Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

  • Jan: younger brother Tom hemorrhages, consumption; there is nothing stable in the world; poem: Lines on Seeing a Lock of Milton’s Hair; Nothing is finer for the purposes of great productions, than a very gradual ripening of the intellectual powers; I am getting at it, with a sort of determination and strength; there is nothing stable in the world; poem: On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Again; I have seen a good deal of Wordsworth; imagines writing a drama—the playing of different Natures with Joy and Sorrow; poem: Lines on the Mermaid Tavern; wants to leave behind the sentimental cast of Endymion and write in a more naked and grecian Manner in Hyperion; poem: When I have fears; poem: Oh blush not so!; poem: Hence burgundy, claret, and port; poem: God of the meridian
  • Jan-Feb: Hazlitt’s influential lectures on English poetry
  • Jan-March: poem: revisions, corrections to Endymion
  • Feb-April: poem: Isabella composed
  • Feb: poems: Robin Hood; To the Nile; Time’s sea hath been; Spenser, a jealous honorer of thine; Blue! Tis the life of heaven; O thou whose face hath felt the winter’s wind; Wordsworth according to Keats: over confident and pea-cocking in his halfseeing; We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us; Poetry should be great & unobtrusive, a things that enters into one’s soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself but with its subject; prefers Elizabethan poets over modern poets; I will have no more of Wordsworth and Hunt; Why should we be owls, when we could be eagles?; desire to be passive, receptive, and patient for knowledge; Wordsworth: a great Poet if not Philosopher, but egotistical, vain, bigoted; Poetry should surprise by fine excess and not by Singularity; full Poesy or distilled Prose can forever be wandered with, mused upon, reflected upon, prophesied upon, and dreamt upon; let us open our leaves like a flower and be passive and receptive; poem: Endymion: a Pioneer poem to forget about and proceed from; thank God I can read and perhaps understand Shakespeare to his depths
  • March-April: leaves for Teignmouth, 4 March, and returns first week of May; with brother Tom; Tom spitting blood
  • March: nothing is this world is provable; scenery is fine—but human nature finer; I care not to be in the right; poem: Endymion: I want to forget it and make my mind free for something new; Oh! for a day and all well! When I die I’ll have my Shakespeare placed on my heart...; Tom’s condition worsens, though it improves somewhat in early April; poems: Where be ye going, you Devon maid; For there’s Bishop’s Teign; Over the hill and over the dale; Dear Reynolds, as I last night lay in bed
  • April: I never wrote one single line of poetry with the least shadow of public thought; his only feeling of humility is to the eternal Being, the Principle of Beauty—and the Memory of Great Men; I hate Mawkish popularity; feels he needs to escape disquisitions on Poetry; I find that I can have no enjoyment in the world but continual drinking in of knowledge [...] the road lies through application and study; I long to feast on old Homer as we have upon Shakespeare and as I have lately upon Milton; Endymion published
  • May: leaves Teignmouth for London; axioms in philosophy are not axioms until they are proved upon our pulses; knowledge widens speculation to ease the Burden of the Mystery; life: a large Mansion of Many Apartments; Wordsworth’s genius and depth: exploring life’s dark passages; Wordsworth deemed deeper than Milton; sorrow is wisdom; judged by Blackwood’s as an infatuated bardling under Hunt’s sway; brother George marries Georgiana
  • June-Aug: with Brown, walking tour of northern England to Scotland; reads Dante
  • June: George and wife sail to America; visits Lake District: a mass of beauty to be harvested in his poetry; I shall learn poetry here and shall henceforth write more than ever, for the abstract endeavor of being able to add a mite to that mass of beauty which is harvested from the materials, by the finest spirits, and put into the ethereal existence for the relish of one’s fellows. [...] I live in the eye; and my imagination, surpassed, is at rest; the countenance of the Lake District scenery challenges Keats’s imagination; unfading aspects of the scenery make one forget the divisions of life
  • July: into Scotland; Robert Burn’s misery (a dead weight) and greatness contemplated; poem: On Visiting the Tomb of Burns; the Scotch: they never laugh; I carry all matters to an extreme [...] I have so little selfpossession; his hope was that tramping in the highlands would strengthen more my reach in Poetry, than would stopping home among Books
  • July-Sept: sore throat develops
  • Aug: scales Ben Nevis; northern tour cut short because of illness—sore throat and fever; Aug 18: back at Wentworth Place; Endymion reviewed: called drivelling idiocy influenced by Hunt
  • Aug-Dec: Tom extremely ill, Keats cares for him; Keats is himself not well for some of the time, suffering from anxiety, fever, and throat issues
  • Sept: Endymion reviewed: deemed gratuitous nonsense influenced by Hunt; the fame of poetry haunts and disturbs him, and he plunges into writing to ease thoughts of Tom’s suffering: This morning poetry has conquered—I have relapsed into those abstractions which are my only life—I feel escaped from a new strange and threatening sorrow. And I am thankful for it; I am obliged to write
  • Sept-Oct[?]: Hyperion begun, gives up on May 1819; meets Fanny Brawne, probably September
  • Oct: love of beauty in the abstract makes [a man] a severe critic on his own Works; I will write independently.—I have written independently without Judgment—I may write independently & with judgment hereafter. The Genius of Poetry must work out its own salvation in a man [...] That which is creative must create itself; I would sooner fail [in writing Endymion] than not be among the greatest; about Endymion: I was never afraid of failure
  • Oct cont’d: I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death; We have no Milton; I have too many interruptions to a train of feeling to be able to write poetry; The mighty abstract Idea I have of Beauty [...]; As my imagination strengthens, [I feel] I do not live in this world alone but in a thousand worlds [...] shapes of epic greatness are stationed around me; Endymion: a necessary risk; likens the Poetical character as the camelion Poet; Keats defines his Poetic character against the Wordsworthian or egotistical sublime; brief encounter with Isabella Jones; I hope I shall never marry . . . my solitude is sublime; the yearning Passion I have for the beautiful; The only thing that can ever effect me personally for more than one short passing day, is any doubt about my powers for poetry - I seldom have any, and I look with hope to the nighing time when I shall have none; The faint conceptions I have of poems to come brings the blood frequently into my forehead
  • Dec: brother Tom dies of consumption (1 Dec); moves to Wentworth Place, Hampstead, with Brown; The last days of poor Tom were of the most distressing nature; about Fanny Brawne: beautiful and elegant, graceful, silly, fashionable, and strange; about Hunt: pleasant […] but in reality he is vain, egotistical and disgusting in matters of taste and in morals; my pen seems to have grown too goutty for verse
  • Dec cont’d: Never relieved except when I am composing—so I will write away; I must work—I must read—I must write; I feel in myself all the vices of a Poet, irritability love of effect and admiration; I wish to avoid publishing; comes to some kind of understanding with Fanny Brawne; not certain of any truth but from a clear perception of its Beauty; sore throat.
  • 1818: habeus corpus restored (suspended 1817); UK and Netherlands sign anti-slave convention; Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein published (anonymously); Percy Shelley publishes The Revolt of Islam; Lord Byron completes 4th (and final) canto of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and begins Don Juan; Hazlitt’s Lectures on the English Poets ; Peacock’s Nightmare Abbey; in London, the first ever blood transfusion; a select committee finds contagious fever in London to be prevalent; Karl Marx, Emily Bronte, Frederick Douglass, and Ivan Turgenev born; death of Matthew Monk Lewis: border between US and Canada established; first modern use of rubber as a covering
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Lines on Seeing a Lock of Milton’s Hair
Ode.

