Roget's Int'l Thesaurus
Fowler's King's English
The King James Bible
Brewer's Phrase & Fable
Frazer's Golden Bough
Shelf of Fiction
The Romantic Revival
INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS
The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes
Volume XII. The Romantic Revival.
the work of the twelve months from April, 1817, to April, 1818, has the invertebrate structure, the insecure style, the weakness in narrative and the luxuriance of colour and music, natural to one who still lived more in sensation than in thought; but, also, the enchanted atmosphere and scenery, and the sudden reaches of vision, possible only to one whose senses were irradiated by imagination, and half created, half perceived. Poetry must surprise by a fine excess, was a later dictum of Keats, justified by some of his finest work. At present, he spends his wealth wantonly, careless of the economies and reticences of great art. Yet, there are strokes of magic which no artistry could achieve, and many lines and phrases which help us to understand how, from the effeminate sentiment, was evolved the tender delicacy of
The Eve of St. Agnes,
and, from the riot of luxurious fancy, the noble and ordered opulence of the
ode. Of such is the wonderful picture of the wave
Down whose green back the short-livd foam, all hoar,
Bursts gradual, with a wayward indolence.
The story of Endymion and the moon, as retold by the Elizabethans, had early captivated Keatss imagination: the loveliness of the moon-lit worldeven in a London suburbhad become a kind of symbol for all beauty, and he himself a new Endymion, the implicit hero of the story he told; and, by the same symbolism, a lover of all loveliness, so that nothing in the universe of real or imagined beauty was irrelevant to his quest. Hence, we pass easily to and fro from this to other legends not otherwise akinCybele, Glaucus and Scylla, Arethusa. Neither his grip upon his subject nor his technical mastery yet avail to make these felt otherwise than as digressions. On the other hand, the
Hymn to Pan
(book I), and the roundelay of Bacchus (
) (book IV), where the dreamy pacing of the verse gathers into lyric concentration and intensity, mark the highest reach of the whole poem.
In the brief, manly preface to
its sufficing commentKeats told his critics that he recognised in it
a feverish attempt rather than a deed accomplished . It is just that this youngster should die away; a sad thought for me, if I had not some hope that while it is dwindling I may be plotting, and fitting myself for verses fit to live.
In particular, he dreamed of trying once more to touch, before I bid it farewell, the beautiful mythology of Greece.
was complete, he had planned with his friend Reynolds a volume of tales from Boccaccio. Keats chose the fifth story of the fourth day of
that of Lisobeta and the pot of basil. It was, no doubt, an advantage for the author of
to work upon a story which, with many openings for romantic and visionary imagination, was yet, in substance, close-knit and coherent. Its setting in the business world of an Italian city was less favourable to his art, and, throughout the first half of the tale, Keats is not completely at ease. But the romance owes to him almost all its delicate beauty. Boccaccios lovers give some pretext to the brothers violence; Isabel and Lorenzo are the innocent victims of a sordid crime, the memory of which comes back upon the perpetrators like the smoke of Hinnom. But it is after Lorenzos murder that the poetic transformation of the romance is most complete. The apparition in Boccaccio is a conventional ghostscene; Keats imagines the shadowy life of the murdered man in his forest-grave, slowly growing one with the earth and strange to mortal things, but quickened anew in the presence of Isabel. The great scene in the forest is told with an impassioned calm like that of Isabel herself, as she presses towards the kernel of the grave. Boccaccio had evaded the ghostlier suggestions of the scene by making the body miraculously intact. Keats does not evade them; but he ennobles what he will not conceal, and compels us to see not the wormy circumstance but Love impersonate, colddead indeed, but not dethroned.
INDEX OF ALL CHAPTERS