October 1802); like William’s sister Dorothy, Mary at times acts as Wordsworth’s amanuensis; Keats meets Mary when she is with William in London in early 1815; Keats (like others) have the sense that Dorothy and Mary (who both live with William) are overly protective of and reverent to William; in a letter 21 March 1818, Keats writes that William has returned to his Shell—with his beautiful wife and enchanting sister.
  • Wordsworth, William (1780–1850): the most significant contemporary poet for Keats; Keats is deeply ambivalent about Wordsworth, based mainly on the older poet’s growing pretensions and conservative political affiliation; Keats meets Wordsworth (initially via Haydon) a few times late 1817 into early 1818; in contra-distinguishing himself from Wordsworth, Keats famously condemns the “wordsworthian or egotistic sublime” in poetry (letter, 27 October 1818); Keats is nevertheless fully in awe of Wordsworth’s poetic depths, which in some of his mature poetry he attempts to emulate—in his own terms, he feels Reverence toward the older poet; Wordsworth is Poet Laureate after 1843 until his death; forever paired with Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
  • Wylies, the (May 1818): George Keats (Keats’s brother) marries Georgiana Augusta Wylie (?1797-1879). Georgiana’s parents (her father was a military man) have two sons, Henry and Charles. Via George, Keats comes to know the family and to frequently socialize with them; he is particularly fond of Mrs. Wylie. George and Georgiana emigrate to Kentucky for cheap property and opportunity; they are eventually very successful in business and in creating offspring—eight in total. Some of Keats’s most important letters are written to George and Georgiana after they move to Kentucky; Keats’s tone in these letters marks his familiarity and openness with Georgiana, as well as interest in her family of origin.

Lines on the Mermaid Tavern

  • Souls of poets dead and gone,
  • What elysium have ye known,
  • Happy field or mossy cavern,
  • Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
  • Have ye tippled drink more fine
  • Than mine host’s Canary wine?
  • Or are fruits of Paradise
  • Sweeter than those dainty pies
  • Of venison? O generous food!
  • Drest as though bold Robin Hood
  • Sup and bowse from horn and can.
  • I have heard that on a day
  • Mine host’s sign-board flew away,
  • Nobody knew whither, till
  • An astrologer’s old quill
  • To a sheepskin gave the story,
  • Said he saw you in your glory,
  • Underneath a new-old sign
  • Sipping beverage divine,
  • And pledging with contented smack
  • The Mermaid in the zodiac.
  • Souls of poets dead and gone,
  • What elysium have ye known,
  • Happy field or mossy cavern,
  • Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
  • Welcome joy, and welcome sorrow,
  • Lethe’s weed and Hermes’ feather;
  • Come to-day, and come to-morrow,
  • I do love you both together!
  • I love to mark sad faces in fair weather;
  • And hear a merry laugh amid the thunder;
  • Fair and foul I love together.
  • Meadows sweet where flames burn under,
  • And a giggle at a wonder;
  • Visage sage at pantomime;
  • Funeral, and steeple-chime;
  • Infant playing with a skull;
  • Morning fair, and stormwreck’d hull;
  • Nightshade with the woodbine kissing;
  • Serpents in red roses hissing;
  • Cleopatra regal-dress’d
  • With the aspic at her breast;
  • Dancing music, music sad,
  • Both together, sane and mad;
  • Muses bright and Muses pale;
  • Sombre Saturn, Momus hale; —
  • Laugh and sigh, and laugh again;
  • Oh the sweetness of the pain!
  • Muses bright, and Muses pale,
  • Bare your faces of the veil;
  • Let me see; and let me write
  • Of the day, and of the night —
  • Both together — let me slake
  • All my thirst for sweet heart-ache!
  • Let my bower be of yew,
  • Interwreath’d with myrtles new;
  • Pines and lime-trees full in bloom,
  • And my couch a low grass tomb.

Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil


  • Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
  • Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love’s eye!
  • They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
  • Without some stir of heart, some malady;
  • They could not sit at meals but feel how well
  • It soothed each to be the other by;
  • They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep
  • But to each other dream, and nightly weep.


