1818 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

John Keats

Beppo, "The Poet; on the intensity of his Feeling, and the Incapacity of mortal Language to express the Fulness of his Raptures" Literary Journal (24 October 1818) 492.



Tell me who'll paint the feelings of a bard?
Who can direct the poet's wondrous brain,
And show its burnings? 'Twere a task right hard,
Methinks, as he o'er hill and verdant plain,
Or through the boundless skies or rocking main,
Lets loose, on Fancy's wing, his wand'ring thought:
Oh! I could name a bard who aye hath wrought
His verse to ecstacy, whate'er he drew:
Who'll paint the ecstacy from which those raptures flew?

Now strong as Fate — now weaker than a child;
Now sore deprest, or burning with delight;
Now swardy plains he roves, or deserts wild,
Or skins beneath the glooms of darkest night;
And now again he bursts to joy and light!—
His brain! and oh its bursting tenement!
With throbbing wild I ween are often rent.
His reason — ah! a hair around them wrapt
Would be as strong, for 'tis continually snapt.

Soars he! Full oft ten thousand miles above,
Roaming luxuriantly the golden skies,
Where all around is heavenly peace and love.
Ten thousand endless clouds of perfume rise,
Ten thousand angels dance before his eyes!
Till, laden much, away to earth he wings
His course, and paints his bright imaginings;
And ah! how faint, how very faint I ken
The full Miltonian numbers roll out from his pen.

Dives he! Unnumber'd fathoms under ground,
Swift thro' the caverns of the ocean's bed;
Perchance where hissing snakes and devils bound
Athwart his footpath wheresoe'er he'll tread,
Paving his road or flopping o'er his head,—
Where bells ten thousand crowd his magic thought
He writes — his pen some glimm'ring of't hath caught;
Look, thro' his awful words the demons stare!
But oh! nought's half so dark as is the dark ink there.

Lean will he often o'er some up-shot root,
From whose bed trickles out a whisp'ring spring,
To mark the hawthorn or rude bramble shoot
Out their blossomings — or hear the linnet sing,
Or watch the tweedling lark upon her wing,
Speck-like above the woodland's topmost tree,
Topping the concert of its minstrelsy.
He wakes — lessens his raptures — do but see
His lines! music! the piping of an humble bee.

Culls he the mottled garden, gaily wrapt
In, aye, of living gems one golden sheet?
Culls he the em'rald meadow all dedropt
With simple kingcup, bell, and daisy neat?
And eke the poppy from the saffron wheat?
He does — and as he pens them down, he strews
Each tint with drops of sweet Castalian dews.
You smell, as in dark rooms at close of day,
You smell the flowers, perchance, but see not the bouquet!

And, if the blood of youth laughs thro' his veins,
He'll write of love — he'll tell ye how 'twill burn
Some luckless wight — and how triumphant reigns
It over man and beast — and how 'twill spurn
At life sometimes, and creep beneath an urn
O'erspread by some dark yew tree's solemn shade.
When all is done, the sorrow he hath made
Is but a drizzling mist his pen hath caught
Up from the ocean of his melancholy thought.

'Tis ever thus; — upon whatever theme
He throws the splendour of his mind's bright sun,
Exhaling all that's meet, 'tis but a beam
Most faintly shot — the lazy words do run
So limpingly about whate'er is done.
O! soul divine — O verse, thou ill fram'd thing;
Thou muddy oozing from a heavenly spring;
Thou wax of honey, and thou whey of milk:
Thou rude rough iron bars to weave a web of silk!