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Keats as a Critic

Keats as a Critic

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John Keats as a Critic Author(s): Irving H. White Source: The Sewanee Review, Vol. 34, No. 4 (Oct. - Dec., 1926), pp.

451-465 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/27534061 Accessed: 25/05/2010 02:29
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JOHN KEATS AS A CRITIC
in Tintern Abbey, there are four If, as Wordsworth suggested love of man, of a man's development?sensation, stages feeling, and love of God?John Keats never got beyond the second. He himself this fact and noted it in a letter to Reynolds.1 recognized Yet we should consider Keat as a poet, not by what he might Aave done had he lived, but rather by what he did do in the three years of his poetical activity; his fame rests most firmly on what he actually accomplished. as a poet was His development the course of a few years, shot Robert Louis beloved Stevenson, became masters, in slow until his art suddenly, Like into its maturity.

forth

Keats, through the imitation of some the great poet that he is. He was also stimulated by his ambition to "be among the English Poets after in him, more than in most But, most significantly, [his] death." poets, the poetical and critical faculties were almost equally united. "I have no doubt of success in a course of years if I persevere," for the Reviews it must be patience, have ener indolent men's minds?few his critical think for themselves."2 Keats

he wrote, "but vated and made

for himself. powers by thinking developed one rarely hears any reference to him as a critic. It will be Yet as far as possible Keats's the purpose of this essay to formulate theory of poetry and to give his criticism of his own poems, of the three great poets incidentally pointing out his appreciation him: of the past who most influenced Spenser, Shakespeare, to give a full account of his and Milton. It is quite possible reactions to them and to the work of his own contemporaries (par as indicated in his annotated copies, in ticularly of Wordsworth) his formal dramatic in his letters, and in his own poetry, criticisms, but the scope of this paper will not permit ; only a few points will be noted in passing. II indeed are we to have copies of Keats's Fortunate favorite that particularly poets in which he has marked passages appealed to him: Miss Amy Lowell, for instance, possessed his annotated
xSidney 'Ibid, p. Colvin, 171. Letters of John Keats, 1921, pp. 107-109.

452

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copy of the first book of the Faerie Que ene. No one will deny the great influence of Spenser on Keats, in the young especially man's first volume of poetry ;Miss Lowell in her biography gave a most interesting account of Cowden Clarke's introducing Keats to Spenser. Keats showed his own instinct for the poetical art on epithets of special felicity by fastening with fine discernment or power in Spenser. For "he instance, says Cowden Clarke, as he said, hoisted himself up, and looked burly and dominant, " in 'What an image that is?sea-shouldering-whalesl' Passages Keats's Keats,
tions

copy of the Faerie indicating
appealing to

clearly
one or

Queene are marked and re-marked by his early preoccupation with descrip
.more of the senses?with "images of

calls them. The 1817 volume of Poems effect," as Miss Lowell shows an enormous effect of his reading and assimilation of Spen ser ; and in his sonnet on the "poets' poet," he says :
The flower must drink the nature of the Before it can put forth its blossoming: Be with me in the summer days and I Will for thine honour and his pleasure soil

try.

late as April, 1819, he says that he is still deliberately imitating when he is ill and is no longer able to compose and, Spenser; to Fanny Brawne: "For this poetry himself, we find him writing I have been employed in marking the most beautiful Week pas it for you. . . ." From his study sages in Spenser, intending As of Spenser, he learned much; his perfect melody, his rare sense of natural beauty, his splendid imagination, his lofty moral purity and seriousness, and his delicate idealism, which could make all nature and every common thing beautiful. Even more than these, it kindled the spark and set afire his love for the poetry of the on the influence of Claude Lee Finney's Har them, and Keats, and J. Middleton vard thesis, Shakspere Murry's Keats was inspired and, at times, haunted Keats and Shakspere. few of his letters do not contain by his reading of Shakespeare, some allusion to or imitative paraphrase of Shakespeare. "We he says in one of them, "that criticism has no right* to purse feel," been written its little brow belief, very in the presence few imperfections of Shakespeare. He and perhaps these might has, to our vanish from greatest of the Elizabethans. Articles, theses, books, have on Keats; among Shakespeare