  • With every morn their love grew tenderer,
  • With every eve deeper and tenderer still;
  • He might not in house, field, or garden stir,
  • But her full shape would all his seeing fill;
  • And his continual voice was pleasanter
  • To her, than noise of trees or hidden rill;
  • Her lute-string gave an echo of his name,
  • She spoilt her half-done broidery with the same.


  • He knew whose gentle hand was at the latch,
  • Before the door had given her to his eyes;
  • And from her chamber-window he would catch
  • Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;
  • And constant as her vespers would he watch,
  • Because her face was turn’d to the same skies;
  • And with sick longing all the night outwear,
  • To hear her morning-step upon the stair.


  • A whole long month of May in this sad plight
  • Made their cheeks paler by the break of June:
  • “To-morrow will I bow to my delight,
  • To-morrow will I ask my lady’s boon. ” —
  • “O may I never see another night,
  • Lorenzo, if thy lips breathe not love’s tune. ” —
  • So spake they to their pillows; but, alas,
  • Honeyless days and days did he let pass;


  • Until sweet Isabella’s untouch’d cheek
  • Fell sick within the rose’s just domain,
  • Fell thin as a young mother’s, who doth seek
  • By every lull to cool her infant’s pain:
  • “How ill she is, ” said he, “ I may not speak,
  • And yet I will, and tell my love all plain:
  • If looks speak love-laws, I will drink her tears,
  • And at the least ’twill startle off her cares.”


  • So said he one fair morning, and all day
  • His heart beat awfully against his side;
  • And to his heart he inwardly did pray
  • For power to speak; but still the ruddy tide
  • Stifled his voice, and puls’d resolve away —
  • Fever’d his high conceit of such a bride,
  • Yet brought him to the meekness of a child:
  • Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!


  • So once more he had wak’d and anguished
  • A dreary night of love and misery,
  • If Isabel’s quick eye had not been wed
  • To every symbol on his forehead high;
  • She saw it waxing very pale and dead,
  • And straight all flush’d; so, lisped tenderly,
  • “Lorenzo! ” — here she ceas’d her timid quest,
  • But in her tone and look he read the rest.


  • “O Isabella, I can half perceive
  • That I may speak my grief into thine ear;
  • If thou didst ever any thing believe,
  • Believe how I love thee, believe how near
  • My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve
  • Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear
  • Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live
  • Another night, and not my passion shrive.


  • “Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,
  • Lady! thou leadest me to summer clime,
  • And I must taste the blossoms that unfold
  • In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time.”
  • So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,
  • And poesied with hers in dewy rhyme:
  • Great bliss was with them, and great happiness
  • Grew, like a lusty flower in June’s caress.


  • Parting they seem’d to tread upon the air,
  • Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart
  • Only to meet again more close, and share
  • The inward fragrance of each other’s heart.
  • She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair
  • Sang, of delicious love and honey’d dart;
  • He with light steps went up a western hill,
  • And bade the sun farewell, and joy’d his fill.


  • All close they met again, before the dusk
  • Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
  • All close they met, all eves, before the dusk
  • Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil
  • Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,
  • Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.
  • Ah! better had it been for ever so,
  • Than idle ears should pleasure in their woe.


  • Were they unhappy then? — It cannot be —
  • Too many tears for lovers have been shed,
  • Too many sighs give we to them in fee,
  • Too much of pity after they are dead,
  • Too many doleful stories do we see,
  • Whose matter in bright gold were best be read;
  • Except in such a page where Theseus’ spouse
  • Over the pathless waves towards him bows.


  • But, for the general award of love,
  • The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;
  • Though Dido silent is in under-grove,
  • And Isabella’s was a great distress,
  • Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove
  • Was not embalm’d, this truth is not the less —
  • Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers,
  • Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.


  • With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,
  • Enriched from ancestral merchandize,
  • And for them many a weary hand did swelt
  • In torched mines and noisy factories,
  • And many once proud-quiver’d loins did melt
  • In blood from stinging whip; — with hollow eyes
  • Many all day in dazzling river stood,
  • To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.


  • For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,
  • And went all naked to the hungry shark;
  • For them his ears gush’d blood; for them in death
  • The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark
  • Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe
  • A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:
  • Half-ignorant, they turn’d an easy wheel,
  • That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.


