« AnteriorContinuar »
e bright mysterious vision Did to their eyes unfold; id. lo! a smiling little girl 3omc three or four years old, me three or four years old it was, But yet most queenly dress'd; id soft and white as morning light, It heaved its infant breast.
1 frolden were her ringlets, Like the sunbeam's braided ray, id when you looked upon her face You could not turn away. roh! a world of tenderness Dwelt in' that eye of blue; id from behind, a gentler mind, ivis, than any one shall find, Shining its glances through.
le parents took the Heaven-sent gift,
And to each other said,
lis, by God's grace, shall fill the place
Of the little one that's dead!
ad so she grew up with them,
And their lives' life became;
Ic comfort of the Fisherman
And helper of his Dame.
3t day by day the creature Was more a mystery; ley knew not whether sprung from earth Or fallen from the sky. it when of this they questioned, She answered still the same, lat once she fell into the lake, And Undine was her name.
ne day in the quiet even-tide,
When the sun had sunk to rest, . horseman rode up to the door
In knightly armor dress'd: or that old time was the very prime
Of generous chivalry— 'or yet, alas! as now had past
All high-born courtesy.
He had crossed the mystic forest,
Which stretched for many a rood
In sunless solitude,
A lady's hand to win;
Now he had seen Undine!
'Tis evening in the cottage,
And evening in the air, But there's no gloom in that low room,
For a nuptial feast is there. And since the first great wedlock
In Eden's garden seen, Where God was Priest and Witnesser,
Had such a bridal been.
The good wife lit the taper
And placed it on the stand;
And gave him Undine's hand;
Knelt down upon the floor, And spake that word, which, when once heard,
Binds fast for evermore.
The changeful Undine sported round
In graceful wantonness; And then would glide to Hulbrand's side
And look up in his face. "My friend," spoke out the man of God,
"Thy mirth I love to sec; But oh ! betimes remember
To have your souls agree."
"That word," said she, "on others
With awful might must fall; But lightly to myself it comes,
Who have no soul at all!" Three paces back that company
Drew toward the cottage door; But Undine looked at Hulbrand,
And went on as before:
?hroughout this vast and goodly world,
[n earth, and sea, and sky,
ere dwell a countless multitude
Unseen by mortal eye.
3 are a fair creation,
Far fairer than your race;
e essence of all Harmonies,
Ihe embodiment of Grace;
Phe mirror of all feeling,
The glass of every sense,
sarnatc passion—calm or wild,
Or gentle or intense.
t though we take a human form,
No soul is in the race!
id therefore live we joyously,
id therefore die we silently,
And pass to nothingness.
5ut by our nature's law, we gain A full humanity,
being wedded to a soul As I am now to thee, t late a creature of the wave, 1 come to join thy life;
share its greatness and its good, Its burdens and its strife.
Jut ah ! a strange, glad anguish
Ah me ! that I have been so light.
When I had su6h high fate. Oh, great the burden of a soul,
Then did the breath of Deity
Enter that thing of sense;
A bright intelligence.
Deathless and strong and wise.
And glowed within her eyes.
And when forth from the fisher's cot
With her fond lord to roam.
Unto Sir Hulbrand's home,
Which I have sought to tell,
Which had this maid befell.
For though this august inmate
She knew the world despise; And saw it sold for shining gold,
And bartered for a prize;
And sacred in her eyes;
And speed you to the pole,
So awful as the soul!
THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF KEATS.*
This is a wished-for and welcome book. Ke:its, the poet, we well knew, and had nany pleasant memories of, from the time fhen our boyhood was first enlightened as o the wealth that was in him by the sweet riticism of Leigh Hunt, to when, in our 'Love's young dream," we used to read im to fair women among canvasses that ivalled the pictures in his pages, and fiowrs that breathed as sweet an odor as his erse. But Keats, the man, was a blank ) us. That he was killed by the Quarter• and lamented by Shelley—such was all e knew, or thought we knew about him E'rsonally—just enough to make us wish i know more. Truly gratifying was the mouncement that Monckton Milnes had illected his correspondence and written s life. Not that we should have pitched )on Milnes as the most natural or likeman to write a life of Keats. fried there is scarcely a point in which e poet and biographer do not present a iking contrast. Keats, a poor surgeon's prentice, sensitive and struggling, witht resources of his own, or friends at urt to help him, ridiculed and proscribed the dominant party in the state— Ines, a wealthy M. P., confident and ;cessful, the spoiled child of the literary stocracy, petted alike by Tories and licrs. Keats, a genius without art, disying marvellous beauties and glaring Its, gems and rubbish mingled—Milnes, artist without genius, endowed with t mediocrity of versification, which, un>py in awakening no enthusiastic admion, is happy in avoiding all sweeping sure. And yet, for all this, Milnes may he very best man to write about Keats; dsi Tov 6(ju>ibv is only half true after all. •rary admirations, like love-matches, ncr from contrasts quite as often as I resemblances. Men, Anglo-Saxon at least, are not charmed by repeti
r>ife, Letters, and Literary Remain- B; New York, G. P. Putnam.
tions of themselves, but rather by something different from, and unattainable by them. It is a truth which our small writers of both sexes have yet to learn, that true appreciation ma}' provoke rivalry, but must deter from imitation.
