1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Keats

Algernon Charles Swinburne, in "Keats" Encyclopedia Britannica, 1882; Moulton, Library of Literary Criticism (1901-05) 4:679.



In his first book there was little foretaste of anything greatly or even genuinely good; but between the marshy and sandy flats of sterile or futile verse there were undoubtedly some few purple patches of floral promise. The style was frequently detestable — a mixture of sham Spenserian and mock Wordsworthian, alternately florid and arid. His second book, Endymion, rises in its best passages to the highest level of Barnfield and of Lodge, the two previous poets with whom, had he published nothing more he might have been classed; and this, among minor minstrels, is no unenviable place. His third book raised him at once to a foremost rank in the highest class of English poets. Never was any one of them but Shelley so little of a marvellous boy and so suddenly revealed as a marvellous man. Never has any poet suffered so much from the chaotic misarrangement of his poems in every collected edition. The rawest and the rankest rubbish of his fitful spring is bound up in one sheaf with the ripest ears, flung into one basket with the richest fruits, of his sudden and splendid summer.