Letters of John Keats to His Family and Friends, by John Keats

33. — To John Hamilton Reynolds.

My dear Reynolds — I have parcelled out this day for Letter Writing — more resolved thereon because your Letter will come as a refreshment and will have (sic parvis etc.) the same effect as a Kiss in certain situations where people become over-generous. I have read this first sentence over, and think it savours rather; however an inward innocence is like a nested dove, as the old song says. . . .

Now I purposed to write to you a serious poetical letter, but I find that a maxim I met with the other day is a just one: “On cause míeux quand on ne dit pas causons.” I was hindered, however, from my first intention by a mere muslin Handkerchief very neatly pinned — but “Hence, vain deluding,” etc. Yet I cannot write in prose; it is a sunshiny day and I cannot, so here goes —

Hence Burgundy, Claret, and Port,

Away with old Hock and Madeira,

Too earthly ye are for my sport;

There’s a beverage brighter and clearer.

Instead of a pitiful rummer,

My wine overbrims a whole summer;

My bowl is the sky,

And I drink at my eye,

Till I feel in the brain

A Delphian pain —

Then follow, my Caius! then follow:

On the green of the hill

We will drink our fill

Of golden sunshine,

Till our brains intertwine

With the glory and grace of Apollo!

God of the Meridian,

And of the East and West,

To thee my soul is flown,

And my body is earthward press’d. —

It is an awful mission,

A terrible division;

And leaves a gulph austere

To be fill’d with worldly fear.

Aye, when the soul is fled

Too high above our head,

Affrighted do we gaze

After its airy maze,

As doth a mother wild,

When her young infant child

Is in an eagle’s claws —

And is not this the cause

Of madness? — God of Song,

Thou bearest me along

Through sights I scarce can bear:

O let me, let me share

With the hot lyre and thee,

The staid Philosophy.

Temper my lonely hours,

And let me see thy bowers

More unalarm’d!

My dear Reynolds, you must forgive all this ranting — but the fact is, I cannot write sense this Morning — however you shall have some — I will copy out my last Sonnet.

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,

Before high piled Books in charactery,

Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain —

When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,

That I shall never look upon thee more,

Never have relish in the faery power

Of unreflecting Love; — then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think

Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

I must take a turn, and then write to Teignmouth. Remember me to all, not excepting yourself.

Your sincere friend

John Keats.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56