1815
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode to Apollo.

Life, Letters and Literary Remains of John Keats. [Richard Monkton Milnes, ed.]

John Keats


An octave of eight irregular stanzas — dated "February 1815." "A silver trumpet Spenser blows" in a series of verse characters for Homer, Virgil, Milton, Shakespeare, Spenser, and Tasso. This juvenile ode, modeled on Collins's Ode on the Passions, substitutes musical poets for musical passions; it is part of a series of imitations concerned with the performing arts that had been appearing in newspapers and magazines since the 1790s. The third stanza of Keats's ode, first published in 1848, is irregular.

Leigh Hunt to Elizabeth Kent: "I think myself as much superior to Southey as I am inferior to Wordsworth ... At the same time, I am very sincere in thinking my poetical faculty inferior to Wordsworth's, — and I suspect that Keats would have beaten us both. He beat me, certainly, in pure, abstract poetry, such as that of the old poets" 22 May 1823; in Correspondence (1862) 1:206.

William Howitt: "On this world and its concerns he could take no hold, and they could take none on him. The worldly and the worldly wise could not comprehend him, could not sympathize with him. To them his vivid orgasm of the intellect was madness; his exuberance of celestial gifts was extravagance; his unworldliness was effeminacy; his love of the universal man, and not of gross distinctions of pride and party, was treason. As of the highest and divinest of God's messengers to earth, they cried 'Away with him, he is not fit to live;' and the body, that mere mist-like, that mere shadow-like body, already failing before time fervency of his spiritual functions, fell, 'faded away, dissolved,' and disappeared before the bitter frost-wind of base criticism" Homes and Haunts of the Most Eminent British Poets (1847) 1:425.

George Saintsbury: "The 'Moorish' or Lewisian anapests of 'To some Ladies' and its sequel are quite ludicrously bad. Keats was never good at fast metres, and he wisely gave them up. But the Miltonic 'Ode to Apollo' sees him at home again. It is only lisped Miltonise, of course; but it is Miltonese" History of English Prosody (1906-10) 3:117.

M. M. Bhattacherje: "He began by imitating not the Elizabethans but their imitators, not Spenser but the Spenserians. He followed successively the dictions of Thomson and the eighteenth-century Spenserians, of Leigh Hunt and Felton Mathew, the nineteenth-century Spenserians, and of Drayton, Fletcher and Browne, the seventeenth-century Spenserians, before approximating to Spenser's style itself. Spenser's influence, whatever its form, was most abundant in the first period of Keats's literary career. Keats later gave up gradually his discipleship to Spenser, which was replaced by his discipleship to Shakespeare, to Milton, and to Wordsworth respectively" Keats and Spenser (1944) 73.



In thy western halls of gold
When thou sittest in thy state,
Bards, that erst sublimely told
Heroic deeds, and sang of fate,
With fervour seize their adamantine lyres,
Whose chords are solid rays, and twinkle radiant fires.

Here Homer with his nervous arms
Strikes the twanging harp of war,
And even the western splendour warms,
While the trumpets sound afar:
But, what creates the most intense surprise,
His soul looks out through renovated eyes.

Then, through thy Temple wide, melodious swells
The sweet majestic tone of Maro's lyre:
The soul delighted on each accent dwells,—
Enraptur'd dwells, — not daring to respire,
The while he tells of grief around a funeral pyre.

'Tis awful silence then again;
Expectant stand the spheres;
Breathless the laurell'd peers,
Nor move, till ends the lofty strain,
Nor move till Milton's tuneful thunders cease,
And leave once more the ravish'd heavens in peace.

Thou biddest Shakspeare wave his hand,
And quickly forward spring
The Passions — a terrific band—
And each vibrates the string
That with its tyrant temper best accords,
While from their Master's lips pour forth the inspiring words.

A silver trumpet Spenser blows,
And, as its martial notes to silence flee,
From a virgin chorus flows
A hymn in praise of spotless Chastity.
'Tis still! Wild warblings from the Aeolian lyre
Enchantment softly breathe, and tremblingly expire.

Next thy Tasso's ardent numbers
Float along the pleased air,
Calling youth from idle slumbers,
Rousing them from Pleasure's lair:—
Then o'er the strings his fingers gently move,
And melt the soul to pity and to love.

But when Thou joinest with the Nine,
And all the powers of song combine,
We listen here on earth:
The dying tones that fill the air,
And charm the ear of evening fair,
From thee, great God of Bards, receive their heavenly birth.

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