  • Why were they proud? Because their marble founts
  • Gush’d with more pride than do a wretch’s tears? —
  • Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts
  • Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs? —
  • Why were they proud? Because red-lin’d accounts
  • Were richer than the songs of Grecian years? —
  • Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,
  • Why in the name of Glory were they proud?


  • Yet were these Florentines as self-retired
  • In hungry pride and gainful cowardice,
  • As two close Hebrews in that land inspired,
  • Paled in and vineyarded from beggar-spies;
  • The hawks of ship-mast forests — the untired
  • And pannier’d mules for ducats and old lies — .
  • Quick cat’s-paws on the generous stray-away, —
  • Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay.


  • How was it these same ledger-men could spy
  • Fair Isabella in her downy nest?
  • How could they find out in Lorenzo’s eye
  • A straying from his toil? Hot Egypt’s pest
  • Into their vision covetous and sly!
  • How could these money-bags see east and west? —
  • Yet so they did — and every dealer fair
  • Must see behind, as doth the hunted hare.


  • O eloquent and famed Boccaccio!
  • Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon,
  • And of thy spicy myrtles as they blow,
  • And of thy roses amorous of the moon,
  • And of thy lilies, that do paler grow
  • Now they can no more hear thy ghittern’s tune,
  • For venturing syllables that ill beseem
  • The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme.


  • Grant thou a pardon here, and then the tale
  • Shall move on soberly, as it is meet;
  • There is no other crime, no mad assail
  • To make old prose in modern rhyme more sweet:
  • But it is done — succeed the verse or fail —
  • To honour thee, and thy gone spirit greet;
  • To stead thee as a verse in English tongue,
  • An echo of thee in the north-wind sung.


  • These brethren having found by many signs
  • What love Lorenzo for their sister had,
  • And how she lov’d him too, each unconfines
  • His bitter thoughts to other, well nigh mad
  • That he, the servant of their trade designs,
  • Should in their sister’s love be blithe and glad,
  • When ’twas their plan to coax her by degrees
  • To some high noble and his olive-trees.


  • And many a jealous conference had they,
  • And many times they bit their lips alone,
  • Before they fix’d upon a surest way
  • To make the youngster for his crime atone;
  • And at the last, these men of cruel clay
  • Cut Mercy with a sharp knife to the bone;
  • For they resolved in some forest dim
  • To kill Lorenzo, and there bury him.


  • So on a pleasant morning, as he leant
  • Into the sun-rise, o’er the balustrade
  • Of the garden-terrace, towards him they bent
  • Their footing through the dews; and to him said,
  • “You seem there in the quiet of content,
  • Lorenzo, and we are most loth to invade
  • Calm speculation; but if you are wise,
  • Bestride your steed while cold is in the skies.


  • “To-day we purpose, ay, this hour we mount
  • To spur three leagues towards the Apennine;
  • Come down, we pray thee, ere the hot sun count
  • His dewy rosary on the eglantine.”
  • Lorenzo, courteously as he was wont,
  • Bow’d a fair greeting to these serpents’ whine;
  • And went in haste, to get in readiness,
  • With belt, and spur, and bracing huntsman’s dress.


  • And as he to the court-yard pass’d along,
  • Each third step did he pause, and listen’d oft
  • If he could hear his lady’s matin-song,
  • Or the light whisper of her footstep soft;
  • And as he thus over his passion hung,
  • He heard a laugh full musical aloft;
  • When, looking up, he saw her features bright
  • Smile through an in-door lattice, all delight.


  • “Love, Isabel!” said he, “I was in pain
  • Lest I should miss to bid thee a good morrow:
  • Ah! what if I should lose thee, when so fain
  • I am to stifle all the heavy sorrow
  • Of a poor three hours’ absence? but we’ll gain
  • Out of the amorous dark what day doth borrow.
  • Good bye! I’ll soon be back.” — “Good bye!” said she —
  • And as he went she chanted merrily.


  • So the two brothers and their murder’d man
  • Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno’s stream
  • Gurgles through straiten’d banks, and still doth fan
  • Itself with dancing bulrush, and the bream
  • Keeps head against the freshets. Sick and wan
  • The brothers’ faces in the ford did seem,
  • Lorenzo’s flush with love. — They pass’d the water
  • Into a forest quiet for the slaughter.


