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TALES OF THE HALL. 371
“The Widow,” with her three husbands, is not quite so lively as the wife of Bath with her five; — but it is a very amusing, as well as a very instructive legend; and exhibits a rich variety of those striking intellectual portraits which mark the hand of our poetical Rembrandt. The serene close of her eventful life is highly exemplary. After carefully collecting all her dowers and jointures—
“The widow’d lady to her cot retir'd :
The concluding tale is but the end of the visit to the Hall and the settlement of the younger brother near his senior, in the way we have already mentioned. It contains no great matter; but there is so much good nature and goodness of heart about it, that we cannot
resist the temptation of gracing our exit with a bit of it. After a little raillery, the elder brother says—
“‘We part no more, dear Richard | Thou wilt need
vol. ii. p. 348, 349
And then, after leading him up to his new purchase, he adds eagerly—
“‘Alight, my friend and come,
372 FAREWELL TO CRABBE.
While thou, more gravely, hiding thy delight,
vol. ii. p. 352, We shall be abused by our political and fastidious readers for the length of this article. But we cannot repent of it. It will give as much pleasure, we believe, and do as much good, as many of the articles that are meant for their gratification; and, if it appear absurd to quote so largely from a popular and accessible work, it should be remembered, that no work of this magnitude passes into circulation with half the rapidity of our Journal—and that Mr. Crabbe is so unequal a writer, and at times so unattractive, as to require, more than any other of his degree, some explanation of his system, and some specimens of his powers, from those experienced and intrepid readers whose business it is to pioneer for the lazier sort, and to give some account of what they are to meet with on their journey. To be sure, all this is less necessary now than it was on Mr. Crabbe's first re-appearance nine or ten years ago; and though it may not be altogether without its use even at present, it may be as well to confess, that we have rather consulted our own gratification than our readers' improvement, in what we have now said of him; and hope they will forgive us.
KEATs's PoEMs. 373
1. Endymion: a Poetic Romance. By John KEATs. 8vo. pp. 207. London: 1818.
2. Lamia, Isabel/w, The Eve of St. Agnes, and other Poems. By John KEATs, author of “Endymion." 12mo, pp. 200. London: 1820.*
WE had never happened to see either of these volumes till very lately—and have been exceedingly struck with the genius they display, and the spirit of poetry which breathes through all their extravagance. That imitation of our old writers, and especially of our older dramatists, to which we cannot help flattering ourselves that we have somewhat contributed, has brought on, as it were, a second spring in our poetry; — and few of its blossoms are either more profuse of sweetness, or richer in promise, than this which is now before us. Mr. Keats, we understand, is still a very young man; and his whole works, indeed, bear evidence enough of the fact. They are full of extravagance and irregularity, rash attempts at originality, interminable wanderings, and excessive obscurity. They manifestly require therefore, all the indulgence that can be claimed for a first attempt: — But we think it no less plain that they deserve it: For they are flushed all over with the rich lights of fancy; and so coloured and bestrewn with the flowers of poetry, that even while perplexed and bewil
* I still think that a poet of great power and promise was lost to us by the premature death of Keats, in the twenty-fifth year of his age; and regret that I did not go more largely into the exposition of his merits, in the slight notice of them, which I now venture to reprint. But though I cannot, with propriety, or without departing from the principle which must govern this republication, now supply this omission, I hope to be forgiven for having added a page or two to the citations,—by which my opinion of those merits was then illustrated, and is again left to the judgment of the reader.
374 KEATs — FANCIFUL, BEAUTIFUL, AND RASH.
dered in their labyrinths, it is impossible to resist the intoxication of their sweetness, or to shut our hearts to the enchantments they so lavishly present. The models upon which he has formed himself, in the Endymion, the earliest and by much the most considerable of his poems, are obviously The Faithful Shepherdess of Fletcher, and The Sad Shepherd of Ben Jonson; — the exquisite metres and inspired diction of which he has copied with great boldness and fidelity—and, like his great originals, has also contrived to impart to the whole piece that true rural and poetical air—which breathes only in them, and in Theocritus—which is at once homely and majestic, luxurious and rude, and sets before us the genuine sights and sounds and smells of the country, with all the magic and grace of Elysium. His A subject has the disadvantage of being Mythological; and in this respect, as well as on account of the raised and rapturous tone it consequently assumes, his poem, it may be thought, would be better compared to the Comus and the Arcades of Milton, of which, also, there are many traces of imitation. The great distinction, how-k ever, between him and these divine authors, is, that imagination in them is subordinate to reason and judgment, while, with him, it is paramount and supreme— that their ornaments and images are employed to embellish and recommend just sentiments, engaging incidents, and natural characters, while his are poured out without measure or restraint, and with no apparent design but to unburden the breast of the author, and give vent to the overflowing vein of his fancy. The thin and scanty tissue of his story is merely the light framework on which his florid wreaths are suspended; and while his imaginations go rambling and entangling themselves every where, like wild honeysuckles, all idea of sober reason, and plan, and consistency, is utterly forgotten, and “strangled in their waste fertility.” A great part of the work, indeed, is written in the strangest and most fantastical manner that can be imagined. It seems as if the author had ventured every thing that occurred to him in the shape of a glittering
TOO MERELY POETICAL. 375
image or striking expression — taken the first word that . presented itself to make up a rhyme, and then made that word the germ of a new cluster of images—a hint for a new excursion of the fancy — and so wandered on, equally forgetful whence he came, and heedless whither he was going, still he had covered his pages with an interminable arabesque of connected and incongruous figures, that multiplied as they extended, and were only harmonised by the brightness of their tints, and the graces of their forms. In this rash and headlong career he has of course many lapses and failures. There is no work, accordingly, from which a malicious critic could cull more matter for ridicule, or select more obscure, unnatural, or absurd passages. But we do not take that to be our office;— and must beg leave, on the contrary, to say, that any one who, on this account, would represent the whole poem as despicable, must either have no notion of poetry, or no regard to truth. It is, in truth, at least as full of genius as of absurdity; and he who does not find a great deal in it to admire and to give delight, cannot in his heart see much beauty in the two exquisite dramas to which we have already alluded; or find any great pleasure in some of the finest creations of Milton and Shakespeare. There are very many such persons, we verily believe, even among the reading and judicious part of the community—correct scholars, we have no doubt, many of them, and, it may be, very classical composers in prose and in verse—but utterly ignorant, on our view of the matter, of the true genius of English poetry, and incapable of estimating its appropriate and most exquisite beauties. With that spirit we have no hesitation in saying that Mr. Keats is deeply imbued—and of those beauties he has presented us with many striking examples. We are very much inclined indeed to add, that we do not know any book which we would sooner employ as a test to ascertain whether any one had in him a native relish for poetry, and a genuine sensibility to its intrinsic charm. The greater and more distinguished poets of our country have so much else in them, to gratify other tastes and