John Keats

Gaston, "Memorials of John Keats" The Table Book 2 (1828) 371-72.

Sir, — The anecdote of Keats, which appeared in a late number of your Table-Book, recalled his image to my "mind's eye" as vividly, through the tear of regret, as the long-buried pictures on the walls of Pompeii appear when water is thrown over them; and I turned to reperuse the written record of my feelings, at hearing him spoken of a few months since. These lines I trouble you with, thinking they may gratify the feelings of some one of his friends, and trusting their homeliness may be pardoned for the sake of the feeling which dictated them.
I should also be glad of this opportunity to express the wishes of many of his admirers for a portrait of Keats. There are two in existence; one, a spirited profile sketch by Haydon; the other, a beautiful miniature by his friend Severn; but neither have been engraved. Mr. Severn's return to England will probably produce some memorial of his "span of life," and a more satisfactory account of his last moments than can be gleaned from report. The opportunity that would thus be afforded of giving to the world the posthumous remains of his genius, will, it is to be hoped, not be neglected. Such a volume would be incomplete without a portrait; which, if seen by the most prejudiced of his literary opponents, would turn the laugh of contempt into a look of thoughtful regret. Hoping my rhymes will not frustrate my wishes, I remain, sir,
Your obliged correspondent,
and humble servant,
Sept. 13, 1827.

Thy name, dear Keats, is not forgotten quite
E'en in this dreary pause — Fame's dark twilight—
The space betwixt death's starry-vaulted sky,
And the bright dawn of immortality.
That time when tear and elegy lie cold
Upon the barren tomb, and ere enrolled
Thy name upon the list of honoured men,
In the world's volume writ with History's lasting pen.

No! there are some who in their bosom's haven
Cherish thy mem'ry — on whose hearts are graven
The living recollections of thy worth—
Thy frank sincerity, thine ardent mirth;
That nobleness of spirit, so allied
To these high qualities it quick descried
In others' natures, that by sympathies
It knit with them in friendship's strongest ties—
Th' enthusiasm which thy soul pervaded—
The deep poetic feeling, which invaded
The narrow channel of thy stream of life,
And wrought therein consuming, inward strife.—
All these and other kindred excellencies
Do those who knew thee dwell upon, and thence is
Derived a cordial, fresh remembrance
Of thee, as though thou wert but in a trance.
I, too, can think of thee, with friendship's glow,
Who but at distance only didst thee know;
And oft thy gentle form flits past my sight
In transient day dreams, and a tranquil light,
Like that of warm Italian skies, comes o'er
My sorrowing heart — I feel thou art no wore—
Those mild, pure skies thou long'st to look upon,
Till friends, in kindness, bade thee oft "Begone
To that more genial clime, and breathe the air
Of southern shores; thy wasted strength repair."
Then all the Patriot burst upon thy soul;
Thy love of country made thee shun the goal
(As thou prophetically felt 'twould be,)
Of thy last pilgrimage. Thou cross'd the sea,
Leaving thy heart and hopes in England here.
And went as doth a corpse upon its bier!
Still do I see thee on the river's strand
Take thy last step upon thy native land—
Still feel the last kind pressure of thy hand.
A calm dejection in thy youthful face,
To which e'en sickness lent a tender grace—
A hectic bloom — the sacrificial flower,
Which marks th' approach of Death's all-withering power.
Oft do my thoughts keep vigils at thy tomb
Across the sea, beneath the walls of Rome;
And even now a tear will find its way,
Heralding pensive thoughts which thither stray.—
How must they mourn who feel what I but know?
What can assuage their poignancy of woe,
If I, a stranger, (save that I had been
Where thou wast, and thy gentleness had seen,)
Now feel mild sorrow and a welcome sadness
As then I felt, whene'er I saw thee, gladness?—
Mine was a friendship all upon one side;
Thou knewest me by name and nought beside.
In humble station, I but shar'd the smile
Of which some trivial thought might thee beguile!
Happy in that — proud but to hear thy voice
Accost me: inwardly did I rejoice
To gain a word from thee, and if a thought
Stray'd into utterance, quick the words I caught.
I laid in wait to catch a glimpse of thee,
And plann'd where'er thou wert that I might be.
I look'd on thee as a superior being,
Whom I felt sweet content in merely seeing:
With thy fine qualities I stor'd my mind;
And now thou'rt gone, their mem'ry stays behind.
Mixt admiration fills my heart, nor can
I tell which most to love — the Poet or the Man.
November, 1826.