  • Chief of organic Numbers! 
  • Old Scholar of the Spheres! 
  • Thy spirit never slumbers, 
  • But rolls about our ears 
  • For ever and for ever: 
  • O, what a mad endeavour 
  • Worketh he, 
  • Who, to thy sacred and ennobled hearse, 
  • Would offer a burnt sacrifice of verse 
  • And Melody!
  • How heavenward thou soundedst 
  • Live Temple of sweet noise; 
  • And discord unconfoundedst: 
  • Giving delight new joys, 
  • And Pleasure nobler pinions— 
  • O, where are thy Dominions! 
  • Lend thine ear 
  • To a young Delian oath—aye, by thy soul, 
  • By all that from thy mortal lips did roll; 
  • And by the kernel of thine earthly love, 
  • Beauty, in things on earth and things above; 
  • When every childish fashion 
  • Has vanish’d from my rhyme, 
  • Will I, grey-gone in passion, 
  • Leave to an after-time 
  • Hymning and harmony 
  • Of thee, and of thy works, and of thy life; 
  • But vain is now the burning, and the strife, 
  • Pangs are in vain—until I grow high-rife 
  • With Old Philosophy 
  • And mad with glimpses at futurity! 
  • For many years my offerings must be hush’d. 
  • When I do speak I’ll think upon this hour, 
  • Because I feel my forehead hot and flush’d— 
  • Even at the simplest vassal of thy power; 
  • A lock of thy bright hair— 
  • Sudden it came, 
  • And I was startled when I caught thy name 
  • Coupled so unaware— 
  • Yet, at the moment, temperate was my blood— 
  • Methought I had beheld it from the Flood.
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On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again

  • O golden-tongued Romance, with serene lute!
  • Fair plumed Siren! Queen of far-away!
  • Leave melodizing on this wintry day,
  • Shut up thine olden pages, and be mute:
  • Adieu! for, once again, the fierce dispute,
  • Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay
  • Must I burn through; once more humbly assay
  • The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit.
  • Chief Poet! and ye clouds of Albion,
  • Begetters of our deep eternal theme!
  • When through the old oak forest I am gone,
  • Let me not wander in a barren dream:
  • But when I am consumed in the fire,
  • Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.
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Lines on the Mermaid Tavern

  • Souls of poets dead and gone,
  • What elysium have ye known,
  • Happy field or mossy cavern,
  • Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
  • Have ye tippled drink more fine
  • Than mine host’s Canary wine?
  • Or are fruits of Paradise
  • Sweeter than those dainty pies
  • Of venison? O generous food!
  • Drest as though bold Robin Hood
  • Sup and bowse from horn and can.
  • I have heard that on a day
  • Mine host’s sign-board flew away,
  • Nobody knew whither, till
  • An astrologer’s old quill
  • To a sheepskin gave the story,
  • Said he saw you in your glory,
  • Underneath a new-old sign
  • Sipping beverage divine,
  • And pledging with contented smack
  • The Mermaid in the zodiac.
  • Souls of poets dead and gone,
  • What elysium have ye known,
  • Happy field or mossy cavern,
  • Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
  • Welcome joy, and welcome sorrow,
  • Lethe’s weed and Hermes’ feather;
  • Come to-day, and come to-morrow,
  • I do love you both together!
  • I love to mark sad faces in fair weather;
  • And hear a merry laugh amid the thunder;
  • Fair and foul I love together.
  • Meadows sweet where flames burn under,
  • And a giggle at a wonder;
  • Visage sage at pantomime;
  • Funeral, and steeple-chime;
  • Infant playing with a skull;
  • Morning fair, and stormwreck’d hull;
  • Nightshade with the woodbine kissing;
  • Serpents in red roses hissing;
  • Cleopatra regal-dress’d
  • With the aspic at her breast;
  • Dancing music, music sad,
  • Both together, sane and mad;
  • Muses bright and Muses pale;
  • Sombre Saturn, Momus hale; —
  • Laugh and sigh, and laugh again;
  • Oh the sweetness of the pain!
  • Muses bright, and Muses pale,
  • Bare your faces of the veil;
  • Let me see; and let me write
  • Of the day, and of the night —
  • Both together — let me slake
  • All my thirst for sweet heart-ache!
  • Let my bower be of yew,
  • Interwreath’d with myrtles new;
  • Pines and lime-trees full in bloom,
  • And my couch a low grass tomb.
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When I have fears that I may cease to be

  • When I have fears that I may cease to be
  • Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
  • Before high-piled books, in charact’ry,
  • Hold like rich garners the full-ripen’d grain;
  • When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
  • Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
  • And think that I may never live to trace
  • Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
  • And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
  • That I shall never look upon thee more,
  • Never have relish in the faery power
  • Of unreflecting love; — then on the shore
  • Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
  • Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.
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O blush not so! O blush not so

