In the village of Enfield, in Middlesex, ten miles on the North road from London, my father, John Clarke, kept a school. The house had been built by a West India merchant in the latter end of the seventeenth or beginning of the eighteenth century. It was of the better character of the domestic architecture of that period, the whole front being of the purest red brick, wrought by means of moulds into rich designs of flowers and pomegranates, with heads of cherubim over niches in the centre of the building. The elegance of the design and the perfect finish of the structure were such as to secure its protection when a branch railway was brought from the Ware and Cambridge line to Enfield. The old school-house was converted into the station-house, and the railway company had the good taste to leave intact one of the few remaining specimens of the graceful English architecture of long-gone days.
Here it was that John Keats all but commenced and did complete his school education. He was born on the 29th of October, 1795; and he was one of the little fellows who had not wholly emerged from the child's costume upon being placed under my father's care. It will be readily conceived that it is difficult to recall from the "dark backward and abysm" of seventy odd years the general acts of perhaps the youngest individual in a corporation of between seventy and eighty youngsters; and very little more of Keats's child-life can I remember than that he had a brisk, winning face, and was a favourite with all, particularly my mother. His maternal grandfather, Jennings, was proprietor of a large livery-stable, called the "Swan and Hoop," on the pavement in Moorfields, opposite the entrance into Finsbury Circus. He had two sons at my father's school: the elder was an officer in Duncan's ship off Camperdown. After the battle, the Dutch admiral, De Winter, pointing to young Jennings, told Duncan that he had fired several shots at that young man, and always missed his mark; — no credit to his steadiness of aim, for Jennings like his own admiral, was considerably above the ordinary dimensions of stature.
Keats's father was the principal servant at the Swan and Hoop stables — a man of so remarkably fine a commonsense, and native respectability, that I perfectly remember the warm terms in which his demeanour used to be canvassed by my parents after he had been to visit his boys. John was the only one resembling him in person and feature, with brown hair and dark hazel eyes. The father was killed by a fall from his horse in returning from a visit to the school. This detail may be deemed requisite when we see in the last memoir of the poet the statement that "John Keats was born on the 29th of October, 1795, in the upper rank of the middle class." His two brothers — George, older, and Thomas, younger than himself — were like the mother, who was tall, of good figure, with large, oval face, and sensible deportment. The last of the family was a sister — Fanny, I think, much younger than all, and I hope still living — of whom I remember, when once walking in the garden with her brothers, my mother speaking of her with much fondness for her pretty and simple manners. She married Mr. Llanos, a Spanish refugee, the author of "Don Esteban," and "Sandoval, the Freemason." He was a man of liberal principles, very attractive bearing, and of more than ordinary accomplishments.
In the early part of his school-life John gave no extraordinary indications of intellectual character; but it was remembered of him afterwards, that there was ever present a determined and steady spirit in all his undertakings: I never knew it misdirected in his required pursuit of study. He was a most orderly scholar. The future ramifications of that noble genius were then closely shut in the seed, which was greedily drinking in the moisture which made it afterwards burst forth so kindly into luxuriance and beauty.
My father was in the habit, at each half-year's vacation of bestowing prizes upon those pupils who had performed the greatest quantity of voluntary work; and such was Keats's indefatigable energy for the last two or three successive half-years of his remaining at school, that, upon each occasion, he took the first prize by a considerable distance. He was at work before the first school-hour began, and that was at seven o'clock; almost all the intervening times of recreation were so devoted; and during the afternoon holidays, when all were at play, he would be in the school — almost the only one — at his Latin or French translation; and so unconscious and regardless was he of the consequences of so close and persevering an application, that he never would have taken the necessary exercise had he not been sometimes driven out for the purpose by one of the masters.
It has just been said that he was a favourite with all. Not the less beloved was he for having a highly pugnacious spirit, which, when roused, was one of the most picturesque exhibitions — off the stage — I ever saw. One of the transports of that marvellous actor, Edmund Kean — whom, by the way, he idolized — was its nearest resemblance; and the two were not very dissimilar in face and figure. Upon one occasion, when an usher, on account of some impertinent behaviour, had boxed his brother Tom's ears, John rushed up, put himself in the received posture of offence, and, it was said, struck the usher — who could, so to say, have put him into his pocket. His passion at times was almost ungovernable; and his brother George, being considerably the taller and stronger, used frequently to hold him down by main force, laughing when John was in "one of his moods," and was endeavouring to beat him. It was all, however, a wisp-of-straw conflagration; for he had an intensely tender affection for his brothers, and proved it upon the most trying occasions. He was not merely the "favourite of all," like a pet prize-fighter, for his terrier courage; but his high-mindedness, his utter unconsciousness of a mean motive, his placability, his generosity, wrought so general a feeling in his behalf, that I never heard a word of disapproval from any one, superior or equal, who had known him.
In the latter part of the time — perhaps eighteen months — that he remained at school, he occupied the hours during meals in reading. Thus, his whole time was engrossed. He had a tolerably retentive memory, and the quantity that he read was surprising. He must in those last months have exhausted the school library, which consisted principally of abridgments of all the voyages and travels of any note; Mavor's collection, also his Universal History; Robertson's histories of Scotland, America, and Charles the Fifth; all Miss Edgeworth's productions, together with many other works equally well calculated for youth. The books, however, that were his constantly recurrent sources of attraction were Tooke's Pantheon, Lempriere's Classical Dictionary, which he appeared to learn, and Spence's Polymetis. This was the store whence he acquired his intimacy with the Greek mythology; here was he "suckled in that creed outworn;" for his amount of classical attainment extended no farther than the Aeneid; with which epic, indeed, he was so fascinated that before leaving school he had voluntarily translated in writing a considerable portion. And yet I remember that at that early age — mayhap, under fourteen — notwithstanding, and through all its incidental attractiveness, he hazarded the opinion to me (and the expression riveted my surprise), that there was feebleness in the structure of the work. He must have gone through all the better publications in the school library, for he asked me to lend him some of my own books; and, in my "mind's eye," I now see him at supper (we had our meals in the school-room), sitting back on the form, from the table, holding the folio volume of Burnet's History of his Own Time between himself and the table, eating his meal from beyond it. This work, and Leigh Hunt's Examiner — which my father took in, and I used to lend to Keats — no doubt laid the foundation of his love of civil and religious liberty. He once told me, smiling, that one of his guardians, being informed what books I had lent him to read, declared that if he had fifty children he would not send one of them to that school. Bless his patriot head!
