1819
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

[Stanzas to Charles Armitage Brown.]

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

John Keats


Three Spenserians enclosed in a letter composed in April 1819 and first published in 1848. Earl A. Aldrich saw a parody of Beattie, "James Beattie's Minstrel" (1927) 485 — though the obvious source is the verse characters in James Thomson's Castle of Indolence — already variously imitated by Thomas Morell, John Armstrong, and William Wordsworth.

John Keats: "In hopes of a letter to-day, I deferred till night, that I might write in the light. It looks so much like rain, I shall not go to town to-day, but put it off till to-morrow. Brown, this morning, is writing some Spenserian stanzas against Miss B— and me: so I shall amuse myself with him a little, in the manner of Spenser .... This character would ensure him a situation in the establishment of the patient Griselda" 1:269-70.

Charles Cowden Clarke: "From Well Walk [Keats] moved to another quarter of the Heath, Wentworth Place, I think, the name. Here he became a sharing inmate with Charles Armitage Brown, a retired Russia merchant upon an independence and literary leisure. With this introduction their acquaintance commenced, and Keats never had a more zealous, a firmer, or more practical friend and adviser than Armitage Brown. Mr. Brown brought out a work entitled, 'Shakespeare's Autobiographical Poems. Being his Sonnets clearly developed; with his Character drawn chiefly from his Works.' It cannot be said that the author has clearly educed his theory; but, in the face of his failure upon the main point, the book is interesting for the heart-whole zeal and homage with which he has gone into his subject. Brown accompanied Keats in his tour in the Hebrides, a worthy event in the poet's career, seeing that it led to the production of that magnificent sonnet to 'Ailsa Rock'" 1861; in Recollections of Writers (1878) 146.

E. De Selincourt: "Included in the February - May Journal Letter under the date 16th or 17th April and prefaced with the words: 'Brown this morning is writing some Spenserian stanzas against Mrs. Miss Brawn and me; so I shall amuse myself with him a little: in the manner of Spenser.' It will be remembered that Brown was perhaps Keats's greatest friend during the last three or four years of his life. His Scotch tour was taken in company with Brown, and he went to live with Brown after the death of his brother Tom in December, 1818. Otho the Great was written in collaboration with him and much of the material upon which Lord Houghton based his Life and Letters of Keats was supplied to him by Brown, who had at one time intended to be the poet's biographer" Poems, ed. De Selincourt (1951) 558-59n.



He is to weet a melancholy carle:
Thin in the waist, with bushy head of hair,
As hath the seeded thistle, when in parle
It holds the Zephyr, ere it sendeth fair
Its light balloons into the summer air;
Therto his beard had not begun to bloom,
No brush had touch'd his chin, or razor sheer;
No care had touch'd his cheek with mortal doom,
But new he was, and bright, as scarf from Persian loom.

Ne cared he for wine, or half-and-half;
Ne cared he for fish, or flesh, or fowl,
And sauces held he worthless as the chaff;
He 'sdeigned the swine-head at the wassail-bowl;
Ne with lewd ribbalds sat he cheek by jowl;
Ne with sly lemans in the scorner's chair;
But after water-brooks this pilgrim's soul
Panted, and all his food was woodland air;
Though he would oft-times feast on gilliflowers rare.

The slang of cities in no wise he knew,
"Tipping the wink" to him was heathen Greek;
He sipp'd no "olden Tom," or "ruin blue,"
Or Nantz, or cherry-brandy, drank full meek
By many a damsel brave, and rouge of cheek;
Nor did he know each aged watchman's beat,
Nor in obscured purlieus would he seek
For curled Jewesses, with ankles neat,
Who, as they walk abroad, make tinkling with their feet.

[1:269-70]