John Keats our minds, Largely
sonnets :3

as a Critic

453

if we

intuitive,

had the perfection his criticism is very

to scan them." properly acute when he says of the

One of the three books I have with me is Shakspeare's Poems ; I never found so many beauties in the sonnets?they seem to be full of fine things said unintentionally?in the in out conceits?He has left nothing to say tensity of working about nothing or anything. In his criticism of Kean as an actor of Shakespearean tragedy, par in the r?le of Richard the Third, and in his annotations ticularly 1808 folio copy of Shakespeare, or impressionistic critic. preciative Now, in his Keats is the roimantic ap

most Keats loved Shakespeare because the latter pos that is, in his opinion, the greatest sessed, "negative capability, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, doubts, mysteries, without very any irritable reaching after fact and reason,"4?the Shaw deplores. characteristic that Bernard about Shakespeare stood for Keats ; Shakespeare this quality isolated Shakespeare In one of his dramatic reviews, and above all other poets. Keats said : But alone thing we are . . of Henry parts and perfectly lonely He could never have One As convinced of . which is that creature happy made a being on looking over the three Shakspeare was the only whom God ever formed. more unmatchable.

influence as a critic upon Keats (espe great as was Hazlitt's at and annotations of King Lear5), criticisms cially in Keats's in the profound times the young poet surpasses him, particularly Con statement he makes concerning universality. Shakespeare's in Troilus and Cressida, Keats notes : cerning a certain passage an innate universality? was The of Shakspeare genius of human intellect wherefore he had the utmost achievement He could beneath his indolent and kingly gaze. prostrate
do easily in his man's utmost. His plans the of tasks to come were not

of
not

this world?if
own idea

what conception

he purposed
aim,"

to do hereafter
how tremendous

would
must

"answer

have
"Letter 4Letter

been his

of ultimates.

November to Reynolds, 22, 1817. pp. 45-46, XXIII, and Thomas p. 48, December 22, 1817, to George XXIV, p. 271ff. BFinney,

Keats.

454
While

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verse affected Keats to a considerable extent6 Milton's in his composition less it was of Hyperion), yet (particularly to him than the poetry of Shakespeare and of Spenser. powerful
His letters, however, contain numerous quotations and references

to Milton's poetry.7 verse is in the Epistle

His

first

reference

to Milton

in his

own

Cowden Clarke, A careful considera trasts the poetry of Spenser and of Milton.8 Lost will, I tion of the marginalia of Keats's copy of Paradise in indicate three things in which Keats was particularly believe, terested:

to Charles

in which

he con

of Milton's second, first, the immensity undertaking; of contrast; and, third, his use of sensuous language.9 the abandoned Towards the end of his career, Keats, however, verse of Paradise Lost as too Miltonic and returned to Shakes his method
peare.10 In summary, we may now say that Keats was interested in and

three great English poets before him deliberately because of the qualities of their poetry that directly appealed to to him: Spenser's medieval romantic chivalry, his sensitiveness natural beauty, and the flowing melody and rhythm of his verse ; sensuous qualities and his superb management of Shakespeare's and sublimity. and Milton's Of his con the passions; harmony imitated the most and Keats admired Wordsworth, Haydon, temporaries, To Haydon, he wrote :n Hazlitt. in January, 1818, . . . is my idea of greater Every day the older I get?the in Art : and I am convinced that there are your achievements to rejoice at in this Age: The Excursion, three things your and Hazlitt's Pictures, depth of Taste. Shakes In his appreciation of these poets, particularly Spenser, and Wordsworth, Keats built up a theory of poetry peare, Milton, for himself.

Ill
If Keats was a good critic of others, he was a better critic of I shall consider, first, Keats's himself. and, theory of poetry; I to his own work. of these principles second, his application
on Seeing a Lock 6Cf. Lines Oxford Hair, Keats, of Milton's 1 Letters 313-14. p. 41f ; XCII, 282; CXVI, 237;CXII, XXI, 8Oxford p. 31, lines 56-59. Keats, *Lord Houghton, etc., 1867, pp. 235-40. Life of Keats, "Letter p. 282, August 25, 1819. CXXI, "Letter p. 53, January 10, 1818, to Haydon. XXVI, pp. 301-2.

