Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

  • Feb: writing poetry, mainly influenced by Spenser
  • March: dresser for surgeon, Guy’s Hospital, London; has some immature poetic pretenses; writes a flimsy opening for a chivalric poem, Calidore; dresses in a somewhat pretentiously artistic, somewhat Byronic way—the persona of a poet; writes Woman! When I behold thee . . .
  • April: takes poetry seriously, April onwards; meets Severn, date uncertain, likely this spring, through his brother, George
  • May: first published poem, O Solitude; Abbey becomes sole trustee for family estate
  • June: writing sonnets; poem: To one who has been long in city pent
  • July: qualifies as apothecary
  • Aug-Sept: holidays at Margate with brother Tom; begins some obsession with poetic greatness
  • Aug: poem: To My Brother George
  • Sept: poem: To Charles Cowden Clarke: lives at Dean Street, Southwark
  • Oct: writes poem Chapman’s Homer; on the prospect of meeting Leigh Hunt: will be an Era in my existence; very keen to meet Men who in the admiration of Poetry do not jumble together Shakespeare and Darwin; meets Hunt via Clarke, who calls it a red-letter day: Hunt says he becomes intimate on the spot with Keats; meets Reynolds and glorious Haydon
  • Oct-Dec: poems: Sleep and Poetry; I stood tip-toe
  • Nov: lives 76 Cheapside, London; I particularly want to look into the beautiful Scenery—for poetical purposes; Haydon says he is going to send some of Keats’s poetry to Wordsworth—Keats is flabbergasted;poem: Great spirits now on earth are sojourning
  • Dec: listed as certified apothecary; Haydon sketches Keats and makes life-mask; publicly noted as a new young poet, with Chapman’s Homer published; drops medical career, which Abbey calls foolhardy; poems: To G. A. W., To Kosciusko, Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition, perhaps On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt and To the Ladies Who Saw Me Crown’d
  • 1816: Spa Field Riots, London; Byron leaves England (April) to avoid scandal, lives in Italy; Byron publishes Canto III of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage; Beau Brummel leaves England to avoid scandal; Elgin Marbles purchased by the nation; Shelley publishes Alastor; Hunt publishes Rimini; Coleridge publishes Christabel; Kubla Khan; the Pains of Sleep; birth of Charlotte Brontë; Vauxhall Bridge opens; very unfavorable weather, some crop failure, some famine (a.k.a. The Year Without a Summer ); the year of the Great Re-coinage to reestablish currency stability; Humphry Davy tests lamp for coal mining; divorce abolished in France; in London, The Society for the Promotion of Permanent and Universal Peace established
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Calidore: A Fragment

  • Young Calidore is paddling o’er the lake;
  • His healthful spirit eager and awake
  • To feel the beauty of a silent eve,
  • Which seem’d full loath this happy world to leave;
  • The light dwelt o’er the scene so lingeringly.
  • He bares his forehead to the cool blue sky,
  • And smiles at the far clearness all around,
  • Until his heart is well nigh over wound,
  • And turns for calmness to the pleasant green
  • Of easy slopes, and shadowy trees that lean
  • So elegantly o’er the waters’ brim
  • And show their blossoms trim.
  • Scarce can his clear and nimble eye-sight follow
  • The freaks, and dartings of the black-wing’d swallow,
  • Delighting much, to see it half at rest,
  • Dip so refreshingly its wings, and breast
  • ’Gainst the smooth surface, and to mark anon,
  • The widening circles into nothing gone.
  • And now the sharp keel of his little boat
  • Comes up with ripple, and with easy float,
  • And glides into a bed of water lillies:
  • Broad leav’d are they and their white canopies
  • Are upward turn’d to catch the heavens’ dew.
  • Near to a little island’s point they grew;
  • Whence Calidore might have the goodliest view
  • Of this sweet spot of earth. The bowery shore
  • Went off in gentle windings to the hoar
  • And light blue mountains: but no breathing man
  • With a warm heart, and eye prepared to scan
  • Nature’s clear beauty, could pass lightly by
  • Objects that look’d out so invitingly
  • On either side. These, gentle Calidore
  • Greeted, as he had known them long before.
  • The sidelong view of swelling leafiness,
  • Which the glad setting sun in gold doth dress;
  • Whence ever and anon the jay outsprings,
  • And scales upon the beauty of its wings.
  • The lonely turret, shatter’d, and outworn,
  • Stands venerably proud; too proud to mourn
  • Its long lost grandeur: fir trees grow around,
  • Aye dropping their hard fruit upon the ground.
  • The little chapel with the cross above
  • Upholding wreaths of ivy; the white dove,
  • That on the window spreads his feathers light,
  • And seems from purple clouds to wing its flight.
  • Green tufted islands casting their soft shades
  • Across the lake; sequester’d leafy glades,
  • That through the dimness of their twilight show
  • Large dock leaves, spiral foxgloves, or the glow
  • Of the wild cat’s eyes, or the silvery stems
  • Of delicate birch trees, or long grass which hems
  • A little brook. The youth had long been viewing
  • These pleasant things, and heaven was bedewing
  • The mountain flowers, when his glad senses caught
  • A trumpet’s silver voice. Ah! it was fraught
  • With many joys for him: the warder’s ken
  • Had found white coursers prancing in the glen:
  • Friends very dear to him he soon will see;
  • So pushes off his boat most eagerly,
  • And soon upon the lake he skims along,
  • Deaf to the nightingale’s first under-song;
  • Nor minds he the white swans that dream so sweetly:
  • His spirit flies before him so completely.
  • And now he turns a jutting point of land,
  • Whence may be seen the castle gloomy, and grand:
  • Nor will a bee buzz round two swelling peaches,
  • Before the point of his light shallop reaches
  • Those marble steps that through the water dip:
  • Now over them he goes with hasty trip,
  • And scarcely stays to ope the folding doors:
  • Anon he leaps along the oaken floors
  • Of halls and corridors.
  • Delicious sounds! those little bright-eyed things
  • That float about the air on azure wings,
  • Had been less heartfelt by him than the clang
  • Of clattering hoofs; into the court he sprang,
  • Just as two noble steeds, and palfreys twain,
  • Were slanting out their necks with loosened rein;
  • While from beneath the threat’ning portcullis
  • They brought their happy burthens. What a kiss,
  • What gentle squeeze he gave each lady’s hand!
  • How tremblingly their delicate ancles spann’d!
  • Into how sweet a trance his soul was gone,
  • While whisperings of affection
  • Made him delay to let their tender feet
  • Come to the earth; with an incline so sweet
  • From their low palfreys o’er his neck they bent
  • And whether there were tears of languishment,
  • Or that the evening dew had pearl’d their tresses,
  • He feels a moisture on his cheek, and blesses
  • With lips that tremble, and with glistening eye,
  • All the soft luxury
  • That nestled in his arms. A dimpled hand,
  • Fair as some wonder out of fairy land,
  • Hung from his shoulder like the drooping flowers
  • Of whitest cassia, fresh from summer showers:
  • And this he fondled with his happy cheek
  • As if for joy he would no further seek;
  • When the kind voice of good Sir Clerimond
  • Came to his ear, like something from beyond
  • His present being: so he gently drew
  • His warm arms, thrilling now with pulses new,
  • From their sweet thrall, and forward gently bending,
  • Thank’d heaven that his joy was never ending;
  • While ’gainst his forehead he devoutly press’d
  • A hand heaven made to succour the distress’d;
  • A hand that from the world’s bleak promontory
  • Had lifted Calidore for deeds of glory.
  • Amid the pages, and the torches’ glare,
  • There stood a knight, patting the flowing hair
  • Of his proud horse’s mane: he was withal
  • A man of elegance, and stature tall:
  • So that the waving of his plumes would be
  • High as the berries of a wild ash tree,
  • Or as the winged cap of Mercury.
  • His armour was so dexterously wrought
  • In shape, that sure no living man had thought
  • It hard, and heavy steel: but that indeed
  • It was some glorious form, some splendid weed,
  • In which a spirit new come from the skies
  • Might live, and show itself to human eyes.
  • ’Tis the far-fam’d, the brave Sir Gondibert,
  • Said the good man to Calidore alert;
  • While the young warrior with a step of grace
  • Came up, — a courtly smile upon his face,
  • And mailed hand held out, ready to greet
  • The large-eyed wonder, and ambitious heat
  • Of the aspiring boy; who as he led
  • Those smiling ladies, often turned his head
  • To admire the visor arched so gracefully
  • Over a knightly brow; while they went by
  • The lamps that from the high-roof’d hall were pendent,
  • And gave the steel a shining quite transcendent.
  • Soon in a pleasant chamber they are seated;
  • The sweet-lipp’d ladies have already greeted
  • All the green leaves that round the window clamber,
  • To show their purple stars, and bells of amber.
  • Sir Gondibert has doff’d his shining steel,
  • Gladdening in the free, and airy feel
  • Of a light mantle; and while Clerimond
  • Is looking round about him with a fond,
  • And placid eye, young Calidore is burning
  • To hear of knightly deeds, and gallant spurning
  • Of all unworthiness; and how the strong of arm
  • Kept off dismay, and terror, and alarm
  • From lovely woman: while brimful of this,
  • He gave each damsel’s hand so warm a kiss,
  • And had such manly ardour in his eye,
  • That each at other look’d half staringly;
  • And then their features started into smiles
  • Sweet as blue heavens o’er enchanted isles.
  • Softly the breezes from the forest came,
  • Softly they blew aside the taper’s flame;
  • Clear was the song from Philomel’s far bower;
  • Grateful the incense from the lime-tree flower;
  • Mysterious, wild, the far heard trumpet’s tone;
  • Lovely the moon in ether, all alone:
  • Sweet too the converse of these happy mortals,
  • As that of busy spirits when the portals
  • Are closing in the west; or that soft humming
  • We hear around when Hesperus is coming.
  • Sweet be their sleep.
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Woman, when I behold thee flippant, vain

