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To John Hamilton Reynolds (Hampstead, January 31, 1818)

Hampstead, Saturday, January 31, 1818

 

My dear Reynolds

I have parcelled out this day for Letter Writing—more resolved thereon because your Letter will come as a refreshment and will have (sic parvis etc.) the same effect as a Kiss in certain situations where people become over-generous. I have read this first sentence over, and think it savours rather; however an inward innocence is like a nested dove, as the old song says….

Now I purposed to write to you a serious poetical letter, but I find that a maxim I met with the other day is a just one: “On cause míeux quand on ne dit pas causons.” I was hindered, however, from my first intention by a mere muslin Handkerchief very neatly pinned—but “Hence, vain deluding,” etc. Yet I cannot write in prose; it is a sunshiny day and I cannot, so here goes,—

Hence Burgundy, Claret, and Port,
Away with old Hock and Madeira,
Too earthly ye are for my sport;
There’s a beverage brighter and clearer.
Instead of a pitiful rummer,
My wine overbrims a whole summer;
My bowl is the sky,
And I drink at my eye,
Till I feel in the brain
A Delphian pain—
Then follow, my Caius! then follow:
On the green of the hill
We will drink our fill
Of golden sunshine,
Till our brains intertwine
With the glory and grace of Apollo!
[Pg 66]
God of the Meridian,
And of the East and West,
To thee my soul is flown,
And my body is earthward press’d.—
It is an awful mission,
A terrible division;
And leaves a gulph austere
To be fill’d with worldly fear.
Aye, when the soul is fled
Too high above our head,
Affrighted do we gaze
After its airy maze,
As doth a mother wild,
When her young infant child
Is in an eagle’s claws—
And is not this the cause
Of madness?—God of Song,
Thou bearest me along
Through sights I scarce can bear:
O let me, let me share
With the hot lyre and thee,
The staid Philosophy.
Temper my lonely hours,
And let me see thy bowers
More unalarm’d!

My dear Reynolds, you must forgive all this ranting, but the fact is, I cannot write sense this Morning—however you shall have some—I will copy out my last Sonnet.

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled Books in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain—
When I behold, upon the night’s starr’d face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,
And think that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,
That I shall never look upon thee more,
Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting Love;—then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

I must take a turn, and then write to Teignmouth. Remember me to all, not excepting yourself.

Your sincere friend
John Keats.

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