‘O! how I love, on a fair summer’s eve’
O! how I love, on a fair summer’s eve,
When streams of light pour down the golden west,
And on the balmy zephyrs tranquil rest
The silver clouds, far – far away to leave
All meaner thoughts, and take a sweet reprieve
From little cares; to find, with easy quest,
A fragrant wild, with Nature’s beauty dressed,
And there into delight my soul deceive.
There warm my breast with patriotic lore,
Musing on Milton’s fate – on Sidney’s bier –
Till their stern forms before my mind arise:
Perhaps on the wing of Poesy upsoar,
Full often dropping a delicious tear,
When some melodious sorrow spells mine eyes.
by John Keats
Written in 1816, two years after his first extant poem and five years before his death, Keats’ taste for the “patriotic lore” of the likes of Milton and Sidney (inspiration for the shaping of his craft in “Poesy”) reconfirms this piece of verse as some of his earlier work; an insinuation at his lack of confidence his beginning dabblings, if you will, outside of his work in medicine.
Indeed, in his letter To C. C. Clarke, 9 October 1816 wherein he encloses “a sheet or two of Verse which [he] composed some time ago”, Keats writes:
[…] the Muse is so frequently mentioned. I here sinned in the face of Heaven even while remembering what, I think, Horace says, “never presume to make a God appear but for an Action worthy of a God.”
This reference to Horace alone indicating his knowledge of and predilection for the Classics, within the above poem itself the reader is guided to this same conclusion by mention of “zephyrs” (those Greek westerly winds) and a Pagan invocation of “Nature” (capitalized; though perhaps inspired also by Wordsworth et al).
All the above aside, what can be gleaned from this early piece is held within its last two lines, a “delicious tear” and “melodious sorrow” hinting at great things to come in vein of “Ode on Melancholy” and Keats’ famous declaration in his letter To The George Keatses, 14 February – 3 May 1819 :
Do you not see how necessary a World of Pains and troubles is to school an Intelligence and make it a soul?
[Words by N R Nolan]