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Listen, starlight, listen, listen,
And hear my lullaby!
Oth' western wild,
Oth' western wild,
Notwithstanding your happiness and your recommendations, I hope I shall never marry ; though the most beautiful creature were waiting for me at the end of a journey or a walk; though the carpet were of silk, and the curtains of the morning clouds, the chairs and sofas stuffed with cygnet's down, the food manna, the wine beyond claret, the window opening on Winandermere, I should not feel, or rather my happiness should not be, so fine ; my solitude is sublime--for, instead of what I have described, there is a sublimity to welcome me home; the roaring of the
wind is my wife; and the stars through my window-panes are my children ; the mighty abstract Idea of Beauty in all things, I have, stifles the more divided and minute domestic happiness. An amiable wife and sweet children l contemplate as part of that Beauty, but I must have a thousand of those beautiful particles to fill up my heart. I feel more and more every day, as my imagination strengthens, that I do not live in this world alone, but in a thousand worlds. No sooner am I alone, than shapes of epic greatness are stationed around me, and serve my spirit the office which is equivalent to a King's Bodyguard : “then Tragedy with scepter'd pall comes sweeping by :” according to my state of mind, I am with Achilles shouting in the trenches, or with Theocritus in the vales of Sicily; or throw my whole being into Troilus, and, repeating those lines, “I wander like a lost soul upon the Stygian bank, staying for waftage,” I melt into the air with a voluptuousness so delicate, that I am content to be alone. Those things, combined with the opinion I have formed of the generality of women, who appear to me as children to whom I would rather give a sugar-plum than my time, form a barrier against matrimony which I rejoice in. I have written this that you might see that I have my share of the highest pleasures of life, and that, though I may choose to pass my days alone, I shall be no solitary ; you see there is nothing splenetic in all this. The only thing that can ever affect me personally for more than one short passing day, is any doubt about my powers for poetry : I seldom have any; and I look with hope to the nighing time when I shall have none. I am as happy as a man can be—that is, in myself; I should be happier if Tom were well, and if I knew you were passing pleasant days. Then I should be most enviable—with the yearning passion I have for the beautiful, connected and made one with the the ambition of my intellect. Think of my pleasure in solitude in comparison with my commerce with the world : there I am a child, there they do not know me, not even my most intimate acquaintance; I give into their feelings as though I were refraining from imitating a little child. Some think me middling, others silly, others foolish : every one thinks he sees my weak side against my will, when, in truth, it is with my will. I am content to be thought all this, because I have in my own breast so great a resource. This is one great reason why they like me so, because they can all show to advantage in a room, and eclipse (from a certain tact) one who is reckoned to be a good poet. I hope I am not here playing tricks “ to make the angels weep.” I think not; for I have not the least contempt for my species; and, though it may sound parodoxical, my greatest elevations of soul leave me every time more humbled. Enough of this, though, in your love for me, you will not think it enough.
Tom is rather more easy than he has been, but is still so nervous that I cannot speak to him of you ;-indeed it is the care I have had to keep his mind aloof from feelings too acute, that has made this letter so rambling. I did not like to write before him a letter he knew was to reach your hands; I cannot even now ask him for any message ; his heart speaks to you.
Be as happy as you can, and believe me, dear Brother and Sister, your anxious and affectionate Brother,
JOHN. This is my birth-day.
WELL WALK, Nov. 24th, 1818. My DEAR RICE,
Your amende honorable I must call “ un surcroit d'amitié," for I am not at all sensible of any thing but that you were unfortunately engaged, and I was unfortunately in a hurry. I completely understand your feeling in this mistake, and find in it that balance of comfort which remains after regretting your uneasiness. I have long made up my mind to take for granted the genuine-heartedness of my friends, notwithstanding any temporary ambiguousness in their behavior or their tongues—nothing of which, however, I had the least scent of this morning. I say completely understand ; for I am everlastingly getting my mind into such like painful trammels—and am even at this moment suffering under them in the case of a friend of ours. I will tell you two most unfortunate and parallel slips—it seems downright pre-intention : A friend says to me, “ Keats, I shall go and see Severn this week.”—“ Ah! (says I) you want him to take your portrait.” And again, “ Keats,” says a friend, “when will you
come to town again ?” “I will,” says I, “ let you have the MS. next week.” In both these cases I appeared to attribute an interested motive to each of my friends' questions—the first made him Aush, the second made him look angry :-—and yet I am innocent in both cases; my mind leapt over every interval, to what I saw was, per se, a pleasant subject with him. You see I have no allowances to make-you see how far I am from supposing you could show me any neglect. I very much regret the long time I have been obliged to exile from you; for I have one or two rather pleasant occasions to confer upon with you. What I have heard from George is favorable. I expect a letter from the settlement itself.
Your sincere friend,
JOHN KEATS. I cannot give any good news of Tom.
WENTWORTH PLACE, HAMPSTEAD, 18 Dec. 1818. MY DEAR WOODHOUSE,
I am greatly obliged to you. I must needs feel flattered by making an impression on a set of ladies. I should be content to do so by meretricious romance verse, if they alone, and not men, were to judge. I should like very much to know those ladies—though look here, Woodhouse-I have a new leaf to turn over: I must work; I must read; I must write. I am unable to afford time for new acquaintances. I am scarcely able to do my duty to those I have. Leave the matter to chance. But do not forget to give my remembrances to your cousin.
Yours most sincerely,
My DEAR REYNOLDS, . Believe me, I have rather rejoiced at your happiness than fretted at your silence. Indeed I am grieved, on your account, that I am not at the same time happy. But I conjure you to think, at present, of nothing but pleasure ; “Gather the rose,” &c., gorge the honey of life. I pity you as much that it cannot last for ever, as I do myself now drinking bitters. Give yourself
up to it-you cannot help it—and I have a consolation in thinking so. I never was in love, yet the voice and shape of a woman has haunted me these two days—at such a time when the relief, the feverish relief of poetry, seems a much less crime. This morning poetry has conquered—I have relapsed into those abstractions which are my only life-I feel escaped from a new, strange, and threatening sorrow, and I am thankful for it. There is an awful warmth about my heart, like a load of Immortality.
Poor Tom--that woman and poetry were ringing changes in my senses. Now I am, in comparison, happy. I am sensible this will distress you—you must forgive me. Had I known you would have set out so soon I would have sent you the “ Pot of Basil,” for I had copied it out ready. Here is a free translation of a Sonnet of Ronsard, which I think will please you. I have the loan of his works—they have great beauties.
“ Nature withheld Cassandra in the skies,
For more adornment, a full thousand years;
* The second sonnet in the "Amours de Cassandre :” she was a damosel of Blois—“ Ville de Blois-naissance de ma dame.”
“ Nature ornant Cassandre, qui deuoit
De sa douceur forcer les plus rebelles,