Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub
[blocks in formation]

The artist who this idol wrought,
To echo all harmonious thought,
Fell'd a tree, while on the steep
The woods were in their winter sleep,
Rock'd in that repose divine
On the wind-swept Appenine :
And dreaming, some of autumn past,
And some of spring approaching fast,
And some of April buds and showers,
And some of songs in July bowers,
And all of love: and so this tree-
O that such our death may be !-
Died in sleep, and felt no pain,

To live in happier form again:

From which, beneath Heaven's fairest star,
The artist wrought this lov'd Guitar,
And taught it justly to reply
To all who question skilfully,
In language gentle as thine own;
Whispering in enamor❜d tone
Sweet oracles of woods and dells,
And summer winds in sylvan cells;
For it had learnt all harmonies
Of the plains and of the skies,
Of the forest and the mountains,
And the many-voicèd fountains,
The clearest echoes of the hills,
The softest notes of falling rills,
The melodies of birds and bees,

The murmuring of summer seas,
And pattering rain, and breathing dew,

And airs of evening; and it knew
That seldom-heard mysterious sound,
Which, driven on its diurnal round,
As it floats through boundless day,
Our world enkindles on its way :-
All this it knows, but will not tell
To those who cannot question well
The spirit that inhabits it;

It talks according to the wit
Of its companions: and no more
Is heard than has been felt before,
By those who tempt it to betray
These secrets of an elder day.
But, sweetly as its answers will
Flatter hands of perfect skill,
It keeps its highest, holiest tone
For our beloved friend alone.

This is a Catullian melody of the first water. The transformation of the dreaming wood of the tree into a guitar was probably suggested by Catullus's Dedication of the Galley,―a poem with which I know he was conversant, and which was particularly calculated to please him; for it records the consecration of a favorite old sea-boat to the Dioscuri. The modern poet's imagination beats the ancient; but Catullus equals him in graceful flow; and there is one very Shelleian passage in the original :

Ubi iste, post phaselus, antea fuit
Comata silva: nam Cytorio in jugo
Loquente sæpe sibilum edidit comâ.

For of old, what now you see

A galley, was a leafy tree

On the Cytorian heights, and there
Talk'd to the wind with whistling hair.

MUSIC, MEMORY, AND LOVE.

ΤΟ

Music, whose soft voices die,1
Vibrates in the memory;

Odors, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken;
Rose-leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heap'd for the beloved's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

1“ Music, when soft voices die.”—This song is a great favorite with musicians: and no wonder. Beaumont and Fletcher never wrote anything of the kind more lovely.

[merged small][ocr errors]

KEATS was a born poet of the most poetical kind. All his feelings came to him through a poetical medium, or were speedily colored by it. He enjoyed a jest as heartily as any one, and sympathized with the lowliest common-place; but the next minute his thoughts were in a garden of enchantment, with nymphs, and fauns, and shapes of exalted humanity;

Elysian beauty, melancholy grace.

It might be said of him, that he never beheld an oak-tree without seeing the Dryad. His fame may now forgive the critics who disliked his politics, and did not understand his poetry. Repeated editions of him in England, France, and America, attest its triumphant survival of all obloquy; and there can be no doubt that he has taken a permanent station among the British Poets, of a very high, if not thoroughly mature, description.

Keats's early poetry, indeed, partook plentifully of the exuberance of youth; and even in most of his later, his sensibility, sharpened by mortal illness, tended to a morbid excess. His region is "a wilderness of sweets,"-flowers of all hue, and "weeds of glorious feature," where, as he says, the luxuriant soil brings

The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth.

But there also is the "rain-scented eglantine," and bushes of May-flowers, with bees, and myrtle, and bay,—and endless paths into forests haunted with the loveliest as well as the gentlest

So.

beings; and the gods live in the distance, amid notes of majestic
thunder. I do not say that no "surfeit" is ever there; but I do,
that there is no end to the "nectared sweets." In what other
English poet (however superior to him in other respects) are
you so certain of never opening a page without lighting upon the
loveliest imagery and the most eloquent expressions? Name
one. Compare any succession of their pages at random, and see
if the young poet is not sure to present his stock of beauty; crude
it may be, in many instances; too indiscriminate in general;
never, perhaps, thoroughly perfect in cultivation; but there it is,
exquisite of its kind, and filling envy with despair. He died at
five-and-twenty; he had not revised his earlier works, nor given
his genius its last pruning. His Endymion, in resolving to be
free from all critical trammels, had no versification; and his
last noble fragment, Hyperion, is not faultless,-but it is nearly
The Eve of St. Agnes betrays morbidity only in one in.
stance (noticed in the comment). Even in his earliest produc-
tions, which are to be considered as those of youth just emerging
from boyhood, are to be found passages of as masculine a beauty
as ever were written. Witness the Sonnet on reading Chap-
man's Homer,-epical in the splendor and dignity of its images,
and terminating with the noblest Greek simplicity. Among his
finished productions, however, of any length, the Eve of St. Ag-
nes still appears to me the most delightful and complete speci-
men of his genius. It stands mid-way between his most sensi-
tive ones (which, though of rare beauty, occasionally sink into
feebleness) and the less generally characteristic majesty of the
fragment of Hyperion. Doubtless his greatest poetry is to be
found in Hyperion; and had he lived, there is little doubt he
would have written chiefly in that strain; rising superior to those
languishments of love which made the critics so angry, and
which they might so easily have pardoned at his time of life.
But the Eve of St. Agnes had already bid most of them adieu,—
exquisitely loving as it is. It is young, but full-grown poetry
of the rarest description; graceful as the beardless Apollo;
glowing and gorgeous with the colors of romance. I have there-
fore reprinted the whole of it in the present volume, together
with the comment alluded to in the Preface; especially as, in

« FöregåendeFortsätt »