Leigh Hunt, from The Examiner
1st December 1816
Many of our readers….have perhaps observed for themselves, that there has been a new school of poetry rising of late, which promises to extinguish the French one that has prevailed among us since the time of Charles the 2d. It began with something excessive, like most revolutions, but this gradually wore away; and an evident aspiration after real nature and original fancy remained, which called to mind the finer times of the English Muse. In fact it is wrong to call it a new school, and still more so to represent it as one of innovation, its only object being to restore the same love of Nature, and of thinking instead of mere talking, which formerly rendered us real poets, and not merely versifying wits, and bead-rollers of couplets….
The object of the present article is merely to notice three young writers, who appear to use to promise a considerable addition of strength to the new school.
The last of [the] young aspirants whom we have met with, and who promise to help the new school to revise Nature and
To put a spirit of youth in every thing, —-
is, we believe, the youngest of them all, and just of age. His name is JOHN KEATS. He has not yet published any thing except in a newspaper; but a set of his manuscripts was handed us the other day, and fairly surprised us with the truth of their ambition, and ardent grappling with Nature. In the following Sonnet there is one incorrect rhyme, which might be easily altered, but which shall serve in the mean time as a peace-offering to the rhyming critics. The rest of the composition, with the exception of a little vagueness in calling the regions of poetry “the realms of gold”, we don not hesitate to pronounce excellent, especially the last six lines. The words swims is complete; and the whole conclusion is equally powerful and quiet: —-
ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN’S HOMER
Much have I travell’d in the realms of Gold,
And many goodly States and Kingdoms seen;
Round many western Islands have I been,
Which Bards in fealty to Apollo hold;
But of one wide expanse had I been told,
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet could I never judge what men could mean,
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold.
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies,
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He stared at the Pacific, – and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise, –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien….
We have spoken with the less scruple of these poetical promises, because we really are not in the habit of lavishing praises and announcements, and because we have no fear of any pettier vanity on the part of young men, who promise to understand human nature so well.
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Link will appear as Hanson, Marilee. "John Keats Critical Opinion By Leigh Hunt, from The Examiner" https://englishhistory.net/keats/critical-opinion-by-leigh-hunt-from-the-examiner/, March 6, 2015