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Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs,
Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies !
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs.
The voice I hear, this passing night, was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown!
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home!
She stood in tears amid the alien corn!
The same that oft-times hath
Charm d magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn." — p. 108 — 111. We know nothing at once so truly fresh, genuine, and English, — and, at the same time so full of poetical feeling, and Greek elegance and simplicity, as this address to Autumn:
“ Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing Sun!
Conspiring with him now, to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run!
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core ;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel ; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease ;
For Summer has o'er-brimmed their clammy cells.
“Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store ?
Sometimes, whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half reap'd furrow, sound asleep!
Drows'd with the fumes of poppies; while thy hook
Spares the next swath, and all its twined flowers !
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head, across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours !
“Where are the songs of Spring! Ay, where are they?
Think not of them ! Thou hast thy music too;
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue!
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows; borne aloft
Or sinking, as the light wind lives or dies !
And full grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn ;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now, with treble soft,
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gath’ring swallows twitter in the skies !"
One of the sweetest of the smaller poems is that entitled “ The Eve of St. Agnes : ” though we can now afford but a scanty extract. The superstition is, that if a maiden goes to bed on that night, without supper, and never looks up after saying her prayers, till she falls asleep, she will see her destined husband by her bedside the moment she opens her eyes. The fair Madeline, who was in love with the gentle Porphyro, but thwarted by an imperious guardian, resolves to try this spell: – and Porphyro, who has a suspicion of her purpose, naturally determines to do what he can to help it to a happy issue; and accordingly prevails on her ancient nurse to admit him to her virgin bower; where he watches reverently, till she sinks in slumber; – and then, arranging a most elegant dessert by her couch, and gently rousing her with a tender and favourite air, finally reveals himself
, and persuades her to steal from the castle under his protection. The opening stanza is a fair specimen of the sweetness and force of the composition.
“ St. Agnes Eve! Ah, bitter cold it was !
The owl, for all his feathers, was acold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold !
Numb were the bedesman's fingers, while he told
His rosary; and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem'd taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet virgin's picture, while his prayers he saith.” But the glory and charm of the poem is in the description of the fair maiden's antique chamber, and of all that passes in that sweet and angel-guarded sanctuary: every part of which is touched with colours at once rich and delicate - and the whole chastened and harmonised, in the midst of its gorgeous distinctness, by a pervading grace and purity, that indicate not less clearly the exaltation than the refinement of the author's fancy. We cannot resist adding a good part of this description.
"Out went the taper as she hurried in!
Its little smoke in pallid moonshine died :
The door she closed ! She panted, all akin
To spirits of the air, and visions wide !
SPELL, AND REPOSE, OF PURE MADELINE.
No utter'd syllable
or woe betide!
But to her heart, her heart was voluble ;
Paining with eloquence her balmy side !
"A casement high and triple-arch'd there was,
All garlanded with carven imageries
Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass;
And diamonded with panes of quaint device
Innumerable, of stains and splendid dyes,
As are the tiger moth's deep damask'd wings!
Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline's fair breast,
As down she knelt for Heaven's
Rose bloom fell on her hands, together prest,
And on her silver cross, soft amethyst ;
And on her hair, a glory like a saint !
She seem'd a splendid angel, newly drest
Save wings, for heaven! - Porphyro grew faint,
She knelt so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint!
" Anon his heart revives! Her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees ;
Unclasps her warmed jewels, one by one;
Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her kuees!
Half hidden like a Mermaid in sea weed,
Pensive a while she dreams awake, and sees
In fancy fair, St. Agnes on her bed!
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled!
"Soon, trembling, in her soft and chilly nest,
In sort of wakeful dream, perplex 'd she lay;
Until the poppied warmth of Sleep oppress'd
Her soothed limbs, and soul fatigued away!
Haven'd alike from sunshine and from rain,
As though a rose should shut, and be a bud again!
“Stolen to this paradise, and so entranc'd,
Porphyro gaz'd upon her empty dress,
And listend to her breathing; if it chanc'd
To sink into a slumb'rous tenderness?
Which when he heard, that minute did he bless,
And breath'd himself ; -- then from the closet crept,
Noiseless as Fear in a wide wilderness,
And over the hush'd carpet silent stept.
Then, by the bed-side, where the sinking moon
Made a dim silver twilight, soft he set
A table, and, half anguish'd, threw thereon
A cloth of woven crimson, gold, and jet, &c.
“ And still she slept - an azure-lidded sleep!
In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender'd;
While he, froin forth the closet, brought a heap
Of candied apple, quince, and plum, and gourd ;
With jellies soother than the
curd, And lucent syrups, tinct with cinnamon ; Manna and dates, in argosy
transferr'd From Fez; and spiced dainties every one,
From silken Samarcand, to cedar'd Lebanon.
* Those delicates he heap'd with glowing hand,
On golden dishes, and in baskets bright
Of wreathed silver; sumptuous they stand
In the retired quiet of the night,
Filling the chilly room with perfume light.
• And now, my love! my Seraph fair! awake !
Ope thy sweet eyes! for dear St. Agnes' sake!
It is difficult to break off in such a course of citation :
But we must stop here; and shall close our extracts
with the following lively lines :-
“O sweet Fancy! Let her loose!
Summer's joys are spoilt by use,
And the enjoying of the Spring
Fades as does its blossoming;
Autumn's red-lipp'd fruitage too,
Blushing through the mist and dew,
Cloys with tasting: What do then ?
Sit thee by the ingle, when
The sear faggot blazes bright,
Spirit of a winter's night;
When the soundless earth is muffled,
And the caked snow is shuffled
From the ploughboy's heavy shoon;
When the Night doth meet the Noon,
In a dark conspiracy
To banish Even from her sky.
Thou shalt hear
Distant harvest carols clear;
Rustle of the reaped corn ;
Sweet birds antheming the morn;
And, in the same moment hark !
"Tis the early April lark,
Or the rooks with busy caw,
Foraging for sticks and straw.
Thou shalt, at one glance, behold
The daisy and the marigold ;
While-plum'd lilies, and the first
Hedge-grown primrose that hath burst;
Shaded hyacinth, alway
Sapphire queen of the mid-May;
And every leaf, and every flower
Pearled with the self-same shower.
Thou shalt see the field-mouse peep
Meagre from its celled sleep;
And the snake, all winter thin,
Cast on sunny bank its skin ;
Freckled nest-eggs thou shalt see
Hatching in the hawthorn tree,
When the hen-bird's wing doth rest
Quiet on her mossy nest;
Then the hurry and alarm
When the bee-hive casts its swarm ;
Acorns ripe down pattering,
While the autumn breezes sing."—p. 122 — 125.
There is a fragment of a projected Epic, entitled Hyperion,” on the expulsion of Saturn and the Titanian deities by Jupiter and his younger adherents, of which we cannot advise the completion : For, though there are passages of some force and grandeur, it is sufficiently obvious, from the specimen before us, that the subject is too far removed from all the sources of human interest, to be successfully treated by any modern author. Mr. Keats has unquestionably a very beautiful imagination, a perfect ear for harmony, and a great familiarity with the finest diction of English poetry; but he must learn not to misuse or misapply these advantages; and neither to waste the good gifts of nature and study on intractable themes, nor to luxuriate too recklessly on such as are more suitable.