1834 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Keats

G. G. Cunningham, in Illustrious Englishmen (1834-37) 8:254.



Mr. Keats's poems have been so often criticised both by friends and enemies, and have succeeded, since his death, in securing him so unequivocal a reputation as a highly promising genius, that it will be necessary to say comparatively little of them here. If it was unlucky for his immediate success, that he came before the public recommended by a political party; it was fortunate for him with posterity, that he began to write at a period when original thinking, and a dependence on a man's own resources, were earnestly inculcated on all sides. Of his standing with posterity we have no doubt. He will be considered, par excellence, as the young poet; as the one who poured forth at the earliest age the greatest unequivocal exuberance, and who proceeded very speedily to show that maturity brought him a judgment equal to the task of pruning it, and rendering it immortal. He had the two highest qualities of a poet, in the highest degree — sensibility and imagination. His Endymion, with all its young faults, will be a store-house for the lovers of genuine poetry, both young and old; a wood to wander in; a solitude inhabited by creatures of superhuman beauty and intellect; and superabundant in the luxuries of a poetical domain, not omitting "weeds of glorious feature." Its most obvious fault was a negligence of rhyme ostentatiously careless, which, by the common law of extremes, produced the very effect he wished to avoid — a pressure of itself on the reader. The fragment of Hyperion, which was his last performance, and which extorted the admiration of Lord Byron, has been compared to those bones of enormous creatures which are occasionally dug up, and remind us of extraordinary and gigantic times.