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honest zeal, and flaming forth in the right direction. Yet it would have been well for him to remember and indicate that amid his "school of dolts,” bearing the flag of Boileau, there had been some very strong and capable men, notably Dryden and Pope, who could do several things besides inlaying and clipping; nor could it be said that the beauty of the world had been wholly blinked by so pre-eminently descriptive a poet as Thomson; and, if we were to read Boileau—which few of us do now-a-days, and I daresay Keats was not one of the few—we should probably find that his “mottoes” were much less concerned with inlaying and clipping than with solid meaning and studious congruity-qualities not totally contemptible, but (be it acknowledged) very largely contemned by Keats in that first slender performance of his adolescence named "Poems, 1817."
It has been said that this volume hardly went beyond the circle of Keats's personal friends; nor do I think this statement can be far wrong, although one inquirer avers that the book was constantly alluded to in the prominent periodicals." The dictum of Keats himself stands thus: “It was read by some dozen of my friends, who liked it; and some dozen whom I was unacquainted with, who did not.” Shelley cannot have been among the friends who liked the volume, for he had recommended Keats not to give it to the press. At any rate the publishers, Messrs. Ollier, would after a very short while sell it no more. Their letter to George Keats—who seems to have been acting for John during the absence of the latter in the Isle of Wight or at Margate--is too amusing to be omitted :
“We regret that your brother ever requested us to publish his book, or that our opinion of its talent should have led us to acquiesce in undertaking it. We are, however, much obliged to you for relieving us from the unpleasant necessity of declining any further connexion with it, which we must have done, as we think the curiosity is satisfied and the sale has dropped. By far the greater number of persons who have purchased it from us have found fault with it in such plain terms that we have in many cases offered to take the book back rather than be annoyed with the ridicule which has time after time been showered upon it. In fact, it was only on Sunday last that we were under the mortification of having our own opinion of its merits flatly contradicted by a gentleman who told us he considered it 'no better than a take-in.' These are unpleasant imputations for any one in business to labour under ; but we should have borne them and concealed their existence from
had not the style of your note shown us that such delicacy would be quite thrown away.
We shall take means without delay for ascertaining the number of copies on hand, and you shall be informed accordingly.
“3 Welbeck Street, 29th April 1817."
I do not find that the after-fate of the " Poems" is recorded : probably they were handed over to Messrs. Taylor and Hessey, who undertook the publication of “Endymion."
I verses of Keats (as well as the later ones) contain
numerous allusions to Grecian mythology-Muses, Apollo, Pan, Narcissus, Endymion and Diana, &c. For the most part these early allusions are nothing more than tawdry conventionalisms; so indeed are some of the later ones, as for instance in the drama of “King Stephen," written in 1819, the schoolboy classicism of “2nd Captain
and we cannot discover that any more credit is due to Keats for dribbling out his tritenesses about Apollo and the Muses than to any Akenside, Mason, or Hayley, of them all. At times, however, there is a genuine tone of enjoyment in these utterances sufficient to persuade us that the subject had really taken possession of his mind, and that he could feel Grecian mythology, not merely as a convenient vehicle for rhetorical personifications, but as an ever-vital embodiment of ideas of beauty in forms of beauty. In the early and partly boyish poem, “I stood
tip-toe upon a little hill," a good deal of space is devoted to showing that classical myths are an outcome of eager sensitiveness to the lovely things of Nature : the tales of Psyche, Pan and Sirynx, Narcissus, are cited in confirmation—and finally Diana and Endymion, in the following lines :
" Where had he been from whose warm head outlew
That sweetest of all songs, that ever new,
Coming ever to bless
Where distant ships do seem to show their keels
Cynthia, I cannot tell the greater blisses
Readers often go at a skating-pace over passages of this kind, without very clearly realizing to themselves the gist of the whole matter. I will therefore put the thing into the most prosaic form, and say that what Keats substantially intimates here is as follows :—The inventor of the myth of Artemis and Endymion must have been a poet and lover, who, standing on the hill of Latmos, and hearing thence a sweet hymn wafted from the low-lying temple of Artemis, while the pure maiden-like moon was shining resplendently, felt a pang of pity for this loveless moon or Artemis, and invented for her a lover in the person of Endymion; and ever since then the myth has lent additional beauty to the effects, beautiful as in themselves they are, of moonlight. Without tying down Keats too rigidly to this view of the genesis of the myth, I may nevertheless point out that he wholly ignores as participants both the spirit of religious devoutness, and the device of allegorizing natural phænomena : the inventor is simply a poet and lover, who thinks it a world of pities that such a sweet maiden as Artemis should not have a lover sooner or later. Invention prompted by warmth of feeling is thus the sole motive-power recognized. The final phrase "Was there a poet born ?” may with