1845 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Keats

Sara Coleridge to Aubrey de Vere, September 1845; Memoir and Letters (1874) 239.



It seems to me that Keats not only falsifies language very frequently, besides making words, such as "orby," "serpenting," etc., ad libitum, but that he also falsifies nature sometimes in his imagery. He turns the outer world into a sort of raree-show, and combines shapes and colors as fantastically and lawlessly as the kaleidoscope. The kaleidoscope certainly has a law of its own, and so has the young poet, but it is not nature's law, nor in harmony with it. The old masters, in all their vagrancy of fancy and invention, never did thus. They always placed their wild inventions in the real world, and while we wander in their realms of faery, we have the same solid earth and blue sky over our heads as when we take a walk in the fields to see Cicely milking the cow. This I think is occasionally the fault of Keats, and another is that sameness of sweetness and over-lusciousness of which I have already spoken. Reading the Endymion is like roaming in a forest of giant jonquils. Nevertheless, I take great delight in his volume, and thank you much for putting it into my hands.