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Young Poets.
The Examiner  No. 466  (1 December 1816)  761-62.
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No. 466. SUNDAY, DEC. 1, 1816.


In sitting down to write on this subject, we happen to be restricted by time to a much shorter notice than we could wish; but we mean to take it up again shortly. Many of our readers however have perhaps observed for themselves, that there has been a new school of poetry rising of late, which promises to extinguish the French one that has prevailed among us since the time of Charles the 2d. It began with something excessive like most revolutions, but this gradually wore away; and an evident aspiration after real nature and original fancy remained, which called to mind the finer times of the English Muse. In fact it is wrong to call it a new school, and still more so to represent it as one of innovation, it’s only object being to restore the same love of Nature, and of thinking instead of mere talking, which formerly rendered us real poets, and not merely versifying wits, and bead-rollers of couplets.

We were delighted to see the departure of the old school acknowledged in the number of the Edinburgh Review just published,—a candour the more generous and spirited, inasmuch as that work has hitherto been the greatest surviving ornament of the same school in prose and criticism, as it is now destined, we trust, to be still the leader of the new.

We also find the same delight at the third canto of Lord Byron’s Child Harolde, in which, to our conceptions at least, he has fairly renounced a certain leaven of the French style, and taken his place where we always said he would be found,—among the poets who have a real feeling for numbers, and who go directly to Nature for inspiration. But more of this poem in our next.*

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. Of the first who came before us, we have, it is true, yet seen only  one or two specimens, and these were no sooner sent us than we unfortunately mislaid them, but we shall procure what he has published, and if the rest answer to what we have seen, we shall have no hesitation in announcing him for a very striking and original thinker. His name is Percy Bysshe Shelley, and he is the author of a poetical work entitled Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude.

The next with whose name we became acquainted was John Henry Reynolds, author of a tale called Safie, written, we believe, in imitation of Lord Byron, and more lately of a small set of poems published by Taylor and Hessey, the principal of which is called the Naiad. It opens thus:—

The gold sun went into the west,
And soft airs sang him into rest;
And yellow leaves all loose and dry,
Play’d on the branches listlessly;
The sky wax’s palely blue, and high
A cloud seem’d touch’d upon the sky,—
A spot of cloud,—blue, thin, and still,
And silence bask’d on vale and hill.
’Twas autumn-tide, the eve was sweet,
As moral eye hath e’er beholden;
The grass look’d warm with sunny heat—
Perchance some fairy’s glowing feet
Had lightly touch’d,—and left it golden:
A flower or two were shining yet;
The star of the daisy had not yet set,—
It shone from the turf to greet the air
Which tenderly came breathing there;
And in a brook which lov’d to fret
O’er yellow sand and pebble blue,
The lily of the silvery hue
All freshly dwells, with white leaves wet.
Away the sparkling water play’d,
Through bending grass, and blessed flower;
Light, and delight seem’d all its dower;
Away in merriment it stray’d,—
Singing, and bearing, hour after hour,
Pale, lovely splendour to the shade.

We shall give another extract or two in a future number. The author’s style is too artificial, though he is evidently an admirer of Mr. Wordsworth. Like all young poets too, properly so called, his love of detail is too over-wrought and indiscriminate; but still he is a young poet, and only wants a still closer attention to things as opposed to the seduction of words, to realize all that he promises. His nature seems very true and amiable.

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.
* By the way, we are authorised to mention, that the person in Cheapside who announces some new publications by his Lordship, and says he has given five hundred guineas for them, has no warrant for so stating. We are sorry to hurt the man’s sale, as far as some other booksellers are concerned, who are just as money-getting and impudent in different ways; but truth must be told of one, as it will also be told of others.—(Since writing this note, we find the business noticed in Chancery, and some of the verses quoted, which will certainly satisfy the public that the Noble Poet was not the author.)
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.

We have spoken with the less scruple of these poetical promises, because we really are not in the habit of lavishing praises and announcements, and because we have no fear of any pettier vanity on the part of young men, who promise to understand human nature so well.