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Keats and Spenser Author(s): William A. Read Source: Modern Language Notes, Vol. 18, No. 7 (Nov.

, 1903), pp. 204-206 Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 02/10/2011 00:37
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[Vol xviii, No. 7..

have been printed as early as the sixteenth century.5 Trhough copy of the old print is extant, no we can judge of it from the version of the story in the Percy Folio Ms.,6which seems to be nothing but a transcript the printedtext. The romance of is referredto not only by Chaucer,but also by Skelton, in Phylypp Sparrowe(1529), and by Wealth,or Henry Crossein his VertuesCommon The Highway to Honour (1600). The hero is mentionedin an interlude, Thersites,which was acted in 1537.* It cannot,of course,be argued that the author of the Faerie Queene was indebted solely to Lybeaus Desconusfor the plot of Book i. But that he was familiarwith the poem,and that its plot was moreinfluentialthan is usually supposed in shaping the experiencesof Una and the Red Cross Knight, one may, I think, reasonablyconclude as a result of the above comparison.

The University SouthDakota. of

KEATS AND SPENSER. It is a well-knownfact that the genius of Keats was to a great extent moulded by a study of the worksof Spenser. From the time of LordHoughton, Keats's first biographer, down to that of MatthewArnold, the critics have agreed that the influence of Spenser on the mind of Keats was strongerthan that exercised by any other writer. This influence,appearing in the lines that mark the beginning of Keats's career, is to be found everywhere,-throughout the volume of 1817, in Endymion,in Lamia and in the Odes,in Isabella and in the Eve of St. Agnes,in the Dramas,and in the Cap and Belts. Even the languageof Hypenon, written when the influence of Milton on Keats was at its height,shows scarcelyan appreciable falling off in the Spenserian element. Grantedthat CowdenClarkeand CharlesBrown had failed to bear witness to the eager delight
"See Kaluza,p. x. 6Ed. Hales and Furnivall,London, 1868,II, 415 ff.

with which Keats perused the Faerie Queene,a glance throughthe lettersI of Keats would suffice to indicate the position that Spenseroccupied in his affections; while Keats's poetry contains, as the most careless reader may perceive,numerous allusions to Spenser. But to Mr. W. T. Arnold belongsthe creditof having made the first attempt to point out the exact extent of the Spenserian element in Keats's diction. In the introduction2 to his editionof Keats'spoems,he says: " Keats's imitation of Spenser descends even to points of spelling, and the following words were undoubtedly derived from him-' perceant,' ' raught,' ' libbard,''seemlihed,' ' espial,' ' shent' and ' unshent,' 'wox,' 'besprent,''grisly' (spelt by Keats, after the manner of Spenser, ' griesly'), and 'daedal."' Mr. Arnold also points to the same source for beadsman,passioned, covert, sallows, eterne,tinct,rajt ('the raft branch,'Endymion i. 334), and imageries. To Mr. Arnold's list of Spenserian words in Keats theremay certainlybe addedthe following: amate, dreariment, e?f (meaning ' person,' not and lout3 'fairy,' in Isabella, st. 57), empiereed, (verb). It seems to me highly probable that Keats also borrowed fromSpenserthe wordsafray (verb),bale(meaningsorrow,misery,etc.), di8part, and needments, well as such tricks as distraught, of expressionas ' adventurousknight,' 'wretched wight,' and ' withal a man of eleganceand stature: tall.' Keats's lines
At leastfor ever, ever more, Will I call the Gracesfour

were doubtlesssuggested by a similar passagein the Shep. Cal.for AprilWantsnot a fourthGrace,to makethe daunce even? Let that rowmeto my Lady be yeven: She sbal be a Grace, To fyll the fourthplace, etc. Peona, the name of Endymion's sister, is generally

thought to have been taken from the Faerie

Queene. To the same source I should refer Angela, of the Eaveof St. Agnes, the old woman 1See Forman's editionof Keats'sLetters, London,1895, pp. 11, 21, 488.

