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poems in the volume edited by Mr. E. de Sélincourt.1

There is a good deal to commend in this scholarly edition of Keats; the text has been prepared with extreme accuracy, and the notes, properly placed at the end of the book, are thorough and apposite. Mr. de Sélincourt's interest has lain more particularly in the study of sources, and Keats, among the most derivative and at the same time original of English poets, offered him here a rich field. For one thing, he has exploded the silly myth of the Lemprière. To that dictionary (still a serviceable book, be it said, in its own way) Keats no doubt owed his acquaintance with many details of antiquity, but most of his information and all the colour and movement that made of those legends a living inspiration he got from the translations of Chapman and Sandys and from the innumerable allusions in Spenser and the other great Elizabethans. One might have surmised as much from his sonnet to Chapman's Homer without waiting for the present editor's erudition. To call him a Greek, as Shelley did explicitly and as Matthew Arnold once did by implication, is to miss the mark. "Keats was no scholar," says Mr. de Sélincourt aptly, "and of the literature in which the Greek spirit found true expression he could know nothing. But just as

The Poems of John Keats. Edited with an Introduction and Notes by E. de Sélincourt. New York: Dodd, Mead, & Co., 1905.

it was through his devotion to Spenser that he became a poet, so was it through his kinship, both in spirit and taste, with the Elizabethans, that he became the poet of ancient Greece."

I am inclined to think that the essential kinship of Keats to "The fervid choir that lifted up a noise of harmony," as he called them, rests upon something even deeper than similarity of language and poetic method or than" natural magic," that it goes down to that faculty of vision in his mind which, like theirs, beheld the marriage of the ideas of beauty and death. As an editor concerned with the minutiæ of the poet's manner, Mr. de Sélincourt may well be pardoned for overlooking this more essential relationship; his services are sufficiently great after every deduction. It is not a small thing, for instance, to find in the Glossary a careful tabulation of the sources from which Keats drew his extraordinary vocabulary, and from the first word, "a-cold," to see how constantly he borrowed from Shakespeare and Milton and the writers that lie between, and how deliberately he sought to echo "that large utterance of the early Gods." The curious thing is that in the end all this borrowing should produce the impression of a fine spontaneity. Just as we are discovering more and more in the spaciousness of the Elizabethans a literary inspiration from foreign lands, so the freedom of diction in Keats was in large measure the influence of a remote age-which may be taken as another

lesson in the nature of originality. The effect is as if the language were undergoing a kind of rejuvenation and no dulness of long custom lay between words and objects. Wordsworth's endeavour to introduce the speech of daily use is in comparison the mere adopting of another artifice.

It is scarcely necessary to add that this spontaneity in a mind so untrained as Keats's often fell into license and barbarism. From the days of the first reviewers his ill-formed compound terms and his other solecisms have, and quite rightly, been ridiculed and repudiated. Sometimes, indeed, his super-grammatical creations have a strange quality of genius that rebukes criticism to modesty. Thus in the familiar lines:

As when, upon a trancèd summer-night,
Those green-robed senators of mighty woods,
Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
Dream, and so dream all night without a stir,
Save from one gradual solitary gust

Which comes upon the silence, and dies off,
As if the ebbing air had but one wave—

it is not easy to justify "branch-charmèd" by any common linguistic process; and yet who does not feel that the spell of the passage, the very mystery of its utter beauty, is concentrated in that one lawless word? It is the keystone of a perfect arch. By a stroke of rarer insight Keats, when he came to rewrite the scene for the later Hyperion, left that phrase untouched, though he

changed, and in changing marred, nearly all the rest. But if occasionally these unlicensed expressions add to the magic of his style, more often they are merely annoying blemishes. There is no beauty in such a phrase as "unslumbrous night," to take the first words that occur, no force in "most drowningly doth sing," and his elision (which occurs more than once) of perhaps into p'rhaps is of a sort to make even a hardened reader wince.

The fact is, Keats might learn from the Elizabethans almost every element of style except taste, and here where he most needed guidance they seemed rather to sanction his lawlessness. But there was a difference between their circumstances and his. When a language is young and expanding, the absence of restraining taste is not so much felt, and liberty is a principle of growth; whereas at a later stage the same freedom leads often to mere eccentricity and vulgarisms. So it is that in Keats's language we are often obliged to distinguish between a true Elizabethan spontaneity and a spurious imitation that smacks too much of his London surroundings. We resent justly the review of Endymion in Blackwood's in which the author was labelled as belonging to

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the Cockney School of Poetry "; we take almost as a personal affront the reviewer's coarse derision: "So back to the shop, Mr. John, stick to 'plasters, pills, ointment boxes' "; yet there is a hideous particle of truth in the insult which will

forever cling to Keats's name. Great poets have come out of London, but only Keats among the immortals can be pointed at as "cockney."

There is, in fact, something disconcerting in the circumstances of the poet's early life. He was born in London in 1795. His father, a westcountryman, probably with Celtic blood in his veins, was employed in a livery stable, of which he afterwards became manager, marrying the owner's daughter. He died when John was nine years old. The mother soon married a Mr. William Rawlings, also stable-keeper, who apparently had succeeded her first husband in the Moorgate business. She lived but a few years, and the family of children, of which John was the eldest, were left orphans. There was some money, and though towards the end pecuniary troubles came upon him, Keats was in this respect more fortunate than many others; he never had to waste his powers by writing for bread. Between the years of 1806 and 1810 he attended a fairly good school kept by the Rev. John Clarke at Enfield. After this he was apprenticed for five years to a surgeon at Edmonton, and then went, as the phrase is, to walk the London hospitals. Meanwhile he had been studying other things besides the human anatomy. Charles Cowden Clarke, the son of his schoolmaster, one day memorable in the annals of literature, had read Spenser's Epithalamium to him, and lent him The Faerie Queen to take home. It was letting the wind in

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