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and the subject of the present article; to what school of poetry can they be assigned, for what poetical characteristics have they in common? But dissimilar in taste and feeling, and modes of thought, as they are, there is much that is alike in their history, much from which a deep lesson may be drawn, a lesson alike of warning and of encouragement for the future poet. Few among these writers but had to pass through a hard and severe struggle. There was no club of learned men, no coterie of admiring ladies to push them into notice; no literary noblemen to take them by the hand; no wealthy Macænas to encourage the young poet by rewards more substantial than 'empty praise.' And it is well that it was so,' may our readers reply, recollecting the mob of gentlemen who wrote with ease,' of Queen Anne's day, and the Hayleys and the Merrys of a later time. And so far it was well we agree; but then our earlier, our real poets, received, at least, a guerdon in the admiration of their contemporaries - in some cases popular applause, in others an audience fit though few ;' but these—with the single exception of him, who in point of genius must be placed lowest among them, Moore—sang to an unwilling, a careless, even a scoffing public. Crabbe, unable to find a purchaser for his first work; Wordsworth and Coleridge greeted by a chorus of ridicule that pursued them for more than a generation ; Southey fain to turn from his delightful ballads to prose composition; Byron laughed at by the 'Edinburgh,' and denounced in the Quarterly ; Shelley goaded on in his unhappy path by abuse, not so much of his infidel opinions, as of his sweet poetry; and Keats, in despair at the slow appreciation of his splendid works by the public, and the bitter scorn of his critics, requesting-but with no prophetic spirit-the words, 'Here lies one whose name was written in water,' to be inscribed on his tomb. Alas! that the gifted young poet had not lived, like him, the most abused of all the gifted, Wordsworth, to see the sentence reversed, and to enjoy in a happy and revered old age, that homage which was so long denied him !
Thirty years have passed away since the wild and dreamy, but magnificent poetical romance of 'Endymion' appeared, startling the critics who had listlessly passed over the little volume of poems, Keats's first offering, which had failed to impress on their minds the promise it displayed, or the importance of encouraging a genius so early developed. Keats sank into an untimely grave, weary and disappointed; but his name was not ' written in water.' His poems have been gradually extending their fame, and now, Mr. Milnes, himself a poet of no ordinary kind, has in the interesting volumes before us, collected toge
whot offering, whic, or the imprank into an in
ther from the accounts of friends, and his own correspondence, all that can illustrate the career, short, indeed, as that was, of one who, in his early promise as well as in his early death, greatly resembled Chatterton, but whose poems, unlike his, have unquestionably exercised an abiding influence on the genius of some of our best writers.
Like the majority of our poets, John Keats belonged, by birth, to the middle classes. His father was son-in-law to Mr. Jennings, an extensive livery stable keeper in Moorfields, and lost his life by a fall from his horse, when John, the eldest of four children, was only nine years old. Our young poet was born in October, 1795; and, although early distinguished for deep feeling, pugnacity, and 'a passionate sensibility which exhibited itself in the strongest contrasts,' he gave no indications of poetical genius, nor exhibited anything of that mental precociousness, which parents and tutors so eagerly welcome as a sign of unquestionable intellectual superiority, although the history of genius goes far to disprove that opinion. After his early childhood had passed, he was sent to Mr. Clarke's school at Enfield, where he became a tolerable proficient in French and Latin. Until the last year of his residence there, he did not distinguish himself as a learner, but was viewed by his schoolfellows as likely to succeed rather in a military or some such active sphere of life, than in the peaceful arena of literature. How strange, that one of the most imaginative of our poets-one, whose tendencies led him so to wander in a very dreamland, should give no indications of that bias, which, as we shall ere long see, exercised an irresistible influence over him !
As the period for leaving school approached, ‘his intellectual ambition suddenly developed itself; and he determined to carry off all the first prizes in literature, and he succeeded : but the object was attained only by a total sacrifice of his amusements and favourite exercises.' This is worthy of serious notice by the many teachers who confound facility of learning, a mere rotememory, with the possession of those higher qualities, without which the faculty of remembrance is of little value. Many a boy who has grown up quite a common-place man, delighted his schoolmaster by his facility of learning; while Keats, nigh upon fourteen years of age- perhaps past - remained at home, even on the half-holidays, merely translating those easy authors, Virgil and Fenelon! Stranger still, he does not appear to have been a sedulous reader of books; but ' Robinson Crusoe,' and 'Marmontel's Incas of Peru,' impressed him strongly, and he must have met with Shakespere." It were to be wished, in
it was sur
ver, produces rious product desired, from
the case of Keats, that he had been turned wild’into a large library, instead of being kept to school-library reading. Thus were our earlier great men formed ; thus was Milton's mighty genius nourished; and few can tell how such apparently vague and desultory reading in early youth, strengthens and expands the mind,-how the huge folio seems to ask, as 'a grown-up man's book,' the child's utmost attention, just as its size taxes his utmost strength.