When he left Enfield at fourteen years of age, he was apprenticed to Mr. Thomas Hammond, a medical man, residing in Church Street, Edmonton, and exactly two miles from Enfield. This arrangement evidently gave him, satisfaction, and I fear that it was the most placid period of his painful life; for now, with the exception of the duty he had to perform in the surgery — by no means an onerous one — his whole leisure hours were employed in indulging his passion for reading and translating. During his apprenticeship he finished the Aeneid.
The distance between our residences being so short, I gladly encouraged his inclination to come over when he could claim a leisure hour; and in consequence I saw him about five or six times a month on my own leisure afternoons. He rarely came empty-handed; either he had a book to read, or brought one to be exchanged. When the weather permitted, we always sat in an arbour at the end of a spacious garden, and — in Boswellian dialect — "we had good talk."
It were difficult, at this lapse of time, to note the spark that fired the train of his poetical tendencies; but he must have given unmistakable tokens of his mental bent; otherwise, at that early stage of his career, I never could have read to him the Epithalamion of Spenser; and this I remember having done, and in that hallowed old arbour, the scene of many bland and graceful associations — the substances having passed away. At that time he may have been sixteen years old; and at that period of life he certainly appreciated the general beauty of the composition, and felt the more passionate passages; for his features and exclamations were ecstatic. How often, in after-times, have I heard him quote these lines:
Behold, while she before the altar stands,
Hearing the holy priest that to her speaks,
And blesses her with his two happy hands,
How the red roses flush up to her cheeks!
And the pure snow, with goodly vermeil stain,
Like crimson dyed in grain,
That even the angels, which continually
About the sacred altar do remain,
Forget their service and about her fly,
"Oft peeping in her face, that seems more fair,
The more they on it stare;"
But her sad eyes, still fasten'd on the ground,
Are governed with goodly modesty,
That suffers not one look to glance awry,
Which may let in a little thought unsound.
That night he took away with him the first volume of the Faerie Queene, and he went through it, as I formerly told his noble biographer, "as a young horse would through a spring meadow — ramping!" Like a true poet, too — a poet "born, not manufactured," a poet in grain, he especially singled out epithets, for that felicity and power in which Spenser is so eminent. He hoisted himself up, and looked burly and dominant, as he said, "what an image that is — 'sea-shouldering whales!'" It was a treat to see as well as hear him read a pathetic passage. Once, when reading the Cymbeline aloud, I saw his eyes fill with tears, and his voice faltered when he came to the departure of Posthumus, and Imogen saying she would have watched him
'Till the diminution
Of space had pointed him sharp as my needle;
Nay follow'd him till he had melted from
The smallness of a gnat to air; and then
Have turn'd mine eye and wept.
I cannot remember the precise time of our separating at this stage of Keats's career, or which of us first went to London; but it was upon an occasion, when walking thither to see Leigh Hunt who had just fulfilled his penalty of confinement in Horsemonger Lane Prison for the unwise libel upon the Prince Regent, that Keats met me; and, turning, accompanied me back part of the way. At the last field-gate, when taking leave, he gave me the sonnet entitled, Written on the day that Mr. Leigh Hunt left Prison. This I feel to be the first proof I had received of his having committed himself in verse; and how clearly do I recall the conscious look and hesitation with which he offered it! There are some momentary glances by beloved friends that fade only with life. His biographer has stated that The Lines in Imitation of Spenser,
Now Morning from her orient chamber came,
And her first footsteps touch'd a verdant hill, &c.,
are the earliest known verses of his composition; a probable circumstance, from their subject being the inspiration of his first love, in poetry — and such a love! — but Keats's first published poem was the sonnet—
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep—
Nature's observatory — whence the dell,
In flowery slopes, its river's crystal swell
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
'Mongst boughs pavilion'd, where the deer's swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the foxglove bell.
But though I'll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refined,
Is my soul's pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
This sonnet appeared in The Examiner, some time, I think, in 1816.
When we both had come to London — Keats to enter as a student of St. Thomas's Hospital — he was not long in discovering my abode, which was with a brother-in-law in Clerkenwell; and at that time being housekeeper, and solitary, he would come and renew his loved gossip; till, as the author of the Urn Burial says, "we were acting our antipodes — the huntsmen were up in America, and they already were past their first sleep in Persia." At the close of a letter which preceded my appointing him to come and lighten my darkness in Clerkenwell, is his first address upon coming to London. He says, "Although the Borough is a beastly place in dirt, turnings, and windings, yet No. 8, Dean Street, is not difficult to find; and if you would run the gauntlet over London Bridge, take the first turning to the right, and, moreover, knock at my door, which is nearly opposite a meeting, you would do me a charity, which, as St. Paul saith, is the father of all the virtues. At all events, let me hear from you soon: I say, at all events, not excepting the gout in your fingers." This letter, having no date but the week's day, and no postmark, preceded our first symposium; and a memorable night it was in my life's career.
A beautiful copy of the folio edition of Chapman's translation of Homer had been lent me. It was the property of Mr. Alsager, the gentleman who for years had contributed no small share of celebrity to the great reputation of the Times newspaper by the masterly manner in which he conducted the money-market department of that journal. Upon my first introduction to Mr. Alsager he lived opposite to Horsemonger Lane Prison, and upon Mr. Leigh Hunt's being sentenced for the libel, his first day's dinner was sent over by Mr. Alsager. Well, then, we were put in possession of the Homer of Chapman, and to work we went, turning to some of the "famousest" passages, as we had scrappily known them in Pope's version. There was, for instance, that perfect scene of the conversation on Troy wall of the old Senators with Helen, who is pointing out to them the several Greek Captains; with the Senator Antenor's vivid portrait of an orator in Ulysses, beginning at the 237th line of the third book:
But when the prudent Ithacus did to his counsels rise,
He stood a little still, and fix'd upon the earth his eyes,
His sceptre moving neither way, but held it formally,
Like one that vainly doth affect. Of wrathful quality,
And frantic (rashly judging), you would have said he was;
But when out of his ample breast he gave his great voice pass,
And words that flew about our ears like drifts of winter's snow,
None thenceforth might contend with him, though
naught admired for show.