  • Woman! when I behold thee flippant, vain,
  • Inconstant, childish, proud, and full of fancies;
  • Without that modest softening that enhances
  • The downcast eye, repentant of the pain
  • That its mild light creates to heal again:
  • E’en then, elate, my spirit leaps, and prances,
  • E’en then my soul with exultation dances
  • For that to love, so long, I’ve dormant lain:
  • But when I see thee meek, and kind, and tender,
  • Heavens! how desperately do I adore
  • Thy winning graces;—to be thy defender
  • I hotly burn—to be a Calidore—
  • A very Red Cross Knight—a stout Leander—
  • Might I be loved by thee like these of yore.
  • Light feet, dark violet eyes, and parted hair;
  • Soft dimpled hands, white neck, and creamy breast,
  • Are things on which the dazzled senses rest
  • Till the fond, fixed eyes forget they stare.
  • From such fine pictures, heavens! I cannot dare
  • To turn my admiration, though unpossess’d
  • They be of what is worthy,—though not drest
  • In lovely modesty, and virtues rare.
  • Yet these I leave as thoughtless as a lark;
  • These lures I straight forget,—e’en ere I dine,
  • Or thrice my palate moisten: but when I mark
  • Such charms with mild intelligences shine,
  • My ear is open like a greedy shark,
  • To catch the tunings of a voice divine.
  • Ah! who can e’er forget so fair a being?
  • Who can forget her half retiring sweets?
  • God! she is like a milk-white lamb that bleats
  • For man’s protection. Surely the All-seeing,
  • Who joys to see us with his gifts agreeing,
  • Will never give him pinions, who intreats
  • Such innocence to ruin,—who vilely cheats
  • A dove-like bosom. In truth there is no freeing
  • One’s thoughts from such a beauty; when I hear
  • A lay that once I saw her hand awake,
  • Her form seems floating palpable, and near;
  • Had I e’er seen her from an arbour take
  • A dewy flower, oft would that hand appear,
  • And o’er my eyes the trembling moisture shake.
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O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell

  • O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
  • Let it not be among the jumbled heap
  • Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
  • Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
  • Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
  • May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
  • ’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
  • Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
  • But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
  • Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
  • Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
  • Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
  • Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
  • When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
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To one who has been long in city pent

  • To one who has been long in city pent,
  • ’Tis very sweet to look into the fair
  • And open face of heaven, — to breathe a prayer
  • Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
  • Who is more happy, when, with heart’s content,
  • Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair
  • Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair
  • And gentle tale of love and languishment?
  • Returning home at evening, with an ear
  • Catching the notes of Philomel, — an eye
  • Watching the sailing cloudlet’s bright career,
  • He mourns that day so soon has glided by:
  • E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear
  • That falls through the clear ether silently.
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To My Brother George [1]

  • Many the wonders I this day have seen:
  • The sun, when first he kist away the tears
  • That fill’d the eyes of morn; — the laurel’d peers
  • Who from the feathery gold of evening lean; —
  • The ocean with its vastness, its blue green,
  • Its ships, its rocks, its caves, its hopes, its fears, —
  • Its voice mysterious, which whoso hears
  • Must think on what will be, and what has been.
  • E’en now, dear George, while this for you I write,
  • Cynthia is from her silken curtains peeping
  • So scantly, that it seems her bridal night,
  • And she her half-discover’d revels keeping.
  • But what, without the social thought of thee,
  • Would be the wonders of the sky and sea?
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To Charles Cowden Clarke

