Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

  • Jan: poem: On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt; poem: After dark vapours
  • Feb: Hunt shows Keats’s poetry to Shelley, Godwin, Hazlitt; does not take membership exam for College of Surgeons; poems published in Examiner: After Dark Vapors, To Kosciusko; writes dedication poem to Hunt: Glory and Loveliness [To Leigh Hunt, Esq.] for collection
  • March: Keats offically ends position of medical dresser; his sees Elgin Marbles; poems: On Seeing the Elgin Marbles, To B. R. Haydon; Keats’s collection Poems published; poems: On The Story of Rimini, On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt, To the Ladies Who Saw Me Crown’d; moves to Well Walk, Hampstead; Haydon’s advice to Keats: he needs to be alone to improve
  • April: briefly stays on Isle of Wight; deliberate study of Shakespeare begins; I find I cannot exist without poetry—without eternal poetry […] I had become all in a Tremble from not having written any thing of late: Endymion begun; publishers Taylor & Hessey will publish his future work
  • April-May: confesses to bouts of anxiety and Morbidity of Temperament
  • April-June: stays at Margate
  • May: thought so much about Poetry so long together that I could not get to sleep at night; What a thing to be in the Mouth of Fame; The Trumpet of Fame is as a tower of Strength; the Cliff of Poesy Towers above me; I read and write about eight hours a day; I hope for the support of a High Power while I clime this little eminence; agreeing with Hazlitt, Shakespeare is enough for us; with Hunt in mind, believes greatest sin is to flatter oneself into an idea of being a great Poet; I have a horrid Morbidity of Temperament which has shown itself at intervals; says he feels all the effects of a Mental Debauch in struggling to tend to my ultimate Progression; laments Hunt’s self delusions; Hastings and Canterbury visited; uncertain romantic relationship with Isabella Jones, in Hastings
  • June: returns to Well Walk, Hampstead
  • Aug: completes first draft of Endymion, Bk. II
  • Sept-Oct: stays at Oxford, visiting Bailey
  • Sept: serious study of Wordsworth and Milton begins; increasing respect for Hazlitt’s tastes; sees Stratford-upon-Avon with Bailey; completes first draft of Endymion, Bk. III; low estimate and tiring of Endymion; writing very hard lately even till an utter incapacity came on: perhaps writes The Gothic looks solemn
  • Oct: disgusted with literary Men [...] except Wordsworth—no not even Byron; wants to avoid Shelley in order to have my own unfettered scope; knows that he will have the Reputation as Hunt’s eleve; ill for about two weeks and takes a little Mercury—worries that he shall never be again secure in Robustness; realizes he shall have the Reputation of Hunt’s eleve; indolence parsed as a complex state; Health and Spirits can only belong unalloyed to the selfish Man—the Man who much of his fellow can never be in Spirits
  • Nov: after a virulent and flamingattack on Hunt in Blackwood’s, Keats believes he will be next and now to be associated with the Cockney School of Poetry; poem: draft of Endymion completed; I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of the Imagination—What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth; The Imagination may be compared to Adam’s dream—he awoke and found it truth; the simple imaginative Mind may have its rewards in the repetition of its own silent Working coming continually on the Spirit with a fine Suddenness; nothing can be known for truth by consecutive reasoning; O for a Life of Sensations rather than of Thoughts!; I am continually running away from the subject—sure this cannot be exactly the case with a complex Mind—one that is imaginative and at the same time careful of its fruits—who would exist partly on sensation partly on thought
  • Nov cont’d: I scarcely remember counting upon any Happiness; if a Sparrow come[s] before my Window I take part in its existence; on Shakespeare’s sonnets: they seem to be full of fine things said unintentionally—in the intensity of working out conceits […] He has left nothing to say about nothing or any thing; likely writes Think not of it, sweet one
  • Dec: sees Kean in Richard III and writes review; meets Wordsworth; The excellence of every Art is its intensity, capable of making all disagreeables evaporate, from there being in close relationship with Beauty & Truth; Negative Capability […] when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason; with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration; Haydon’s so-called immortal dinner; very social in Dec and into Jan and Feb 1818; writes In drear nighted December
  • 1817: the last of the Luddite troubles in England, but uprisings beyond London; Habeas Corpus Act (March); the opening of Waterloo Bridge; Coleridge publishes Sibylline Leaves: A Collection of Poems and Biographia Literaria; Lord Bryon publishes Manfred; the birth of Henry David Thoreau and the death of Jane Austen and Princess Charlotte; Austen’s Northanger Abbey and Persuasion published posthumously; the New York Stock Exchange is established; Mississippi becomes 20th American state

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.

