A Day With Keats
Library of Alexandria
About eight o'clock one morning in early summer, a young man may be seen sauntering to and fro in the garden of Wentworth Place, Hampstead. Wentworth Place consists of two houses only; in the first, John Keats is established along with his friend Charles Armitage Brown. The second is inhabited by a Mrs. Brawne and her family. They are wooden houses, with festooning draperies of foliage: and the clean countrified air of Hampstead comes with sweet freshness through the gardens, and fills the young man with ecstatic delight. He gazes around him, with his weak dark eyes, upon the sky, the flowers, the various minutiæ of nature which mean so much to him: and although he has severely tried a never robust physique by sitting up half the night in study, a new exhilaration now throbs through his veins. For, in his own words, he loves the principle of beauty in all things: and he repeats to himself, as he loiters up and down in the sunshine, the lines into which he has crystallized, for all time, sensations similar to those of the present:— A thing of beauty is a joy for ever: Its loveliness increases; it will never Pass into nothingness; but still will keep A bower quiet for us, and a sleep Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing. Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing A flowery band to bind us to the earth, Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth Of noble natures, of the gloomy days, Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darken'd ways Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all, Some shape of beauty moves away the pall From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon, Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon For simple sheep; and such are daffodils With the green world they live in; and clear rills That for themselves a cooling covert make 'Gainst the hot season; the mid-forest brake, Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms: And such too is the grandeur of the dooms We have imagined for the mighty dead; All lovely tales that we have heard or read: An endless fountain of immortal drink, Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink. Nor do we merely feel these essences For one short hour; no, even as the trees That whisper round a temple become soon Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon, The passion poesy, glories infinite, Haunt us till they become a cheering light Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast, That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast, They alway must be with us, or we die. Endymion. Yet John Keats is in some respects out of keeping with the magnificent phraseology of which he is the mouthpiece.
as his fellow medical students termed him, is a small, undersized man, not over five feet high—the shoulders too broad, the legs too spare—
death in his hand,
as Coleridge said, the slack moist hand of the incipient consumptive. The only
thing of beauty
about him is his face.
It is a face,
to quote his friend Leigh Hunt,
in which energy and sensibility
are remarkably mixed up—an eager power, wrecked and made impatient by ill-health. Every feature at once strongly cut and delicately alive.
There is that femininity in the cast of his features, which Coleridge classed as an attribute of true genius. His beautiful brown hair falls loosely over those eyes, large, dark, glowing, which appeal to all observers by their mystical illumination of rapture—eyes which seem as though they had been dwelling on some glorious sight—which have, as Haydon said,
an inward look perfectly divine, like a Delphian priestess who saw visions.
And he is seeing visions all the while. Some chance sight or sound has wrapt him away from the young greenness of the May morning, and plunged him deep into the opulent colour of September. His prophetic eye sees all the apple-buds as golden orbs of fruit, and the swallows, that now build beneath the eaves, making ready for their departure. And these future splendours shape themselves into lines as richly coloured. AUTUMN Painting by W. J. Neatby. AUTUMN