  • Oft have you seen a swan superbly frowning,
  • He slants his neck beneath the waters bright
  • So silently, it seems a beam of light
  • Come from the Galaxy anon he sports, —
  • With outspread wings the Naiad Zephyr courts,
  • Or ruffles all the surface of the lake
  • In striving from its crystal face to take
  • Some diamond water drops, and them to treasure
  • In milky nest, and sip them off at leisure.
  • But not a moment can he there insure them,
  • Nor to such downy rest can he allure them;
  • For down they rush as though they would be free,
  • And drop like hours into eternity.
  • Just like that bird am I in loss of time,
  • Whene’er I venture on the stream of rhyme;
  • With shatter’d boat, oar snapt, and canvass rent,
  • I slowly sail, scarce knowing my intent;
  • Still scooping up the water with my fingers,
  • In which a trembling diamond never lingers.
  • By this, friend Charles, you may full plainly see
  • Why I have never penn’d a line to thee
  • Because my thoughts were never free, and clear,
  • And little fit to please a classic ear;
  • Because my wine was of too poor a savour
  • For one whose palate gladdens in the flavour
  • Of sparkling Helicon — small good it were
  • To take him to a desert rude, and bare,
  • Who had on Baiae’s shore reclin’d at ease,
  • While Tasso’s page was floating in a breeze
  • That gave soft music from Armida’s bowers,
  • Mingled with fragrance from her rarest flowers
  • Small good to one who had by Mulla’s stream
  • Fondled the maidens with the breasts of cream;
  • Who had beheld Belphoebe in a brook,
  • And lovely Una in a leafy nook,
  • And Archimago leaning o’er his book
  • Who had of all that’s sweet tasted, and seen,
  • From silv’ry ripple, up to beauty’s queen;
  • From the sequester’d haunts of gay Titania,
  • To the blue dwelling of divine Urania
  • One, who, of late, had ta’en sweet forest walks
  • With him who elegantly chats, and talks —
  • The wrong’d Libertas, — who has told you stories
  • Of troops chivalrous prancing through a city,
  • And tearful ladies made for love, and pity
  • With many else which I have never known.
  • Thus have I thought; and days on days have flown
  • Slowly, or rapidly — unwilling still
  • For you to try my dull, unlearned quill.
  • Nor should I now, but that I’ve known you long;
  • That you first taught me all the sweets of song
  • The grand, the sweet, the terse, the free, the fine;
  • What swell’d with pathos, and what right divine
  • Spenserian vowels that elope with ease,
  • And float along like birds o’er summer seas;
  • Miltonian storms, and more, Miltonian tenderness;
  • Michael in arms, and more, meek Eve’s fair slenderness.
  • Who read for me the sonnet swelling loudly
  • Up to its climax and then dying proudly?
  • Who found for me the grandeur of the ode,
  • Growing, like Atlas, stronger from its load?
  • Who let me taste that more than cordial dram,
  • The sharp, the rapier-pointed epigram?
  • Shew’d me that epic was of all the king,
  • Round, vast, and spanning all like Saturn’s ring?
  • You too upheld the veil from Clio’s beauty,
  • And pointed out the patriot’s stern duty;
  • The might of Alfred, and the shaft of Tell;
  • The hand of Brutus, that so grandly fell
  • Upon a tyrant’s head. Ah! had I never seen,
  • Or known your kindness, what might I have been?
  • What my enjoyments in my youthful years,
  • Bereft of all that now my life endears?
  • And can I e’er these benefits forget?
  • And can I e’er repay the friendly debt?
  • No, doubly no; — yet should these rhymings please,
  • I shall roll on the grass with two-fold ease
  • For I have long time been my fancy feeding
  • With hopes that you would one day think the reading
  • Of my rough verses not an hour misspent;
  • Should it e’er be so, what a rich content!
  • Some weeks have pass’d since last I saw the spires
  • In lucent Thames reflected — warm desires
  • And morning shadows streaking into slimness
  • Across the lawny fields, and pebbly water;
  • To mark the time as they grow broad, and shorter;
  • To feel the air that plays about the hills,
  • And sips its freshness from the little rills;
  • To see high, golden corn wave in the light
  • When Cynthia smiles upon a summer’s night,
  • And peers among the cloudlet’s jet and white,
  • As though she were reclining in a bed
  • Of bean blossoms, in heaven freshly shed —
  • No sooner had I stepp’d into these pleasures
  • Than I began to think of rhymes and measures
  • The air that floated by me seem’d to say
  • Write! thou wilt never have a better day.
  • And so I did. When many lines I’d written,
  • Though with their grace I was not oversmitten,
  • Yet, as my hand was warm, I thought I’d better
  • Trust to my feelings, and write you a letter.
  • Such an attempt required an inspiration
  • Of peculiar sort, — a consummation; —
  • Which, had I felt, these scribblings might have been
  • Verses from which the soul would never wean
  • But many days have past since last my heart
  • Was warm’d luxuriously by divine Mozart;
  • By Arne delighted, or by Handel madden’d;
  • Or by the song of Erin pierc’d and sadden’d
  • What time you were before the music sitting,
  • And the rich notes to each sensation fitting;
  • Since I have walk’d with you through shady lanes
  • That freshly terminate in open plains,
  • And revel’d in a chat that ceased not
  • When at night-fall among your books we got
  • No, nor when supper came, nor after that, —
  • Nor when reluctantly I took my hat;
  • No, nor till cordially you shook my hand
  • Mid-way between our homes — your accents bland
  • Still sounded in my ears, when I no more
  • Could hear your footsteps touch the grav’ly floor.
  • Sometimes I lost them, and then found again;
  • You chang’d the footpath for the grassy plain.
  • That well you know to honour — “ Life’s very toys
  • With him, ” said I, “ will take a pleasant charm;
  • It cannot be that ought will work him harm.
  • These thoughts now come o’er me with all their might —
  • Again I shake your hand, — friend Charles, good night.
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On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

  • Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
  • And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
  • Round many western islands have I been
  • Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
  • Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
  • That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
  • Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
  • Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
  • Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
  • When a new planet swims into his ken;
  • Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
  • He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
  • Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
  • Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
🗙

Sleep and Poetry

“As I lay in my bed slepe full unmete
Was unto me, but why that I ne might
Rest I ne wist, for there n’as erthly wight
[As I suppose] had more of hertis ese
Than I, for I n’ad sickness nor disese.”