The shield and helmet of Diomed, with the accompanying simile, in the opening of the third book; and the prodigious description of Neptune's passage to the Argive ships, in the thirteenth book:—
The woods and all the great hills near trembled beneath the weight
Of his immortal-moving feet. Three steps he only took,
Before be far-off Aegas reach'd but with the fourth it shook
With his dread entry.
One scene I could not fail to introduce to him — the shipwreck of Ulysses, in the fifth book of the "Odysseis," and I had the reward of one of his delighted stares, upon reading the following lines:
Then forth he came, his both knees falt'ring, both
His strong hands hanging down, and all with froth
His cheeks and nostrils flowing, voice and breath
Spent to all use, and down he sank to death.
The sea had soak'd his heart through; all his veins
His toils had rack'd t' a labouring woman's pains.
Dead-weary was he.
On an after-occasion I showed him the couplet, in Pope's translation, upon the same passage:—
From mouth and nose the briny torrent ran,
And lost in lassitude lay all the man. [!!!].
Chapman supplied us with many an after-treat; but it was in the teeming wonderment of this his first introduction, that, when I came down to breakfast the next morning, I found upon my table a letter with no other enclosure than his famous sonnet, On First Looking into Chapman's Homer. We had parted, as I have already said, at day-spring, yet he contrived that I should receive the poem from a distance of, may be, two miles by ten o'clock. In the published copy of this sonnet he made an alteration in the seventh line: — "Yet did I never breathe its pure serene." The original which he sent me had the phrase — "Yet could I never tell what men could mean;" which he said was bald, and too simply wondering. No one could more earnestly chastise his thoughts than Keats. His favourite among Chapman's Hymns of Homer was the one to Pan, which he himself rivalled in the Endymion: — "O thou whose mighty palace-roof doth hang," &c. It appears early in the first book of the poem; the first line in which has passed into a proverb, and become a motto to Exhibition catalogues of Fine Art:—
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, &c.
The Hymn to Pan alone should have rescued this young and vigorous poem — this youngest epic — from the savage injustice with which it was assailed.
In one of our conversations, about this period, I alluded to his position at St. Thomas's Hospital, coasting and reconnoitring, as it were, for the purpose of discovering what progress he was making in his profession; which I had taken for granted had been his own selection, and not one chosen for him. The total absorption, therefore, of every other mood of his mind than that of imaginative composition, which had now evidently encompassed him, induced me, from a kind motive, to inquire what was his bias of action for the future; and with that transparent candour which formed the mainspring of his rule of conduct, he at once made no secret of his inability to sympathize with the science of anatomy, as a main pursuit in life; for one of the expressions that he used, in describing his unfitness for its mastery, was perfectly characteristic. He said, in illustration of his argument, "The other day, for instance, during the lecture, there came a sunbeam into the room, and with it a whole troop of creatures floating in the ray; and I was off with them to Oberon and fairyland." And yet, with all his self-styled unfitness for the pursuit, I was afterwards informed that at his subsequent examination he displayed an amount of acquirement which surprised his fellow-students, who had scarcely any other association with him than that of a cheerful, crotchety rhymester. He once talked with me, upon my complaining of stomachic derangement, with a remarkable decision of opinion, describing the functions and actions of the organ with the clearness and, as I presume, technical precision of an adult practitioner; casually illustrating the comment, in his characteristic way, with poetical imagery: the stomach, he said, being like a brood of callow nestlings (opening his capacious mouth) yearning and gaping for sustenance; and, indeed, he merely exemplified what should be, if possible, the "stock in trade" of every poet, viz., to know all that is to be known, "in the heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the waters under the earth."
It was about this period that, going to call upon Mr. Leigh Hunt, who then occupied a pretty little cottage in the Vale of Health, on Hampstead Heath, I took with me two or three of the poems I had received from Keats. I could not but anticipate that Hunt would speak encouragingly, and indeed approvingly, of the compositions — written, too, by a youth under age; but my partial spirit was not prepared for the unhesitating and prompt admiration which broke forth before he had read twenty lines of the first poem. Horace Smith happened to be there on the occasion, and he was not less demonstrative in his appreciation of their merits. The piece which he read out was the sonnet, "How many Bards gild the Lapses of Time!" marking with particular emphasis and approval the last six lines:
So the unnumber'd sounds that evening store,
The songs of birds, the whisp'ring of the leaves,
The voice of waters, the great bell that heaves
With solemn sound, and thousand others more,
That distance of recognizance bereaves,
Make pleasing music, and not wild uproar.
Smith repeated with applause the line in italics, saying, "What a well-condensed expression for a youth so young!" After making numerous and eager inquiries about him personally, and with reference to any peculiarities of mind and manner, the visit ended in my being requested to bring him over to the Vale of Health.
That was a "red-letter day " in the young poet's life, and one which will never fade with me while memory lasts.
The character and expression of Keats's features would arrest even the casual passenger in the street; and now they were wrought to a tone of animation that I could not but watch with interest, knowing what was in store for him from the bland encouragement, and Spartan deference in attention, with fascinating conversational eloquence, that he was to encounter and receive. As we approached the Heath, there was the rising and accelerated step, with the gradual subsidence of all talk. The interview, which stretched into three "morning calls," was the prelude to many after-scenes and saunterings about Caen Wood and its neighbourhood; for Keats was suddenly made a familiar of the household, and was always welcomed.
It was in the library at Hunt's cottage, where an extemporary bed had been made up for him on the sofa, that he composed the frame-work and many lines of the poem on Sleep and Poetry — the last sixty or seventy being an inventory of the art garniture of the room, commencing,—
It was a poet's house who keeps the keys
Of Pleasure's temple.
In this composition is the lovely and favourite little cluster of images upon the fleeting transit of life — a pathetic anticipation of his own brief career:—
Stop and consider! Life is but a day;
A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way
From a tree's summit; a poor Indian's sleep
While his boat hastens to the monstrous steep
Of Montmorenci. Why so sad a moan?
Life is the rose's hope while yet unblown;
The reading of an ever-changing tale;
The light uplifting of a maiden's veil;
A pigeon tumbling in the summer air;
A laughing school-boy, without grief or care,
Riding the springy branches of an elm.