But how came Milnes to single out Keats from among the many unfortunate and ill-used poets? What connection was there between them that famished the requisite material? Monekton tells us how it happened, in this wise. He was at Landor's villa "on the beautiful hill-side of Fiesole "—that villa from which Savage, in his wrath against Willis, savagely threatened to turn away any American traveller who might come to visit him. There he met Mr. Charles Brown, a friend of Keats, who had collected and was preparing to publish the poet's literary remains. But circumstances afterwards preventing this gentleman from carrying out his intention, he placed his manuscripts in the hands of Milnes, rightly judging that he would do them justice. As soon as it was known who had the work in hand, every one was ready to oblige, him; assistance flowed in from various quarters, and a goodly number of letters, &c, were amassed; quite enough to have been spun out into three or four volumes, had the editor followed the usual plan of writing biography by sandwiching every page of his subject between two of his own reflections. But Milnes had a truer notion of what is required 'from a poet's biographer. "If," says he, " I left the memorials of Keats to tell their own tale, they would in truth be the book, and my business would be almost limited to their collection and arrangement; whereas, if I only regarded them as the materials of my own work, the per"1- ' "fleet would chiefly depend mi "■"tjkruction, and the tempstory sub-.
Lonservient to the excellence of the work of art, would never have been absent." Accordingly there is very little of the editor here, but that little of a quality to make us regret that he does not cultivate prose in preference to verse composition. There may, perhaps, be fifty pages of Milnes in the volume. Could we by any amount of bruin-work elaborate fifty pages of such crystal-flowing prose, we would not give them for "Palm Leaves" enough to shadow a crusade.
The great fact of interest about Keats, which his enthusiastic biographer has made known to us, is the cause of his premature death. The universal belief was that he had died of the London Quarterly; a belief natural enough after Shelley's Adonais and Byron's well-known doggrel. It was a double pity that Keats should have so died; pity for the whole craft of reviewers, and pity for himself. To critics one and all, it was an ever-ready and everrecurring reproach that one of them had "killed John Keats." On the memory of Keats, it threw more than a suspicion of weakness that he had let a critic kill him. But now comes Millnes and tells us—for which all thanks to Milnes—that Keats did not die of the reviewers at all; but of a disease to which, if to succumb be a weakness, still it is a nobler weakness and one more worthy of a poet. Keats died of love.
These four words open to us a prospect very different from any of our former visions of Keats ; melancholy enough yet, but grander and loftier in its melancholy. A poor young poet perishing of a silent sorrow, the cause of his fatal malady concealed from all but his most intimate friends.
"This great disease for love I dree;
It is impossible not to feel some indignation against his "sweet enemy."
"Ye shall have sin an ye me slay."
Truly it were no small sin to have slain Keats. But here again our biographer comes to the rescue, and intimates that his love was not unreturned. It was his unlucky want of means that delayed their
union indefinitely. This deepens the pr ture by introducing another sufferer, ffc at this point our skepticism is awafc1*'! and—over-captious we may be—bat 1C nes' intimation (it is not a positive *sr tion) does not command our entire f»W We cannot porsuado ourselves that if tt decision of the affair had rested rt Keats, he would have hesitated to run vst risk. He would have "leaped into i sea" of matrimony, as he did into Ust« authorship. Is it conceivable that a ac who deliberately threw up the profess** on which he had spent some of the m<« valuable years of his life, and m inctooi-1 erable part of his small means—not \r cause he was unsuccessful in it, bw i» cause it was "uncongenial" to him—fc J conceivable that he should have postpc^ to any prudential considerations that k* which was literally a matter of life '^ death to him? Moreover, it loot ^ 2' editor's language, in the few sentences bci devotes to the lady, were even valuer tta delicacy demanded, and purposely m*a susceptible of more than one constru< wAs this is a point of some nicety, it will »l but fair to give the ipsusina terixt i Milnes:—
"However sincerely the devotion <* K. may have been requited, it will be seentia: outward circumstances soon became sow' to render a union very difficult, if not mr-ble. Thus these years were passed in » '■* flirt in which plain poverty and mortal skb« met a radiant imagination and a iwhusis heart. Hope was there, with Genins.tHsff lasting sustainer, and Fear never ty* but as the companion of Necessity strong power conquered the physical aus- «* made the very intensity of his pisawa-" certain sense accessory to bis desAh: be1;; have lived longer if he had lived If*. ■>_ this should be no matter of self-reprotcl '.< object of his love, for the same roigto bt of the very exercise of his poetic fccutiy"* of all that made him what he was. 1' enough that she has preserved his near with a sacred honor, and it is no nin >**a tion that to have inspired and sustained nV< passion of this noble beinj has berc *-;'t' of grave delight and earnest thaakf-** through the changes and chances of faei **> ly pilgrimage."