  • There was Lorenzo slain and buried in,
  • There in that forest did his great love cease;
  • Ah! when a soul doth thus its freedom win,
  • It aches in loneliness — is ill at peace
  • As the break-covert blood-hounds of such sin:
  • They dipp’d their swords in the water, and did tease
  • Their horses homeward, with convulsed spur,
  • Each richer by his being a murderer.


  • They told their sister how, with sudden speed,
  • Lorenzo had ta’en ship for foreign lands,
  • Because of some great urgency and need
  • In their affairs, requiring trusty hands.
  • Poor Girl! put on thy stifling widow’s weed,
  • And ’scape at once from Hope’s accursed bands;
  • To-day thou wilt not see him, nor to-morrow,
  • And the next day will be a day of sorrow.


  • She weeps alone for pleasures not to be;
  • Sorely she wept until the night came on,
  • And then, instead of love, O misery!
  • She brooded o’er the luxury alone:
  • His image in the dusk she seem’d to see,
  • And to the silence made a gentle moan,
  • Spreading her perfect arms upon the air,
  • And on her couch low murmuring “Where? O where?”


  • But Selfishness, Love’s cousin, held not long
  • Its fiery vigil in her single breast;
  • She fretted for the golden hour, and hung
  • Upon the time with feverish unrest —
  • Not long — for soon into her heart a throng
  • Of higher occupants, a richer zest,
  • Came tragic; passion not to be subdued,
  • And sorrow for her love in travels rude.


  • In the mid days of autumn, on their eves,
  • The breath of Winter comes from far away,
  • And the sick west continually bereaves
  • Of some gold tinge, and plays a roundelay
  • Of death among the bushes and the leaves
  • To make all bare before he dares to stray
  • From his north cavern. So sweet Isabel
  • By gradual decay from beauty fell,


  • Because Lorenzo came not. Oftentimes
  • She ask’d her brothers, with an eye all pale,
  • Striving to be itself, what dungeon climes
  • Could keep him off so long? They spake a tale
  • Time after time, to quiet her. Their crimes
  • Came on them, like a smoke from Hinnom’s vale;
  • And every night in dreams they groan’d aloud,
  • To see their sister in her snowy shroud.


  • And she had died in drowsy ignorance,
  • But for a thing more deadly dark than all;
  • It came like a fierce potion, drunk by chance,
  • Which saves a sick man from the feather’d pall
  • For some few gasping moments; like a lance,
  • Waking an Indian from his cloudy hall
  • With cruel pierce, and bringing him again
  • Sense of the gnawing fire at heart and brain.


  • It was a vision. — In the drowsy gloom,
  • The dull of midnight, at her couch’s foot
  • Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb
  • Had marr’d his glossy hair which once could shoot
  • Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom
  • Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute
  • From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears
  • Had made a miry channel for his tears.


  • Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;
  • For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,
  • To speak as when on earth it was awake,
  • And Isabella on its music hung:
  • Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,
  • As in a palsied Druid’s harp unstrung;
  • And through it moan’d a ghostly under-song,
  • Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.


  • Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright
  • With love, and kept all phantom fear aloof
  • From the poor girl by magic of their light,
  • The while it did unthread the horrid woof
  • Of the late darken’d time, — the murderous spite
  • Of pride and avarice, — the dark pine roof
  • In the forest, — and the sodden turfed dell,
  • Where, without any word, from stabs he fell.


  • Saying moreover, “Isabel, my sweet!
  • Red whortle-berries droop above my head,
  • And a large flint-stone weighs upon my feet;
  • Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed
  • Their leaves and prickly nuts; a sheep-fold bleat
  • Comes from beyond the river to my bed:
  • Go, shed one tear upon my heather-bloom,
  • And it shall comfort me within the tomb.


  • “I am a shadow now, alas! alas!
  • Upon the skirts of Human-nature dwelling
  • Alone: I chant alone the holy mass,
  • While little sounds of life are round me knelling,
  • And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,
  • And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,
  • Paining me through: those sounds grow strange to me,
  • And thou art distant in Humanity.


  • “I know what was, I feel full well what is,
  • And I should rage, if spirits could go mad;
  • Though I forget the taste of earthly bliss,
  • That paleness warms my grave, as though I had
  • A Seraph chosen from the bright abyss
  • To be my spouse: thy paleness makes me glad;
  • Thy beauty grows upon me, and I feel
  • A greater love through all my essence steal.”