Very shortly after his installation at the cottage, and on the day after one of our visits, he gave in the following sonnet, a characteristic appreciation of the spirit in which he had been received:
Keen fitful gusts are whispering here and there
Among the bushes half leafless and dry;
The stars look very cold about the sky,
And I have many miles on foot to fare;
Yet I feel little of the cool bleak air,
Or of the dead leaves rustling drearily,
Or of those silver lamps that burn on high,
Or of the distance from home's pleasant lair:
For I am brimful of the friendliness
That in a little cottage I have found;
Of fair-hair'd Milton's eloquent distress,
And all his love for gentle Lycid' drown'd;
Of lovely Laura in her light green dress,
And faithful Petrarch gloriously crown'd.
The glowing sonnet upon being compelled to "Leave Friends at an Early Hour" — "Give me a golden pen, and let me lean," &c., followed shortly after the former. But the occasion that recurs with the liveliest interest was one evening when — some observations having been made upon the character, habits, and pleasant associations with that reverend denizen of the hearth, the cheerful little grasshopper of the fireside — Hunt proposed to Keats the challenge of writing then, there, and to time, a sonnet On the Grasshopper and Cricket. No one was present but myself, and they accordingly set to. I, apart, with a book at the end of the sofa, could not avoid furtive glances every now and then at the emulants. I cannot say how long the trial lasted. I was not proposed umpire; and had no stop-watch for the occasion. The time, however, was short for such a performance, and Keats won as to time. But the event of the after-scrutiny was one of many such occurrences which have riveted the memory of Leigh Hunt in my affectionate regard and admiration for unaffected generosity and perfectly unpretentious encouragement. His sincere look of pleasure at the first line — "The poetry of earth is never dead." "Such a prosperous opening!" he said; and when he came to the tenth and eleventh lines:—
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence—
"Ah! that's perfect! Bravo Keats!" And then he went on in a dilatation upon the dumbness of Nature during the season's suspension and torpidity. With all the kind and gratifying things that were said to him, Keats protested to me, as we were afterwards walking home, that he preferred Hunt's treatment of the subject to his own. As neighbour Dogberry would have rejoined, "'Fore God, they are both in a tale!" It has occurred to me, upon so remarkable an occasion as the one here recorded, that a reunion of the two sonnets will be gladly hailed by the reader.
ON THE GRASSHOPPER AND CRICKET.
The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's, — he takes the lead
In summer luxury, — he has never done
With his delights, for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never;
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence; from the stove there thrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.
Dec. 30, 1816. JOHN KEATS.
ON THE GRASSHOPPER AND THE CRICKET.
Green little vaulter in the sunny grass
Catching your heart up at the feel of June,
Sole voice that's heard amidst the lazy noon,
When ev'n the bees lag at the summoning brass;
And you, warm little housekeeper, who class
With those who think the candles come too soon,
Loving the fire, and with your tricksome tune
Nick the glad silent moments as they pass:
Oh sweet and tiny cousins, that belong,
One to the fields, the other to the hearth,
Both have your sunshine; both though small are strong
At your clear hearts; and both were sent on earth
To sing in thoughtful ears this natural song,—
In doors and out, Summer and Winter, Mirth!
Dec. 30, 1816. LEIGH HUNT.
Keats had left the neighbourhood of the Borough, and was now living with his brothers in apartments on the second floor of a house in the Poultry, over the passage leading to the Queen's Head Tavern, and opposite to one of the City Companies' halls — the Ironmongers', if I mistake not. I have the associating reminiscence of many happy hours spent in this abode. Here was determined upon, in great part written, and sent forth to the world, the first little, but vigorous, offspring of his brain:
"What more felicity can fall to creature
Than to enjoy delight with liberty!"
Fate of the Butterfly: Spenser.
Printed for C. and J. Ollier,
3, Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square.
And here on the evening when the last proof-sheet was brought from the printer, it was accompanied by the information that if a "dedication to the book was intended it must be sent forthwith." Whereupon he withdrew to a side-table, and in the buzz of a mixed conversation (for there were several friends in the room) he composed and brought to Charles Ollier, the publisher, the Dedication Sonnet to Leigh Hunt. If the original manuscript of that poem — a legitimate sonnet, with every restriction of rhyme and metre — could now be produced, and the time recorded in which it was written, it would be pronounced an extraordinary performance: added to which the non-alteration of a single word in the poem (a circumstance that was noted at the time) claims for it a merit with a very rare parallel. The remark may be here subjoined that, had the composition been previously prepared for the occasion, the mere writing it out would have occupied fourteen minutes; and lastly, when I refer to the time occupied in composing the sonnet on The Grasshopper and the Cricket, I can have no hesitation in believing the one in question to have been extempore.
"The poem which commences the volume," says Lord Houghton in his first memoir of the poet, "was suggested to Keats by a delightful summer's day, as he stood beside the gate that leads from the battery on Hampstead Heath into a field by Caen Wood;" and the following lovely passage he himself told me was the recollection of our having frequently loitered over the rail of a footbridge that spanned (probably still spans, notwithstanding the intrusive and shouldering railroad) a little brook in the last field upon entering Edmonton:—
Linger awhile upon some bending planks
That lean against a streamlet's rushy banks,
And watch intently Nature's gentle doings;
They will be found softer than ring-dove's cooings.
How silent comes the water round that bend!
Not the minutest whisper does it send
To the o'er-hanging sallows; blades of grass
Slowly across the chequer'd shadows pass.
Why, you might read two sonnets, ere they reach
To where the hurrying freshnesses aye preach
A natural sermon o'er their pebbly beds;
Where swarms of minnows show their little heads,
Staying their wavy bodies 'gainst the streams,
To taste the luxury of sunny beams
Temper'd with coolness. How they wrestle
With their own delight, and ever nestle
Their silver bellies on the pebbly sand!
If you but, scantily hold out the hand,
That very instant not one will remain;
But turn your eye and they are there again.
He himself thought the picture correct, and acknowledged to a partiality for it.
