It is not that Mr Keats, (if that be his real name, for we almost doubt
that any man in his sense would put his real name to such a rhapsody,)
it is not, we say, that the author has not powers of language, rays of
fancy, and gleams of genius - he has all these; but he is unhappily a disciple
of the new school of what has been somewhere called Cockney poetry; which
may be defined to consist of the most incongruous ideas in the most uncouth
[Mr Keats] is a copyist of Mr Hunt; but he is more unintelligible, almost
as rugged, twice as diffuse, and ten times more tiresome and absurd than
his prototype, who, though he impudently presumed to seat himself in the
chair of criticism, and to measure his own poetry by his own standard,
yet generally had a meaning. But Mr Keats had advanced no dogmas
which he was bound to support by examples: his nonsense therefore is quite
gratuitous; he writes it for its own sake, and, being bitten by Mr Leigh
Hunt's insane criticism, more than rivals the insanity of his poetry....
Of the story we have been able to make out but little it seems to be
mythological, and probably relates to the loves of Diana and Endymion;
but of this, as the scope of the work has altogether escaped us, we cannot
speak with any degree of certainty; and must therefore content ourselves
with giving some instances of its diction and versification: - and here
again we are perplexed and puzzled. - At first it appeared to us, that
Mr Keats had been amusing himself and wearying his readers with an immeasurable
game at boutsrimes [a game in which the player improvises a poem from rhyme
words that have been supplied]; but, if we recollect rightly, it is an
indispensable condition at this play, that the rhymes when filled up shall
have a meaning; and our author, as we have already hinted, has no meaning.
He seems to use to write a line at random, and then he follows not the
thought excited by this line, but that suggested by the rhyme with
which it concludes. There is hardly a complete couplet inclosing
a complete idea in the whole book. He wanders from one subject to
another, from the association, not of ideas but of sounds, and the work
is composed of hemistichs which, it is quite evident, have forced themselves
upon the author by the mere force of the catchwords on which they turn.
We shall select, not as the most striking instance, but as that least
liable to suspicion, a passage from the opening of the poem:
Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season: the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead; &c, &c. ...
Here it is clear that the word, and not the idea, moon produced
the simple sheep and their shady boon, and that 'the dooms
of the mighty dead' would never have intruded themselves but for the 'fair
We come now to the author's taste in versification. He cannot
indeed write a sentence, but perhaps he may be able to spin a line.
Let us see. The following are specimens of his prosodial notions
of our English Heroic metre.
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite....
So plenteously all weed-hidden roots....
Of some strange history, potent to send....
Before the deep intoxication....
Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion....
By this time our readers must be pretty well satisfied as to the meaning
of his sentences and the structure of his lines: we now present them with
some of the new words with which, in imitation of Mr Leigh Hunt, he adorns
We are told that 'turtles passion their voices,'....; that 'an
arbour was nested,'....; and a lady's locks 'gordian'd up,;....;
and to supply the place of the nouns thus verbalized Mr Keats, with great
fecundity, spawns new ones; such as 'men-slugs and human serpentry'....
But enough of Mr Leigh Hunt and his simple neophyte. - If any one should
be bold enough to purchase this 'Poetic Romance,' and so much more patient,
than ourselves, as to get beyond the first book, and so much more fortunate
as to find a meaning, we entreat him to make us acquainted with his success;
we shall then return to the task which we now abandon in despair, and endeavour
to make all due amends to Mr Keats and to our readers.