« AnteriorContinuar »
Behind the leaves, or dawn as up grows,
ON RECEIVING A CROWN OF IVY FROM THE SAME.
own of ivy! I submit my head
ON THE SAME.
It is a lofty feeling and a kind,
* Charles Cowden Clarke.
As though she hallowed with that sylvan fence
Whatever extravagance a stranger might find in these verses, was probably justified to the Poet by the author's friendship, and in the Preface to “Foliage " there is, among other ingenious criticisms, a passage on Shakspeare's scholarship, which seems to me to have more than an accidental bearing on the kind of classical knowledge which Keats really possessed. “Though not a scholar," writes Mr. Hunt, “ he needed nothing more than the description given by scholars, good or indifferent, in order to pierce back at once into all the recesses of the original country. They told him where they had been, and he was there in an instant, though not in the track of their footing ;-Battendo l'ali verso l'aurea fronde. The truth is, he felt the Grecian mythology not as a set of school-boy common-places which it was thought wrong to give up, but as something which it requires more than mere scholarship to understand—as the elevation of the external world and of accomplished humanity to the highest pitch of the graceful, and as embodied essences of all the grand and lovely qualities of nature. His description of Proserpine and her flowers, in the · Winter's Tale,' of the characteristic beauties of some of the Gods in Hamlet,' and that single couplet in the Tempest,'
Ye nymphs called Naiads of the wandering brooks,
are in the deepest taste of antiquity, and show that all great poets look at themselves and the fine world about them in the same clear and ever-living fountains."
Every word of this might have applied to Keats, who, at this time, himself seems to have been studying Shakspeare with the greatest diligence. Captain Medwin, in his “Life of Shelley,"
mentions that he has seen a folio edition of Shakspeare with Keats's annotations, and he gives as a specimen part of Agamemnon's speech in “Troilus and Cressida,”—
“ Sith every action that has gone before,
Whereof we have record, trial did draw,
On which Keats remarks :-" The genius of Shakspeare was an innate universality ; wherefore he laid the achievements of human intellect prostrate beneath his indolent and kingly gaze: he could do easily men's utmost—his plan of tasks to come was not of this world. If what he proposed to do hereafter would not, in the idea, answer the aim, how tremendous must have been his conception of ultimates !”
The agreeable diversion to his somewhat monotonous life by a walking-tour through the Lakes and Highlands with his friend Mr. Brown was now put into execution. They set off in the middle of June for Liverpool, where they parted with George Keats, who embarked with his wife for America. On the road he stopped to see a former fellow-student at Guy's, who was settled as a surgeon in a country town, and whom he informed that he had definitively abandoned that profession and intended to devote himself to poetry. Mr. Stephens remembers that he seemed much delighted with his new sister-in-law, who was a person of most agreeable appearance, and introduced her with evident satisfaction. From Lancaster they started on foot, and Mr. Brown has recorded the rapture of Keats when he became sensible, for the first time, of the full effect of mountain scenery. At a turn of the road above Bowness, where the Lake of Windermere first bursts on the view, he stopped as if stupified with beauty. That evening he read aloud the Poem of the “ Pot of Basil,” which he had just completed. His disappointment at missing Wordsworth was very great, and he hardly concealed his vexation when he found that he owed the privation to the interest which the elder
poet was taking in the general Election. This
would perhaps have been diminished if the two poets had happened to be on the same side in politics ; but, as it was, no views and objects could be more opposed.
A portion of a rambling journal of this tour remains in various letters.
KESWICK, June 29, [1818.] MY DEAR TOM,
I cannot make my journal as distinct and actual as I could wish, from having been engaged in writing to George, and therefore I must tell you, without circumstance, that we proceeded from Ambleside to Rydal, saw the waterfalls there, and called on Wordsworth, who was not at home, nor was any one of his family. I wrote a note, and left it on the mantel-piece. Thence, on we came to the foot of Helvellyn, where we slept, but could not ascend it for the mist. I must mention that from Rydal we passed Thirlswater, and a fine pass in the mountains. From Helvellyn we came to Keswick on Derwent Water. The approach to Derwent Water surpassed Windermere ; it is richly wooded, and shut in with rich-toned mountains. From Helvellyn to Keswick was eight miles to breakfast, after which we took a complete circuit of the lake, going about ten miles, and seeing on our way the fall of Lodore. I had an easy climb among the streams, about the fragments of rocks, and should have got, I think, to the summit, but unfortunately I was damped by slipping one leg into a squashy hole. There is no great body of water, but the accompaniment is delightful; for it oozes out from a cleft in perpendicular rocks, all fledged with ash and other beautiful trees.
It is a strange thing how they got there. At the south end of the Lake, the mountains of Borrowdale are perhaps as fine as any thing we have seen. On our return from this circuit, we ordered dinner, and set forth about a mile and a half on the Penrith road, to see the Druid temple. We had a fag up hill, rather too near dinner time, which was rendered void by the gratification of seeing those aged stones on a gentle rise in the midst of the mountains, which at that time, darkened all round, except at the fresh opening of the vale of St. John. We went to bed rather fatigued, but not
so much so as to hinder us getting up this morning to mount Skiddaw. It promised all along to be fair, and we had fagged and tugged nearly to the top, when, at half past six, there came a mist upon us, and shut out the view. We did not, however, lose any thing by it: we were high enough without mist to see the coast of Scotland, the Irish Sea, the hills beyond Lancaster, and nearly all the large ones of Cumberland and Westmoreland, particularly Helvellyn and Scawfell. It grew colder and colder as we ascended, and we were glad, at about three parts of the way, to taste a little rum which the guide brought with him, mixed, mind ye, with mountain water. I took two glasses going and one returning. It is about six miles from where I am writing to the top; so we have walked ten miles before breakfast to-day. We went up with two others, very good sort of fellows.
All felt, on arising into the cold air, that same elevation which a cold bath gives one. I felt as if I were going to a tournament.
Wordsworth's house is situated just on the rise of the foot of Mount Rydal; his parlor-window looks directly down Winder
I do not think I told you how fine the Vale of Grassmere is, and how I discovered the ancient woman seated on Helm Crag." July 1st.We are this morning at Carlisle.
After Skiddaw, we walked to Treby, the oldest market town in Cumberland, where we were greatly amused by a country dancing-school, holden at the 6 Tun.' It was indeed " no new cotillion fresh from France.” No, they kickit and jumpit with meddle extraordinary, and whiskit, and friskit, and toed it, and go'd it, and twirl'd it, and whirl'd it, and stamped it, and sweated it, tattooing the floor like mad. The difference between our country dances and these Scottish figures is about the same as leisurely stirring a cup of tea and beating up a batter pudding. I was extremly gratified to think that if I had pleasures they knew nothing of, they had also some into which I could not possibly enter. I hope I shall not return without having got the Highland fling. There was as fine a row of boys and girls as you ever saw; some beautiful faces, and one exquisite mouth. I never felt so near the glory of patriotism, the glory of making, by any means, a country happier. This is what I like better than scenery. I fear our con.