Another example of his promptly suggestive imagination, and uncommon facility in giving it utterance, occurred one day upon returning home and finding me asleep on the sofa, with a volume of Chaucer open at The Flower and the Leaf. After expressing to me his admiration of the poem, which he had been reading, he gave me the fine testimony of that opinion in pointing to the sonnet he had written at the close of it, which was an extempore effusion, and without the alteration of a single word. It lies before me now, signed "J. K., Feb., 1817. If my memory do not betray me, this charming out-door fancy scene was Keats's first introduction to Chaucer. The Troilus and Cresseide was certainly an after acquaintance with him; and clearly do I recall his approbation of the favourite passages that had been marked in my own copy. Upon being requested, he retraced the poem, and with his pen confirmed and denoted those which were congenial with his own feeling and judgment. These two circumstances, associated with the literary career of this cherished object of his friend's esteem and love, have stamped a priceless value upon that friend's miniature 18mo. copy of Chaucer.
The first volume of Keats's minor muse was launched amid the cheers and fond anticipations of all his circle. Every one of us expected (and not unreasonably) that it would create a sensation in the literary world; for such a first production (and a considerable portion of it from a minor) has rarely occurred. The three Epistles and the seventeen sonnets (that upon "first looking into Chapman's Homer" one of them) would have ensured a rousing welcome from our modern-day reviewers. Alas! the book might have emerged in Timbuctoo with far stronger chance of fame and approbation. It never passed to a second edition; the first was but a small one, and that was never sold off. The whole community, as if by compact, seemed determined to know nothing about it. The word had been passed that its author was a Radical; and in those days of "Bible-Crown-and-Constitution" supremacy, he might have had better chance of success had he been an Anti-jacobin. Keats had not made the slightest demonstration of political opinion; but with a conscious feeling of gratitude for kindly encouragement, he had dedicated his book to Leigh Hunt, Editor of the Examiner, a Radical and a dubbed partisan of the first Napoleon; because when alluding to him, Hunt did not always subjoin the fashionable cognomen of "Corsican Monster." Such an association was motive enough with the dictators of that day to thwart the endeavours of a young aspirant who should presume to assert for himself an unrestricted course of opinion. Verily, "the former times were not better than these." Men may now utter a word in favour of "civil liberty" without being chalked on the back and hounded out.
Poor Keats! he little anticipated, and as little merited, the cowardly treatment that was in store for him upon the publishing of his second composition — the Endymion. It was in the interval of the two productions that he had moved from the Poultry, and had taken a lodging in Well Walk, Hampstead — in the first or second house on the right hand, going up to the Heath. I have an impression that he had been some weeks absent at the seaside before settling in this district; for the Endymion had been begun, and he had made considerable advances in his plan. He came to me one Sunday, and we passed the greater part of the day walking in the neighbourhood. His constant and enviable friend, Severn, I remember, was present upon the occasion, by a little circumstance of our exchanging looks upon Keats reading to us portions of his new poem with which he himself had been pleased; and never will his expression of face depart from me; if I were a Reynolds or a Gainsborough I could now stamp it for ever. One of his selections was the now celebrated Hymn to Pan in the first book:—
O thou whose mighty palace-roof doth hang
From jagged roofs;
which alone ought to have preserved the poem from unkindness; and which would have received an awarding smile from the "deep-brow'd" himself. And the other selections were the descriptions in the second book of the "bower of Adonis, and the ascent and descent of the silver car of Venus, air-borne:—
Whose silent wheels, fresh wet from clouds of morn,
Spun off a drizzling dew.
Keats was indebted for his introduction to Mr. Severn to his schoolfellow Edward Holmes, who also had been one of the child-scholars at Enfield; for he came there in the frock-dress.
Holmes ought to have been an educated musician from his first childhood, for the passion was in him. I used to amuse myself with the pianoforte after supper, when all had gone to bed. Upon some sudden occasion, leaving the parlour, I heard a scuffle on the stairs, and discovered that my young gentleman had left his bed, to hear the music. At other times during the day, in the intervals of school-hours, he would stand under the window listening. At length he entrusted to me his heart's secret, that he should like to learn music, when I taught him his tonic alphabet, and he soon knew and could do as much as his tutor. Upon leaving school, he was apprenticed to the elder Seeley, the bookseller; but, disliking his occupation, he left it, I think, before he was of age. He did not lose sight of his old master, and I introduced him to Mr. Vincent Novello, who had made himself a friend to me; and who, not merely with rare profusion of bounty gave Holmes instruction, but received him into his house and made him one of his family. With them he resided some years. I was also the fortunate means of recommending him to the chief proprietor of the Atlas newspaper; and to that journal during a long period he contributed a series of essays and critiques upon the science and practice of music, which raised the journal into a reference and an authority in the art. He wrote for the proprietors of the Atlas an elegant little book of dilettante criticism, A Ramble among the Musicians in Germany. And in the later period of his career he contributed to the Musical Times a whole series of masterly essays and analyses upon the masses of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. His own favourite production was a Life of Mozart, in which he performed his task with considerable skill and equal modesty, contriving by means of the great musician's own letters to convert the work into an autobiography.
I have said that Holmes used to listen on the stairs. In after-years, when Keats was reading to me the manuscript of The Eve of St. Agnes, upon the repeating of the passage when Porphyro is listening to the midnight music in the hall below,
The boisterous midnight festive clarion,
The kettle-drum and far-heard clarionet,
Affray his cars, though but in dying tone
The hall door shuts again, and all the noise is gone;—
"that line," said he, "came into my head when I remembered how I used to listen in bed to your music at school." How enchanting would be a record of the germs and first causes of all the greatest artists' conceptions! The elder Brunel's first hint for his "shield" in constructing the tunnel under the Thames was taken from watching the labour of a sea insect, which, having a projecting hood, could bore into the ship's timber unmolested by the waves.
It may have been about this time that Keats gave a signal example of his courage and stamina, in the recorded instance of his pugilistic contest with a butcher boy. He told me, and in his characteristic manner, of their "passage of arms." The brute, he said, was tormenting a kitten, and he interfered; when a threat offered was enough for his mettle, and they "set to." He thought he should be beaten, for the fellow was the taller and stronger; but like an authentic pugilist, my young poet found that he had planted a blow which "told" upon his antagonist; in every succeeding round, therefore (for they fought nearly an hour), he never failed of returning to the weak point, and the contest ended in the hulk being led home.
In my knowledge of fellow-beings, I never knew one who so thoroughly combined the sweetness with the power of gentleness, and the irresistible sway of anger, as Keats. His indignation would have made the boldest grave; and they who had seen him under the influence of injustice and meanness of soul would not forget the expression of his features — "the form of his visage was changed." Upon one occasion, when some local tyranny was being discussed, he amused the party by shouting, "Why is there not a human dust-hole, into which to tumble such fellows?"