  • 1
  • O blush not so! O blush not so!
  • Or I shall think ye knowing;
  • And if you smile the blushing while,
  • Then maidenheads are going.
  • 2
  • There’s a blush for won’t, and a blush for shan’t,
  • And a blush for having done it;
  • There’s a blush for thought, and a blush for nought,
  • And a blush for just begun it.
  • 3
  • O say not so! O say not so!
  • For it sounds of Eve’s sweet pippin;
  • By these loosen’d hips, you have tasted the pips,
  • And fought in an amorous nipping.
  • 4
  • Will you play once more, at nice-cut-core,
  • For it only will last our youth out;
  • And we have the prime of our kissing time,
  • We have not one sweet tooth out.
  • 5
  • There’s a sigh for aye, and a sigh for nay,
  • And a sigh for I can’t bear it!
  • O what can be done? Shall we stay or run?
  • O cut the sweet apple and share it!
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Hence burgendy, claret, and port

  • Hence burgundy, claret, and port,
  • Away with old hock and madeira!
  • Too earthly ye are for my sport;
  • There’s a beverage brighter and clearer!
  • Instead of a pitiful rummer,
  • My wine overbrims a whole summer;
  • My bowl is the sky,
  • And I drink at my eye,
  • Till I feel in the brain
  • A Delphian pain —
  • Then follow, my Caius! then follow!
  • On the green of the hill,
  • We will drink our fill
  • Of golden sunshine,
  • Till our brains intertwine
  • With the glory and grace of Apollo!
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God of the Meridian

  • God of the meridian!
  • And of the east and west!
  • To thee my soul is flown,
  • And my body is earthward press’d:
  • It is an awful mission,
  • A terrible division;
  • And leaves a gulph austere
  • To be fill’d with worldly fear.
  • Aye, when the soul is fled
  • Too high above our head,
  • Affrighted do we gaze
  • After its airy maze,
  • As doth a mother wild,
  • When her young infant child
  • Is in an eagle’s claws —
  • And is not this the cause
  • Of madness? — God of Song,
  • Thou bearest me along
  • Through sights I scarce can bear;
  • O let me, let me share
  • With the hot lyre and thee,
  • The staid philosophy.
  • Temper my lonely hours,
  • And let me see thy bowers
  • More unalarm’d!
🗙

Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil

  • 1
  • Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!
  • Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love’s eye!
  • They could not in the self-same mansion dwell
  • Without some stir of heart, some malady;
  • They could not sit at meals but feel how well
  • It soothed each to be the other by;
  • They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep
  • But to each other dream, and nightly weep.
  • 2
  • With every morn their love grew tenderer,
  • With every eve deeper and tenderer still;
  • He might not in house, field, or garden stir,
  • But her full shape would all his seeing fill;
  • And his continual voice was pleasanter
  • To her, than noise of trees or hidden rill;
  • Her lute-string gave an echo of his name,
  • She spoilt her half-done broidery with the same.
  • 3
  • He knew whose gentle hand was at the latch,
  • Before the door had given her to his eyes;
  • And from her chamber-window he would catch
  • Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;
  • And constant as her vespers would he watch,
  • Because her face was turn’d to the same skies;
  • And with sick longing all the night outwear,
  • To hear her morning-step upon the stair.
  • 4
  • A whole long month of May in this sad plight
  • Made their cheeks paler by the break of June:
  • “To-morrow will I bow to my delight,
  • To-morrow will I ask my lady’s boon. ” —
  • “O may I never see another night,
  • Lorenzo, if thy lips breathe not love’s tune. ” —
  • So spake they to their pillows; but, alas,
  • Honeyless days and days did he let pass;
  • 5
  • Until sweet Isabella’s untouch’d cheek
  • Fell sick within the rose’s just domain,
  • Fell thin as a young mother’s, who doth seek
  • By every lull to cool her infant’s pain:
  • “How ill she is, ” said he, “ I may not speak,
  • And yet I will, and tell my love all plain:
  • If looks speak love-laws, I will drink her tears,
  • And at the least ’twill startle off her cares.”
  • 6
  • So said he one fair morning, and all day
  • His heart beat awfully against his side;
  • And to his heart he inwardly did pray
  • For power to speak; but still the ruddy tide
  • Stifled his voice, and puls’d resolve away —
  • Fever’d his high conceit of such a bride,
  • Yet brought him to the meekness of a child:
  • Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!
  • 7
  • So once more he had wak’d and anguished
  • A dreary night of love and misery,
  • If Isabel’s quick eye had not been wed
  • To every symbol on his forehead high;
  • She saw it waxing very pale and dead,
  • And straight all flush’d; so, lisped tenderly,
  • “Lorenzo! ” — here she ceas’d her timid quest,
  • But in her tone and look he read the rest.
  • 8
  • “O Isabella, I can half perceive
  • That I may speak my grief into thine ear;
  • If thou didst ever any thing believe,
  • Believe how I love thee, believe how near
  • My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve
  • Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear
  • Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live
  • Another night, and not my passion shrive.
  • 9
  • “Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,
  • Lady! thou leadest me to summer clime,
  • And I must taste the blossoms that unfold
  • In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time.”
  • So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,
  • And poesied with hers in dewy rhyme:
  • Great bliss was with them, and great happiness
  • Grew, like a lusty flower in June’s caress.
  • 10
  • Parting they seem’d to tread upon the air,
  • Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart
  • Only to meet again more close, and share
  • The inward fragrance of each other’s heart.
  • She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair
  • Sang, of delicious love and honey’d dart;
  • He with light steps went up a western hill,
  • And bade the sun farewell, and joy’d his fill.
  • 11
  • All close they met again, before the dusk
  • Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,
  • All close they met, all eves, before the dusk
  • Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil
  • Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,
  • Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.
  • Ah! better had it been for ever so,
  • Than idle ears should pleasure in their woe.
  • 12
  • Were they unhappy then? — It cannot be —
  • Too many tears for lovers have been shed,
  • Too many sighs give we to them in fee,
  • Too much of pity after they are dead,
  • Too many doleful stories do we see,
  • Whose matter in bright gold were best be read;
  • Except in such a page where Theseus’ spouse
  • Over the pathless waves towards him bows.
  • 13
  • But, for the general award of love,
  • The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;
  • Though Dido silent is in under-grove,
  • And Isabella’s was a great distress,
  • Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove
  • Was not embalm’d, this truth is not the less —
  • Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers,
  • Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.
  • 14
  • With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,
  • Enriched from ancestral merchandize,
  • And for them many a weary hand did swelt
  • In torched mines and noisy factories,
  • And many once proud-quiver’d loins did melt
  • In blood from stinging whip; — with hollow eyes
  • Many all day in dazzling river stood,
  • To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.
  • 15
  • For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,
  • And went all naked to the hungry shark;
  • For them his ears gush’d blood; for them in death
  • The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark
  • Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe
  • A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:
  • Half-ignorant, they turn’d an easy wheel,
  • That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.
  • 16
  • Why were they proud? Because their marble founts
  • Gush’d with more pride than do a wretch’s tears? —
  • Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts
  • Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs? —
  • Why were they proud? Because red-lin’d accounts
  • Were richer than the songs of Grecian years? —
  • Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,
  • Why in the name of Glory were they proud?
  • 17
  • Yet were these Florentines as self-retired
  • In hungry pride and gainful cowardice,
  • As two close Hebrews in that land inspired,
  • Paled in and vineyarded from beggar-spies;
  • The hawks of ship-mast forests — the untired
  • And pannier’d mules for ducats and old lies — .
  • Quick cat’s-paws on the generous stray-away, —
  • Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay.
  • 18
  • How was it these same ledger-men could spy
  • Fair Isabella in her downy nest?
  • How could they find out in Lorenzo’s eye
  • A straying from his toil? Hot Egypt’s pest
  • Into their vision covetous and sly!
  • How could these money-bags see east and west? —
  • Yet so they did — and every dealer fair
  • Must see behind, as doth the hunted hare.
  • 19
  • O eloquent and famed Boccaccio!
  • Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon,
  • And of thy spicy myrtles as they blow,
  • And of thy roses amorous of the moon,
  • And of thy lilies, that do paler grow
  • Now they can no more hear thy ghittern’s tune,
  • For venturing syllables that ill beseem
  • The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme.
  • 20
  • Grant thou a pardon here, and then the tale
  • Shall move on soberly, as it is meet;
  • There is no other crime, no mad assail
  • To make old prose in modern rhyme more sweet:
  • But it is done — succeed the verse or fail —
  • To honour thee, and thy gone spirit greet;
  • To stead thee as a verse in English tongue,
  • An echo of thee in the north-wind sung.
  • 21
  • These brethren having found by many signs
  • What love Lorenzo for their sister had,
  • And how she lov’d him too, each unconfines
  • His bitter thoughts to other, well nigh mad
  • That he, the servant of their trade designs,
  • Should in their sister’s love be blithe and glad,
  • When ’twas their plan to coax her by degrees
  • To some high noble and his olive-trees.
  • 22
  • And many a jealous conference had they,
  • And many times they bit their lips alone,
  • Before they fix’d upon a surest way
  • To make the youngster for his crime atone;
  • And at the last, these men of cruel clay
  • Cut Mercy with a sharp knife to the bone;
  • For they resolved in some forest dim
  • To kill Lorenzo, and there bury him.
  • 23
  • So on a pleasant morning, as he leant
  • Into the sun-rise, o’er the balustrade
  • Of the garden-terrace, towards him they bent
  • Their footing through the dews; and to him said,
  • “You seem there in the quiet of content,
  • Lorenzo, and we are most loth to invade
  • Calm speculation; but if you are wise,
  • Bestride your steed while cold is in the skies.
  • 24
  • “To-day we purpose, ay, this hour we mount
  • To spur three leagues towards the Apennine;
  • Come down, we pray thee, ere the hot sun count
  • His dewy rosary on the eglantine.”
  • Lorenzo, courteously as he was wont,
  • Bow’d a fair greeting to these serpents’ whine;
  • And went in haste, to get in readiness,
  • With belt, and spur, and bracing huntsman’s dress.
  • 25
  • And as he to the court-yard pass’d along,
  • Each third step did he pause, and listen’d oft
  • If he could hear his lady’s matin-song,
  • Or the light whisper of her footstep soft;
  • And as he thus over his passion hung,
  • He heard a laugh full musical aloft;
  • When, looking up, he saw her features bright
  • Smile through an in-door lattice, all delight.
  • 26
  • “Love, Isabel!” said he, “I was in pain
  • Lest I should miss to bid thee a good morrow:
  • Ah! what if I should lose thee, when so fain
  • I am to stifle all the heavy sorrow
  • Of a poor three hours’ absence? but we’ll gain
  • Out of the amorous dark what day doth borrow.
  • Good bye! I’ll soon be back.” — “Good bye!” said she —
  • And as he went she chanted merrily.
  • 27
  • So the two brothers and their murder’d man
  • Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno’s stream
  • Gurgles through straiten’d banks, and still doth fan
  • Itself with dancing bulrush, and the bream
  • Keeps head against the freshets. Sick and wan
  • The brothers’ faces in the ford did seem,
  • Lorenzo’s flush with love. — They pass’d the water
  • Into a forest quiet for the slaughter.
  • 28
  • There was Lorenzo slain and buried in,
  • There in that forest did his great love cease;
  • Ah! when a soul doth thus its freedom win,
  • It aches in loneliness — is ill at peace
  • As the break-covert blood-hounds of such sin:
  • They dipp’d their swords in the water, and did tease
  • Their horses homeward, with convulsed spur,
  • Each richer by his being a murderer.
  • 29
  • They told their sister how, with sudden speed,
  • Lorenzo had ta’en ship for foreign lands,
  • Because of some great urgency and need
  • In their affairs, requiring trusty hands.
  • Poor Girl! put on thy stifling widow’s weed,
  • And ’scape at once from Hope’s accursed bands;
  • To-day thou wilt not see him, nor to-morrow,
  • And the next day will be a day of sorrow.
  • 30
  • She weeps alone for pleasures not to be;
  • Sorely she wept until the night came on,
  • And then, instead of love, O misery!
  • She brooded o’er the luxury alone:
  • His image in the dusk she seem’d to see,
  • And to the silence made a gentle moan,
  • Spreading her perfect arms upon the air,
  • And on her couch low murmuring “Where? O where?”
  • 31
  • But Selfishness, Love’s cousin, held not long
  • Its fiery vigil in her single breast;
  • She fretted for the golden hour, and hung
  • Upon the time with feverish unrest —
  • Not long — for soon into her heart a throng
  • Of higher occupants, a richer zest,
  • Came tragic; passion not to be subdued,
  • And sorrow for her love in travels rude.
  • 32
  • In the mid days of autumn, on their eves,
  • The breath of Winter comes from far away,
  • And the sick west continually bereaves
  • Of some gold tinge, and plays a roundelay
  • Of death among the bushes and the leaves
  • To make all bare before he dares to stray
