200 years ago (1 December 1816) Leigh Hunt launched Keats’s career as a poet

keatsLeigh Hunt launches Keats’s poetic career with this article in The Examiner:

No. 466. SUNDAY, DEC. 1, 1816.

The object of the present article is merely to notice three young writers, who appear to us to promise a considerable addition of strength in the new school…

The last of these young aspirants whom we have met with, and who promise to help the new school to revive Nature and
“To put a spirit of youth in every thing,”—
is, we believe, the youngest of them all, and just of age. His name is John Keats. he has not yet published any thing except in a newspaper; but a set of his manuscripts was handed us the other day, and fairly surprised us with the truth of their ambition, and ardent grappling with Nature. In the following Sonnet there is one incorrect rhyme, which might be easily altered, but which shall serve in the mean time as a peace-offering to the rhyming critics. The rest of the composition, with the exception of a little vagueness in calling the regions of poetry “the realms of gold,” we do not hesitate to pronounce excellent, especially the last six lines. The word swims is complete; and the whole conclusion is equally powerful and quiet:,—

Much have I travel’d in the realms of Gold,
And many goodly States and Kingdoms seen;
Round many western Islands have I been,
Which Bards in fealty to Apollo hold;
But of one wide expanse had I been told,
That deep-brow’d Homer rul’d as his demesne;
Yet could I never judge what men could mean,
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold.
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies,
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like a stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific,—and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise,—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Oct. 1816. John Keats.

One of Keats’s fellow students at Guys, Henry Stephens, recalled:
I remember his showing me the Examiner in which was an article under the title `the Rising Poets’ or `the Young Poets’ or some such title, in which the names of several were inserted with a brief sketch of them and a specimen of their poetry, and the name of John Keats appeared among them, with that of Shelley.
This sealed his fate, and he gave himself up more completely than before to Poetry.

Source <of context>
Letter from Henry Stephens to George Felton Mathew, March (?) 1847, in Rollins, H. R. (ed.) Letters and papers of the Keats Circle (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press 1948) II, 208-211

Source <of Examiner article>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *