1815 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Keats

George Felton Mathew, "To a Poetical Friend" 1815; European Magazine 70 (October 1816) 365.



O thou who delightest in fanciful song,
And tellest strange tales of the elf and the fay;
Of giants tyrannic, whose talismans strong
Have power to charm gentle damsels astray;

Of courteous knights-errant, and high-mettled steeds;
Of forests enchanted, and marvellous streams;—
Of bridges, and castles, and desperate deeds;
And all the bright fictions of fanciful dreams:—

Of captures, and rescues, and wonderful loves;
Of blisses abounding in dark leafy bowers;—
Of murmuring music in shadowy groves,
And beauty reclined on her pillow of flowers:—

O where did thine infancy open its eyes?
And who was the nurse that attended thy spring?—
For sure thou'rt exotic to these frigid skies,
So splendid the song that thou lovest to sing.

Perhaps thou hast traversed the glorious East;
And like the warm breath of its sun, and its gales,
That wander 'mid gardens of flowers to feast,
Are tinctured with every rich sweet that prevails?

O no! — for a Shakspeare — a Milton are ours!
And who e'er sung sweeter, or stronger than they?
As thine is, I ween was the spring of their powers;
Like theirs, is the cast of thine earlier lay.

It is not the climate, or scenery round,
It was not the nurse that attended thy youth;
That gave thee those blisses which richly abound
In magical numbers to charm, and to soothe.

O no! — 'tis the Queen of those regions of air—
The gay fields of Fancy — thy spirit has blest;
She cherish'd thy childhood with fostering care,
And nurtur'd her boy with the milk of her breast.

She tended thee ere thou could'st wander alone,
And cheer'd thy wild walks amidst terror and dread;—
She sung thee to sleep with a song of her own,
And laid thy young limbs on her flowery bed.

She gave thee those pinions with which thou delightest
Sublime o'er he boundless dominions to rove;
The tongue too she gave thee with which thou invitest
Each ear to thy stories of wonder and love.

And when evening shall free thee from Nature's decays,
And release thee from Study's severest control,
Oh warm thee in Fancy's enlivening rays,
And wash the dark spots of disease from thy soul.

And let not the spirit of Poesy sleep;
Of Fairies and Genii continue to tell—
Nor suffer the innocent deer's timid leap
To fright the wild bee from her flowery bell.