Chaucer

  • What is more gentle than a wind in summer?
  • What is more soothing than the pretty hummer
  • That stays one moment in an open flower,
  • And buzzes cheerily from bower to bower?
  • What is more tranquil than a musk-rose blowing
  • In a green island, far from all men’s knowing?
  • More healthful than the leafiness of dales?
  • More secret than a nest of nightingales?
  • More serene than Cordelia’s countenance?
  • More full of visions than a high romance?
  • What, but thee Sleep? Soft closer of our eyes!
  • Low murmurer of tender lullabies!
  • Light hoverer around our happy pillows!
  • Wreather of poppy buds, and weeping willows!
  • Silent entangler of a beauty’s tresses!
  • Most happy listener! when the morning blesses
  • Thee for enlivening all the cheerful eyes
  • That glance so brightly at the new sun-rise.
  • But what is higher beyond thought than thee?
  • Fresher than berries of a mountain tree?
  • More strange, more beautiful, more smooth, more regal,
  • Than wings of swans, than doves, than dim-seen eagle?
  • What is it? And to what shall I compare it?
  • It has a glory, and nought else can share it:
  • The thought thereof is awful, sweet, and holy,
  • Chacing away all worldliness and folly;
  • Coming sometimes like fearful claps of thunder,
  • Or the low rumblings earth’s regions under;
  • And sometimes like a gentle whispering
  • Of all the secrets of some wond’rous thing
  • That breathes about us in the vacant air;
  • So that we look around with prying stare,
  • Perhaps to see shapes of light, aerial lymning,
  • And catch soft floatings from a faint-heard hymning;
  • To see the laurel wreath, on high suspended,
  • That is to crown our name when life is ended.
  • Sometimes it gives a glory to the voice,
  • And from the heart up-springs, rejoice! rejoice!
  • Sounds which will reach the Framer of all things,
  • And die away in ardent mutterings.
  • No one who once the glorious sun has seen,
  • And all the clouds, and felt his bosom clean
  • For his great Maker’s presence, but must know
  • What ’tis I mean, and feel his being glow:
  • Therefore no insult will I give his spirit,
  • By telling what he sees from native merit.
  • O Poesy! for thee I hold my pen
  • That am not yet a glorious denizen
  • Of thy wide heaven—Should I rather kneel
  • Upon some mountain-top until I feel
  • A glowing splendour round about me hung,
  • And echo back the voice of thine own tongue?
  • O Poesy! for thee I grasp my pen
  • That am not yet a glorious denizen
  • Of thy wide heaven; yet, to my ardent prayer,
  • Yield from thy sanctuary some clear air,
  • Smoothed for intoxication by the breath
  • Of flowering bays, that I may die a death
  • Of luxury, and my young spirit follow
  • The morning sun-beams to the great Apollo
  • Like a fresh sacrifice; or, if I can bear
  • The o’erwhelming sweets, ’twill bring to me the fair
  • Visions of all places: a bowery nook
  • Will be elysium—an eternal book
  • Whence I may copy many a lovely saying
  • About the leaves, and flowers—about the playing
  • Of nymphs in woods, and fountains; and the shade
  • Keeping a silence round a sleeping maid;
  • And many a verse from so strange influence
  • That we must ever wonder how, and whence
  • It came. Also imaginings will hover
  • Round my fire-side, and haply there discover
  • Vistas of solemn beauty, where I’d wander
  • In happy silence, like the clear meander
  • Through its lone vales; and where I found a spot
  • Of awfuller shade, or an enchanted grot,
  • Or a green hill o’erspread with chequered dress
  • Of flowers, and fearful from its loveliness,
  • Write on my tablets all that was permitted,
  • All that was for our human senses fitted.
  • Then the events of this wide world I’d seize
  • Like a strong giant, and my spirit teaze
  • Till at its shoulders it should proudly see
  • Wings to find out an immortality.
  • Stop and consider! life is but a day;
  • A fragile dew-drop on its perilous way
  • From a tree’s summit; a poor Indian’s sleep
  • While his boat hastens to the monstrous steep
  • Of Montmorenci. Why so sad a moan?
  • Life is the rose’s hope while yet unblown;
  • The reading of an ever-changing tale;
  • The light uplifting of a maiden’s veil;
  • A pigeon tumbling in clear summer air;
  • A laughing school-boy, without grief or care,
  • Riding the springy branches of an elm.
  • O for ten years, that I may overwhelm
  • Myself in poesy; so I may do the deed
  • That my own soul has to itself decreed.
  • Then will I pass the countries that I see
  • In long perspective, and continually
  • Taste their pure fountains. First the realm I’ll pass
  • Of Flora, and old Pan: sleep in the grass,
  • Feed upon apples red, and strawberries,
  • And choose each pleasure that my fancy sees;
  • Catch the white-handed nymphs in shady places,
  • To woo sweet kisses from averted faces,—
  • Play with their fingers, touch their shoulders white
  • Into a pretty shrinking with a bite
  • As hard as lips can make it: till agreed,
  • A lovely tale of human life we’ll read.
  • And one will teach a tame dove how it best
  • May fan the cool air gently o’er my rest;
  • Another, bending o’er her nimble tread,
  • Will set a green robe floating round her head,
  • And still will dance with ever varied ease,
  • Smiling upon the flowers and the trees:
  • Another will entice me on, and on
  • Through almond blossoms and rich cinnamon;
  • Till in the bosom of a leafy world
  • We rest in silence, like two gems upcurl’d
  • In the recesses of a pearly shell.
  • And can I ever bid these joys farewell?
  • Yes, I must pass them for a nobler life,
  • Where I may find the agonies, the strife
  • Of human hearts: for lo! I see afar,
  • O’er sailing the blue cragginess, a car
  • And steeds with streamy manes — the charioteer
  • Looks out upon the winds with glorious fear:
  • And now the numerous tramplings quiver lightly
  • Along a huge cloud’s ridge; and now with sprightly
  • Wheel downward come they into fresher skies,
  • Tipt round with silver from the sun’s bright eyes.
  • Still downward with capacious whirl they glide;
  • And now I see them on a green-hill’s side
