In late November 1819 Charles Brown encouraged Keats to write a satirical poem in the style of Byron, ‘The Cap and Bells, or The Jealousies’, which would lampoon the Prince Regent’s flagrant love life and notoriously unhappy marriage. Here are the opening stanzas:
In midmost Ind, beside Hydaspes cool,
There stood, or hover’d, tremulous in the air,
A faery city ’neath the potent rule
Of Emperor Elfinan; fam’d ev’rywhere
For love of mortal women, maidens fair,
Whose lips were solid, whose soft hands were made
Of a fit mould and beauty, ripe and rare,
To pamper his slight wooing, warm yet staid:
He lov’d girls smooth as shades, but hated a mere shade.
This was a crime forbidden by the law;
And all the priesthood of his city wept,
For ruin and dismay they well foresaw
If impious prince no bound or limit kept,
And faery Zendervester overstept;
They wept, he sinn’d, and still he would sin on,
They dreamt of sin, and he sinn’d while they slept;
In vain the pulpit thunder’d at the throne,
Caricature was vain, and vain the tart lampoon.
Which seeing, his high court of parliament
Laid a remonstrance at his Highness’ feet,
Praying his royal senses to content
Themselves with what in faery land was sweet,
Befitting best that shade with shade should meet:
Whereat, to calm their fears, he promis’d soon
From mortal tempters all to make retreat,—
Aye, even on the first of the new moon
An immaterial wife to espouse as heaven’s boon.
[Hydaspes: thought to refer to the River Ganges.
Elfinan: one of the Lords of Fairy in Spenser’s Faerie Queene.
Zendervester: the Zend-Avesta is the sacred book of Zoroastrianism.]