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" Then through thy temple wide, melodious swells
The sweet majestic tone of Maro's lyre;
Enraptured dwells,-not daring to respire,
6 'Tis awful silence then again,
Expectant stand the spheres;
Breathless the laurell’d peers,
Nor move, till ends the lofty strain,
6 Thou biddest Shakespere wave his hand,
And quickly forward spring
And each vibrates the string
“A silver trumpet Spenser blows,
And as its martial notes to silence fly,
A hymn in praise of spotless chastity.
“Next thy Tasso's ardent numbers
Float along the pleased air,
Rousing them from pleasure's lair :
“ But when thou joinest with the nine,
We listen here on earth ;
And charm the ear of evening fair,
We have chosen the above collocation of images for our first illustration, chiefly because it pairs well, as far as subject and mere command of language go, with another poem, which we give from an unpublished manuscript of Thomas Taylor, the translator of Plato, and which, besides being a fine example of passionate impetus and admirable harmony of thought, is very characteristic of the feelings and opinions of its eccentric author:
“ Ev'n dreadful Hyle's sea profound
And boils with rage no more ;
And stills its wild uproar.
“ And while through heaven the god sublime
Fast by his chariot run:
And hymns his parent Sun.
* That is, with his own proper fire, and with the fire of the other planets.
Ode by Thomas Taylor.
“ See ! as he comes, with general voice
And own him as their king.
And hills and valleys sing.
“ See ! while his beauteous glittering feet
Enchanting to the sight,
Exulting springs to light.
" Lo! as he comes, in Heaven's array,
Lifts high his scourge of fire.
Dread its avenging ire.
6. Hail ! crowned with light, creation's king !
And vindicate thy might;
And realms involved in night.”
In its phraseology and its separate images, this fine poem is about on a level with the foregoing “Ode :" but there is a charm in Taylor's effusion which is wholly wanting in the verses of Keats. Taylor believed what he was writing; he was, as most of our readers are aware, a light-worshipper, and was in this poem pouring forth real idolatry to the sun.
His feeling taught him secrets of the poet's art, which were not revealed to the lazy labour of Keats, in his lines about Apollo. The frequently repeated and splendidly effective “See!” was the true and inimitable suggestion of sincere emotion, as is proved by the otherwise inartificial character of the poem; the alliteration with which the poem abounds is evidently the unconscious effect of passion the music is occasionally exquisite; there are no more beautiful eight syllables in this respect in English poetry than those which constitute the second line of the eighth stanza ; and these are all
* A name of Apollo.
of them excellencies which have rarely been arrived at by a poet of the sensual school, however highly cultivated may have been his peculiar faculties.
The characteristic beauties of the sensual school are now so very generally appreciated, that we shall be doing the cause of English poetry the best service in our power by dwelling here almost exclusively upon its less obvious, though still more characteristic faults. Among the principal of these are, imperfect artistical construction, extreme literalness of expression, defective perception of true harmony, and, as a consequence of the last, unskilfulness in the choice and management of metres, and incapacity for the invention of them.
We know not of a single fine measure that is to be attributed to the poets of this order; on the other hand, they have produced a multiplicity of metres which are wholly wanting in law and meaning, and of which the existence can be accounted for only by supposing that the arrangement of rhymes, and of the varying numbers of feet in the lines, arising in the composition of the first few verses, because negligently fixed upon as the form of stanza for the whole poem. The only striking proof of the existence of true metrical power in Keats, seems to us to occur in the measure of a little, and almost unknown poem, called “ La belle Dame sans merci," which appeared first in one of Mr. Leigh Hunt's weekly publications, and is reprinted now in the “ Remains.” This poem is, indeed, among the most mark-worthy of the productions of Keats; besides being good and original in metre, it is simple, passionate, sensuous, and, above all, truly musical.
Concerning the extreme self-consciousness which characterized Keats, and shewed itself in his poems, we have only space to remark, that this quality was the chief cause of the excess of sense over sentiment, of which we have complained, and to adduce the following additional documentary proof of the existence of this self-consciousness in Keats' habits of thought :-“ I think a little change has taken place in my intellect lately. I cannot bear to be uninterested or unemployed ; I, who for a long time have been addicted to passiveness. Nothing is finer for the purposes of great productions than a very gradual ripening of the intellectual powers. As an instance of this, observe, I sat down yesterday to read King Lear once again. The thing appeared to demand the prologue of a sonnet; I wrote it, and began to read.”
We have already stated our belief that this consciousness is a stage through which the modern mind must pass on its road to excellence; it is not, therefore, the less a defect while it exists. Keats died before he had outgrown this stage, as he certainly must have done, had he lived a few years more. As it was,
best of Keats' poetry, by reason of the quality in question, falls considerably short of the highest beauty, which, whether it be sweet or severe, is always the spontaneous, or unconscious obedience of spirit to law : when the obedience is unopposed, sweetness results, when it meets with opposition, severity is expressed : witness, for example, the “Venus de Medicis,” and the “Niobe.” The highest, the only true beauty, is thus the beauty of holiness; and since obedience is essential humility, beauty, by becoming proud and self-conscious, reverses its own nature, and is not the Iess essential deformity for its assumption of the shape of an angel of light.
It remains for us formally to introduce to our readers the “ Remains,” which occupy the bulk of the second of the two little volumes before us. Altogether they will not add to the very high reputation of Keats. The tragedy called “ Otho the Great,” is the most important of these productions. It contains extremely little that is truly dramatic; and that little wants originality, being evidently imitated, even to the rhythms of the separate lines, from Shakspeare, and more often from that bad, but very tempting model, Fletcher. There is, however, one passage that strikes us as being finer, in its peculiar way, than
anything in the hitherto published writings of Keats. We quote it the more readily, because it stands almost alone, and constitutes the chief right possessed by the tragedy to the time and attention of our readers; for, highly interesting as the work must be to students of poetry, and of the poetical character, we are bound to confess that, on the whole, it exhibits a strange dearth even of the author's common excellencies.
The Prince Ludolph, driven mad by the sudden discovery of the guilt of his bride, enters the banquet-room in which the bridal party is assembled :
“ A splendid company. Rare beauties here;
I should have Orphean lips and Plato's fancy,