  • In breezy rest among the nodding stalks.
  • The charioteer with wond’rous gesture talks
  • To the trees and mountains; and there soon appear
  • Shapes of delight, of mystery, and fear,
  • Passing along before a dusky space
  • Made by some mighty oaks: as they would chase
  • Some ever-fleeting music on they sweep.
  • Lo! how they murmur, laugh, and smile, and weep:
  • Some with upholden hand and mouth severe;
  • Some with their faces muffled to the ear
  • Between their arms; some, clear in youthful bloom,
  • Go glad and smilingly athwart the gloom;
  • Some looking back, and some with upward gaze;
  • Yes, thousands in a thousand different ways
  • Flit onward—now a lovely wreath of girls
  • Dancing their sleek hair into tangled curls;
  • And now broad wings. Most awfully intent
  • The driver of those steeds is forward bent,
  • And seems to listen: O that I might know
  • All that he writes with such a hurrying glow.
  • The visions all are fled—the car is fled
  • Into the light of heaven, and in their stead
  • A sense of real things comes doubly strong,
  • And, like a muddy stream, would bear along
  • My soul to nothingness: but I will strive
  • Against all doubtings, and will keep alive
  • The thought of that same chariot, and the strange
  • Journey it went.
  • Is there so small a range
  • In the present strength of manhood, that the high
  • Imagination cannot freely fly
  • As she was wont of old? prepare her steeds,
  • Paw up against the light, and do strange deeds
  • Upon the clouds? Has she not shewn us all?
  • From the clear space of ether, to the small
  • Breath of new buds unfolding? From the meaning
  • Of Jove’s large eye-brow, to the tender greening
  • Of April meadows? Here her altar shone,
  • E’en in this isle; and who could paragon
  • The fervid choir that lifted up a noise
  • Of harmony, to where it aye will poise
  • Its mighty self of convoluting sound,
  • Huge as a planet, and like that roll round,
  • Eternally around a dizzy void?
  • Ay, in those days the Muses were nigh cloy’d
  • With honors; nor had any other care
  • Than to sing out and sooth their wavy hair.
  • Could all this be forgotten? Yes, a schism
  • Nurtured by foppery and barbarism,
  • Made great Apollo blush for this his land.
  • Men were thought wise who could not understand
  • His glories: with a puling infant’s force
  • They sway’d about upon a rocking horse,
  • And thought it Pegasus. Ah dismal soul’d!
  • The winds of heaven blew, the ocean roll’d
  • Its gathering waves—ye felt it not. The blue
  • Bared its eternal bosom, and the dew
  • Of summer nights collected still to make
  • The morning precious: beauty was awake!
  • Why were ye not awake? But ye were dead
  • To things ye knew not of,—were closely wed
  • To musty laws lined out with wretched rule
  • And compass vile: so that ye taught a school
  • Of dolts to smooth, inlay, and clip, and fit,
  • Till, like the certain wands of Jacob’s wit,
  • Their verses tallied. Easy was the task:
  • A thousand handicraftsmen wore the mask
  • Of Poesy. Ill-fated, impious race!
  • That blasphemed the bright Lyrist to his face,
  • And did not know it,—no, they went about,
  • Holding a poor, decrepid standard out
  • Mark’d with most flimsy mottos, and in large
  • The name of one Boileau!
  • O ye whose charge
  • It is to hover round our pleasant hills!
  • Whose congregated majesty so fills
  • My boundly reverence, that I cannot trace
  • Your hallowed names, in this unholy place,
  • So near those common folk; did not their shames
  • Affright you? Did our old lamenting Thames
  • Delight you? Did ye never cluster round
  • Delicious Avon, with a mournful sound,
  • And weep? Or did ye wholly bid adieu
  • To regions where no more the laurel grew?
  • Or did ye stay to give a welcoming
  • To some lone spirits who could proudly sing
  • Their youth away, and die? ‘Twas even so:
  • But let me think away those times of woe:
  • Now ’tis a fairer season; ye have breathed
  • Rich benedictions o’er us; ye have wreathed
  • Fresh garlands: for sweet music has been heard
  • In many places;—some has been upstirr’d
  • From out its crystal dwelling in a lake,
  • By a swan’s ebon bill; from a thick brake,
  • Nested and quiet in a valley mild,
  • Bubbles a pipe; fine sounds are floating wild
  • About the earth: happy are ye and glad.
  • These things are doubtless: yet in truth we’ve had
  • Strange thunders from the potency of song;
  • Mingled indeed with what is sweet and strong,
  • From majesty: but in clear truth the themes
  • Are ugly clubs, the Poets Polyphemes
  • Disturbing the grand sea. A drainless shower
  • Of light is poesy; ’tis the supreme of power;
  • ’Tis might half slumb’ring on its own right arm.
  • The very archings of her eye-lids charm
  • A thousand willing agents to obey,
  • And still she governs with the mildest sway:
  • But strength alone though of the Muses born
  • Is like a fallen angel: trees uptorn,
  • Darkness, and worms, and shrouds, and sepulchres
  • Delight it; for it feeds upon the burrs,
  • And thorns of life; forgetting the great end
  • Of poesy, that it should be a friend
  • To sooth the cares, and lift the thoughts of man.
  • Yet I rejoice: a myrtle fairer than
  • E’er grew in Paphos, from the bitter weeds
  • Lifts its sweet head into the air, and feeds
  • A silent space with ever sprouting green.
  • All tenderest birds there find a pleasant screen,
  • Creep through the shade with jaunty fluttering,
  • Nibble the little cupped flowers and sing.
  • Then let us clear away the choaking thorns
  • From round its gentle stem; let the young fawns,
  • Yeaned in after times, when we are flown,
  • Find a fresh sward beneath it, overgrown
  • With simple flowers: let there nothing be
  • More boisterous than a lover’s bended knee;
  • Nought more ungentle than the placid look
  • Of one who leans upon a closed book;
  • Nought more untranquil than the grassy slopes
  • Between two hills. All hail delightful hopes!
  • As she was wont, th’ imagination
  • Into most lovely labyrinths will be gone,
  • And they shall be accounted poet kings
  • Who simply tell the most heart-easing things.