John Keats

as a Critic

455

regret that time will not permit my treating, even briefly, Keats's of composition.12 method Unlike Wordsworth and Coleridge, Keats does not write a formal or prefatory essay on the theory of his letters and his poetry are poetry, but scattered throughout as to what he conceived statements to be his task as a of such poeti Let us take up in order Keats's consideration poet. as the "negative cal fundamentals (as he calls the capability" of all poetic requisites), and sensa greatest beauty, imagination, clear-cut
tion.

comments on Shakespeare, that seen, in one of Keats's the quality that is most essential for a man of achievement, espe cially in literature, is negative capability ; a quality which Shakes the great peare possessed "enormously," making him, for Keats, est of all poets; while Coleridge as a lacked it, to his detriment We have poet.13 Pbetry must be impersonal, and as far as the poet is con cerned, he should have no identity.14 For "men of genius are great as certain ethereal chemicals operating on the mass of neutral intellect-?but any determined they have not any individuality, character?I would call the top and head of those who have a "We hate poetry that has a palpa proper self, men of power."15 ble design upon us. . . . Poetry should be great and unobtrusive, a thing that enters into one's soul, and does not startle or amaze it with with its subject."16 itself?but But this does not mean that poetry itself is purposeless; is ambitious of doing for Keats the world good through his poetry. will strive to reach as He high a summit as he is capable of, but he has fears that he may lose all interest in human affairs?"that I the solitary Indifference feel for applause, even from the finest spirits, will not blunt any of vision I may have." In summarizing what he means by negative capability, Keats shifts to his theory of beauty. "This of quickly [consideration volumes would perhaps take negative capability] pursued through us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty
"Cf. of Woodhouse, Letter Lowell particularly MS., Lowell, I, pp. 501-2. in the first drafts Is there not plenty of evidence of many of Keats's poems, never never that Woodhouse is mistaken he says when that Keats revised, never rewrote? changed, "Letter "Letter 15Letter "Letter XXIV, LXXVI, XXII XXXIV, p. 48. pp. 184-85. p. 41. p. 68. Letter LXXVI, pp. 184-85.

acuteness

456
overcomes

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or rather obliterates all con every other consideration, sideration."17 He worships at the shrine of beauty. "I have not the in to anything slightest feeling of humility toward the public?or
the eternal Being, the Principle of Beauty. . . ."18

existence,?but

And

beauty

is the very heart and soul of poetry.
Beauty is its own excuse for being,

and all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy.19

In Sleep and Poetry the fact that the emphasized (1817), Keats field of poetry is not reason and philosophy: its field is the free and its aim is the creation of beauty.20 play of the imagination, in his consideration of the imagination, Keats, again, unlike Wordsworth tween imagination be and Coleridge, does not attempt to distinguish writes to his and fancy, but impressionistically

friend Bailey:21 ... I long to be talking about the imagination. I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart's and affections, seizes as the truth of Imagination. What.the Imagination it existed before or not,? Beauty must be truth?whether for I have the same idea of all our passions as of Love : they are all, in their sublime, creative of essential Beauty. In a know my favourite Word, you may speculation by my first . . . The Book [Endymion] Imagination may be compared to Adam's dream,?he awoke and found it truth :?I am more zealous in this affair, because I have never yet been able to perceive how anything can be known for truth by consecutive it may be, O yet it must be. . . . However reasoning?and ! for a life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts By sensations Keats means "the direct intuitions of the nation."22 Keats's often quoted exclamation, "O for a out rather than of Thoughts!" when considered sensations context is misleading. from the quotation As is obvious of the imagination. discussion above, it enter into Keats's
"Letter "Letter "Lamia, ^Oxford "Letter "Colvin, p. 48. XXIV, p. 96. XLVIII, lines 229ff. Keats, Sleep p. 41f, XXII, p. 266. and Poetry, to Benjamin lines Bailey, pp. 162-229, November 47-49. 22, 1817.

imagi life of of its given Fur

John Keats

as a Critic

457

thermore, there is what he calls high sensation with and without extensive knowledge, the former being needful to thinking people : it takes away the heat and fever.23 In that famous "mansion" passage in his letter of May 3, 1818, to his friend Reynolds, criticism not Keats gives much pertinent Human but also of himself. life, only of Milton and Wordsworth, : the he says, is comparable to a large mansion of many apartments first is the Infant or Thoughtless Chamber, and the second is the Chamber of Maiden Thought which becomes darkened by misery,
heart-break, pain, sickness, and oppression:24

becomes gradually darkened, and at the same time, Thought on all sides of it, many doors are set open?but all dark?all see not the balance of good and leading to dark passages?We
evil?we are in a mist?we are now in that states?We feel

