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i.e. (sounds] which distance bereaves of recognizance, or, in plain English, which are too distant to be recognized. Two other sonnets are addressed to Haydon in a tone of glowing laudation.
“Sleep and Poetry” is (if we except the sonnet upon Chapman's Homer) by far the most important poem in the volume. It was written partly in Leigh Hunt's cottage at Hampstead, in the library-room, where a sofabed had on one occasion been made up for Keats's convenience, and the latter lines in the poem refer to objects of art which were kept in the room. Apart from the impressive line which all readers remember, saying of poetry
"'Tis might half-slumbering on its own right arm,”
there are several passages interesting as showing Keats's enthusiasm for the art in which he was now a beginner, soon to be an adept
“ Oh for ten years that I may overwhelm
Myself in poesy!
“ The great end
“ They shall be accounted poet-kings
Who simply tell the most heart-easing things
both of these being definitions in which we might imagine Leigh Hunt to have borne his part, or at least notified his concurrence. The following well-known diatribe is also important, and should be kept in mind when we come to speak of the reception accorded to Keats by established critics, more or less of the old school. He has been dilating on the splendours of British poetry of the great era, say Spenser to Milton, and then proceeds—
“ Could all this be forgotten? Yes, a schism
Nurtured by foppery and barbarism
Zeal is generally pardonable. Keats's was manifestly honest zeal, and flaming forth in the right direction. Yet it would have been well for him to remember and indicate that amid his "school of dolts,” bearing the flag of Boileau, there had been some very strong and capable men, notably Dryden and Pope, who could do several things besides inlaying and clipping ; nor could it be said that the beauty of the world had been wholly blinked by so pre-eminently descriptive a poet as Thomson ; and, if we were to read Boileau—which few of us do now-a-days, and I daresay Keats was not one of the few—we should probably find that his “mottoes” were much less concerned with inlaying and clipping than with solid meaning and studious congruity-qualities not totally contemptible, but (be it acknowledged) very largely contemned by Keats in that first slender performance of his adolescence named “Poems, 1817."
It has been said that this volume hardly went beyond the circle of Keats's personal friends; nor do I think this statement can be far wrong, although one inquirer avers that the book was “constantly alluded to in the prominent periodicals.” The dictum of Keats himself stands thus: “It was read by some dozen of my friends, who liked it; and some dozen whom I was unacquainted with, who did not.” Shelley cannot have been among the friends who liked the volume, for he had recommended Keats not to give it to the press. At any rate the publishers, Messrs. Ollier, would after a very short while sell it no more, Their letter to George Keats—who seems to have been acting for John during the absence of the latter in the Isle of Wight or at Margate--is too amusing to be omitted :
“We regret that your brother ever requested us to publish his book, or that our opinion of its talent should have led us to acquiesce in undertaking it. We are, however, much obliged to you for relieving us from the unpleasant necessity of declining any further connexion with it, which we must have done, as we think the curiosity is satisfied and the sale has dropped. By far the greater number of persons who have purchased it from us have found fault with it in such plain terms that we have in many cases offered to take the book back rather than be annoyed with the ridicule which has time after time been showered upon it. In fact, it was only on Sunday last that we were under the mortification of having our own opinion of its merits flatly contradicted by a gentleman who told us he considered it ‘no better than a take-in. These are unpleasant imputations for any one in business to labour under ; but we should have borne them and concealed their existence from you had not the style of your note shown us that such delicacy would be quite thrown away. We shall take means without delay for ascertaining the number of copies on hand, and you shall be informed accordingly.
“3 Welbeck Street, 29th April 1817."
I do not find that the after-fate of the “Poems" is recorded : probably they were handed over to Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, who undertook the publication of “Endymion."
O“ Endymion" we now have to turn.
The early verses of Keats (as well as the later ones) contain numerous allusions to Grecian mythology-Muses, Apollo, Pan, Narcissus, Endymion and Diana, &c. For the most part these early allusions are nothing more than tawdry conventionalisms; so indeed are some of the later ones, as for instance in the drama of “King Stephen," written in 1819, the schoolboy classicism of “2nd Captain”
“ Royal Maud From the thronged towers of Lincoln hath looked down, Like Pallas from the walls of Ilion ;
and we cannot discover that any more credit is due to Keats for dribbling out his tritenesses about Apollo and the Muses than to any Akenside, Mason, or Hayley, of them all. At times, however, there is a genuine tore of enjoyment in these utterances sufficient to persuade us that the subject had really taken possession of his mind, and that he could feel Grecian mythology, not merely as a convenient vehicle for rhetorical personifications, but as an ever-vital embodiment of ideas of beauty in forms of beauty. In the early and partly boyish poem, "I stood