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at work upon, than learning his profession, which he disliked, indeed, and which, he told his friend Severn, his guardian had forced upon him “ against his will." A copy of the “Faerie Queene," lent him by Clarke, first set his imagination aflame, and in 1812 he made his first attempt at poetry in his “Imitation of Spenser.” When Keats came to London to enter St. Thomas's Hospital as a student, he was introduced to Leigh Hunt (with whom he became very intimate) and other literary men, who gave him no small encouragement in his efforts towards poetry—which more and more dominated his mind-finally forcing him to lay down the knife and take up the pen in earnest. In 1817 his first volume was issued. It attracted no attention whatever, and seems to have been read only by his intimates and their friends. And yet there is much promise in the modest little book. Turn its leaves, and let the eye rest where it may, there is something more than Spenserian echoes here. The very first poem has some passages of singular freshness. What an excellently conceived description of the birth of Sound we have, for example, in the line
“Born of the very sigh that silence heaves." What more redolent of sweet summer air did Keats ever give us than this,
“ Hero are sweet peas on tiptoe for a flight;
And (a few lines farther on) we come upon his pretty word-picture of the minnows
Staying their wavy bodies 'gainst the stream,"
which could scarcely have been written in-doors, and can never be read there, certainly, without instantly bringing gleams of warm memories of singing brooks which the busy years have failed to crowd out. Who that has watched the birds crossing the fields in wavy lines of motion, breasting the air as they fly upwards on the strength of their latest impetus, can hesitate in calling the single line-in which the poet describes goldfinches flying-a singularly felicitous one ?
“Pausing upon their yellow flutterings."
No such perfect touch could be supplied by Peter Bell's twin-brother, to whom a bird was but a flying bird, “and it was nothing more.” Only an eye that takes colour and motion in their married effects could have given us this ; for only at the particular "pausing" the wings are still, though spread, and the yellow visible. The double view of life in “Sleep and Poetry," too, has justly been much admired :
“Stop and consider ! lite is but a day;
A fragile dewdrop on its perilous way,
Of Montmorenci. Why so sad a moan?
The light uplifting of a maiden's veil.” These are but shreds of beauty, and yet Keats himself would pardon a partiality for such, for he confessed once that he himself “looked upon fine phrases like a lover.” The larger fact also remains that (the necessity for pruning aside) there was the true spontaneity of song in these early efforts. In the poet's own words
“ The hearty grasp that sends a pleasanf sonnet
Into the brain ere one can think upon it;" albeit his sonnets were, by-and-by, to exhibit even greater advance than his heroics. A new voice had uttered its first sweet notes, but few, meantime, paused to listen. In reviewing the book in the Examiner, Leigh Hunt wrote—“The faults may be comprised in two-first, a tendency to notice everything too indiscriminately, and without an eye to natural proportion and effect; and second, a sense of the proper variety of versification without a due consideration of its principles”—which was really all a kind critic could say, whose regard for the aftermath was as great as for the truth of his censure. Many a rough hand has ruthlessly pulled up a plant whose first flower was weak, and, it may be, commonplace, but in whose root lay potentialities of beauty the following summer may have looked for in vain. There must always be in the highest criticism an element of that insight which begets prophecy, and so, if need be, modulates dispraise ! The health of Keats had already become somewhat feeble, and his movements were for some time erratic. Residence—now in the Isle of Wight, now at Margate, and now at Leatherhead-removed him from his companions, and as Keats had a large and charming capacity for warm friendships, we have to thank these absences for those delightful letters which were given to the world in 1848 by Lord Houghton, and which almost create for the writer another reputationseparate from his poetical one. When we consider that Keats was at this time only twenty-two years of age, there is surely room for wonder as we peruse these exceedingly clever productions--full as they are of quick turns of thought, lovely bits of description, and flashes of wit ; besides containing as they do some great thoughts gravely expressed in a perfect arrangement of words. All the while he was at work on “Endymion”—which was finished at Burford Bridge on the 28th of November 1817, although not published until 1818. Few poems have undergone so much criticism as “Endymion," not merely as regards the abuse with which it was hailed, nor the few milder views which were expressed at the date of publication, but, since then, the world of criticism worthy of the name would seem to have sought specially to make amends for the debts which were due, but not paid in the earlier days. It is enough to say here, however, that the poem, despite its length and its redundancy of feeling as well as language, has long ago taken its place as one of the chief glories in this century's treasury of poetry. The poem was believed to be marred by diffuseness, not merely by those whose patience was as weak as their judgment. I think,” (wrote even Shelley)" if he had printed about fifty pages of fragments from it, I should have been led to admire Keats as a poet more than I ought, of which there is now no danger.” But the voices, for the most part, that hailed “Endymion” were not content with their want of discrimination but added thereto the most unqualified coarseness. Quoth the Quarterly—"He (Keats) is unbappily a disciple of the new school of what has been somewhere called cockney poetry ; which may be defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in the most uncouth language. This author is a copyist of Mr. Hunt, but he is more unintelligible, almost as rugged, twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and absurd than his prototype.” Blackwood followed with"The phrenzy of the ' Poems' was bad enough, in its way, but it did not alarm us half so seriously as the calm, settled, imperturbable, drivelling idiocy of 'Endymion ;'" and continued, “It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet ; so back to the shop, Mr. John, back to plasters, pills, and ointment boxes, etc. But, for heaven's sake, young Sangrado, be a little more sparing of extenuatives and soporifics in