In 1810, Keats lost his mother, left school, and was apprenticed, though it does not appear whether his wishes were consulted on the subject, to Mr. Hammond, a surgeon, at Edmonton. The vicinity to Enfield enabled him still to keep up his connexion with Mr. Clarke's family, and his friendship with the son, Charles Cowden Clarke, from whom he constantly borrowed books. Still, even when more than sixteen, so little expectation was formed of the direction his ability would take, that when, in the beginning of 1812, he asked for Spenser's
Fairy Queen,' Mr. Clarke remembers that it was supposed in the family that he merely desired, from a boyish ambition, to study an illustrious production of literature. The effect, however, produced on him by this great work was electrical :'-—
• A new world of delight seemed revealed to him : ‘he ramped through the scenes of the romance,' writes Mr. Clarke, like a young horse turned into a spring meadow :' he revelled in the gorgeousness of the imagery, as in the pleasures of a sense fresh-found: the force and felicity of an epithet (such for example as—' the sea-shouldering whale') would light up his countenance with ecstacy, and some fine touch of description would seem to strike on the secret chords of his soul, and generate countless harmonies. This in fact was not only his open presentation at the Court of the Muses, (for the lines in imitation of Spenser,
"Now Morning from her orient chamber camé,
And her first footsteps touched a verdant hill,'' etc., are the earliest known verses of his composition,) but it was the great impulse of his poetic life, and the stream of his inspiration remained long coloured by the rich soil over which it first had flowed. Nor will the just critic of the maturer poems of Keats fail to trace to the influence of the study of Spenser much that at first appears forced and fantastical, both in idea and in expression, and discover that precisely those defects which are commonly attributed to an extravagant originality may be distinguished as proceeding from a too indiscriminate reverence for a great but unequal model. In the scanty records which are left of the adolescent years in which Keats became a poet, a Sonneton Spenser, the date of which I have not been able to trace, itself illustrates this view:
Spenser! a jealous honourer of thine,
This seems, indeed, to have been the occasion of revealing to him his strong poetic tendencies; and the study of Chaucer, which followed, exercised, we think, unquestionably, an almost equal influence on his poetical character. The very opening of the first poem in his little volume, published in 1817, is as true to Chaucer in its minute touches of natural scenery, as it is in its rhythm, and varied cadence:
•I stood tiptoe upon a little hill,
The air was cooling, and so very still,
Indeed, the sonnet written at the end of Chaucer's sweetest, but, unfortunately, least-known poem, The Floure and the Lefe,' proves the depth of the young poet's worship of that bard, who first revelled amid the green beauty of English woodland scenery, and so heartily sang its praises.
We regret that so few memorials can be gathered of Keats's succeeding years. It would have been both interesting and instructive to trace the self-cultivation of the young poet, whose newly-found gift seems to have been an equal surprise to himself, and to his friends. The epistle addressed to his brother George, in 1816, in his first volume, shows that visions of future fame had already become familiar to him; and, more
pleasant still,—for the reward was present, he had tasted the living pleasures of the bard ;' and he goes on in a strain that reminds us of George Withers, to tell of the joy, the sudden glow
- when nought they see
In water, earth, or air, but poesy ;' and the relief from pain,
• When some bright thought has darted through my brain,
Through all that day I've felt a greater pleasure,
In 1815, his apprenticeship terminated, and he removed to London, for the purpose of walking the hospitals. Here he was introduced by his friend, Mr. Cowden Clarke, to some literary friends, among whom was Leigh Hunt. To him, the young poet addressed a laudatory sonnet, on the day be left his prison, and from henceforth, Leigh Hunt's house, and library, and heart, were open to him. In many respects, the friendship of Leigh Hunt was beneficial. A warm friend, and most kind. hearted man, Keats was in no danger, in his society, of imbibing that spirit of querulous misanthropy, which the genius and example of Byron had made fashionable. An earnest admirer, indeed worshipper, of our fine old poets, and distinguished, too, by much delicacy of taste and feeling-Leigh Hunt, by his sound criticism, as well as extensive reading in this department, was well qualified to aid an enthusiastic young poet in his studies. But then, alas ! Leigh Hunt openly avowed an unlimited scepticism ; and the young man of twenty, just afloat on the waves of life,—the earnest mind, just beginning, too, to feel those anxious thoughts, those importunate questionings, as to the great mystery of the world around him, and the greater mystery of himself,—was taught to look upon life as a mere passing show; and to fancy that, somehow or other, and somewhere or other, there might be an Elysium for 'souls of poets, dead and gone,' and that, perchance, the loud pæans of praise that would follow their memory, might echo even to their shadowy abode.
Keats was now, and probably for the first time in his life, in literary society. Hazlitt, Shelley, Haydon, Godwin, and Mr. Ollier, a young poet, as well as bookseller, and 'who, out of sheer admiration, offered to publish a volume of his productions, were among his intimate friends; and perhaps the happiest hours of his life were those when engaged in preparing this little book, the beloved first-born of so great a genius, for the