AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF JOHN KEATS,
AUTHOR OF ENDYMION, HYPERION, ETC.
Aster prin men elampes eni zooisin Eoos
nun de thanon lampeis Esperos en phthimenois.–PLATO.
[“Adonais” was composed at Pisa during the early days of June, 1821, and printed, with the author’s name, at Pisa, ‘with the types of Didot,’ by July 13, 1821. Part of the impression was sent to the brothers Ollier for sale in London. An exact reprint of this Pisa edition (a few typographical errors only being corrected) was issued in 1829 by Gee & Bridges, Cambridge, at the instance of Arthur Hallam and Richard Monckton Milnes (Lord Houghton). The poem was included in Galignani’s edition of “Coleridge, Shelley and Keats”, Paris, 1829, and by Mrs. Shelley in the “Poetical Works” of 1839. Mrs. Shelley’s text presents three important variations from that of the editio princeps. In 1876 an edition of the “Adonais”, with Introduction and Notes, was printed for private circulation by Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B. Ten years later a reprint ‘in exact facsimile’ of the Pisa edition was edited with a Bibliographical Introduction by Mr. T.J. Wise (“Shelley Society Publications”, 2nd Series, No. 1, Reeves & Turner, London, 1886). Our text is that of the editio princeps, Pisa, 1821, modified by Mrs. Shelley’s text of 1839. The readings of the editio princeps, wherever superseded, are recorded in the footnotes. The Editor’s Notes at the end of the Volume 3 should be consulted.]
Pharmakon elthe, Bion, poti son stoma, pharmakon eides.
pos ten tois cheilessi potesrame, kouk eglukanthe;
tis de Brotos tossouton anameros, e kerasai toi,
e dounai laleonti to pharmakon; ekphugen odan.
–MOSCHUS, EPITAPH. BION.
It is my intention to subjoin to the London edition of this poem 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 twenty-fourth 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 desolate, 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 its 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 acknowledgements 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 its 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 Reverend 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.