Monday, December 03, 2012


A Pretty Piece of Paganism

B.R. Haydon, letter to Mary Russell Mitford (February 12, 1824), in Stanley Jones, "B.R. Haydon on Some Contemporaries: A New Letter," The Review of English Studies, New Series, Vol. 26, No. 102 (May, 1975) 183-189 (at 189):
When poor Keats repeated his exquisite ode to Pan to Wordsworth in that low chaunting tone, which was so musical and poetical (though he was a bad reciter) 'a very pretty piece of paganism' said Wordsworth in his dry envious satyr manner!
B.R. Haydon, letter to Edward Moxon (November 29, 1845):
When Wordsworth came to Town, I brought Keats to him, by his Wordsworths desire—Keats expressed to me as we walked to Queen Anne St East where Mr Monkhouse Lodged, the greatest, the purest, the most unalloyed pleasure at the prospect. Wordsworth received him kindly, & after a few minutes, Wordsworth asked him what he had been lately doing, I said he has just finished an exquisite ode to Pan—and as he had not a copy I begged Keats to repeat it—which he did in his usual half chant, (most touching) walking up & down the room—when he had done I felt really, as if I had heard a young Apollo—Wordsworth drily said 'a Very pretty piece of Paganism'—This was unfeeling, & unworthy of his high Genius to a young Worshipper like Keats—& Keats felt it deeply—so that if Keats has said anything severe about our Friend; it was because he was wounded—and though he dined with Wordsworth after at my table—he never forgave him.

It was nonsense of Wordsworth to take it as a bit of Paganism for the Time, the Poet ought to have been a Pagan for the time—and if Wordsworth's puling Christian feelings were annoyed—it was ill-bred to hurt a youth, at such moment when he actually trembled, like the String of a Lyre, when it has been touched.
Richard Monckton Milnes, Life, Letters, and Literary Remains, of John Keats (London: Edward Moxon, 1848), I, 86-87:
Keats was perhaps unconsciously swayed in his estimate of Wordsworth at this moment, by an incident which had occurred at Mr. Haydon's. The young Poet had been induced to repeat to the elder the fine "Hymn to Pan," out of "Endymion," which Shelley, who did not much like the poem, used to speak of as affording the "surest promise of ultimate excellence:" Wordsworth only remarked, "it was a pretty piece of Paganism." The mature and philosophic genius, penetrated with Christian associations, probably intended some slight rebuke to his youthful compeer, whom he saw absorbed in an order of ideas, that to him appeared merely sensuous, and would have desired that the bright traits of Greek mythology should be sobered down by a graver faith, as in his own "Dion" and "Laodamia;" but, assuredly, the phrase could not have been meant contemptuously, as Keats took it, and was far more annoyed at it than at pages of "Quarterly" abuse, or "Blackwood's" ridicule.
John Keats, Endymion I.232-306:
O thou, whose mighty palace roof doth hang
From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth
Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death
Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness;        235
Who lov'st to see the hamadryads dress
Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken;
And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken
The dreary melody of bedded reeds—
In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds        240
The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth;
Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth
Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx—do thou now,
By thy love's milky brow!
By all the trembling mazes that she ran,        245
Hear us, great Pan!

O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles
Passion their voices cooingly 'mong myrtles,
What time thou wanderest at eventide
Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side        250
Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom
Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom
Their ripen'd fruitage; yellow girted bees
Their golden honeycombs; our village leas
Their fairest blossom'd beans and poppied corn;        255
The chuckling linnet its five young unborn,
To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries
Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies
Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year
All its completions—be quickly near,        260
By every wind that nods the mountain pine,
O forester divine!

Thou, to whom every faun and satyr flies
For willing service; whether to surprise
The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit;        265
Or upward ragged precipices flit
To save poor lambkins from the eagle's maw;
Or by mysterious enticement draw
Bewildered shepherds to their path again;
Or to tread breathless round the frothy main,        270
And gather up all fancifullest shells
For thee to tumble into Naiads' cells,
And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping;
Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping,
The while they pelt each other on the crown        275
With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown—
By all the echoes that about thee ring,
Hear us, O satyr king!

O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears,
While ever and anon to his shorn peers        280
A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn,
When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn
Anger our huntsman: Breather round our farms,
To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:
Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,        285
That come a swooning over hollow grounds,
And wither drearily on barren moors:
Dread opener of the mysterious doors
Leading to universal knowledge—see,
Great son of Dryope,        290
The many that are come to pay their vows
With leaves about their brows!

Be still the unimaginable lodge
For solitary thinkings; such as dodge
Conception to the very bourne of heaven,        295
Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,
That spreading in this dull and clodded earth
Gives it a touch ethereal—a new birth:
Be still a symbol of immensity;
A firmament reflected in a sea;        300
An element filling the space between;
An unknown—but no more: we humbly screen
With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending,
And giving out a shout most heaven rending,
Conjure thee to receive our humble Pæan,        305
Upon thy Mount Lycean!

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?