See the Poetical Worksof John Keats, ed. by Williaim

7Cf. Schofield,"Studies on the Lybeaus Desconus," T. Arnold,London,1888,pp. xxiv-xxv. I Lout is also used in the Letters,p. 368. Ha,rvardStu.diem Notes, Vol. iv, p. 241 if. and

1903.] November,



who " Died palsy-twitch'd,with meagre face deof form." Is not this phrasea reminiscence the line "W heary glib deform'dand meigerface " With (F. Q. iv, 8, 12)? Again, it seems not to have been noted that the expression" load every rift of your subject with ore,"used by Keats in a letter to Shelley, may be put side by side with the line "And with rich metall loaded every rifte" (F. Q. II, 7, 28). A considerablenumberof the words noted by Mr. Arnold and myself may be found in Shakspere and in Milton; and their occurrencein the worksof these poets, who were also favoriteswith Keats, renders it rather difficult to estimate the exact extent of his indebtednessto the Faerie Queene. At the same time. it must be borne in mind that Spenser,his first love amongthe poets, up the maintained supremeplace in his affections to the close of his career. Mr. Sidney Colvin, in his admirable Life of Keats, remarks that Keats's "professedly Spenserianlines resemblenot so much Spenseras later writers who had written in his measure,and of these not the latest,Byron, but rathersuch milder minstrelsas Shenstone,Thomson,and Beattie, or most of all perhapsthe sentimentalIrish poetess Mrs. Tighe," etc. This view is sustained by a referenceto Mrs. Tighe, in Keats's poem To Some Ladies, and also by the following passage to be found in a letter writtenby Keats in 1818: " This howeveris true-Mrs. Tighe and Beattie once delighted me-now I see throughthem and can find etc.' nothingin them or weakness," Mrs. Tighe's Psyche is an allegorical poem of somelength, consistingof six cantoswrittenin the Spenserianstanza, and may be described,in its general tone, as a fairly close imitation of the has althoughthe authoress avoided, Faerie Queene, a she states in her preface, the obsolete words of which are so characteristic Spenser. The similarity in style between the two poems is, indeed, marked; so much so, that it would be difficultto in point out any features Mrs.Tighe'spoemwhich, reappearingin Keats's Imitation of Spenser,are not to be found also in the Faerie Queene. A rather notable exception is the expression'coefrom ruleansky,' which Keats certainlyborrowed Mrs. Tighe's 'cerulean skies' (Peyche, Canto vi,
4 Letters,p. 249.

p. 185). Apart from the use of the word teen, there is, however,in Keats's poemmore than one point of similarity with the Spenserianmanner. Take, for instance,the usage of the ending -es, in 86ale8',to completea metricalfootWhosesilken fins,and goldenscales'light-

and comparethe numerousexamples5 with which poemsabound. Spenser's I have been unable to discover,after a careful search,a single instanceof this usage of the ending -es in Mrs. Tighe'sPsyche. Again, Keats's lineI coulde'en Dido of her griefbeguilei, has a parallel in the Faerie Queene, 5, 17-

Him to beguiile grief and agonyof

and also in Spenser's86th Sonnetto And faine my griefewith chaunges beguile.

So, too, the linesFor sureso fair a place was neverseen, romantic Of all that ever charm'd eye-

are good examples of the Spenserian manner. Thus:

sound, they hearda mostmelodious Eftsoones Of all that motedelighta daintieeare (F. Q.iI, 12, 70)or, F. Q.Intro. VI, 1 with suchsweetvariety And sprinckled Of all thatpleasantis to eare or eye-

or once more,F. Q.


6, 29-

So faire a place as Naturecan devize.

It would not be easy to determine how far Keats was influenced,in his art of versification, by his study of the Faerie Queene. He uses the Spenserianstanzain his first poem,the Imitation of Spenser,in some verses on Charles Armitage Brown, in a Stanza Writtenat the Closeof Canto in II, Book V of the Faerie Queene, the Capand Bells, and in the Eve of St. Agnes. In this last poem the prolonged,flowing melody of Spenser's skill; measurehas been caught with consummate but this is somethingthat can far more easily be felt than expressedin words. If, however,there be one featureof Spenser'sverse that may be con5See the Faerie Queene,i, 5, 17; 7, 32; iI, 7, 38; ir, 7, 48; iI, 12, 3;
I, 10, in,

34; iI, 7, 8; 15, etc., etc.