  • O may these joys be ripe before I die.
  • Will not some say that I presumptuously
  • Have spoken? that from hastening disgrace
  • ’Twere better far to hide my foolish face?
  • That whining boyhood should with reverence bow
  • Ere the dread thunderbolt could reach? How!
  • If I do hide myself, it sure shall be
  • In the very fane, the light of Poesy:
  • If I do fall, at least I will be laid
  • Beneath the silence of a poplar shade;
  • And over me the grass shall be smooth shaven;
  • And there shall be a kind memorial graven.
  • But off Despondence! miserable bane!
  • They should not know thee, who athirst to gain
  • A noble end, are thirsty every hour.
  • What though I am not wealthy in the dower
  • Of spanning wisdom; though I do not know
  • The shiftings of the mighty winds that blow
  • Hither and thither all the changing thoughts
  • Of man: though no great minist’ring reason sorts
  • Out the dark mysteries of human souls
  • To clear conceiving: yet there ever rolls
  • A vast idea before me, and I glean
  • Therefrom my liberty; thence too I’ve seen
  • The end and aim of Poesy. ’Tis clear
  • As any thing most true; as that the year
  • Is made of the four seasons—manifest
  • As a large cross, some old cathedral’s crest,
  • Lifted to the white clouds. Therefore should I
  • Be but the essence of deformity,
  • A coward, did my very eye-lids wink
  • At speaking out what I have dared to think.
  • Ah! rather let me like a madman run
  • Over some precipice; let the hot sun
  • Melt my Dedalian wings, and drive me down
  • Convuls’d and headlong! Stay! an inward frown
  • Of conscience bids me be more calm awhile.
  • An ocean dim, sprinkled with many an isle,
  • Spreads awfully before me. How much toil!
  • How many days! what desperate turmoil!
  • Ere I can have explored its widenesses.
  • Ah, what a task! upon my bended knees,
  • I could unsay those—no, impossible!
  • Impossible!
  • For sweet relief I’ll dwell
  • On humbler thoughts, and let this strange assay
  • Begun in gentleness die so away.
  • E’en now all tumult from my bosom fades:
  • I turn full hearted to the friendly aids
  • That smooth the path of honour; brotherhood,
  • And friendliness the nurse of mutual good.
  • The hearty grasp that sends a pleasant sonnet
  • Into the brain ere one can think upon it;
  • The silence when some rhymes are coming out;
  • And when they’re come, the very pleasant rout:
  • The message certain to be done to-morrow.
  • ’Tis perhaps as well that it should be to borrow
  • Some precious book from out its snug retreat,
  • To cluster round it when we next shall meet.
  • Scarce can I scribble on; for lovely airs
  • Are fluttering round the room like doves in pairs;
  • Many delights of that glad day recalling,
  • When first my senses caught their tender falling.
  • And with these airs come forms of elegance
  • Stooping their shoulders o’er a horse’s prance,
  • Careless, and grand — fingers soft and round
  • Parting luxuriant curls; — and the swift bound
  • Of Bacchus from his chariot, when his eye
  • Made Ariadne’s cheek look blushingly.
  • Thus I remember all the pleasant flow
  • Of words at opening a portfolio.
  • Things such as these are ever harbingers
  • To trains of peaceful images: the stirs
  • Of a swan’s neck unseen among the rushes:
  • A linnet starting all about the bushes:
  • A butterfly, with golden wings broad parted,
  • Nestling a rose, convuls’d as though it smarted
  • With over pleasure — many, many more,
  • Might I indulge at large in all my store
  • Of luxuries: yet I must not forget
  • Sleep, quiet with his poppy coronet:
  • For what there may be worthy in these rhymes
  • I partly owe to him: and thus, the chimes
  • Of friendly voices had just given place
  • To as sweet a silence, when I ’gan retrace
  • The pleasant day, upon a couch at ease.
  • It was a poet’s house who keeps the keys
  • Of pleasure’s temple. Round about were hung
  • The glorious features of the bards who sung
  • In other ages—cold and sacred busts
  • Smiled at each other. Happy he who trusts
  • To clear Futurity his darling fame!
  • Then there were fauns and satyrs taking aim
  • At swelling apples with a frisky leap
  • And reaching fingers, ’mid a luscious heap
  • Of vine leaves. Then there rose to view a fane
  • Of liny marble, and thereto a train
  • Of nymphs approaching fairly o’er the sward:
  • One, loveliest, holding her white hand toward
  • The dazzling sun-rise: two sisters sweet
  • Bending their graceful figures till they meet
  • Over the trippings of a little child:
  • And some are hearing, eagerly, the wild
  • Thrilling liquidity of dewy piping.
  • See, in another picture, nymphs are wiping
  • Cherishingly Diana’s timorous limbs;—
  • A fold of lawny mantle dabbling swims
  • At the bath’s edge, and keeps a gentle motion
  • With the subsiding crystal: as when ocean
  • Heaves calmly its broad swelling smoothness o’er
  • Its rocky marge, and balances once more
  • The patient weeds; that now unshent by foam
  • Feel all about their undulating home.
  • Sappho’s meek head was there half smiling down
  • At nothing; just as though the earnest frown
  • Of over thinking had that moment gone
  • From off her brow, and left her all alone.
  • Great Alfred’s too, with anxious, pitying eyes,
  • As if he always listened to the sighs
  • Of the goaded world; and Kosciusko’s worn
  • By horrid suffrance—mightily forlorn.
  • Petrarch, outstepping from the shady green,
  • Starts at the sight of Laura; nor can wean
  • His eyes from her sweet face. Most happy they!
  • For over them was seen a free display
  • Of out-spread wings, and from between them shone
  • The face of Poesy: from off her throne
  • She overlook’d things that I scarce could tell.
  • The very sense of where I was might well
  • Keep Sleep aloof: but more than that there came
  • Thought after thought to nourish up the flame
  • Within my breast; so that the morning light
  • Surprised me even from a sleepless night;
  • And up I rose refresh’d, and glad, and gay,
  • Resolving to begin that very day
  • These lines; and howsoever they be done,
  • I leave them as a father does his son.
🗙