Keats had a strong sense of humour, although he was not, in the strict sense of the term, a humorist, still less a farcist. His comic fancy lurked in the outermost and most unlooked-for images of association; which indeed may be said to form the components of humour; nevertheless, they did not extend beyond the quaint in fulfilment and success. But his perception of humour, with the power of transmitting it by imitation, was both vivid and irresistibly amusing. He once described to me his having gone to see a bear-baiting, the animal the property of a Mr. Tom Oliver. The performance not having begun, Keats was near to, and watched, a young aspirant, who had brought a younger under his wing to witness the solemnity, and whom he oppressively patronized, instructing him in the names and qualities of all the magnates present. Now and then, in his zeal to manifest and impart his knowledge, he would forget himself, and stray beyond the prescribed bounds into the ring, to the lashing resentment of its comptroller, Mr. William Soames, who, after some hints of a practical nature to "keep back," began laying about him. with indiscriminate and unmitigable vivacity, the Peripatetic signifying to his pupil, "My eyes! Bill Soames giv' me sich a licker!" evidently grateful, and considering himself complimented upon being included in the general dispensation. Keats's entertainment with and appreciation of this minor scene of low life has often recurred to me. But his concurrent personification of the baiting, with his position — his legs and arms bent and shortened till he looked like Bruin on his hind legs, dabbing his fore paws hither and thither, as the dogs snapped at him, and now and then acting the gasp of one that had been suddenly caught and hugged — his own capacious mouth adding force to the personation, was a remarkable and as memorable a display. I am never reminded of this amusing relation but it is associated with that forcible picture in Shakespeare, in Henry VI.:"—
. . . As a bear encompass'd round with dogs,
Who having pinch'd a few and made them cry,
The rest stand all aloof and bark at him.
Keats also attended a prize fight between the two most skilful "light weights" of the day, Randal and Turner; and in describing the rapidity of the blows of the one, while the other was falling, he tapped his fingers on the window-pane.
I make no apology for recording these events in his life; they are characteristics of the natural man, and prove, moreover, that the partaking in such did not for one moment blunt the gentler emotions of his heart, or vulgarize his inborn love of all that was beautiful and true. He would never have been a "slang gent," because he had other and better accomplishments to make him conspicuous. His own line was the axiom of his moral existence, his civil creed: "A thing of beauty is a joy for ever," and I can fancy no coarser association able to win him from his faith. Had he been born in squalor he would have emerged a gentleman. Keats was not an easily swayable man; in differing with those he loved his firmness kept equal pace with the sweetness of his persuasion, but with the rough and the unlovable he kept no terms — within the conventional precincts, of course, of social order.
From Well Walk he moved to another quarter of the Heath, Wentworth Place, I think, the name. Here he became a sharing inmate with Charles Armitage Brown, a retired Russia merchant upon an independence and literary leisure. With this introduction their acquaintance commenced, and Keats never had a more zealous, a firmer, or more practical friend and adviser than Armitage Brown. Mr. Brown brought out a work entitled, Shakespeare's Autobiographical Poems. Being his Sonnets clearly developed; with his Character drawn chiefly from his Works. It cannot be said that the author has clearly educed his theory; but, in the face of his failure upon the main point, the book is interesting for the heart-whole zeal and homage with which he has gone into his subject. Brown accompanied Keats in his tour in the Hebrides, a worthy event in the poet's career, seeing that it led to the production of that magnificent sonnet to Ailsa Rock. As a passing observation, and to show how the minutest circumstance did not escape him, he told me that when he first came upon the view of Loch Lomond the sun was setting, the lake was in shade, and of a deep blue, and at the further end was "a slash across it of deep orange." The description of the traceried window in the Eve of St. Agnes gives proof of the intensity of his feeling for colour.
It was during his abode in Wentworth Place, that unsurpassedly savage attacks upon the Endymion appeared in some of the principal reviews — savage attacks, and personally abusive; and which would damage the sale of any magazine in the present day.
The style of the articles directed against the writers whom the party had nicknamed the "Cockney School" of poetry, may be conceived from its producing the following speech I heard from Hazlitt: "To pay those fellows in their own coin, the way would be to begin with Walter Scott, and have at his clump foot." "Verily, the former times were not better than these."
To say that these disgusting misrepresentations did not affect the consciousness and self-respect of Keats would be to underrate the sensitiveness of his nature. He did feel and resent the insult, but far more the injustice of the treatment he had received; and he told me so. They no doubt had injured him in the most wanton manner, but if they, or my Lord Byron, ever for one moment supposed that he was crushed or even cowed in spirit by the treatment he had received, never were they more deluded. "Snuffed out by an article," indeed! He had infinitely more magnanimity, in its fullest sense, than that very spoiled, self-willed, and, mean-souled man — and I have unquestionable authority for the last term. To say nothing of personal and private transactions, Lord Houghton's observations, in his life of our poet, will be full authority for my estimate of Lord Byron. "Johnny Keats" had indeed "a little body with a mighty heart," and he showed it in the best way; not by fighting the "bush-rangers" in their own style — though he could have done that — but by the resolve that he would produce brain work which not one of their party could exceed; and he did, for in the year 1820 appeared the Lamia, Isabella, Eve of St. Agnes, and the Hyperion — that illustrious fragment, which Shelley said "had the character of one of the antique desert fragments;" which Leigh Hunt called a "gigantic fragment, like a ruin in the desert, or the bones of the Mastodon;" and Lord Byron confessed that "it seemed actually inspired by the Titans, and as sublime as Aeschylus."
All this wonderful work was produced in scarcely more than one year, manifesting — with health — what his brain could achieve; but, alas! the insidious disease which carried him off had made its approach, and he was preparing to go to, or had already departed for, Italy, attended by his constant and self-sacrificing friend Severn. Keats's mother died of consumption; and he nursed his younger brother in the same disease, to the last; and, by so doing in all probability hastened his own summons.
Upon the publication of the last volume of poems, Charles Lamb wrote one of his finely appreciative and cordial critiques in the Morning Chronicle. At that period I had been absent for some weeks from London, and had not heard of the dangerous state of Keats's health, only that he and Severn were going to Italy: it was, therefore, an unprepared-for shock which brought me the news of his death in Rome.
