Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

school after the death of his mother, when he had reached his fifteenth year. His pursuits at school are thus described :

“ After remaining some time at school with Mr. Clarke, his intellectual ambition suddenly developed itself; he determined to carry off all the first prizes in literature, and he succeeded; but the object was only obtained by a total sacrifice of his amusements and favourite exercises. Even on the half-holidays, when the school was all out at play, he remained at home translating his Virgil or his Fenelon. It has frequently occurred to the master to force him out into the open air for his health, and then he would walk in the garden with a book in his hand. The quantity of translations on paper he made during the last two years of his stay at Enfield was surprising. The twelve books of the Æneid were a portion of it; but he does not appear to have been familiar with much other and more difficult Latin poetry, nor to have even commenced learning the Greek language. Tooke's Pantheon, Spence's Polymetis, and Lemprière's Dictionary” (slender furnishing surely) “were sufficient fully to introdúce his imagination to the enchanted world of old mythology. ... He does not seem to have been a sedulous reader of other books, but Robinson Crusoe and Marmontel's Incas of Peru impressed him strongly, and he must have met with Shakspeare, for he told a schoolfellow considerably younger than himself, that he thought no one could dare to read Macbeth alone in a house at two o'clock in the morning.'

When Keats quitted school, in 1810, he was apprenticed for five years to Mr. Hammond, a surgeon

[blocks in formation]

over too whom we by their color the pathion was pubia

of Edmonton. From Edmonton he passed to London to walk the hospitals. He became in time a qualified practitioner, but not before the Muse had won him over to her side, and the acquaintance of the gentlemen to whom we adverted at the commencement of this article had, by their countenance, example, and support, induced him to prefer the path of letters to the doctor's surgery. In 1818 Endymion was published; in 1820 Hyperion and other poems; and very shortly afterwards he ruptured a bloodvessel, took to his bed, and rose from it to lie down again soon afterwards for ever. Despairing of restoration at home, in company with a devoted attendant and friend, Mr. Severn, the artist, Keats set out for Italy. He visited Naples and Rome; in the latter city placed himself under the care of Sir James Clark, then practising in Rome, but very soon sank under the melancholy and pitiless disease to which two members of his family had already fallen victims.

Connected with his illness and death may be mentioned two incidents that for the living reader contain a mournful and a striking interest. Amongst the earliest friends of Keats were Haydon, the painter, and Shelley, the poet. When Keats was first smitten Haydon visited the sufferer, who had written to his old friend, requesting him to see him before he set out for Italy. Haydon describes in his journal the powerful impression which the visit made upon him“the very colouring of the scene struck forcibly on, the painter's imagination. The white curtains, the white sheets, the white shirt, and the white skin of his friend, all contrasted with the bright hectic flush on his cheek, and heightened the sinister effect; he

went away, hardly hoping.” And he who hardly hoped for another, what extent of hope had he for himself? From the poet's bed to the painter's studio is but a bound for the curious and eager mind. Keats, pitied and struck down by the hand of disease, lies in paradise compared with the spectacle that comes before us-genius weltering in its blood, self-destroyed because neglected.

Pass we to another vision! Amongst the indignant declaimers against the unjust sentence which criticism had passed on Keats, Shelley stood foremost. What added poignancy to indignation was the settled but unfounded conviction that the death of the youth had been mainly occasioned by wanton persecution. Anger found relief in song. Adonais: an Elegy on the Death of John Keats, is amongst the most impassioned of Shelley's verses. Give heed to the preface :

“John Keats died at Rome, of a consumption, in his twenty-fourth year, on the — day of — , 1821, and was buried in the romantic and lovely cemetery of the Protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now mouldering and desolate, which formed the circuit of ancient Rome. The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.

Reader, carry the accents in your ear, and accompany us to Leghorn. A few months only have elapsed. Shelley is on the shore. Keats no longer lives, but you will see that Shelley has not forgotten him. He BURIAL-PLACE OF KEATS AND SHELLEY. 269 sets sail for the gulf of Lerici, where he has his temporary home; he never reaches it. A body is washed ashore at Via Reggio. If the features are not to be recognised, there can be no doubt of the man who carries in his bosom the volume containing Lamia and Hyperion. The body of Shelley is burned, but the remains are carried— whither ? You will know by the description, “The cemetery is an open space among the ruins, covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place." There he lies ! Keats and he, the mourner and the mourned, almost touch!

September 17, 1849.

GROTE'S HISTORY OF GREECE.

MR. GROTE's history has yet arrived only at the close of the fourth century, B.C., and the fall of the Thirty Tyrants. Two of the six compartments in which he proposes, to use his own quaint phrase, “to exhaust the free life of collective Hellas,” still remain to be accomplished. But the history of Greece is written. Stirring events and great names are still to come; the romantic enterprise of Cyrus, and the retreat of the Ten Thousand, the elective trust of Thebes, and the chivalrous glories of her one great man. Demosthenes has yet to prove how vain is the divinest eloquence when poured to degenerate hearts. Agis and Cleomenes have yet to exhibit the spectacle, ever fraught with melancholy interest, of noble natures out of harmony with the present, and spending their energies in the vain attempt to turn back the stream of time, and call again into existence the feelings and the institutions of an irrevocable past. The monarchy of Philip is yet due to fate. Macedon is still to Greece what Russia, before Peter the Great, was to Europe—a half-unknown and barbarous land, full of latent energy and power, and waiting for the rise of a master mind to discern its embryo greatness, and turn its peasants into the unconquerable phalanx. Alexander must arise to carry forth with his victorious

« НазадПродовжити »