the "burden of the Mystery." To this point was Words worth come, as far as I can conceive, when he wrote "Tintern of and it seems to me that his Genius is explorative Abbey," those dark Passages. if we live, and go on thinking, Now, we too shall explore them?He is a genius and superior to us, in so far as he can, more than we, make discoveries and shed a light in them. It seems to me from a very careful reading of Keats's poetry that, as he realized in this letter, he might have been very near the third of the fourth stages enumerated inWordsworth's Tintern Abbey, and probably most closely approached it in the Fall of Hyperion, but he was Before still groping the publication three axioms in the "dark passages." Keats wrote of Endymion, his publisher, the fact that

enumerating his Endymion 1st. I think poetry should surprise by a fine excess, and not of his by singularity ; it should strike the reader as a wording own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.
"Letter be denied, It cannot p. 104, to J. H. Reynolds, LU, 3, 1818. May was a highly sensuous and that Keats of his that most person however, a direct most makes to the senses. recent of Keats's One poetry appeal a development in his poetry critics is detectable thinks that there of a con in the revision This of scious moral be seen to some extent may theory. were in some of his odes which also of but this later period, Hyperion, on sensuous centered is emphatically Keats's interest beauty. ^Letter "Letter LII, pp. XXXIX, to J. H. Reynolds, 107-09, p. 77t to John Taylor, 3, May February 1818. 27, 1818.

in poetry, and regretting falls far short of his principles.25

458
2nd.

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Its touches of beauty should never be half-way, thereby the reader breathless, The rise, instead of content. making the progress, the setting of imagery should, like the sun, come natural to him, shine over him, and set soberly, although in But it magnificence, leaving him in the luxury of twilight. is easier to think what poetry should be, than to write it? And this leads me to Another if poetry comes not as naturally axiom?That leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all. Here nation,
poet's

as the

we

have

a good

summary

of Keats's

scattered

remarks

on

various

poetic principles,?the negative capability, beauty, and sensation,?and these are particularly applicable
own work. IV

imagi to the

comments on his own poetry. One thing that one in reading his letters is the indifference particularly impresses with which he embodies some of his most beautiful poems in these the least comment. But this attitude did not indi letters, without cate a lack of apprehension on his part of their shortcomings. He Now for Keats's realized more than any one else his deficiencies:26 Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic of his own Works. My own domestic criticism has given me pain or the Quarterly without comparison beyond what Blackwood could possibly I feel I am right, no inflict?and also when external praise can give me such a glow as my own solitary reperception and ratification of what is fine. struck the keynote of his verse Keats motto from Spenser prefixed to it :
What more felicity can fall

in the 1817 volume
to creature

in the

Than

to enjoy delight with

liberty?

In the poetry found in this little volume there are liberty, restraint from all classical of the rules, and an enthusiastic outpouring delight in nature, in romance, in friendship, and in poesy. As far as he is able to do so, he is carrying out his poetic theories with to beauty, reference In this volume and sensation. imagination, are always his attempts immature, and at times crude, but he
^Letter LXXII, p. 167, to James August Hessey, October 9, 1818.

John Keats knows

as a Critic

459

his rules, and he is trying to apply them. Many of these poems, particularly Sleep and Poetry, are made to embody declara tions of his literary beliefs.27 two prefaces Keats wrote in fact, he de for Endymion, while, sired to write none at all. The first?a very frank and truthful statement on the part of Keats ; too much so, in fact, to have ap con as it was unanimously pealed to the public?was discarded, demned
wrote :28

by

the young

poet's

friends.

In

the first

draft Keats

So this Poem must rather be considered as an endeavour than a thing a poor prologue to what, if I live, I accomplished; In duty to the Public I should have humbly hope to do. it back for a year or two, knowing it to be so faulty: kept but I really cannot do so,?by repetition my favourite pas rather redeem sages sound vapid in my ears, and I would should this one be found of any myself with a new Poem
interest. . . .

I have written to please myself, and in hopes to please and for a love of fame; if I neither please myself, others, nor others, nor get fame, of what consequence is Phraseol
ogy? . . .

...

