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

43. — To Benjamin Robert Haydon.

My dear Haydon — In sooth, I hope you are not too sanguine about that seal — in sooth I hope it is not Brumidgeum — in double sooth I hope it is his — and in triple sooth I hope I shall have an impression.54 Such a piece of intelligence came doubly welcome to me while in your own County and in your own hand — not but I have blown up the said County for its urinal qualifications — the six first days I was here it did nothing but rain; and at that time having to write to a friend I gave Devonshire a good blowing up — it has been fine for almost three days, and I was coming round a bit; but to-day it rains again — with me the County is yet upon its good behaviour. I have enjoyed the most delightful Walks these three fine days beautiful enough to make me content.

Here all the summer could I stay,

For there’s Bishop’s teign

And King’s teign

And Coomb at the clear teign head —

Where close by the stream

You may have your cream

All spread upon barley bread.

There’s arch Brook

And there’s larch Brook

Both turning many a mill;

And cooling the drouth

Of the salmon’s mouth,

And fattening his silver gill.

There is Wild wood,

A Mild hood

To the sheep on the lea o’ the down,

Where the golden furze,

With its green, thin spurs,

Doth catch at the maiden’s gown.

There is Newton marsh

With its spear grass harsh —

A pleasant summer level

Where the maidens sweet

Of the Market Street,

Do meet in the dusk to revel.

There’s the Barton rich

With dyke and ditch

And hedge for the thrush to live in

And the hollow tree

For the buzzing bee

And a bank for the wasp to hive in.

And O, and O

The daisies blow

And the primroses are waken’d,

And the violets white

Sit in silver plight,

And the green bud’s as long as the spike end.

Then who would go

Into dark Soho,

And chatter with dack’d hair’d critics,

When he can stay

For the new-mown hay,

And startle the dappled Prickets?

I know not if this rhyming fit has done anything — it will be safe with you if worthy to put among my Lyrics. Here’s some doggrel for you — Perhaps you would like a bit of b —— hrell —

Where be ye going, you Devon Maid?

And what have you there in the Basket?

Ye tight little fairy just fresh from the dairy,

Will ye give me some cream if I ask it?

I love your Meads, and I love your flowers,

And I love your junkets mainly,

But ’hind the door I love kissing more,

O look not so disdainly.

I love your hills, and I love your dales,

And I love your flocks a-bleating —

But O, on the heather to lie together,

With both our hearts a-beating!

I’ll put your Basket all safe in a nook,

Your shawl I hang up on the willow,

And we will sigh in the daisy’s eye

And kiss on a grass green pillow.

How does the work go on? I should like to bring out my “Dentatus”55 at the time your Epic makes its appearance. I expect to have my Mind soon clear for something new. Tom has been much worse: but is now getting better — his remembrances to you. I think of seeing the Dart and Plymouth — but I don’t know. It has as yet been a Mystery to me how and where Wordsworth went. I can’t help thinking he has returned to his Shell — with his beautiful Wife and his enchanting Sister. It is a great Pity that People should by associating themselves with the finest things, spoil them. Hunt has damned Hampstead and masks and sonnets and Italian tales. Wordsworth has damned the lakes — Milman has damned the old drama — West has damned —— wholesale. Peacock has damned satire — Ollier has damn’d Music — Hazlitt has damned the bigoted and the blue-stockinged; how durst the Man?! he is your only good damner, and if ever I am damn’d — damn me if I shouldn’t like him to damn me. It will not be long ere I see you, but I thought I would just give you a line out of Devon.

Yours affectionately

John Keats.

Remember me to all we know.

54 Replying to an ecstatic note of Haydon’s about a seal with a true lover’s knot and the initials W. S., lately found in a field at Stratford-on-Avon.

55 Dentatus was the subject of Haydon’s new picture.


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