  • The Spirit mourn’d “Adieu!” — dissolv’d, and left
  • The atom darkness in a slow turmoil;
  • As when of healthful midnight sleep bereft,
  • Thinking on rugged hours and fruitless toil,
  • We put our eyes into a pillowy cleft,
  • And see the spangly gloom froth up and boil:
  • It made sad Isabella’s eyelids ache,
  • And in the dawn she started up awake;


  • “Ha! ha! ” said she, “ I knew not this hard life,
  • I thought the worst was simple misery;
  • I thought some Fate with pleasure or with strife
  • Portion’d us — happy days, or else to die;
  • But there is crime — a brother’s bloody knife!
  • Sweet Spirit, thou hast school’d my infancy:
  • I’ll visit thee for this, and kiss thine eyes,
  • And greet thee morn and even in the skies.”


  • When the full morning came, she had devised
  • How she might secret to the forest hie;
  • How she might find the clay, so dearly prized,
  • And sing to it one latest lullaby;
  • How her short absence might be unsurmised,
  • While she the inmost of the dream would try.
  • Resolv’d, she took with her an aged nurse,
  • And went into that dismal forest-hearse.


  • See, as they creep along the river side,
  • How she doth whisper to that aged Dame,
  • And, after looking round the champaign wide,
  • Shows her a knife. — “What feverous hectic flame
  • “Burns in thee, child? — What good can thee betide,
  • That thou should’st smile again?” — The evening came,
  • And they had found Lorenzo’s earthy bed;
  • The flint was there, the berries at his head.


  • Who hath not loiter’d in a green church-yard,
  • And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,
  • Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,
  • To see scull, coffin’d bones, and funeral stole;
  • Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr’d,
  • And filling it once more with human soul?
  • Ah! this is holiday to what was felt
  • When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.


  • She gaz’d into the fresh-thrown mould, as though
  • One glance did fully all its secrets tell;
  • Clearly she saw, as other eyes would know
  • Pale limbs at bottom of a crystal well;
  • Upon the murderous spot she seem’d to grow,
  • Like to a native lily of the dell:
  • Then with her knife, all sudden, she began
  • To dig more fervently than misers can.


  • Soon she turn’d up a soiled glove, whereon
  • Her silk had play’d in purple phantasies,
  • She kiss’d it with a lip more chill than stone,
  • And put it in her bosom, where it dries
  • And freezes utterly unto the bone
  • Those dainties made to still an infant’s cries:
  • Then ’gan she work again; nor stay’d her care,
  • But to throw back at times her veiling hair.


  • That old nurse stood beside her wondering,
  • Until her heart felt pity to the core
  • At sight of such a dismal labouring,
  • And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,
  • And put her lean hands to the horrid thing:
  • Three hours they labour’d at this travail sore;
  • At last they felt the kernel of the grave,
  • And Isabella did not stamp and rave.


  • Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?
  • Why linger at the yawning tomb so long?
  • O for the gentleness of old Romance,
  • The simple plaining of a minstrel’s song!
  • Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
  • For here, in truth, it doth not well belong
  • To speak: — O turn thee to the very tale,
  • And taste the music of that vision pale.


  • With duller steel than the Persean sword
  • They cut away no formless monster’s head,
  • But one, whose gentleness did well accord
  • With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,
  • Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:
  • If Love impersonate was ever dead,
  • Pale Isabella kiss’d it, and low moan’d.
  • ’Twas love; cold, — dead indeed, but not dethroned.


  • In anxious secrecy they took it home,
  • And then the prize was all for Isabel:
  • She calm’d its wild hair with a golden comb,
  • And all around each eye’s sepulchral cell
  • Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
  • With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
  • She drench’d away: — and still she comb’d, and kept
  • Sighing all day — and still she kiss’d, and wept.


  • Then in a silken scarf, — sweet with the dews
  • Of precious flowers pluck’d in Araby,
  • And divine liquids come with odorous ooze
  • Through the cold serpent-pipe refreshfully, —
  • She wrapp’d it up; and for its tomb did choose
  • A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
  • And cover’d it with mould, and o’er it set
  • Sweet basil, which her tears kept ever wet.


  • And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
  • And she forgot the blue above the trees,
  • And she forgot the dells where waters run,
  • And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
  • She had no knowledge when the day was done,
  • And the new morn she saw not: but in peace
  • Hung over her sweet basil evermore,
  • And moisten’d it with tears unto the core.


  • And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
  • Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
  • So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
  • Of basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
  • Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
  • From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
  • So that the jewel, safely casketed,
  • Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.


  • O Melancholy, linger here awhile!
  • O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
  • O Echo, Echo, from some sombre isle,
  • Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us — O sigh!
  • Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile;
  • Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily,
  • And make a pale light in your cypress glooms,
  • Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.


  • Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,
  • From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!
  • Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,
  • And touch the strings into a mystery;
  • Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;
  • For simple Isabel is soon to be
  • Among the dead: She withers, like a palm
  • Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.


  • O leave the palm to wither by itself;
  • Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour! —
  • It may not be — those Baalites of pelf,
  • Her brethren, noted the continual shower
  • From her dead eyes; and many a curious elf,
  • Among her kindred, wonder’d that such dower
  • Of youth and beauty should be thrown aside
  • By one mark’d out to be a noble’s bride.


  • And, furthermore, her brethren wonder’d much
  • Why she sat drooping by the basil green,
  • And why it flourish’d, as by magic touch;
  • Greatly they wonder’d what the thing might mean:
  • They could not surely give belief, that such
  • A very nothing would have power to wean
  • Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,
  • And even remembrance of her love’s delay.


  • Therefore they watch’d a time when they might sift
  • This hidden whim; and long they watch’d in vain;
  • For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,
  • And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;
  • And when she left, she hurried back, as swift
  • As bird on wing to breast its eggs again;
  • And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there
  • Beside her basil, weeping through her hair.


  • Yet they contriv’d to steal the basil-pot,
  • And to examine it in secret place:
  • The thing was vile with green and livid spot,
  • And yet they knew it was Lorenzo’s face:
  • The guerdon of their murder they had got,
  • And so left Florence in a moment’s space,
  • Never to turn again. — Away they went,
  • With blood upon their heads, to banishment.


  • O Melancholy, turn thine eyes away!
  • O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
  • O Echo, Echo, on some other day,
  • From isles Lethean, sigh to us — o sigh!
  • Spirits of grief, sing not you “ Well-a-way!”
  • For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die;
  • Will die a death too lone and incomplete,
  • Now they have ta’en away her basil sweet.


  • Piteous she look’d on dead and senseless things,
  • Asking for her lost basil amorously;
  • And with melodious chuckle in the strings
  • Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry
  • After the pilgrim in his wanderings,
  • To ask him where her basil was; and why
  • ’Twas hid from her: “ For cruel ’tis, ” said she,
  • “To steal my basil-pot away from me.”


  • And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,
  • Imploring for her basil to the last.
  • No heart was there in Florence but did mourn
  • In pity of her love, so overcast.
  • And a sad ditty of this story born
  • From mouth to mouth through all the country pass’d:
  • Still is the burthen sung — “ O cruelty,
  • “To steal my basil-pot away from me!”

On Visiting the Tomb of Burns

  • The town, the churchyard, and the setting sun,
  • The clouds, the trees, the rounded hills all seem,
  • Though beautiful, cold — strange — as in a dream,
  • I dreamed long ago, now new begun.
  • The short-liv’d, paly summer is but won
  • From winter’s ague, for one hour’s gleam;
  • Though sapphire-warm, their stars do never beam
  • All is cold beauty; pain is never done
  • For who has mind to relish, Minos-wise,
  • The real of beauty, free from that dead hue
  • Sickly imagination and sick pride
  • Cast wan upon it? Burns! with honour due
  • I have oft honour’d thee. Great shadow, hide
  • Thy face; I sin against thy native skies.

This mortal body of a thousand days

  • This mortal body of a thousand days
  • Now fills, O Burns, a space in thine own room,
  • Where thou didst dream alone on budded bays,
  • Happy and thoughtless of thy day of doom!
  • My pulse is warm with thine old barley-bree,
  • My head is light with pledging a great soul,
  • My eyes are wandering, and I cannot see,
  • Fancy is dead and drunken at its goal;
  • Yet can I stamp my foot upon thy floor,
  • Yet can I ope thy window-sash to find
  • The meadow thou hast tramped o’er and o’er, —
  • Yet can I think of thee till thought is blind, —
  • Yet can I gulp a bumper to thy name, —
  • O smile among the shades, for this is fame!