With great reluctance Keats prepared a second Preface, which is almost as na?ve as the first with reference to admitted failures and deficiencies of Endymion. These were seized immediately and malignantly hurled back at the young upon by the reviewers, In this Preface, Keats admits that the poem exhibits "in poet. . . . and a feverish attempt, rather than a experience, immaturity on the part of the author.29 He would delay deed accomplished" are too sandy." He and revise, but the "foundations publication to plod on, and finally write verses "fit to live." intends, however, He After his attributes the "mawkishness" of Endymion to his immaturity. its publication, was all the more convinced of however, he immaturity, but it was the best he could do at the time :30
Keats, 55-59; lines 161-229 pp. 47-49, to George Epistle Keats, ; Cf. p. 27 also Epistle ;Epistle to C. C. Clarke, to G. F. Matthew,

^Oxford p. 31, lines p. 24ff. "Lowell, "Oxford ^Letter

I, p. 607. Keats, LXXII, p. 56. pp. 167-68, to James October 9, 1818.

Hessey,

460

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Reviezv

J. S.31 is perfectly right in regard to the slip-shod Endymion. No !?though it may sound That it is so is no fault of mine. a little paradoxical. It is as good as I had power to make it I been nervous about its being a perfect myself?Had ?by that view asked advice, and trembled over piece, and with for it is not in every page, it would not have been written; ... I have will write independently my nature to fumble?I in I may write written without Judgment. independently hereafter. and with Judgment, The Genius of dependently, Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man : It cannot be matured by law and precept, but by sensation and watch which is creative must create itself? fulness in itself?That In Endymion, I leaped headlong into the sea, and thereby the quick have become better acquainted with the Soundings, and the rocks, than if I had stayed upon the green sands, shore, and piped a silly pipe, and took tea and comfortable sooner for I would I was never afraid of failure; advice. fail than not be among the greatest. the his death, in writing Shelley concerning latter's The Cenci, Keats refers to himself as the "writer of Endy mion whose mind was like a pack of scattered cards."32 A few months before in Keats's of progress poetic still consciously in Endymion, yet he is following his technique of the is his delight in the freedom of the expression rules?there imaginations and sensuous beauty. Of Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of in 1820, Keats has very and Other Poems, St. Agnes published contains some of his little to say, although this volume undoubtedly While indications some critics consider magnificent best poetry. Of Lamia, which for its inventive descriptions and which others think the finest of his longer poems, Keats said :33 I have been reading over a part of a short poem I have com posed lately, called Lamia, and I am certain there is that sort of fire in it that must take hold of people some way. Give
them is a either sensation or unpleasant pleasant . . . sort. of some sensation?what they want

there are clear

to these words in his defence, in John Scott's letter Morning ^Referring there are also many, October very many passages 3, 1818 : "That Chronicle, I will not deny ; nay, I will go further, both haste and carelessness indicating him from dissuaded have and assert that a real friend of the author would immediate ?'Letter "Letter publication." p. 366. CLV, p. 294. CXVI,

John Keats

as a Critic

461

Keats to Woodhouse, thought that the many triplets According were in character with the language in Lamia and alexandrines in those particular parts.34 and sentiment as "mawkish." to Keats wrote Woodhouse, Isabella, appeared A letter of for the poem. dislike also recounts Keats's Taylor Keats
Isabella.35

to Woodhouse

gives

the poet's

reasons

for his dislike

for

I will give a few reasons why I shall persist in not publishing I can get it smoak'd It is too smokeable. The Pot of Basil. much more cheaply. There at the Carpenters shaving chimney is too much inexperience of line, and simplicity of knowledge do very well after one's death, but not in it?which might while one is alive. . . . Isabella is what I should call were I a reviewer sober Poem" with an amusing "A weak-sided If I sadness about it . . . this will not do for the public. may so say, in my dramatic capacity I enter fully into the I should be apt to quiz my feeling : but in Propria Persona . . . is no objection of this kind to Lamia. self. There He St. Agnes, revised.36 romantic adds that there is a good deal of the same fault in The Eve of but it is not so glaring, because it had been carefully to some and Taylor were opposed Both Woodhouse For instance, the poet at one time changed the of these changes. close of his poem,37
The For after Beadsman, for aye unsought thousand slept aves his among told, ashes cold,

into the slightly

cynical
stif?en'd, from his 'twixt beads a by laugh sigh and one weak little cough.

The beadsman Ta'en sudden

was later, however, restored the original lines.38 Woodhouse scandalized by the change that was to represent clearly particularly as enjoying the full fruition of their Madeline and Porphyro Keats
love :39

... as it is now altered, as soon as M. has declared her love, P. winds by degrees his arm round her, presses breast to
II, p. 320. II, 337. "Ibid., Stanza MCf. particularly pp. 221-22. '"Oxford p. 229. Keats, "Lowell, "Ibid. ? Letter of Woodhouse,

XXIV,

and

lines

3-4,

of

Stanza

XXVI,

Keats,

September

20,

1819,

Lowell

II,

p. 318.

