|by Holman Hunt|
They are in a bower of hyacinth and musk, a prelude to the sensuous Keats. It is one of my favourite phrases. Interestingly, a blue hyacinth means constancy. I suppose it foreshadows Isabella's deadly love? There is a little too many Greek references without reason or feeling, unlike the Odes and his later poems. You get the idea Keats was trying to over-impress.
“O Isabella, I can half perceive
“That I may speak my grief into thine ear; “If thou didst ever any thing believe, “Believe how I love thee, believe how near 60 “My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve “Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear “Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live “Another night, and not my passion shrive.
Still, you get a lot of nature here:
|But, for the general award of love,|
|The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;|
|Though Dido silent is in under-grove,|
|And Isabella’s was a great distress,|
Stanzas 14-17 are remarkably powerful, more than those dwelling on the young lovers. The brothers have a well-established business inherited from ancestors, which prey on suffering workers. They care only for themselves and their profits. One wonders whether Keats was an abolitionist. Keats is over-vehement in some lines, but it adds to the power of the whole thing. I wonder whether he was thinking of his strict and tight-fisted guardian.
Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove Was not embalm’d, this truth is not the less— Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers, Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.
Keats seems to be raging against the monuments or possessions of rich merchants as being shallow compared to pure feeling and humanity. Is this a revoke of the cold-hearted industrial era for the pursuit of the individual and humanity? Marble founts are manmade and remind you of wealth, tears are natural and remind you of our essential humanness and vulnerability. Red-lined accounts smacks of concrete commerce, different from the poetic Grecian songs which were his ideal - he was fond of Grecian things though he knew no Greek.
And for them many a weary hand did swelt In torched mines and noisy factories, And many once proud-quiver’d loins did melt In blood from stinging whip;
Some digression follows. I am reminded of my boring three months studying Chaucer's digressions in the Nun's Priest's Tale for the A-Levels.
Why were they proud? Because their marble founts Gush’d with more pride than do a wretch’s tears?— Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?— Why were they proud? Because red-lin’d accounts 125 Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?— Why were they proud? again we ask aloud, Why in the name of Glory were they proud?
But then Boccaccio was part of the Early Renaissance. This is another clue. A Romantic resisting an industrial Victorianisation might have sympathy for a classical Grecian or mediaeval era ideal conflicting with a developing Renaissance world. The evil brothers' trade could then be seen as part of the cruel more commercial renaissance infringing upon the absorbing passion of Lorenzo and Isabella, and the old Grecian songs and natural state. Of course Keats couldn't write about his own era, because the story is set centuries ago. But he could draw analogies between his era and a previous one, and the similar conflicts they underwent.
|by WJ Neatby|