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

70. — To John Hamilton Reynolds.

My dear Reynolds — Believe me I have rather rejoiced at your happiness than fretted at your silence. Indeed I am grieved on your account that I am not at the same time happy — But I conjure you to think at Present of nothing but pleasure —“Gather the rose, etc.”— gorge the honey of life. I pity you as much that it cannot last for ever, as I do myself now drinking bitters. Give yourself up to it — you cannot help it — and I have a Consolation in thinking so. I never was in love — Yet the voice and shape of a Woman has haunted me these two days80— at such a time, when the relief, the feverous relief of Poetry seems a much less crime — This morning Poetry has conquered — I have relapsed into those abstractions which are my only life — I feel escaped from a new strange and threatening sorrow — And I am thankful for it — There is an awful warmth about my heart like a load of Immortality.

Poor Tom — that woman — and Poetry were ringing changes in my senses — Now I am in comparison happy — I am sensible this will distress you — you must forgive me. Had I known you would have set out so soon I could have sent you the ‘Pot of Basil’ for I had copied it out ready. — Here is a free translation of a Sonnet of Ronsard, which I think will please you — I have the loan of his works — they have great Beauties.

Nature withheld Cassandra in the skies,

For more adornment, a full thousand years;

She took their cream of Beauty’s fairest dyes,

And shap’d and tinted her above all Peers:

Meanwhile Love kept her dearly with his wings,

And underneath their shadow fill’d her eyes

With such a richness that the cloudy Kings

Of high Olympus utter’d slavish sighs.

When from the Heavens I saw her first descend,

My heart took fire, and only burning pains,

They were my pleasures — they my Life’s sad end;

Love pour’d her beauty into my warm veins.

*   *   *   *   *

*   *   *   *   *

I had not the original by me when I wrote it, and did not recollect the purport of the last lines.

I should have seen Rice ere this — but I am confined by Sawrey’s mandate in the house now, and have as yet only gone out in fear of the damp night. — You know what an undangerous matter it is. I shall soon be quite recovered — Your offer I shall remember as though it had even now taken place in fact — I think it cannot be. Tom is not up yet — I cannot say he is better. I have not heard from George.

Your affectionate friend

John Keats.

80 Miss Charlotte Cox, an East-Indian cousin of the Reynoldses — the “Charmian” described more fully in Letter LXXIII.


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