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On Sale: November 01, 2000
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Published by : Modern Library Random House Group
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis


'I think I shall be among the English Poets after my death,' John Keats soberly prophesied in 1818 as he started writing the blankverse epic Hyperion. Today he endures as the archetypal Romantic genius who explored the limits of the imagination and celebrated the pleasures of the senses but suffered a tragic early death. Edmund Wilson counted him as 'one of the half dozen greatest English writers,' and T. S. Eliot has paid tribute to the Shakespearean quality of Keats's greatness. Indeed, his work has survived better than that of any of his contemporaries the devaluation of Romantic poetry that began early in this century. This Modern Library edition contains all of Keats's magnificent verse: 'Lamia,' 'Isabella,' and 'The Eve of St. Agnes'; his sonnets and odes; the allegorical romance Endymion; and the five-act poetic tragedy Otho the Great. Presented as well are the famous posthumous and fugitive poems, including the fragmentary 'The Eve of Saint Mark' and the great 'La Belle Dame sans Merci,' perhaps the most distinguished literary ballad in the language. 'No one else in English poetry, save Shakespeare, has in expression quite the fascinating felicity of Keats, his perception of loveliness,' said Matthew Arnold. 'In the faculty of naturalistic interpretation, in what we call natural magic, he ranks with Shakespeare.'

Excerpt

'Places of nestling green for Poets made.'


Story of Rimini.

I STOOD tip-toe upon a little hill,
The air was cooling, and so very still,
That the sweet buds which with a modest pride
Pull droopingly, in slanting curve aside,
Their scantly leav'd, and finely tapering stems,
Had not yet lost those starry diadems
Caught from the early sobbing of the morn.
The clouds were pure and white as flocks new shorn,
And fresh from the clear brook; sweetly they slept
On the blue fields of heaven, and then there crept ———10
A little noiseless noise among the leaves,
Born of the very sigh that silence heaves:
For not the faintest motion could be seen
Of all the shades that slanted o'er the green.
There was wide wand'ring for the greediest eye,
To peer about upon variety;
Far round the horizon's crystal air to skim,
And trace the dwindled edgings of its brim;
To picture out the quaint, and curious bending
Of a fresh woodland alley, never ending; ———20
Or by the bowery clefts, and leafy shelves,
Guess where the jaunty streams refresh themselves.
I gazed awhile, and felt as light, and free
As though the fanning wings of Mercury
Had play'd upon my heels: I was light-hearted,
And many pleasures to my vision started;
So I straightway began to pluck a posey
Of luxuries bright, milky, soft and rosy.

A bush of May flowers with the bees about them;
Ah, sure no tasteful nook would be without them; ———30
And let a lush laburnum oversweep them,
And let long grass grow round the roots to keep them
Moist, cool and green; and shade the violets,
That they may bind the moss in leafy nets.
A filbert hedge with wild briar overtwined,
And clumps of woodbine taking the soft wind
Upon their summer thrones; there too should be
The frequent chequer of a youngling tree,
That with a score of light green brethren shoots
From the quaint mossiness of aged roots: ——— 40
Round which is heard a spring-head of clear waters
Babbling so wildly of its lovely daughters
The spreading blue-bells: it may haply mourn
That such fair clusters should be rudely torn
From their fresh beds, and scattered thoughtlessly
By infant hands, left on the path to die.

Open afresh your round of starry folds,
Ye ardent marigolds!
Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,
For great Apollo bids ——— 50
That in these days your praises should be sung
On many harps, which he has lately strung;
And when again your dewiness he kisses,
Tell him, I have you in my world of blisses:
So haply when I rove in some far vale,
His mighty voice may come upon the gale.

Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:
With wings of gentle flush o'er delicate white,
And taper fingers catching at all things,
To bind them all about with tiny rings. ——— 60
John Keats

About John Keats

John Keats - The Complete Poems of John Keats
John Keats was born in October 1795, son of the manager of a livery stable in Moorfields. His father died in 1804 and his mother, of tuberculosis, in 1810. By then he had received a good education at John Clarke’s Enfield private school. In 1811 he was apprenticed to a surgeon, completing his professional training at Guy’s Hospital in 1816. His decision to commit himself to poetry rather than a medical career was a courageous one, based more on a challenge to himself than any actual achievement.

His genius was recognized and encouraged by early Mends like Charles Cowden Clarke and J. H. Reynolds, and in October 1816 he met Leigh Hunt, whose Examiner had already published Keats’s first poem. Only seven months later Poems (1817) appeared. Despite the high hopes of the Hunt circle, it was a failure. By the time Endymion was published in 1818 Keats’s name had been identified with Hunt’s ‘Cockney School’, and the Tory Blackwood’s Magazine delivered a violent attack on Keats as a lower-class vulgarian, with no right to aspire to ‘poetry’.

But for Keats fame lay not in contemporary literary politics but with posterity. Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth were his inspiration and challenge. The extraordinary speed with which Keats matured is evident from his letters. In 1818 he had worked on the powerful epic fragment Hyperion, and in 1819 he wrote ‘The Eve of St Agnes’, ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’, the major odes, Lamia, and the deeply exploratory Fall of Hyperion. Keats was already unwell when preparing the 1820 volume for the press; by the time it appeared in July he was desperately ill. He died in Rome in 1821. Keats’s final volume did receive some contemporary critical recognition, but it was not until the latter part of the nineteenth century that his place in English Romanticism began to be recognized, and not until this century that it became fully recognized.


  • The Complete Poems of John Keats by John Keats
  • April 26, 1994
  • Poetry
  • Modern Library
  • $22.00
  • 9780679601081

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