Lord Houghton, in his 1848 and first Biography of Keats, has related the anecdote of the young poet's introduction to Wordsworth, with the latter's appreciation of the Hymn to Pan (in the Endymion), which the author had been desired to repeat, and the Rydal-Mount poet's snow-capped comment upon it — "H'm! a pretty piece of Paganism!" The lordly biographer, with his genial and placable nature, has made an amiable apology for the apparent coldness of Wordsworth's appreciation, "that it was probably intended for some slight rebuke to his youthful compeer, whom he saw absorbed in an order of ideas that to him appeared merely sensuous, and would have desired that the bright traits of Greek mythology should be sobered down by a graver faith." Keats, like Shakespeare, and every other real poet, put his whole soul into what he had imagined, portrayed, or embodied; and hence he appeared the true young Greek. The wonder is that Wordsworth should have forgotten the quotation that might have been made from one of his own deservedly illustrious sonnets:—
The world is too much with us.
. . . Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.
From Keats's description of his mentor's manner, as well as behaviour that evening, it would seem to have been one of the usual ebullitions of egoism, not to say of the uneasiness known to those who were accustomed to hear the great moral philosopher discourse upon his own productions, and descant upon those of a contemporary. During that same interview, some one having observed that the next Waverley novel was to be Rob Roy, Wordsworth took down his volume of Ballads, and read to the company Rob Roy's Grave; then, returning it to the shelf, observed, "I do not know what more Mr. Scott can have to say upon the subject." Leigh Hunt, upon his first interview with Wordsworth, described his having lectured very finely upon his own writings, repeating the entire noble sonnet, "Great men have been among us" — "in a grand and earnest tone:" that rogue, Christopher North, added, "Catch him, repeating any other than his own." Upon another and similar occasion, one of the party had quoted that celebrated passage from the play of Henry V., "So work the honey-bees;" and each proceeded to pick out his pet plum" from that perfect piece of natural history when Wordsworth objected to the line, "The singing masons building roofs of gold," because, he said, of the unpleasant repetition of "ing" in it! Why, where were his poetical ears and judgment? But more than once it has been said that Wordsworth had not a genuine love of Shakespeare: that, when he could, he always accompanied a "pro" with his "con.," and, Atticus-like, would "just hint a fault and hesitate dislike." Mr. James T. Fields, in his delightful volume of "Yesterdays with Authors," has an amiable record of his interview with Wordsworth; yet he has the following casual remark, "I thought he did not praise easily those whose names are indissolubly connected with his own in the history of literature. It was languid praise, at least, and I observed he hesitated for mild terms which he could apply to names almost as great as his own." Even Crabb Robinson more than once mildly hints at the same infirmity. "Truly are we all of a mingled yarn, good and ill together."
When Shelley left England for Italy, Keats told me that he had received from him an invitation to become his guest, and, in short, to make one of his household. It was upon the purest principle that Keats declined his noble proffer, for he entertained an exalted opinion of Shelley's genius — in itself an inducement; he also knew of his deeds of bounty, and, from their frequent social intercourse, he had full faith in the sincerity of his proposal; for a more crystalline heart than Shelley's has rarely throbbed in human bosom. He was incapable of an untruth, or of deceit in any form. Keats said that in declining the invitation his sole motive was the consciousness, which would be ever prevalent with him of his being, in its utter extent, not a free agent, even within such a circle as Shelley's — he himself, nevertheless, being the most unrestricted of beings. Mr. Trelawney, a familiar of the family, has confirmed the unwavering testimony to Shelley's bounty of nature, where he says, "Shelley was a being absolutely without selfishness." The poorest cottagers knew and benefited by his thoroughly practical and unselfish nature during his residence at Marlow, when he would visit them, and, having gone through a course of medical study in order that he might assist them with advice, would commonly administer the tonic, which such systems usually require, of a good basin of broth or pea-soup. And I believe that I am infringing on no private domestic delicacy when repeating that he has been known upon an immediate urgency to purloin — "Convey the wise it call" — a portion of the warmest of Mrs. Shelley's wardrobe to protect some poor starving sister. One of the richer residents of Marlow told me that "they all considered him a madman." I wish he had bitten the whole squad.
No settled senses of the world can match
The "wisdom" of that madness.
Shelley's figure was a little above the middle height, slender, and of delicate construction, which appeared the rather from a lounging or waving manner in his gait, as though his frame was compounded barely of muscle and tendon; and that the power of walking was an achievement with him and not a natural habit. Yet I should suppose that he was not a valetudinarian, although that has been said of him on account of his spare and vegetable diet: for I have the remembrance of his scampering and bounding over the gorse-bushes on Hampstead Heath late one night, — now close upon us, and now shouting from the height like a wild school-boy. He was both an active and an enduring walker — feats which do not accompany an ailing and feeble constitution. His face was round, flat, pale, with small features; mouth beautifully shaped; hair bright brown and wavy; and such a pair of eyes as are rarely in the human or any other head, — intensely blue, with a gentle and lambent expression, yet wonderfully alert and engrossing; nothing appeared to escape his knowledge.
Whatever peculiarity there might have been in Shelley's religious faith, I have the best authority for believing that it was confined to the early period of his life. The practical result of its course of action, I am sure, had its source from the "Sermon on the Mount." There is not one clause in that Divine code which his conduct towards his fellow mortals did not confirm and substantiate him to be — in action a follower of Christ. Yet, when the news arrived in London of the death of Shelley and Captain Williams by drowning near Spezzia, an evening journal of that day capped the intelligence with the following remark: — "He will now know whether there is a Hell or not." I hope there is not one journalist of the present day who would dare to utter that surmise in his record. So much for the progress of freedom and the power of opinion.