462

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breast, and acts all the acts of a bonafide husband, while she fancies she is only playing the part of a wife in a dream. This alteration is of about 3 stanzas. When that the poem will expresses his apprehension not be fit for ladies to read, Keats retorts that he did not want The three stanzas ladies to read his poetry: he wrote for men. seem to be lost, the only hint of them referred to by Woodhouse being the very mild lines which were cancelled, Woodhouse
See Have she speaks his arms while encroaching to heart?loud, zon'd her, heart loud slow the dark winds blow.

best Of his odes, which all the critics esteem as some of Keats's poetry, he has very little to say.40 The Ode to Psyche he says he wrote leisurely, and he believes that it reads the more richly for
that reason.41

he had stated that he intended to in a later poem, which was to be mythology He wrote to Hay don :42 Hyperion. ... In Endymion I think you may have many bits of the deep and sentimental cast the nature of "Hyperion" will lead me to treat it in a more naked and grecian Manner?and the In his Preface return to Greek
march of passion and endeavour will be undeviating. . . .

to Endymion,

He

finally abandons the poem, however,43 are too many Miltonic I have given up Hyperion?there in verse cannot be written versions in it?Miltonic but in an artful or rather, artist's humour. I wish to give myself up to other sensations. English ought to be kept up.

At

about this time he wrote to his brother in America that he con sidered Paradise fine in itself, a corruption of our Lost, though

the purest of language, and that he thought Chatterton's English all English. "Chatterton's is entirely northern. I prefer language the native music of it to Milton's cut by feet. I have but lately stood on my guard against Milton. Life to him would be death
^Cf. Ruskin, Part VI, Ch. IX; John, 1860, Modern Painters, Swinburne, A. C, Wil 1882-86, Keats, p. 211 ;Rossetti, Encyclopaedia Britannica, Misc., liam M., 1887, Life of John Keats (Great Writers), p. 194; Bryant, William and Song, Cf. Cullen, 1870, A New Introd., I, p 43. Library of Poetry also H. W. on Keats's Sir Sidney and Miss Lowell Mabie, Colvin, Amy Odes. to George "Letter and Georgiana p. 259, April XCII, Keats, 30, 1819. to Benjamin R. Haydon, ^Letter, January 23, 1818. "Letter p. 321, to J. H. Reynolds, 22, 1819. September CXVII,

John Keats to me. I wish Miltonic verse cannot

as a Critic be written, verse but is the verse

463
of art.

the unparalleled verse of the Odes ?Was to Shakespeare ?45 He believed that his great was to be in the form of the drama. His Otha poetic expression the Great and the few scenes of King Stephen in are, however, Was it a conscious return and expression teresting only because in plot, characterization, they are imitations of Shakespeare. In Otho the Great, Brown and Keats collaborated. Brown was to furnish the poet with the title, characters, and dramatic conduct of the tragedy, and Keats was it in poetry. After the completion of this play, Brown the subject of King Stephen, but Keats determined that suggested he would write this play entirely alone. It is possible that Keats's dislike for his poem Isabella was, in it less dramatic part, due to the fact that he apparently considered than The Eve of St. Agnes or Lamia. At least, this is the order he refers to these poems in his significant letter to Woodhouse.46 At times he is confident of the success of his drama, Otho the
Great, for one of his ambitions was "to make as great a revolu

to devote myself the "other verse"

to another

alone."44

to express

as Kean had done in acting."47 dramatic writing It would seem that it was finally accepted at Drury Lane Theatre with the promise of its coming out in the season of 1820, but it was never produced. Keats, however, does not willingly give up the idea of writing great drama ; he will write poems throughout which he will diffuse the coloring of The Eve of St. Agnes, with A few such poems would emphasis on character and sentiment. tion to the writing "nerve" him up, he believes, of a few fine plays, his greatest ambition.48 In his letters, Keats makes to his other very little reference To George, he encloses a copy of The Eve of St. Mark, poems. with a few comments :49 Some time since I began a poem called "The Eve of St. I think it will Mark," quite in the spirit of town quietude. about an old country town give you the sensation of walking
"Letter 1819. CXVI, pp. 313-14, p. to George 195. and Georgiana Keats, September

in modern

22,

"Cf. Murry, p. 188, and II, p. 337. "Lowell, "Letter p. 280. CX, "Letter p. 33. CXXV, p. 302f. "Letter-,

