Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

some external attributes they resemble me; but when, misled by that appearance, I have thought to appeal to something in common, and unburthen my inmost soul to them, I have found my language misunderstood, like one in a distant and savage land. The more opportunities they have afforded me for experience, the wider has appeared the interval between us, and to a greater distance have the points of sympathy been withdrawn. With a spirit ill-fitted to sustain such proof, trembling and feeble through its tenderness, I have everywhere sought sympathy, and have found only repulse and disappointment.

Essays, Letter from Abroad, On Love.

THE RELIGION OF LOVE The freedom of women produced the poetry of sexual love. Love became a religion, the idols of whose worship were ever present. It was as if the statues of Apollo and the Muses had been endowed with life and motion, and had walked forth among their worshippers; so that earth became peopled by the inhabitants of a diviner world. The familiar appearance and proceedings of life became wonderful and heavenly, and a paradise was created as out of the wrecks of Eden.

A Defence of Poetry.

a

THE PENATES You must shelter my roofless Penates, dedicate some new temple to them, and perform the functions of a priest in my absence. They are innocent deities, and their worship neither sanguinary nor absurd.

Leave Mammon and Jehovah to those who delight in wickedness and slavery - their altars are stained with blood or polluted with gold, the price of blood. But the shrines of the Penates are good warm fires, or window-frames intertwined with creeping plants; their hymns are the purring of kittens, the hissing of kettles, the long talks over the past and dead, the laugh of children, the warm wind of summer filling the quiet house, and the pelting storm of winter struggling in vain for entrance.

Letters, To Peacock, 17 July 1816.

SENTENCES As to us

we are uncertain people, who are chased by the spirits of our destiny from purpose to purpose, like clouds by the wind.

Ibid., Summer 1820.

Poets — the best of them, are a very chameleonic race; they take the colour not only of what they feed on, but of the very leaves under which they pass.

13 July 1821.

A POET is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds.

A Defence of Poetry.

PETRARCH, whose verses are as spells, which unseal the inmost enchanted fountains of the delight which is in the grief of love.

Ibid.

JOHN KEATS

1795-1821

FROM HIS LETTERS Now it appears to me that almost any Man may like the spider spin from his own inwards his own airy Citadel — the points of leaves and twigs on which the spider begins her work are few, and she fills the air with a beautiful circuiting. Man should be content with as few points to tip with the fine Web of his Soul, and weave a tapestry empyrean — full of symbols for his spiritual eye, of softness for his spiritual touch, of space for his wandering, of distinctness for

, his luxury. ... I was led into these thoughts, my dear Reynolds, by the beauty of the morning operating on a sense of Idleness. I have not read any Books

- the Morning said I was right — I had no idea but of the Morning, and the Thrush said I was right.

19 February 1818.

In poetry I have a few axioms, and you will see how far I am from their centre.

ist. I think poetry should surprise by a fine excess, and not by singularity. It should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.

2nd. Its touches of beauty should never be halfway, thereby making the reader breathless, instead of content. The rise, the progress, the setting of Imagery should, like the sun, come natural to him, shine

a

over him, and set soberly, although in magnificence, leaving him in the luxury of twilight.

27 February 1818.

The Banks of the Clyde are extremely beautiful — the north end of Loch Lomond grand in excess

the entrance at the lower end to the narrow part from a little distance is precious good - the Evening was beautiful, nothing could surpass our fortune in the weather — yet was I worldly enough to wish for a fleet of chivalry Barges with Trumpets and Banners just to die away before me into that blue place among the mountains.

17 July 1818.

When I was a schoolboy I thought a fair woman a pure Goddess; my mind was a soft nest in which some one of them slept, though she knew it not.

18 July 1818.

The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man: It cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watchfulness in itselfThat which is creative must create itself-In Endymion, I leaped headlong into the sea, and thereby have become better acquainted with the Soundings, the quicksands, and the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable advice. I was never afraid of failure; for I would sooner fail than not be among the greatest.

9 October 1818.

There is a sublimity to welcome me home - the roaring of the wind is my wife, and the Stars through the window pane are my Children.

25 October 1818.

I VALUE more the privilege of seeing great things in loneliness than the fame of a Prophet.

22 December 1818.

a

a

[ocr errors]

The greater part of Men make their way with the same instinctiveness, the same unwandering eye from their purposes, the same animal eagerness as the Hawk. ... I go among the Fields and catch a glimpse of a Stoat or a fieldmouse peeping out of the withered grass

the creature hath a purpose, and its eyes are bright with it. I go amongst the buildings of a city and I see a Man hurrying along - to what? the Creature has a purpose, and his eyes are bright with it. ... Even here, though I myself am pursuing the same instinctive course as the veriest human animal you can think of, I am, however young, writing

Ι at random, straining at particles of light in the midst of a great darkness, without knowing the bearing of any one assertion, of any one opinion.

19 March 1819.

I Am convinced more and more, every day, that fine writing is, next to fine doing, the top thing of the world; the Paradise Lost becomes a greater wonder. The more I know what my diligence may in time probably effect, the more does my heart distend with Pride and Obstinacy.... My own being which I know to be becomes of more consequence to me than the crowds of Shadows in the shape of men and

« PreviousContinue »