At page 100, vol. i., of his first Life of Keats, Lord Houghton has quoted a literary portrait which he received from a lady who used to see him at Hazlitt's lectures at the Surrey Institution. The building was on the south, right-hand side, and close to Blackfriars Bridge. I believe that the whole of Hazlitt's lectures on the British poets and the writers of the time of Elizabeth were delivered in that institution during the years 1817 and 1818; shortly after which the establishment appears to have been broken up. The lady's remark upon the character and expression of Keats's features is both happy and true. She says, "His countenance lives in my mind as one of singular beauty and brightness; it had an expression "as if he had been looking on some glorious sight." That's excellent. "His mouth was full and less intellectual than his other features." True again. But when our artist pronounces that "his eyes were large and blue, and that "his hair was auburn, I am naturally reminded of the Chameleon fable: — "They were brown, ma'am — brown, I assure you!" The fact is, the lady was enchanted — and I cannot wonder at it — with the whole character of that beaming face; and "blue" and "auburn" being the favourite tints of the front divine in the lords of the creation, the poet's eyes consequently became "blue" and his hair "auburn." Colours, however, vary with the prejudice or partiality of the spectator; and, moreover, people do not agree upon the most palpable prismatic tint. A writing-master whom we had at Enfield was an artist of more than ordinary merit, but he had one dominant defect, he could not distinguish between true blue and true green. So that, upon one occasion, when he was exhibiting to us a landscape he had just completed, I hazarded the critical question, why he painted his trees so blue? "Blue!" he replied, "What do you call green?" Reader, alter in your copy of the Life of Keats vol. i., page 103, "eyes" light hazel, "hair" lightish brown and wavy.
The most perfect and favourite portrait of him was the one — the first — by Severn, published in Leigh Hunt's Lord Byron and his Contemporaries, which I remember the artist sketching in a few minutes, one evening, when several of Keats's friends were at his apartments in the Poultry. The portrait prefixed to the Life (also by Severn) is a most excellent one — look-and-expression likeness — an every-day and of "the earth, earthy" one; and the last, which the same artist painted, and which is now in the possession of Mr. John Hunter, of Craig Crook, Edinburgh, may be an equally felicitous rendering of one look and manner; but I do not intimately recognize it. There is another and a curiously unconscious likeness of him in the charming Dulwich Gallery of Pictures. It is in the portrait of Wouvermans, by Rembrandt. It is just so much of a resemblance as to remind the friends of the poet, although not such a one as the immortal Dutchman would have made had the poet been his sitter. It has a plaintive and melancholy expression which, I rejoice to say, I do not associate with Keats.
There is one of his attitudes during familiar conversation which at times (with the whole earnest manner and sweet expression of the man) ever presents itself to me as though I had seen him only last week. How gracious is the boon that the benedictions and the blessings in our life careers last longer, and recur with stronger influences than the ill-deeds and the curses! The attitude I speak of was that of cherishing one leg over the knee of the other, smoothing the instep with the palm of his hand. In this action I mostly associate him in an eager parley with Leigh Hunt in his little Vale of Health cottage. This position, if I mistake not, is in the last portrait of him at Craig Crook; if not, it is a reminiscent one, painted after his death. His stature could have been very little more than five feet; but he was, withal, compactly made and well-proportioned; and before the hereditary disorder which carried him off began to show itself, he was active, athletic, and enduringly strong-as the fight with the butcher gave full attestation.
His perfect friend, Joseph Severn, writes of him, "Here in Rome, as I write, I look back through forty years of worldly changes, and behold Keats's dear image again in memory. It seems as if he should be living with me now, inasmuch as I never could understand his strange and contradictory death, his falling away so suddenly from health and strength. He had a fine compactness of person, which we regard as the promise of longevity, and no mind was ever more exultant in youthful feeling."
The critical world — by which term I mean the censorious portion of it, for many have no other idea of criticism than that of censure and objection — the critical world have so gloated over the feebler, or, if they will, the defective side of Keats's genius, and his friends have so amply justified him, that I feel inclined to add no more to the category of opinions than to say that the only fault in his poetry I could discover was a redundancy of imagery — that exuberance, by the way, being a quality of the greatest promise, seeing that it is the constant accompaniment of a young and teeming genius. But his steady friend, Leigh Hunt, has rendered the amplest and truest record of his mental accomplishment in the preface to his Foliage, quoted at page 150 of the first volume of the Life of Keats; and his biographer has so zealously, and, I would say, so amiably, summed up his character and intellectual qualities, that I can add no more than my assent.
With regard to Keats's political opinions I have little doubt that his whole civil creed was comprised in the master principle of "universal liberty" — viz. "Equal and stern justice to all, from the duke to the dustman."
There are constant indications through the memoirs and in the letters of Keats of his profound reverence for Shakespeare. His own intensity of thought and expression visibly strengthened with the study of his idol; and he knew but little of him till he had himself become an author. A marginal note by him in a folio copy of the plays is an example of the complete absorption his mind had undergone during the process of his matriculation; and, through life, however long with any of us, we are all in progress of matriculation, as we study the "myriad-minded's" system of philosophy. The note that Keats made was this: — "The genius of Shakespeare was an innate universality; wherefore he laid the achievements of human intellect prostrate beneath his indolent and kingly gaze; he could do easily men's utmost. His plan of tasks to come was not of this world. If what he proposed to do hereafter would not in the idea answer the aim, how tremendous must have been his conception of ultimates!" I question whether any one of the recognized high priests of the temple has uttered a loftier homily in honour of the world's intellectual homage and renown.
A passage in one of Keats's letters to me evidences that he had a "firm belief in the immortality of the soul," and, as he adds, "so had Tom," whose eyes he had just closed. I once heard him launch into a rhapsody on the genius of Moses, who, he said, deserved the benediction of the whole world, were it only for his institution of the "Sabbath." But Keats was no "Sabbatarian" in the modern conventional acceptation of the term. "Every day," he once said, was "Sabbath" to him, as it is to every grateful mind, for blessings momentarily bestowed upon us. This recalls Wordsworth's lines where he tells us that Nature,
Still constant in her worship, still
Conforming to th' Eternal will,
Whether men sow or reap the fields,
Divine admonishments she yields,
That not by hand alone we live,
Or what a band of flesh can give;
That every day should have some part
Free for a Sabbath of the heart:
So shall the seventh be truly blest,
From morn to eve with hallow'd rest.
Sunday was indeed Keats's "day of rest," and I may add, too, of untainted mirth and gladness; as I believe, too, of unprofessing, unostentatious gratitude. His whole course of life, to its very last act, was one routine of unselfishness and of consideration for others' feelings. The approaches of death having come on, he said to his untiring nurse-friend, — "Severn — I — lift me up. I am dying. I shall die easy; don't be frightened; be firm, and thank God it has come."
Now burning through the inmost veil of heaven,
The soul of Adonais, like a star,
Beams from the abode where the Eternal are.