  • From his north cavern. So sweet Isabel
  • By gradual decay from beauty fell,
  • 33
  • Because Lorenzo came not. Oftentimes
  • She ask’d her brothers, with an eye all pale,
  • Striving to be itself, what dungeon climes
  • Could keep him off so long? They spake a tale
  • Time after time, to quiet her. Their crimes
  • Came on them, like a smoke from Hinnom’s vale;
  • And every night in dreams they groan’d aloud,
  • To see their sister in her snowy shroud.
  • 34
  • And she had died in drowsy ignorance,
  • But for a thing more deadly dark than all;
  • It came like a fierce potion, drunk by chance,
  • Which saves a sick man from the feather’d pall
  • For some few gasping moments; like a lance,
  • Waking an Indian from his cloudy hall
  • With cruel pierce, and bringing him again
  • Sense of the gnawing fire at heart and brain.
  • 35
  • It was a vision. — In the drowsy gloom,
  • The dull of midnight, at her couch’s foot
  • Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb
  • Had marr’d his glossy hair which once could shoot
  • Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom
  • Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute
  • From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears
  • Had made a miry channel for his tears.
  • 36
  • Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;
  • For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,
  • To speak as when on earth it was awake,
  • And Isabella on its music hung:
  • Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,
  • As in a palsied Druid’s harp unstrung;
  • And through it moan’d a ghostly under-song,
  • Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.
  • 37
  • Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright
  • With love, and kept all phantom fear aloof
  • From the poor girl by magic of their light,
  • The while it did unthread the horrid woof
  • Of the late darken’d time, — the murderous spite
  • Of pride and avarice, — the dark pine roof
  • In the forest, — and the sodden turfed dell,
  • Where, without any word, from stabs he fell.
  • 38
  • Saying moreover, “Isabel, my sweet!
  • Red whortle-berries droop above my head,
  • And a large flint-stone weighs upon my feet;
  • Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed
  • Their leaves and prickly nuts; a sheep-fold bleat
  • Comes from beyond the river to my bed:
  • Go, shed one tear upon my heather-bloom,
  • And it shall comfort me within the tomb.
  • 39
  • “I am a shadow now, alas! alas!
  • Upon the skirts of Human-nature dwelling
  • Alone: I chant alone the holy mass,
  • While little sounds of life are round me knelling,
  • And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,
  • And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,
  • Paining me through: those sounds grow strange to me,
  • And thou art distant in Humanity.
  • 40
  • “I know what was, I feel full well what is,
  • And I should rage, if spirits could go mad;
  • Though I forget the taste of earthly bliss,
  • That paleness warms my grave, as though I had
  • A Seraph chosen from the bright abyss
  • To be my spouse: thy paleness makes me glad;
  • Thy beauty grows upon me, and I feel
  • A greater love through all my essence steal.”
  • 41
  • The Spirit mourn’d “Adieu!” — dissolv’d, and left
  • The atom darkness in a slow turmoil;
  • As when of healthful midnight sleep bereft,
  • Thinking on rugged hours and fruitless toil,
  • We put our eyes into a pillowy cleft,
  • And see the spangly gloom froth up and boil:
  • It made sad Isabella’s eyelids ache,
  • And in the dawn she started up awake;
  • 42
  • “Ha! ha! ” said she, “ I knew not this hard life,
  • I thought the worst was simple misery;
  • I thought some Fate with pleasure or with strife
  • Portion’d us — happy days, or else to die;
  • But there is crime — a brother’s bloody knife!
  • Sweet Spirit, thou hast school’d my infancy:
  • I’ll visit thee for this, and kiss thine eyes,
  • And greet thee morn and even in the skies.”
  • 43
  • When the full morning came, she had devised
  • How she might secret to the forest hie;
  • How she might find the clay, so dearly prized,
  • And sing to it one latest lullaby;
  • How her short absence might be unsurmised,
  • While she the inmost of the dream would try.
  • Resolv’d, she took with her an aged nurse,
  • And went into that dismal forest-hearse.
  • 44
  • See, as they creep along the river side,
  • How she doth whisper to that aged Dame,
  • And, after looking round the champaign wide,
  • Shows her a knife. — “What feverous hectic flame
  • “Burns in thee, child? — What good can thee betide,
  • That thou should’st smile again?” — The evening came,
  • And they had found Lorenzo’s earthy bed;
  • The flint was there, the berries at his head.
  • 45
  • Who hath not loiter’d in a green church-yard,
  • And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,
  • Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,
  • To see scull, coffin’d bones, and funeral stole;
  • Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr’d,
  • And filling it once more with human soul?
  • Ah! this is holiday to what was felt
  • When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.
  • 46
  • She gaz’d into the fresh-thrown mould, as though
  • One glance did fully all its secrets tell;
  • Clearly she saw, as other eyes would know
  • Pale limbs at bottom of a crystal well;
  • Upon the murderous spot she seem’d to grow,
  • Like to a native lily of the dell:
  • Then with her knife, all sudden, she began
  • To dig more fervently than misers can.
  • 47
  • Soon she turn’d up a soiled glove, whereon
  • Her silk had play’d in purple phantasies,
  • She kiss’d it with a lip more chill than stone,
  • And put it in her bosom, where it dries
  • And freezes utterly unto the bone
  • Those dainties made to still an infant’s cries:
  • Then ’gan she work again; nor stay’d her care,
  • But to throw back at times her veiling hair.
  • 48
  • That old nurse stood beside her wondering,
  • Until her heart felt pity to the core
  • At sight of such a dismal labouring,
  • And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,
  • And put her lean hands to the horrid thing:
  • Three hours they labour’d at this travail sore;
  • At last they felt the kernel of the grave,
  • And Isabella did not stamp and rave.
  • 49
  • Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?
  • Why linger at the yawning tomb so long?
  • O for the gentleness of old Romance,
  • The simple plaining of a minstrel’s song!
  • Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,
  • For here, in truth, it doth not well belong
  • To speak: — O turn thee to the very tale,
  • And taste the music of that vision pale.
  • 50
  • With duller steel than the Persean sword
  • They cut away no formless monster’s head,
  • But one, whose gentleness did well accord
  • With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,
  • Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:
  • If Love impersonate was ever dead,
  • Pale Isabella kiss’d it, and low moan’d.
  • ’Twas love; cold, — dead indeed, but not dethroned.
  • 51
  • In anxious secrecy they took it home,
  • And then the prize was all for Isabel:
  • She calm’d its wild hair with a golden comb,
  • And all around each eye’s sepulchral cell
  • Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam
  • With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,
  • She drench’d away: — and still she comb’d, and kept
  • Sighing all day — and still she kiss’d, and wept.
  • 52
  • Then in a silken scarf, — sweet with the dews
  • Of precious flowers pluck’d in Araby,
  • And divine liquids come with odorous ooze
  • Through the cold serpent-pipe refreshfully, —
  • She wrapp’d it up; and for its tomb did choose
  • A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,
  • And cover’d it with mould, and o’er it set
  • Sweet basil, which her tears kept ever wet.
  • 53
  • And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
  • And she forgot the blue above the trees,
  • And she forgot the dells where waters run,
  • And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
  • She had no knowledge when the day was done,
  • And the new morn she saw not: but in peace
  • Hung over her sweet basil evermore,
  • And moisten’d it with tears unto the core.
  • 54
  • And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
  • Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
  • So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
  • Of basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
  • Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
  • From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
  • So that the jewel, safely casketed,
  • Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.
  • 55
  • O Melancholy, linger here awhile!
  • O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
  • O Echo, Echo, from some sombre isle,
  • Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us — O sigh!
  • Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile;
  • Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily,
  • And make a pale light in your cypress glooms,
  • Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.
  • 56
  • Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,
  • From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!
  • Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,
  • And touch the strings into a mystery;
  • Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;
  • For simple Isabel is soon to be
  • Among the dead: She withers, like a palm
  • Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.
  • 57
  • O leave the palm to wither by itself;
  • Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour! —
  • It may not be — those Baalites of pelf,
  • Her brethren, noted the continual shower
  • From her dead eyes; and many a curious elf,
  • Among her kindred, wonder’d that such dower
  • Of youth and beauty should be thrown aside
  • By one mark’d out to be a noble’s bride.
  • 58
  • And, furthermore, her brethren wonder’d much
  • Why she sat drooping by the basil green,
  • And why it flourish’d, as by magic touch;
  • Greatly they wonder’d what the thing might mean:
  • They could not surely give belief, that such
  • A very nothing would have power to wean
  • Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,
  • And even remembrance of her love’s delay.
  • 59
  • Therefore they watch’d a time when they might sift
  • This hidden whim; and long they watch’d in vain;
  • For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,
  • And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;
  • And when she left, she hurried back, as swift
  • As bird on wing to breast its eggs again;
  • And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there
  • Beside her basil, weeping through her hair.
  • 60
  • Yet they contriv’d to steal the basil-pot,
  • And to examine it in secret place:
  • The thing was vile with green and livid spot,
  • And yet they knew it was Lorenzo’s face:
  • The guerdon of their murder they had got,
  • And so left Florence in a moment’s space,
  • Never to turn again. — Away they went,
  • With blood upon their heads, to banishment.
  • 61
  • O Melancholy, turn thine eyes away!
  • O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!
  • O Echo, Echo, on some other day,
  • From isles Lethean, sigh to us — o sigh!
  • Spirits of grief, sing not you “ Well-a-way!”
  • For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die;
  • Will die a death too lone and incomplete,
  • Now they have ta’en away her basil sweet.
  • 62
  • Piteous she look’d on dead and senseless things,
  • Asking for her lost basil amorously;
  • And with melodious chuckle in the strings
  • Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry
  • After the pilgrim in his wanderings,
  • To ask him where her basil was; and why
  • ’Twas hid from her: “ For cruel ’tis, ” said she,
  • “To steal my basil-pot away from me.”
  • 63
  • And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,
  • Imploring for her basil to the last.
  • No heart was there in Florence but did mourn
  • In pity of her love, so overcast.
  • And a sad ditty of this story born
  • From mouth to mouth through all the country pass’d:
  • Still is the burthen sung — “ O cruelty,
  • “To steal my basil-pot away from me!”
🗙