464

The Seivanee

Review

I shall ever finish I know not whether in a coolish evening. Ut tibi placeat? it ! I will give it as far as I have gone. [Here he quotes the poem] . . . I hope you will like this for all its carelessness. to the eighth stanza of the exquisite With imitation reference ballad, La Belle Dame sans Merci,
She And And With took there there I elfin grot and full kept sigh'd wild shut her wild, eyes . . ., four kisses she me to her sore,

Keats

writes :50 four kisses?you will say?why four, because I wish to Why would of my Muse?she restrain the headlong impetuosity we must have fain said 'score' without hurting the rhyme?but as the Critics say, with Judgment. temper the Imagination, I was obliged to choose an even number, that both eyes might have fair play, and to speak truly I think two a piece quite I had said seven there would have been sufficient. Suppose three and a half a piece?a very awkward affair, and well
got out of on my side. . . .

to "nerve him up" to writ of the poems that he wrote Of this poem, Keats wrote:51 drama was Cap and Bells. ing not to publish anything I I have come to a determination : but for all that, to publish a poem have now ready written before long, and that I hope to make a fine one. As the of is the most enticing, and the surest guarantee marvellous to persuade I have been endeavouring harmonious numbers, to untether Fancy, and to let her manage for herself. myself One Most foreign Lowell
satire.52 V In summary, we can now make a few conclusions. No attempt,

of the critics to Keats's considers

think that such a poem as Cap and Bells was genius and unworthy of his endeavor, but Miss of Keats's in the field of it as an experiment

of course, in so short an essay as this has been made to trace the sources of Keats's poetry, but I have tried to show his tastes and critical judgments : sometimes he is the judicial critic, as, for in and Milton stance, when he makes a comparison of Wordsworth
?Letter ^Letter "Lowell, XCII, CXXV, II, 251. p. 33, to John pp. 367-69. p.

Taylor,

November

17,

1819.

Book in his

Reviews

465

famous "mansion" passage; more often he is the apprecia criticizes Shakespeare? tive critic, as when he, with reverence, if for no one else, then for himself. but he is always interpretive, clear he was to his contemporaries, reference With always visioned: while his theory of poetry was not that of the "Words saw the best or egotistical Sublime," he, nevertheless, worthian, lacked "negative to him, Coleridge in Wordsworth;53 that was ;54 Shelley capability" ; Byron, as a poet, was a "self-worshipper" the purely artistic too rapidly,55 without duly considering composed aim ; and Hazlitt56 was the only good "damner" [critic] of the age. Romantic idealist that he was, he often outgrew and pushed aside, his former idols, such, and expansion, for his own development for instance, as Leigh Hunt.57 of the I have also tried to show briefly that in his appreciation The funda he built up a theory of poetry for himself. great poets, on the part for him were the possession mental poetic principles of expression, the poet of "negative spontaneity capability," sensuous of imaginative, the expression beauty, not with or Byron's aim of upholding moral Wordsworth's law, advocacy of his own egotistical longings, or Shelley's voicing of impossible of beauty, beauty alone, for its social reforms, but the expression of and critical I have quoted at length, at times, from Keats's sake. comments on his own poetry, which clearly indicate his apprecia tion not only of his poetic ability, but of his limitations as well. have given harsher ex Few critics, even the most antagonistic, than he himself of Keats's gave in his shortcomings pressions that a sense of artistic restraint can letters. Yet, it is undeniable own to the Odes, and this in Keats from Endymion be seen developing In short, to reflected in his opinions of his poetry. is naturally I said in the beginning, Keats is one of the few poets repeat what in whom the poetical and critical faculties were united almost equally. Irving
Cambridge, Massachusetts. 248-49; Do not Keats these

H. White.

and LXXX, "Letters pp. pp. 107-09; p. 68; LII, XVXIV, Bell. Peter of Reynold's review lines 217-18, The Fall ^Oxford p. 448. Keats, of Hyperion, to Byron? lines refer "Letter p. 366. CLV, March ^Letter p. 87, to B. R. Haydon, 21, 1818. XLIII, and Georgiana "Letter Keats, p. 193, to George LXXX, 1818. -30

December

18,

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