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Keen, fitful gusts are whisp'ring here and there
Among the bushes half leafless, and dry;
The stars look very cold about the sky, And I have many miles on foot to fare. Yet feel I little of the cool bleak air,
Or of the dead leaves rustling drearily,
Or of those silver lamps that burn on high, Or of the distance from home's pleasant lair : For I am brimfull of the friendliness
That in a little cottage I have found; Of fair-hair'd Milton's eloquent distress,
And all his love for gentle Lycid drown'd; Of lovely Laura in her light green dress,
And faithful Petrarch gloriously crown'd.
Clarke records that this sonnet was written on the occasion of Keats's first becoming acquainted with Leigh Hunt at the Cottage in the Vale of Health, Hampstead.
To one who has been long in city pent,
'Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, -to breathe a prayer
Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair
Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair And gentle tale of love and languishment?
In a transcript in the hand-writing of George Keats this sonnet is subscribed as “ Written in the Fields—June 1816”. The variations shown by this manuscript, no doubt correctly copied from the original, are,-in line 2, upon for into ; in line 4 bright for blue ; in line 5 heart's is written correctly, though hearts is wrongly printed in the 1817 volume ; in line 6 upon a for into some ; in line 7 some for a; in line 9 Returning, thoughtful, homeward for Returning home at evening ; line 11 is
Following the wafted Cloudlet's light career; and line 14 is
That droppeth through the Æther silently. In Tom Keats's copy-book the only variation from the printed text of 1817 is in line 4, bright for blue. It is clear the sonnet was carefully revised for the 1817 volume ; and it is curious Keats did not find out that he was indebted to Milton for his “prosperous opening”. Compare Paradise Lost, IX, 445,
As one who long in populous City pent... also
Returning home at evening, with an ear
Catching the notes of Philomel,-an eye Watching the sailing cloudlet's bright career,
He mourns that day so soon has glided by: E'en like the passage of an angel's tear
That falls through the clear ether silently.
On first looking into Chapman's Homer.
UCH have I travell’d in the realms of gold, And many goodly states and kingdoms seen ;
Round many western islands have I been Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Charles Cowden Clarke says, in the article in The Gentleman's Magazine referred to at page 71,
that this sonnet was sent to him by Keats so as to reach him at 10 o'clock one morning when they two
parted “at day-spring” after a night encounter with a copy of Chapman's Homer belonging to Mr. Alsager of The Times. Mr. F. Locker possesses an undated manuscript of the sonnet in Keats's writing, headed “On the first looking into Chapman's Homer ”; while in Tom Keats's copy-book the heading is “Sonnet on looking into Chapman's Homer,” and the date “1816.” In that book, though not in Mr. Locker's manuscript, line 5 opens with But instead of Oft. In the manuscript line 6 originally read Which lowbrow'd Homer; but deep is substituted for low; and for line 7 we read both in the manuscript and in the copy-book
Yet could I never judge what men could mean. In line 11 the autograph manuscript reads wond'ring eyes for eagle eyes. The variation in line 7 is of value in connexion with one of the reminiscences of Clarke, who says the seventh line originally stood thus:
Yet could I never tell what men could mean and that Keats substituted the reading of the text because he considered the first reading “bald, and too simply wondering." But he may have been actuated by another reason also, as thus : in an article headed “Young Poets” in The Examiner for the 1st of DeOft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow'd Homer rul'd as his demesne ;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
cember 1816, Hunt had spoken in high praise of a set of Keats's manuscript poems shown to him, and had printed this one as given in Tom Keats's copy-book, with the remark that it contained“ one incorrect rhyme.” The only disputable rhyme is that of mean and demesne, and that is got rid of by the revision. “ The rest of the composition,” says Hunt, “ with the exception of a little vagueness in calling the regions of poetry the realms of gold', we do not hesitate to pronounce excellent, especially the last six lines. The word swims is complete; and the whole conclusion is equally powerful and quiet.” He appears to have become reconciled to “ the realms of gold” in later years, to judge from the close of that charming work Imagination and Fancy. Speaking of this sonnet he says at page 345 (I quote the third edition, dated 1846),—“Stared' has been thought by some too violent, but it is precisely the word required by the occasion. The Spaniard was too original and ardent a man either to look, or to affect to look, coldly superior to it. His eagle eyes' are from life, as may be seen by Titian's portrait of him.” Of the last line, which ends the poetry of Imagination and Fancy, Hunt says “We leave the reader standing upon it, with all the illimitable world of thought and feeling before him, to which his imagination will have been brought, while journeying through these “realms of gold.'”
The last four lines seem to be a reminiscence of Robertson's History of America, recorded by Clarke as among Keats's later school reading; but, as Mr. Tennyson pointed out to Mr. Palgrave (Golden Treasury, 1861, page 320) the reference should really be to Balboa. From Hunt's remark about the portrait it is clear this was no mere slip of the pen : Cortez was the man whom Keats's imagination saw in the situation, and it is to be presumed that his memory betrayed him, for it seems unlikely that he met with the story elsewhere, told of Cortez. The passage in Robertson's History of America (Works, edition of 1817, Volume VIII, page 287) is as follows :
"At length the Indians assured them, that from the top of the next mountain they should discover the ocean which was the object of their wishes. When, with infinite toil, they had climbed up the greater part of that steep ascent, Balboa commanded his men to