After dark vapours have oppressed our plains

  • After dark vapours have oppress’d our plains
  • For a long dreary season, comes a day
  • Born of the gentle south, and clears away
  • From the sick heavens all unseemly stains.
  • The anxious month, relieving from its pains,
  • Takes as a long lost right the feel of May,
  • The eyelids with the passing coolness play,
  • Like rose-leaves with the drip of summer rains.
  • And calmest thoughts come round us — as, of leaves
  • Budding — fruit ripening in stillness — autumn suns
  • Smiling at eve upon the quiet sheaves —
  • Sweet Sappho’s cheek — a sleeping infant’s breath —
  • The gradual sand that through an hour-glass runs —
  • A woodland rivulet — a poet’s death.

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.

To Leigh Hunt, Esq.

  • Glory and loveliness have passed away;
  • For if we wander out in early morn,
  • No wreathed incense do we see upborne
  • Into the east, to meet the smiling day:
  • No crowd of nymphs soft voic’d and young, and gay,
  • In woven baskets bringing ears of corn,
  • Roses, and pinks, and violets, to adorn
  • The shrine of Flora in her early May .
  • But there are left delights as high as these,
  • And I shall ever bless my destiny,
  • That in a time, when under pleasant trees
  • Pan is no longer sought, I feel a free
  • A leafy luxury, seeing I could please
  • With these poor offerings, a man like thee.

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles

  • My spirit is too weak — mortality
  • Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
  • And each imagin’d pinnacle and steep
  • Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
  • Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
  • Yet ’tis a gentle luxury to weep
  • That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
  • Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.
  • Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
  • Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
  • So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
  • That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
  • Wasting of old time — with a billowy main —
  • A sun — a shadow of a magnitude.

To Haydon with a Sonnet Written on Seeing the Elgin Marbles

  • Haydon! forgive me that I cannot speak
  • Definitively on these mighty things;
  • Forgive me that I have not eagle’s wings —
  • That what I want I know not where to seek:
  • And think that I would not be overmeek
  • In rolling out upfollow’d thunderings,
  • Even to the steep of Heliconian springs,
  • Were I of ample strength for such a freak.
  • Think too, that all those numbers should be thine;
  • Whose else? In this who touch thy vesture’s hem?
  • For when men star’d at what was most divine
  • With browless idiotism —o’erweening phlegm —
  • Thou hadst beheld the Hesperean shine
  • Of their star in the east and gone to worship them.

On The Story of Rimini

  • Who loves to peer up at the morning sun,
  • With half-shut eyes and comfortable cheek,
  • Let him, with this sweet tale, full often seek
  • For meadows where the little rivers run;
  • Who loves to linger with that brightest one
  • Of heaven — Hesperus — let him lowly speak
  • These numbers to the night, and starlight meek,
  • Or moon, if that her hunting be begun.
  • He who knows these delights, and, too, is prone
  • To moralize upon a smile or tear,
  • Will find at once a region of his own,
  • A bower for his spirit, and will steer
  • To alleys, where the fir-tree drops its cone,
  • Where robins hop, and fallen leaves are sere.

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.

The Gothic looks solemn

  • The Gothic looks solemn,
  • The plain Doric column
  • Supports an old bishop and crosier;
  • The mouldering arch,
  • Shaded o’er by a larch
  • Stands next door to Wilson the Hosier.
  • Vice — that is, by turns, —
  • The black tassell trencher or common hat;
  • The Chantry boy sings,
  • The steeple-bell rings,
  • And as for the chancellor — dominat).
  • There are plenty of trees,
  • And plenty of ease,
  • And plenty of fat deer for parsons;
  • And when it is venison,
  • Short is the benison, —
  • Then each on a leg or thigh fastens.

Think not of it, sweet one, so

  • Think not of it, sweet one, so;
  • Give it not a tear;
  • Sigh thou mayst, and bid it go
  • Any — any where.
  • Do not look so sad, sweet one,
  • Sad and fadingly:
  • Shed one drop then —It is gone —
  • Oh! ’twas born to die.
  • Still so pale? — then, dearest, weep;
  • Weep! I’ll count the tears:
  • And each one shall be a bliss
  • For thee in after years.
  • Brighter has it left thine eyes
  • Than a sunny hill:
  • And thy whispering melodies
  • Are tenderer still.
  • Yet — as all things mourn awhile
  • At fleeting blisses,
  • E’en let us too! but be our dirge
  • A dirge of kisses.

In Drear Nighted December

  • In drear-nighted December,
  • Too happy, happy tree,
  • Thy branches ne’er remember
  • Their green felicity —
  • The north cannot undo them,
  • With a sleety whistle through them,
  • Nor frozen thawings glue them
  • From budding at the prime.
  • In drear-nighted December,
  • Too happy, happy brook,
  • Thy bubblings ne’er remember
  • Apollo’s summer look;
  • But with a sweet forgetting
  • They stay their crystal fretting,
  • Never, never petting
  • About the frozen time.
  • Ah! would ’twere so with many
  • A gentle girl and boy —
  • But were there ever any
  • Writh’d not of passed joy?
  • To know the change and feel it,
  • When there is none to heal it,
  • Nor numbed sense to steel it,
  • Was never said in rhyme.