On Seeing a Lock of Milton’s Hair.
Chief of organic numbers!
Old scholar of the spheres!
Thy spirit never slumbers,
But rolls about our ears,
For ever, and for ever!
O what a mad endeavour
Who to thy sacred and ennoblèd hearse
Would offer a burnt sacrifice of verse
How heavenward thou soundest,
Live temple of sweet noise,
And discord unconfoundest,
Give delight new joys,
And pleasure nobler pinions!
O, where are thy dominions?
Lend thine ear
To a young Delian oath — ay, by thy soul,
By all that from thy mortal lips did roll,
And by the kernel of thy earthly love,
Beauty in things on earth and things above, I swear!
When every childish fashion
Has vanished from my rhyme,
Will I, grey-gone in passion,
Leave to an after-time
Hymning and harmony
Of thee, and of thy works, and of thy life;
But vain is now the burning and the strife,
Pangs are in vain, until I grow high-rife
With old Philosophy,
And mad with glimpses of futurity!
For many years my offering must be hushed;
When I do speak, I’ll think upon this hour,
Because I feel my forehead hot and flushed,
Even at the simplest vassal of thy power —
A lock of thy bright hair.
Sudden it came,
And I was startled, when I caught thy name
Coupled so unaware;
Yet, at the moment, temperate was my blood.
Methought I had beheld it from the Flood.
Poem written 21 January 1818, after Leigh Hunt had shown Keats “a real authenticated Lock of Milton’s hair”.