[VoLxviii, No.7.

sidered as not having been without influenceon the sensitiveear of Keats, it is the general tendency to expand words to the fullest extent, a tendency that finds, perhaps, its most striking examplein the usage of the preteritor participial ending in -ed to complete the metre of a line. an Mr. Swinburne, excellentjudge in suchmatters, said that none but the critics bave has somewhere condemnedthis usage, and Keats evidently did not regard it as a defect, for it appears not only in his earlierpoems,but also in some of his more finished productions. Thus, he has the rimes tunworried:head (End. i, 75), sped: garlanded (En4d. i, 110), bewildered: bed (End. ii, 93), V8isted:ocean-bed(End. iII, 391), ripened: led (End, iII, 707), cre8cented:bed (End. iv, 438), tread: passioned (Lamia i, 182), said: vani8hed (Lamia ii, 307), angui8hed:wed(Isabella, st. vii), spread(Isabella,St. LIV), shed: unwearied casketed: (Ode on a Grecian Urn), published: dead (Cap and Bells, st. x). It is true that this usage of the ending -ed may be met with here and there throughoutthe range of modern English poetry. What forms with others the exception,however, is one of the characteristicfeaturesof Spenser's verse-I have countedninety-fiveexamplesin the Faerie Queene-and occurs,as has been seen,not infrequentlyin Keats. Nevertheless,the system of measuringmetreby the simple processof counting on fingerand thumb the numberof syllables in a given verse is liable to produceresultsso wild can and fancifulthat little significance be attached to such a test. About all that can be said is, that Keats may have caught this mannerism from to Spenser; it is impossible prove that he did so. of The awakening Keats'slove for chivalrymay be ascribedto the influenceof the Faerie Queene. which finds Chivalry,that featureof romanticism its most perfect expressionin the worksof Scott, constitutesthe frameon which several of Keats's poems are built. The Inductionto a Poem, Calidore,the Epistle to GeorgeKeats, On Receivinga Shell, etc.)-these and other poems, especially in the volume of 1817, may be cited as striking examplesof the youthfulpoet'seffortto depictscenes fromthe days of chivalry. While it is not to be to deniedthat other writersmay have contributed the development the romanticspirit in Keats, of the individual,as well as of the romantic move-

mentof the age,yet it is alsoclearthat no influence was so powerfulin fosteringthe romantic element in Keats'swork as that of Spenser. Such is a brief outline of a subject that might easily be pursuedfurther. It is evident that the rich,bizarreeffectof Keats's vocabularyis largely due to the exquisitetaste with which he borrowed from the earlier English poets, but chiefly from Spenser,the word or phrase most appropriateto the situation. Then, too, Spenserian influence may, perhaps,be seen in his method of handling metre,and of coursein his frequentusage of the Spenserianstanza,while a numberof poems owe their very existence to the inspiration derived from the Faerie Queene. "There is something almostuncanny-like the visits of a spirit-about the recurrentappearances Spenser in English of literary history. It must be confessedthat nowadays we do not greatly rompthrough' The Faery Queene.' There even runs a story that a certain professorof literature in an American college, being consulted about Spenser by one of his scholars,exclaimedimpatiently,' Oh, damnSpenser!' But it is worth while to have him in the the literature, only as a starterfor young poets."6 if

Loui,eana StateUniver8ity.

Pamela ABROAD. Pamela is a moral novel which is sometimes story of a somewhat very indecent; a sentimental revolutionarycharacter; and a badly told tale that holds our interest,spell-boundthe eighteenth century, and was translated into at least seven languages. A young servant girl of talents and beauty inspiresa passionin the breast of Mr. B., her master,resists his attemptson her honor,and finally leads him into marryingher. That is the plot in a sentence, and in it we see an old and much loved character,la belledme,Spenser's Una, Milton's Lady, come again into favor with the revolt againstseventeenthcenturyrakishness, and here embodiedin new form. But there is a startling variant to the conventionalstory of triumin Beers, Engaish Romanticism the Nineteenth CJentury, p. 120.