Robin Hood

TO A FRIEND

  • No! those days are gone away,
  • And their hours are old and gray,
  • And their minutes buried all
  • Under the down-trodden pall
  • Of the leaves of many years:
  • Many times have winter’s shears,
  • Frozen north, and chilling east,
  • Sounded tempests to the feast
  • Of the forest’s whispering fleeces,
  • Since men knew nor rent nor leases.
  • No, the bugle sounds no more,
  • And the twanging bow no more;
  • Silent is the ivory shrill
  • Past the heath and up the hill;
  • There is no mid-forest laugh,
  • Where lone Echo gives the half
  • To some wight, amaz’d to hear
  • Jesting, deep in forest drear.
  • On the fairest time of June
  • You may go, with sun or moon,
  • Or the seven stars to light you,
  • Or the polar ray to right you;
  • But you never may behold
  • Little John, or Robin bold;
  • Never one, of all the clan,
  • Thrumming on an empty can
  • Some old hunting ditty, while
  • He doth his green way beguile
  • To fair hostess Merriment,
  • Down beside the pasture Trent;
  • For he left the merry tale
  • Messenger for spicy ale.
  • Gone, the merry morris din;
  • Gone, the song of Gamelyn;
  • Gone, the tough-belted outlaw
  • Idling in the “grene shawe”;
  • All are gone away and past!
  • And if Robin should be cast
  • Sudden from his turfed grave,
  • And if Marian should have
  • Once again her forest days,
  • She would weep, and he would craze:
  • He would swear, for all his oaks,
  • Fall’n beneath the dockyard strokes,
  • Have rotted on the briny seas;
  • She would weep that her wild bees
  • Sang not to her — strange! that honey
  • Can’t be got without hard money!
  • So it is: yet let us sing,
  • Honour to the old bow-string!
  • Honour to the bugle-horn!
  • Honour to the woods unshorn!
  • Honour to the Lincoln green!
  • Honour to the archer keen!
  • Honour to tight little John,
  • And the horse he rode upon!
  • Honour to bold Robin Hood,
  • Sleeping in the underwood!
  • Honour to maid Marian,
  • And to all the Sherwood-clan!
  • Though their days have hurried by
  • Let us two a burden try.
🗙