I stood tip-toe upon a little hill

Places of nestling green for Poets made

Story of Rimini

  • I stood tip-toe upon a little hill,
  • The air was cooling, and so very still,
  • That the sweet buds which with a modest pride
  • Pull droopingly, in slanting curve aside,
  • Their scantly leaved, and finely tapering stems,
  • Had not yet lost those starry diadems
  • Caught from the early sobbing of the morn.
  • The clouds were pure and white as flocks new shorn,
  • And fresh from the clear brook; sweetly they slept
  • On the blue fields of heaven, and then there crept
  • A little noiseless noise among the leaves,
  • Born of the very sigh that silence heaves:
  • For not the faintest motion could be seen
  • Of all the shades that slanted o’er the green.
  • There was wide wand’ring for the greediest eye,
  • To peer about upon variety;
  • Far round the horizon’s crystal air to skim,
  • And trace the dwindled edgings of its brim;
  • To picture out the quaint, and curious bending
  • Of a fresh woodland alley, never ending;
  • Or by the bowery clefts, and leafy shelves,
  • Guess were the jaunty streams refresh themselves.
  • I gazed awhile, and felt as light, and free
  • As though the fanning wings of Mercury
  • Had played upon my heels: I was light-hearted,
  • And many pleasures to my vision started;
  • So I straightway began to pluck a posey
  • Of luxuries bright, milky, soft and rosy.
  • A bush of May flowers with the bees about them;
  • Ah, sure no tasteful nook would be without them;
  • And let a lush laburnum oversweep them,
  • And let long grass grow round the roots to keep them
  • Moist, cool and green; and shade the violets,
  • That they may bind the moss in leafy nets.
  • A filbert hedge with wild briar overtwined,
  • And clumps of woodbine taking the soft wind
  • Upon their summer thrones; there too should be
  • The frequent chequer of a youngling tree,
  • That with a score of light green brethen shoots
  • From the quaint mossiness of aged roots:
  • Round which is heard a spring-head of clear waters
  • Babbling so wildly of its lovely daughters
  • The spreading blue bells: it may haply mourn
  • That such fair clusters should be rudely torn
  • From their fresh beds, and scattered thoughtlessly
  • By infant hands, left on the path to die.
  • Open afresh your round of starry folds,
  • Ye ardent marigolds!
  • Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,
  • For great Apollo bids
  • That in these days your praises should be sung
  • On many harps, which he has lately strung;
  • And when again your dewiness he kisses,
  • Tell him, I have you in my world of blisses:
  • So haply when I rove in some far vale,
  • His mighty voice may come upon the gale.
  • Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
  • With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
  • And taper fulgent catching at all things,
  • To bind them all about with tiny rings.
  • Linger awhile upon some bending planks
  • That lean against a streamlet’s rushy banks,
  • And watch intently Nature’s gentle doings:
  • They will be found softer than ring-dove’s cooings.
  • How silent comes the water round that bend;
  • Not the minutest whisper does it send
  • To the o’erhanging sallows: blades of grass
  • Slowly across the chequer’d shadows pass.
  • Why, you might read two sonnets, ere they reach
  • To where the hurrying freshnesses aye preach
  • A natural sermon o’er their pebbly beds;
  • Where swarms of minnows show their little heads,
  • Staying their wavy bodies ‘gainst the streams,
  • To taste the luxury of sunny beams
  • Temper’d with coolness. How they ever wrestle
  • With their own sweet delight, and ever nestle
  • Their silver bellies on the pebbly sand.
  • If you but scantily hold out the hand,
  • That very instant not one will remain;
  • But turn your eye, and they are there again.
  • The ripples seem right glad to reach those cresses,
  • And cool themselves among the em’rald tresses;
  • The while they cool themselves, they freshness give,
  • And moisture, that the bowery green may live:
  • So keeping up an interchange of favours,
  • Like good men in the truth of their behaviours
  • Sometimes goldfinches one by one will drop
  • From low hung branches; little space they stop;
  • But sip, and twitter, and their feathers sleek;
  • Then off at once, as in a wanton freak:
  • Or perhaps, to show their black, and golden wings,
  • Pausing upon their yellow flutterings.
  • Were I in such a place, I sure should pray
  • That nought less sweet, might call my thoughts away,
  • Than the soft rustle of a maiden’s gown
  • Fanning away the dandelion’s down;
  • Than the light music of her nimble toes
  • Patting against the sorrel as she goes.
  • How she would start, and blush, thus to be caught
  • Playing in all her innocence of thought.
  • O let me lead her gently o’er the brook,
  • Watch her half-smiling lips, and downward look;
  • O let me for one moment touch her wrist;
  • Let me one moment to her breathing list;
  • And as she leaves me may she often turn
  • Her fair eyes looking through her locks aubùrne.
  • What next? A tuft of evening primroses,
  • O’er which the mind may hover till it dozes;
  • O’er which it well might take a pleasant sleep,
  • But that ‘tis ever startled by the leap
  • Of buds into ripe flowers; or by the flitting
  • Of diverse moths, that aye their rest are quitting;
  • Or by the moon lifting her silver rim
  • Above a cloud, and with a gradual swim
  • Coming into the blue with all her light.
  • O Maker of sweet poets, dear delight
  • Of this fair world, and all its gentle livers;
  • Spangler of clouds, halo of crystal rivers,
  • Mingler with leaves, and dew and tumbling streams,
  • Closer of lovely eyes to lovely dreams,
  • Lover of loneliness, and wandering,
  • Of upcast eye, and tender pondering!
  • Thee must I praise above all other glories
  • That smile us on to tell delightful stories.
  • For what has made the sage or poet write
  • But the fair paradise of Nature’s light?
  • In the calm grandeur of a sober line,
  • We see the waving of the mountain pine;
  • And when a tale is beautifully staid,
  • We feel the safety of a hawthorn glade:
  • When it is moving on luxurious wings,
  • The soul is lost in pleasant smotherings:
  • Fair dewy roses brush against our faces,
  • And flowering laurels spring from diamond vases;
  • O’er head we see the jasmine and sweet briar,
  • And bloomy grapes laughing from green attire;
  • While at our feet, the voice of crystal bubbles
  • Charms us at once away from all our troubles:
  • So that we feel uplifted from the world,
  • Walking upon the white clouds wreath’d and curl’d.
  • So felt he, who first told, how Psyche went
  • On the smooth wind to realms of wonderment;
  • What Psyche felt, and Love, when their full lips
  • First touch’d; what amorous, and fondling nips
  • They gave each other’s cheeks; with all their sighs,
  • And how they kist each other’s tremulous eyes:
  • The silver lamp,—the ravishment,—the wonder—
  • The darkness,—loneliness,—the fearful thunder;
  • Their woes gone by, and both to heaven upflown,
  • To bow for gratitude before Jove’s throne.
  • So did he feel, who pull’d the boughs aside,
  • That we might look into a forest wide,
  • To catch a glimpse of Fawns, and Dryades
  • Coming with softest rustle through the trees;
  • And garlands woven of flowers wild, and sweet,
  • Upheld on ivory wrists, or sporting feet:
  • Telling us how fair, trembling Syrinx fled
  • Arcadian Pan, with such a fearful dread.
  • Poor nymph,—poor Pan,—how he did weep to find,
  • Nought but a lovely sighing of the wind
  • Along the reedy stream; a half heard strain,
  • Full of sweet desolation—balmy pain.
  • What first inspired a bard of old to sing
  • Narcissus pining o’er the untainted spring?
  • In some delicious ramble, he had found
  • A little space, with boughs all woven round;
  • And in the midst of all, a clearer pool
  • Than e’er reflected in its pleasant cool,
  • The blue sky here, and there, serenely peeping
  • Through tendril wreaths fantastically creeping.
  • And on the bank a lonely flower he spied,
  • A meek and forlorn flower, with naught of pride,
  • Drooping its beauty o’er the watery clearness,
  • To woo its own sad image into nearness:
  • Deaf to light Zephyrus it would not move;
  • But still would seem to droop, to pine, to love.
  • So while the Poet stood in this sweet spot,
  • Some fainter gleamings o’er his fancy shot;
  • Nor was it long ere he had told the tale
  • Of young Narcissus, and sad Echo’s bale.
  • Where had he been, from whose warm head out-flew
  • That sweetest of all songs, that ever new,
  • That aye refreshing, pure deliciousness,
  • Coming ever to bless
  • The wanderer by moonlight? to him bringing
  • Shapes from the invisible world, unearthly singing
  • From out the middle air, from flowery nests,
  • And from the pillowy silkiness that rests
  • Full in the speculation of the stars.
  • Ah! surely he had burst our mortal bars;
  • Into some wond’rous region he had gone,
  • To search for thee, divine Endymion!
  • He was a Poet, sure a lover too,
  • Who stood on Latmus’ top, what time there blew
  • Soft breezes from the myrtle vale below;
  • And brought in faintness solemn, sweet, and slow
  • A hymn from Dian’s temple; while upswelling,
  • The incense went to her own starry dwelling.
  • But though her face was clear as infant’s eyes,
  • Though she stood smiling o’er the sacrifice,
  • The Poet wept at her so piteous fate,
  • Wept that such beauty should be desolate:
  • So in fine wrath some golden sounds he won,
  • And gave meek Cynthia her Endymion.
  • Queen of the wide air; thou most lovely queen
  • Of all the brightness that mine eyes have seen!
  • As thou exceedest all things in thy shine,
  • So every tale, does this sweet tale of thine.
  • O for three words of honey, that I might
  • Tell but one wonder of thy bridal night!
  • Where distant ships do seem to show their keels,
  • Phoebus awhile delayed his mighty wheels,
  • And turned to smile upon thy bashful eyes,
  • Ere he his unseen pomp would solemnize.
  • The evening weather was so bright, and clear,
  • That men of health were of unusual cheer;
  • Stepping like Homer at the trumpet’s call,
  • Or young Apollo on the pedestal:
  • And lovely women were as fair and warm,
  • As Venus looking sideways in alarm.
  • The breezes were ethereal, and pure,
  • And crept through half closed lattices to cure
  • The languid sick; it cool’d their fever’d sleep,
  • And soothed them into slumbers full and deep.
  • Soon they awoke clear eyed: nor burnt with thirsting,
  • Nor with hot fingers, nor with temples bursting:
  • And springing up, they met the wond’ring sight
  • Of their dear friends, nigh foolish with delight;
  • Who feel their arms, and breasts, and kiss and stare,
  • And on their placid foreheads part the hair.
  • Young men, and maidens at each other gaz’d
  • With hands held back, and motionless, amaz’d
  • To see the brightness in each others’ eyes;
  • And so they stood, fill’d with a sweet surprise,
  • Until their tongues were loos’d in poesy.
  • Therefore no lover did of anguish die:
  • But the soft numbers, in that moment spoken,
  • Made silken ties, that never may be broken.
  • Cynthia! I cannot tell the greater blisses,
  • That follow’d thine, and thy dear shepherd’s kisses:
  • Was there a Poet born?—but now no more,
  • My wand’ring spirit must no further soar.—
🗙

