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How Diotima, the wise prophetess,
Farewell, if it can be to say farewell
I will not, as most dedicators do,
There is a mood which language faints beneath;
And what is that most brief and bright delight
It floats with rainbow pinions o'er the stream
What is that joy which serene infancy
ever new ? Remembrance borrows Fancy's glass, to show These forms more
Were it not a sweet refuge, Emily,
AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF JOHN KEATS,
AUTHOR OF ENDYMION, HYPERION &c.
Αστήρ πρίν μεν έλαμπες ενι ζωοισιν εώος. .
Φάρμακον ήλθε, Βίων, ποτι σον στομα, φάρμακον είδες:
MOSCHUS, EPITAPH. BION.
It is my intention to subjoin to the London edition of this poemn, a criticism upon the claims of its lamented object to be classed among the writers of the highest genius who have adorned our age. My known repugnance to the narrow principles of taste on which several of his earlier compositions were modelled, prove, at least that I am an impartial judge. I consider the fragment of Hyperion, as second to nothing that was ever produced by a writer of the same years.
John Keats died at Rome of a consumption, in his twentyfourth year, on the of 1821; and was buried in the romantic and lonely cemetery of the protestants in that city, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius, and the massy walls and towers, now mouldering and desclate, which formed the circuit of ancient Rome. The cemetery is an open space among the ruins covered in winter with violets and daisies. It might make one in love with death, to think that one should be buried in so sweet a place.
The genius of the lamented person to whose memory I have dedicated these unworthy verses, was not less delicate and fragile than it was beautiful; and where cankerworms abound, what wonder, if it's young flower was blighted in the bud? The savage criticism on his Endymion, which appeared in the Quarterly Review, produced the most violent effect on his susceptible mind; the agitation thus originated ended in the rupture of a blood-vessel in the lungs; a rapid consumption ensued, and the succeeding acknowledgments from more candid critics, of the true greatness of his powers, were ineffectual to heal the wound thus wantonly inflicted.
It may be well said, that these wretched men know not what they do. They scatter their insults and their slanders without heed as to whether the poisoned shaft lights on a heart made callous by many blows, or one, like Keats's composed of more penetrable stuff. One of their associates, is, to my knowledge, a most base and unprincipled calumniator. As to "Endymion”; was it a poem, whatever might be it's defects, to be treated contemptuously by those who had celebrated with various degrees of complacency and panegyric, “Paris,” and “Woman,” and a “Syrian Tale," and Mrs. Lefanu, and Mr. Barrett, and Mr. Howard Payne, and a long list of the illustrious obscure ? Are these the men, who in their venal good nature, presumed to draw a parallel between the Rev. Mr. Milman and Lord Byron ? What gnat did they strain at here, after having swallowed all those camels? Against what woman taken in adultery, dares the foremost of these literary prostitutes to cast his opprobrious stone? Miserable man! you, one of the meanest, have wantonly defaced one of the noblest specimens of the workmanship of God. Nor shall it be your excuse, that, murderer as you are, you have spoken daggers, but used none.
The circumstances of the closing scene of poor Keats's life were not made known to me until the Elegy was ready for the press. I am given to understand that the wound which his sensitive spirit had received from the criticism of Endymion, was exasperated by the bitter sense of unrequited benefits; the poor fellow seems to have been hooted from the stage of life, no less by those on whom he had wasted VOL. I.
the promise of his genius, than those on whoin he had lavished his fortune and his care. He was accompanied to Rome, and attended in his last illness by Mr. Severn, a young artist of the highest promise, who, I have been informed “almost risked his own life, and sacrificed every “prospect to unwearied attendance upon his dying friend." Had I known these circumstances before the completion of my poem, I should have been tempted to add my feeble tribute of applause to the more solid recompense which the virtuous man finds in the recollection of his own motives. Mr. Severn can dispense with a reward from “such stuti as dreams are made of.” His conduct is a golden augury of the success of his future career-may the unextinguished Spirit of his illustrious friend animate the creations of his pencil, and plead against Oblivion for his name !
Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
Where wert thou mighty Mother, when he lav,
With veiled eyes,
With which, like flowers that mock the corse beneatiu, He had adorned and hid the coming bulk of death,