To the Nile

  • Son of the old moon-mountains African!
  • Chief of the pyramid and crocodile!
  • We call thee fruitful, and, that very while,
  • A desert fills our seeing’s inward span;
  • Nurse of swart nations since the world began,
  • Art thou so fruitful? or dost thou beguile
  • Such men to honour thee, who, worn with toil,
  • Rest for a space ’twixt Cairo and Decan?
  • O may dark fancies err! they surely do;
  • ’Tis ignorance that makes a barren waste
  • Of all beyond itself: thou dost bedew
  • Green rushes like our rivers, and dost taste
  • The pleasant sun-rise; green isles hast thou too,
  • And to the sea as happily dost haste.
🗙

Time’s sea hath been five years at its slow ebb

  • Time’s sea hath been five years at its slow ebb;
  • Long hours have to and fro let creep the sand,
  • Since I was tangled in thy beauty’s web,
  • And snared by the ungloving of thy hand:
  • And yet I never look on midnight sky,
  • But I behold thine eyes’ well-memoried light;
  • I cannot look upon the rose’s dye,
  • But to thy cheek my soul doth take its flight:
  • I cannot look on any budding flower,
  • But my fond ear, in fancy at thy lips,
  • And hearkening for a love-sound, doth devour
  • Its sweets in the wrong sense. — Thou dost eclipse
  • Every delight with sweet remembering,
  • And grief unto my darling joys dost bring.
🗙

Spenser, a jealous honorer of thine

  • Spenser! a jealous honourer of thine,
  • A forester deep in thy midmost trees,
  • Did last eve ask my promise to refine
  • Some English that might strive thine ear to please.
  • But Elfin-Poet, ’tis impossible
  • For an inhabitant of wintry earth
  • To rise like Phoebus with a golden quell
  • Fire-wing’d and make a morning in his mirth:
  • It is impossible to escape from toil
  • O’ the sudden and receive thy spiriting: —
  • The flower must drink the nature of the soil
  • Before it can put forth its blossoming.
  • Be with me in the summer days, and I
  • Will for thine honour and his pleasure try.
🗙

Blue! — ’Tis the life of heaven — the domain

  • Blue! — ’Tis the life of heaven — the domain
  • Of Cynthia: — the wide palace of the sun;
  • The tent of Hesperus and all his train; —
  • The bosomer of clouds gold, grey, and dun.
  • Blue! — ’Tis the life of waters — Ocean,
  • And all its vassal streams, pools numberless,
  • May rage, and foam, and fret, but never can
  • Subside, if not to dark blue nativeness.
  • Blue! — gentle cousin to the forest-green,
  • Married to green in all the sweetest flowers —
  • Forget-me-not — the blue-bell — and, that queen
  • Of secrecy, the violet: — What strange powers
  • Hast thou, as a mere shadow? — But how great,
  • When in an eye thou art, alive with fate!
🗙

O thou whose face hath felt the winter’s wind

  • O thou whose face hath felt the winter’s wind,
  • Whose eye has seen the snow-clouds hung in mist,
  • And the black elm tops ’mong the freezing stars,
  • To thee the spring will be a harvest-time.
  • O thou, whose only book has been the light
  • Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
  • Night after night when Phoebus was away,
  • To thee the spring shall be a triple morn.
  • O fret not after knowledge — I have none,
  • And yet my song comes native with the warmth.
  • O fret not after knowledge — I have none,
  • And yet the evening listens. He who saddens
  • At thought of idleness cannot be idle,
  • And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.
🗙

Where be ye going, you Devon maid

1

  • Where be ye going, you Devon maid?
  • And what have ye there i’ the basket?
  • Ye tight little fairy just fresh from the dairy,
  • Will ye give me some cream if I ask it?

2

  • I love your meads, and I love your flowers,
  • And I love your junkets mainly;
  • But ’hind the door, I love kissing more —
  • O look not so disdainly!

3

  • I love your hills, and I love your dales,
  • And I love your flocks a-bleating —
  • But O on the hether to lie together,
  • With both our hearts a-beating.

4

  • I’ll put your basket all safe in a nook
  • And your shawl I hang up on this willow,
  • And we will sigh in the daisy’s eye
  • And kiss on a grass green pillow.
🗙

For there’s Bishop’s Teign

  • 1
  • For there’s Bishop’s Teign
  • And King’s Teign
  • And Coomb at the clear Teign head —
  • Where close by the stream
  • You may have your cream
  • All spread upon barley bread.
  • 2
  • There’s Arch Brook
  • And there’s Larch Brook
  • Both turning many a mill
  • And cooling the drouth
  • Of the salmon’s mouth
  • And fattening his silver gill.
  • 3
  • There is Wild Wood,
  • A mild hood
  • To the sheep on the lea o’ the down,
  • Where the golden furze
  • With its green thin spurs,
  • Doth catch at the maiden’s gown.
  • 4
  • There is Newton Marsh
  • With its spear grass harsh —
  • A pleasant summer level
  • Where the maidens sweet
  • Of the Market Street
  • Do meet in the dusk to revel.
  • 5
  • There’s the barton rich
  • With dyke and ditch
  • And hedge for the thrush to live in,
  • And the hollow tree
  • For the buzzing bee,
  • And a bank for the wasp to hive in.
  • 6
  • And O, and O
  • The daisies blow,
  • And the primroses are waken’d,
  • And the violet white
  • Sits in silver plight,
  • And the green bud’s as long as the spike end.
  • 7
  • Then who would go
  • Into dark Soho
  • And chatter with dack’d-hair’d critics,
  • When he can stay
  • For the new-mown hay
  • And startle the dappled prickets?
🗙

Over the hill and over the dale

  • Over the hill and over the dale,
  • And over the bourn to Dawlish —
  • Where gingerbread wives have a scanty sale
  • And gingerbread nuts are smallish.
  • Rantipole Betty she ran down a hill,
  • And kick’d up her petticoats fairly.
  • Says I, I’ll be Jack if you will be Gill.
  • So she sat on the grass debonnairly.
  • Here’s somebody coming, here’s somebody coming!
  • Says I, ’tis the wind at a parley.
  • So without any fuss, any hawing and humming,
  • She lay on the grass debonnairly.
  • Here’s somebody here and here’s somebody there!
  • Say’s I, hold your tongue, you young gipsey.
  • So she held her tongue and lay plump and fair
  • And dead as a venus tipsy.
  • O who would’nt hie to Dawlish fair,
  • O who would’nt stop in a meadow?
  • O who would not rumple the daisies there,
  • And make the wild fern for a bed do?
🗙