Addressed to the Same

  • Great spirits now on earth are sojourning;
  • He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
  • Who on Helvellyn’s summit, wide awake,
  • Catches his freshness from archangel’s wing:
  • He of the rose, the violet, the spring,
  • The social smile, the chain for freedom’s sake:
  • And lo! — whose stedfastness would never take
  • A meaner sound than Raphael’s whispering.
  • And other spirits there are standing apart
  • Upon the forehead of the age to come;
  • These, these will give the world another heart,
  • And other pulses. Hear ye not the hum
  • Of mighty workings? —
  • Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb.
🗙

To G. A. W.

  • Nymph of the downward smile, and sidelong glance,
  • In what diviner moments of the day
  • Art thou most lovely? when gone far astray
  • Into the labyrinths of sweet utterance?
  • Or when serenely wand’ring in a trance
  • Of sober thought? or when starting away,
  • With careless robe, to meet the morning ray,
  • Thou spar’st the flowers in thy mazy dance?
  • Haply ’tis when thy ruby lips part sweetly,
  • And so remain, because thou listenest:
  • But thou to please wert nurtured so completely
  • That I can never tell what mood is best.
  • I shall as soon pronounce which Grace more neatly
  • Trips it before Apollo than the rest.
🗙

To Kosciusko

  • Good Kosciusko, thy great name alone
  • Is a full harvest whence to reap high feeling;
  • It comes upon us like the glorious pealing
  • Of the wide spheres — an everlasting tone.
  • And now it tells me, that in worlds unknown,
  • The names of heroes, burst from clouds concealing,
  • Are changed to harmonies, for ever stealing
  • Through cloudless blue, and round each silver throne.
  • It tells me too, that on a happy day,
  • When some good spirit walks upon the earth,
  • Thy name with Alfred’s and the great of yore
  • Gently commingling, gives tremendous birth
  • To a loud hymn, that sounds far, far away
  • To where the great God lives for evermore.
🗙

Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition

  • The church bells toll a melancholy round,
  • Calling the people to some other prayers,
  • Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
  • More heark’ning to the sermon’s horrid sound.
  • Surely the mind of man is closely bound
  • In some black spell; seeing that each one tears
  • Himself from fireside joys, and Lydian airs,
  • And converse high of those with glory crown’d.
  • Still, still they toll, and I should feel a damp,
  • A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
  • That they are dying like an outburnt lamp;
  • That ’tis their sighing, wailing ere they go
  • Into oblivion; — that fresh flowers will grow,
  • And many glories of immortal stamp.
🗙

On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt

  • Minutes are flying swiftly; and as yet
  • Nothing unearthly has enticed my brain
  • Into a delphic labyrinth — I would fain
  • Catch an unmortal thought to pay the debt
  • I owe to the kind poet who has set
  • Upon my ambitious head a glorious gain —
  • Two bending laurel sprigs — ’tis nearly pain
  • To be conscious of such a coronet.
  • Still time is fleeting, and no dream arises
  • Gorgeous as I would have it — only I see
  • A trampling down of what the world most prizes,
  • Turbans and crowns, and blank regality;
  • And then I run into most wild surmises
  • Of all the many glories that may be.
🗙

To the Ladies Who Saw Me Crown’d

  • What is there in the universal earth
  • More lovely than a wreath from the bay tree?
  • Haply a halo round the moon — a glee
  • Circling from three sweet pair of lips in mirth;
  • And haply you will say the dewy birth
  • Of morning roses — riplings tenderly
  • Spread by the halcyon’s breast upon the sea —
  • But these comparisons are nothing worth.
  • Then is there nothing in the world so fair?
  • The silvery tears of April? — Youth of May?
  • Or June that breathes out life for butterflies?
  • No — none of these can from my favourite bear
  • Away the palm; yet shall it ever pay
  • Due reverence to your most sovereign eyes.