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addition to felicity of treatment, its subject is in every respect a happy one, and helps to "paint" this our bower of "poetry with delight." Melancholy, it is true, will "break in" when the reader thinks of the early death of such a writer; but it is one of the benevolent provisions of nature, that all good things tend to pleasure in the recollection; when the bitterness of their loss is past, their own sweetness embalms them.
A thing of beauty is a joy for ever.
While writing this paragraph, a hand-organ out-of-doors has been playing one of the mournfullest and loveliest of the airs of Bellini-another genius who died young. The sound of music always gives a feeling either of triumph or tenderness to the state of mind in which it is heard: in this instance it seemed like one departed spirit come to bear testimony of another, and to say how true indeed may be the union of sorrowful and sweet recollections.
Keats knew the youthful faults of his poetry as well as any man, as the reader may see by the preface to Endymion, and its touching though manly acknowledgment of them to critical candor. I have this moment read it again, after a lapse of years, and have been astonished to think how anybody could answer such an appeal to the mercy of strength, with the cruelty of weakness. All the good for which Mr. Gifford pretended to be zealous, he might have effected with pain to no one, and glory to himself; and therefore all the evil he mixed with it was of his own making. But the secret at the bottom of such unprovoked censure is exasperated inferiority. Young poets, upon the whole, at least very young poets,-had better not publish at all. They are pretty sure to have faults; and jealousy and envy are sure to find them out, and wreak upon them their own disappointments. The critic is often an unsuccessful author, almost always an inferior one to a man of genius, and possesses his sensibility neither to beauty nor to pain. If he does, if by any chance he is a man of genius himself (and such things have been), sure and certain will be his regret, some day, for having given pains which he might have turned into
noble pleasures; and nothing will console him but that very charity towards himself, the grace of which can only be secured to us by our having denied it to no one.
Let the student of poetry observe, that in all the luxury of the Eve of Saint Agnes there is nothing of the conventional craft of artificial writers; no heaping up of words or similes for their own sakes or the rhyme's sake; no gaudy common-places; no borrowed airs of earnestness; no tricks of inversion; no substitution of reading or of ingenious thoughts for feeling or spontaneity; no irrelevancy or unfitness of any sort. All flows out of sincerity and passion. The writer is as much in love with the heroine as his hero is; his description of the painted window, however gorgeous, has not an untrue or superfluous word; and the only speck of a fault in the whole poem arises from an excess of emotion.
THE EVE OF SAINT AGNES.1
St. Agnes' Eve-Ah! bitter chill it was:
Numb were the beadsman's fingers while he told
Like pious incense from a censer old,
His prayer he saith, this patient, holy man,
Then takes his lamp, and riseth from his knees,
The sculptur'd dead on each side seem'd to freeze,
Northward he turneth through a little door,
That ancient beadsman heard the prelude soft;
The silver-snarling trumpets 'gan to chide;
Stared, where upon their heads the cornice rests,
With hair blown back, and wings put cross-wise on their breasts.
At length burst in the argent revelry
The brain, new stuff'd, in youth, with triumphs gay
And turn, sole-thoughted, to one lady there,
They told her how, upon St. Agnes' Eve,
As, supperless to bed they must retire,
Of Heaven with upward eyes for all that they desire.
Full of this whim was youthful Madeline;
And back retired, not cool'd by high disdain,
She danc'd along with vague, regardless eyes,
Anxious her lips, her breathing quick and short;
'Mid looks of love, defiance, hate, and scorn;
Save to St. Agnes and her lambs unshorn, And all the bliss to be before to-morrow morn.
So, purposing each moment to retire,
She linger'd still. Meantime across the moors,
Buttress'd from moonlight, stands he, and implores
That he might gaze and worship all unseen,
Perchance speak, kneel, touch, kiss ;-in sooth such things have been.
He ventures in, let no buzz'd whisper tell;
Ah! happy chance! the aged creature came
To where he stood, hid from the torches' light,
And grasp'd his fingers in her palsied hand :
Saying, "Mercy, Porphyro! hie thee from this place. They are all here to-night, the whole blood-thirsty race.
"Get hence! get hence! there's dwarfish Hildebrand, He had a fever late, and in the fit
He cursed thee and thine, both house and land:
And tell me how-"-" Good Saints! not here! not here! Follow me, child, or else these stones will be thy bier!"
He follow'd through a lowly, arched way,
"St. Agnes! Ah! it is St. Agnes' Eve-
Feebly she laugheth in the languid moon,