Dear Reynolds, as last night I lay in bed

  • Dear Reynolds, as last night I lay in bed,
  • There came before my eyes that wonted thread
  • Of shapes, and shadows, and remembrances,
  • That every other minute vex and please:
  • Things all disjointed come from north and south,
  • Two witch’s eyes above a cherub’s mouth,
  • Voltaire with casque and shield and habergeon,
  • And Alexander with his night-cap on —
  • Old Socrates a tying his cravat;
  • And Hazlitt playing with Miss Edgeworth’s cat;
  • And Junius Brutus pretty well so so,
  • Making the best of’s way towards Soho.
  • Few are there who escape these visitings —
  • P’rhaps one or two, whose lives have patient wings,
  • And through whose curtains peep no hellish nose,
  • No wild boar tushes, and no mermaid’s toes:
  • But flowers bursting out with lusty pride,
  • And young Aeolian harps personified,
  • Some, Titian colours touch’d into real life.
  • The sacrifice goes on; the pontif knife
  • Gleams in the sun, the milk-white heifer lows,
  • The pipes go shrilly, the libation flows:
  • A white sail shews above the green-head cliff,
  • Moves round the point, and throws her anchor stiff.
  • The mariners join hymn with those on land.
  • You know the Enchanted Castle — it doth stand
  • Upon a rock on the border of a lake
  • Nested in trees, which all do seem to shake
  • From some old magic like Urganda’s sword.
  • O Phoebus, that I had thy sacred word
  • To shew this castle in fair dreaming wise
  • Unto my friend, while sick and ill he lies.
  • You know it well enough, where it doth seem
  • A mossy place, a Merlin’s hall, a dream.
  • You know the clear lake, and the little isles,
  • The mountains blue, and cold near neighbour rills —
  • All which elsewhere are but half animate,
  • Here do they look alive to love and hate,
  • To smiles and frowns; they seem a lifted mound
  • Above some giant, pulsing underground.
  • Part of the building was a chosen see
  • Built by a banish’d santon of Chaldee:
  • The other part two thousand years from him
  • Was built by Cuthbert de Saint Aldebrim;
  • Then there’s a little wing, far from the sun,
  • Built by a Lapland witch turn’d maudlin nun —
  • And many other juts of aged stone
  • Founded with many a mason-devil’s groan.
  • The doors all look as if they oped themselves,
  • The windows as if latch’d by fays and elves —
  • And from them comes a silver flash of light
  • As from the westward of a summer’s night;
  • Or like a beauteous woman’s large blue eyes
  • Gone mad through olden songs and poesies.
  • See what is coming from the distance dim!
  • A golden galley all in silken trim!
  • Three rows of oars are lightening moment-whiles
  • Into the verdurous bosoms of those isles.
  • Towards the shade under the castle wall
  • It comes in silence — now ’tis hidden all.
  • The clarion sounds; and from a postern grate
  • An echo of sweet music doth create
  • A fear in the poor herdsman who doth bring
  • His beasts to trouble the enchanted spring:
  • He tells of the sweet music and the spot
  • To all his friends, and they believe him not.
  • O that our dreamings all of sleep or wake
  • Would all their colours from the sunset take:
  • From something of material sublime,
  • Rather than shadow our own soul’s daytime
  • In the dark void of night. For in the world
  • We jostle — but my flag is not unfurl’d
  • On the admiral staff — and to philosophize
  • I dare not yet! — Oh never will the prize,
  • High reason, and the lore of good and ill,
  • Be my award. Things cannot to the will
  • Be settled, but they tease us out of thought.
  • Or is it that imagination brought
  • Beyond its proper bound, yet still confined, —
  • Lost in a sort of purgatory blind,
  • Cannot refer to any standard law
  • Of either earth or heaven? — It is a flaw
  • In happiness to see beyond our bourn —
  • It forces us in summer skies to mourn:
  • It spoils the singing of the nightingale.
  • Dear Reynolds, I have a mysterious tale
  • And cannot speak it. The first page I read
  • Upon a lampit rock of green sea weed
  • Among the breakers — ’Twas a quiet eve;
  • The rocks were silent — the wide sea did weave
  • An untumultuous fringe of silver foam
  • Along the flat brown sand. I was at home,
  • And should have been most happy — but I saw
  • Too far into the sea; where every maw
  • The greater on the less feeds evermore: —
  • But I saw too distinct into the core
  • Of an eternal fierce destruction,
  • And so from happiness I far was gone.
  • Still am I sick of it: and though to-day
  • I’ve gathered young spring-leaves, and flowers gay
  • Of periwinkle and wild strawberry,
  • Still do I that most fierce destruction see,
  • The shark at savage prey — the hawk at pounce,
  • The gentle robin, like a pard or ounce,
  • Ravening a worm. — Away ye horrid moods,
  • Moods of one’s mind! You know I hate them well,
  • You know I’d sooner be a clapping bell
  • To some Kamschatkan missionary church,
  • Than with these horrid moods be left in lurch.
  • Do you get health — and Tom the same — I’ll dance,
  • And from detested moods in new romance
  • Take refuge. — Of bad lines a centaine dose
  • Is sure enough — and so “here follows prose.”
🗙

On Visiting the Tomb of Burns

  • The town, the churchyard, and the setting sun,
  • The clouds, the trees, the rounded hills all seem,
  • Though beautiful, cold — strange — as in a dream,
  • I dreamed long ago, now new begun.
  • The short-liv’d, paly summer is but won
  • From winter’s ague, for one hour’s gleam;
  • Though sapphire-warm, their stars do never beam
  • All is cold beauty; pain is never done
  • For who has mind to relish, Minos-wise,
  • The real of beauty, free from that dead hue
  • Sickly imagination and sick pride
  • Cast wan upon it? Burns! with honour due
  • I have oft honour’d thee. Great shadow, hide
  • Thy face; I sin against thy native skies.