Sunday, April 20, 2014


A Starting-Post

John Keats, letter to John Hamilton Reynolds (February 19, 1818):
I had an idea that a Man might pass a very pleasant life in this manner—let him on a certain day read a certain Page of full Poesy or distilled Prose, and let him wander with it, and muse upon it, and reflect upon it, and bring home to it, and prophesy upon it, and dream upon it, until it becomes stale—but when will it do so? Never. When Man has arrived at a certain ripeness in intellect any one grand and spiritual passage serves him as a starting-post towards all "the two-and-thirty Palaces." How happy is such a voyage of conception, what delicious diligent Indolence!
What are "the two-and-thirty Palaces"?

A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels: Consisting Of the most Esteemed Relations, which have been hitherto published in any Language: Comprehending every Thing remarkable in its Kind, in Europe, Asia, Africa and America..., Vol. IV (London: Thomas Astley, 1747), p. 5 (from "A Description of China," Book I, emphasis added):
They reckon three hundred and thirty-one remarkable Bridges, one thousand one hundred and fifty-nine Towers and triumphal Arches, erected to Kings, and eminent Persons; famous Libraries, two-hundred and seventy-two; seven hundred and nine Halls, built in Memory of Ancestors, or worthy Men; Sepulchres, remarkable for their Architecture, six hundred and eighty-eight; thirty-two Palaces of the Regulos; thirteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven Palaces of the Magistrates.
Id., p. 102 (emphasis added):
Among the public Buildings may be reckoned the Halls erected in Honour of Ancestors, the Libraries, and the Palaces of the Princes and Mandarins. Of the first, there are seven hundred and nine, considerable for their Largeness and Beauty. Of the second, two hundred and seventy-two, built at a vast Expence, finely ornamented, and stored with Books. Thirty-two Palaces of the Regulos, built after the Model of the Emperor's at Pe-king, and thirteen thousand six hundred and forty-seven of the Quan.
A regulo is, I assume, a regulus, a petty king. I don't know whether Keats ever read this book.

Joel Eidsath writes:
There are 32 points to the traditional wind compass. It's a poetic way of referring to all directions. "Two-and-thirty" is the sonorous KJV way of saying "32."

Keats was apparently inspired by Coleridge's Biographia Literaria, which uses the phrase "all the two and thirty winds," and had just been published in 1817.

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