Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

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

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. “To My Brother George [2].” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_to_my_brother_george_2.html.

Chicago Style: Note

John Keats, “To My Brother George [2],” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_to_my_brother_george_2.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Keats, John. “To My Brother George [2].” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_to_my_brother_george_2.html.