Now it seems to us that not am ***
of the above is incompatible whi tb# fc sumption that the lady did n-.-t ■>- • Kefits.
But waiving this discussion, amore praeicable question arises. If the cause of ieats's death now first presented is the rue one, how came the other story to gain urrency? Several reasons may be asigned. Mere sequence would, in this case s in many others, be taken for cause and Sect. Keats was abused by the reviewrs—he died soon after—their abuse must are hastened his death. The Tory scribes ere ferocious enough not altogether to islike the reputation of having killed a adical poet, and gave at least a negative icourageinent to the general opinion, yron liked "good stories" and "points"
much as any Frenchman; the supposed icticidc of the Quarterly gave him an opirtunity of letting off some saucy doggrel,
d, above all, flattered him with the rection, so sure to suggest itself to every
e, how differently he had taken the linburgh's onslaught. As to Shelley, it :s his fixed idea that all Conservatives re oppressors and murderers, and all dicals martyrs and victims: that a Tory Sic should assassinate a Liberal bard s to him an event in the ordinary course nature.
To be sure, instead of forming any hyhesis to account for the fact, we may, \ King James's wise man, deny the fact >gether. That universal cold-waterjwer, the London Spectator, thinks that Milnes has not shown after all that reviewers did not kill Keats. It is but ritable to suppose that the Spectator not read these letters carefully. :ts was annoyed and angry at the rers; but his annoyance and anger, so as his correspondence can be taken for st, were less than most persons' would 3 been under the circumstances. True, talked of fighting Blackwood—but did Byron want to fight Southey, and that long after his reputation as a poet was o, and it might have been reasonably josed that nothing in the way of reing could affect him at all'! This belligerency shows that Keats was the man to die of a reviewer's lead, in kvay commonly believed, at least. At other time doubtless the adverse critis would have annoyed Keats more, for id not the vanity of pretending to decriticism; but to one consumed by the -bing passion that then held possession
of him, any literary mortification, however severe in itself, could have been little more than a scratch to a man burning to death.
Our interest in the catastrophe has made us begin with it. Let us retrace our steps. Keats was born in 1795. His father had begun life as a groom, but did so well as to marry his master's daughter, and, though dying young, to leave £8000 among four children. John wa* the second son, a handsome, resolute, energetic, pugnacious boy at school, marked out by his young companions for a future military hero, but suddenly taking to study and at last surpassing all his fellow-pupils. He mastered some Latin, but did not attain to Greek; the Classic Mythology he learned from dictionaries, and knew Homer through Chapman. Reading the Faery Queen first incited him to write poetry; and his biographer here truly remarks that " the just critic of his maturer poems will not fail to trace to the influence of the study of Spenser much that at first appears forced and fantastical both in idea and expression, and discover that precisely those defects which are commonly attributed to an extravagant originality may be distinguished as proceeding from a too indiscriminate reverence for a great but unequal model."
He was then a surgeon's apprentice: whether his wishes had at all been consulted in this does not appear. Charles Cowden, Clarke and Matthew Fclton were his most intimate friends. Before long he began to feel " the delightful complacency of conscious genius"—that glorious anticipation so much oftener felt than realized. On this pleasant conceit—too frequently, but not in this case a mere conceit—Milnes' remarks strike us as peculiarly just and elegant:—
"Although this foretaste of fame is in most cases a delusion, (as the fame itself may be a greater delusion still,) yet it is the best and purest drop in thecup of intellectual ambition. It is enjoyed, thank God, by thousands who soon learn to estimate their own capacities aright and tranquilly submit to the obscure and transitory condition of their existence: it is felt by many who look back on it in after years with a smiling pity to think they were so deceived, but who nevertheless recognize in that aspiration the spring of their future energies and usefulness in other and far different fields of action; and the few in whom the prophecy is accomplished, who become what they have believed.