Oh Chatterton! how very sad thy fate

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

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles

  • My spirit is too weak — mortality
  • Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
  • And each imagin’d pinnacle and steep
  • Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
  • Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
  • Yet ’tis a gentle luxury to weep
  • That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
  • Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.
  • Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
  • Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
  • So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
  • That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
  • Wasting of old time — with a billowy main —
  • A sun — a shadow of a magnitude.

To Haydon with a Sonnet Written on Seeing the Elgin Marbles

  • Haydon! forgive me that I cannot speak
  • Definitively on these mighty things;
  • Forgive me that I have not eagle’s wings —
  • That what I want I know not where to seek:
  • And think that I would not be overmeek
  • In rolling out upfollow’d thunderings,
  • Even to the steep of Heliconian springs,
  • Were I of ample strength for such a freak.
  • Think too, that all those numbers should be thine;
  • Whose else? In this who touch thy vesture’s hem?
  • For when men star’d at what was most divine
  • With browless idiotism —o’erweening phlegm —
  • Thou hadst beheld the Hesperean shine
  • Of their star in the east and gone to worship them.

Ode on a Grecian Urn


  • Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness, 
  • Thou foster-child of silence and slow time, 
  • Sylvan historian, who canst thus express 
  • A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme: 
  • What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape 
  • Of deities or mortals, or of both, 
  • In Tempe or the dales of Arcady? 
  • What men or gods are these? What maidens loth? 
  • What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape? 
  • What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?


  • Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard 
  • Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on; 
  • Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d, 
  • Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone: 
  • Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 
  • Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare; 
  • Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss, 
  • Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve; 
  • She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss, 
  • For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!


  • Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed 
  • Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu; 
  • And, happy melodist, unwearied, 
  • For ever piping songs for ever new; 
  • More happy love! more happy, happy love! 
  • For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d, 
  • For ever panting, and for ever young;
  • All breathing human passion far above, 
  • That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
  • A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 


  • Who are these coming to the sacrifice? 
  • To what green altar, O mysterious priest, 
  • Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, 
  • And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed? 
  • What little town by river or sea shore, 
  • Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel, 
  • Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn? 
  • And, little town, thy streets for evermore 
  • Will silent be; and not a soul to tell 
  • Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.


  • O Attic shape! Fair attitude! With brede 
  • Of marble men and maidens overwrought, 
  • With forest branches and the trodden weed; 
  • Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought 
  • As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral! 
  • When old age shall this generation waste, 
  • Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
  • Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st, 
  • “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all 
  • Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

[Text based on the published version in Keats’s 1820 collection.]


Ode to a Nightingale


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


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


  • Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
  • What thou among the leaves hast never known,
  • The weariness, the fever, and the fret
  • Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
  • Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
  • Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
  • Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
  • And leaden-eyed despairs,
  • Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
  • Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.


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


  • I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
  • Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
  • But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
  • Wherewith the seasonable month endows
  • The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
  • White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
  • Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;
  • And mid-May’s eldest child,
  • The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
  • The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.


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


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


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

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.

To Homer

  • Standing aloof in giant ignorance,
  • Of thee I hear and of the Cyclades,
  • As one who sits ashore and longs perchance
  • To visit dolphin-coral in deep seas.
  • So wast thou blind; — but then the veil was rent,
  • For Jove uncurtain’d heaven to let thee live,
  • And Neptune made for thee a spumy tent,
  • And Pan made sing for thee his forest-hive;
  • Aye, on the shores of darkness there is light,
  • And precipices show untrodden green,
  • There is a budding morrow in midnight,
  • There is a triple sight in blindness keen;
  • Such seeing hadst thou, as it once befel
  • To Dian, Queen of Earth, and Heaven, and Hell.

× Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Blank, G. Kim. “People mentioned.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology. Edition 3.26 , University of Victoria, 12 July 2023.

Chicago Style: Note

G. Kim Blank, “People mentioned,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.26 , last modified 12th July 2023.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Blank, G. Kim. “People mentioned.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.26 , last modified 12th July 2023.