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the reviewers as the Holy Ghost.” His was a sturdy, defiant, original nature. Pugnacious as a boy, he was aggressive as a man; yet with this sturdiness there was a charm and sweetness of disposition that endeared him to all who knew him well. When Haslam, a friend, heard of the severe illness of Keats, he wrote to Severn - "I cannot afford to lose him; if I know what it is to love, I truly love John Keats.” Bailey writes — "He had a soul of noble integrity, and his common sense was a conspicuous part of his character. Indeed his character was, in the best sense, manly.” There is common testimony that he was generous and sympathetic. Haydon writes:
“He was the most unselfish of human creatures, unadapted to this world, he cared not for himself, and put himself to any inconvenience for the sake of his friends. ... He had a kind, gentle heart, and would have shared his fortune with any one who wanted it.”
It is not to be inferred from these high tributes that his character was perfect; far from it. Keats himself would have been the last man to claim perfection for himself. Cut off prematurely, he had not yet reached that stability of character which marks the well-developed man. At times we feel the lack of poise. The lack of the ethical element in his poetry suggests a lack of ethical stamina in his life. His love of the beautiful prevented him from sinking into that lowness of dissipation that besmirched the name of Byron, and yet there is some evidence of dissipation. In discussing the character of Keats a discriminating critic concludes a paragraph thus:
“I would say that he had within him the stuff of ample determination and high-mindedness in any matters upon which he was in earnest, mingled, however, with deficient self-control, and with a perilous facility of seeing the seamy side of life.”
Characteristics of His Poetry. - It has frequently been said that Keats was a Greek. Stoddard thinks the
'genius of Greek poetry was alien to the English mind until it revealed itself to the young imagination of Keats, who wore it in his heart, not because he was a scholar - for a scholar he was not — but because he was a Greek."
This is, however, a very superficial judgment. The freshness and spontaneity of his poetry, together with his titles of many poems, for instance, Lamia, Hyperion, Endymion, Ode on a Grecian Urn, help to this opinion. But to be a Greek means more than spontaneity, freshness, and childlike delight in the joy of the senses. Homer, Æschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Aristophanes, not to mention Plato and Aristotle and Socrates, mean more than Keats suggests. Human life interested the Greek. The poetry of Keats is too remote from the common lot.
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” but is that really all we need to know? In Chaucer, Shakspere, Milton, and Wordsworth, we find more than the exemplification that beauty and truth are one. In matchless form they sing the “still sad music of humanity, as well as the music that runs to smiles and laughter. In their varied art we have a world of men and women with their loves and hates, their jealousies and fears, their quips and cranks, their agonies, hypocrisies, aspirations, treacheries, godlike sacrifices, and Caliban bestialities.
Seeing a world of hypocrisies, Byron dipped his pen in vitriol; Shelley, seeing a world in need of reformation, was consumed with the zeal of the ardent reformer; Keats, seeing a material world, the sordid world of Philistinism, turned away from the present to the past. In the distant world of myth and fable, of gods and goddesses, dryads and fauns, he hoped to find that world of beauty which his imaginative soul craved and could not find in England. For him
The glory and the loveliness had passed away."
But herein Keats made a mistake. Great poets find their inspiration in the life about them. Dante may write of the Inferno, but his pages are vital with the life and learning of his medieval Italy ; Shakspere produces a Julius Caesar, but the men on the boards are the English burghers of the Elizabethan age; Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Browning see beauty and truth in the busy, interesting life about them. Had Keats lived he doubtless would have acquired that richness of experience which would
have infused a deeper humanity into his poetry. His capacity for friendship, his intense nature, his broad sympathies, his sincerity lead one to believe that with added years would have come that philosophy of life that would have made him a full interpreter of the heart of man. “I think it probable," writes Mr. Colvin, “that by power as well as by temperament and aim, he was the most Shaksperean spirit that has lived since Shakspere.” And Tennyson, much of whose poetry shows the influence of Keats, has said, “He would have been among the very greatest of us if he had lived. There is something of the innermost soul of poetry in almost everything he ever wrote.”
Life and Letters of John Keats. HOUGHTON.
Life of John Keats. ROSSETTI.
John Keats and Fanny Brawne. LE GALLIENNE. Cosmop., vol. 37, p. 733.
Wordsworth YRON awoke to find himself famous; Scott quickly cap
tured the ear of the public by the music of his metrical romances; before he was twenty-five Macaulay attracted public notice by his dashing rhetoric; but of Wordsworth no such tale can be told. His progress has been the way of that patient Nature whom he so loved and celebrated, but it has been progress, until today his fame is as fair and apparently as enduring as the face of Nature itself; for few criticis would rate the achievement of Byron, or Scott, or Macaulay as highly as that of Wordsworth. His career is an illustration of the changeful taste of the public. Scott had won golden opinion by his romances told in animated verse; then Byron, a greater poet, dazzled the public with brilliant description and satire; and all the while among the quiet Northern hills of England a mystic was communing with nature and writing great poetry which the great world either unheeded or ridiculed. But neither neglect nor ridicule quenched the ardor of this enthusiast who in the spirit of Milton consecrated his life to a divine mission. Whether or no the public read his poetry, his duty was to write, and write he did, and at last when the public tired of Byron, of whom, as has been before mentioned, Goethe said that when he reflected he was a child, it turned to the meditative, philosophic thinker whose poetry introduced its readers into a new and beautiful world.
Birth and Education. The life of Wordsworth is as undramatic as his poetry. He lived from 1770 to 1850. Two and a half years before he died he gave to Christopher Wordsworth, his grandson, some autobiographical memoranda which begin:
"I was born at Cockermouth, in Cumberland, on April 7, 1770, the second son of John Wordsworth, attorney-at-law, as lawyers of this class were then called, and law-agent to Sir James Lowther, afterwards Earl of
Lonsdale. My mother was Anne, only daughter of William Cookson. . The time of my infancy and early boyhood was passed partly at Cockermouth, and partly with my mother's parents at Penrith, where my mother, in the year 1778, died of a decline, brought on by a cold, the consequence of being put, at a friend's house in London, in what used to be called 'a best bedroom.' My father never recovered his usual cheerfulness of mind after this loss and died when I was in my fourteenth year, a schoolboy, just returned from Hawkshead, whither I had been sent with my elder brother Richard, in my ninth year.”
The schooldays of our poet were happy days of freedom and unconventionality. Writes Mr. Shairp:
High pressure was then unknown. Nature and freedom had full swing. Bounds and locking-up hours they had none. The boys lived in the cottages of the village dames, in a natural friendly way, like their own children. Their playground was the fields, the lake, the woods, and the hill-sides, far as their feet could carry them. Their games were cragclimbing for ravens' nests, skating. . . . Early on summer mornings before a chimney was smoking Wordsworth would make the circuit of the lakes. There were boatings on more distant Windermere, and, when their scanty pocket money allowed, long rides to Furness Abbey and Morecambe Sands."
This program would be attractive to any lively boy, and was not
“O, many a time have I, a five years' child,
Later, in the same poem, we have the poet's description of his youthful abandonment to the joy of skating:
"And in the frosty season, when the sun