Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Dark Eyes or Blue

Sweet Poets of the Gentle Antique Line
by J. H. Reynolds

Sweet poets of the gentle antique line,
That made the hue of beauty all eterne;
And gave earth's melody a silver turn,--
Where did you steal your art so right divine?--
Sweetly you memoired every golden twine
Of your ladies' tresses:--teach me how to spurn
Death's lone decaying and oblivion stern
From the sweet forehead of a lady mine.

The golden clusters of enamouring hair
Glow'd in poetic pictures sweetly well;--
Why should not tresses dusk, that are so fair
On the live brow, have an eternal spell
In poesy?--dark eyes are dearer far
Than orbs that mock the hyacinthine-bell.

Blue! 'Tis the Life of Heaven
by John Keats

  Written in answer to a Sonnet ending thus:--
  Dark eyes are dearer far
  Than those that mock the hyacinthine-bell--
  by J. H. Reynolds.

Blue! ‘Tis the life of heaven,–the domain
Of Cynthia,–the wide palace of the sun,–
The tent of Hesperus and all his train,–
The bosomer of clouds, gold, grey and dun.
Blue! ‘Tis the life of waters–ocean
And all its vassal streams: pools numberless
May rage, and foam, and fret, but never can
Subside if not to dark-blue nativeness.

Blue! gentle cousin of the forest green,
Married to green in all the sweetest flowers,
Forget-me-not,–the blue-bell,–and, that queen
Of secrecy, the violet: what strange powers
Hast thou, as a mere shadow! But how great,
When in an Eye thou art alive with fate!

Keats and Reynolds had been introduced to each other by Leigh Hunt, and they became very close friends. Some great poetic talents (Edna St. Vincent Millay comes to mind as an especially clear example) ruin the lesser poetic talents around them by being so overwhelming; but with Keats it was the opposite, and he often brought out the best in other poets, and let them draw out the best in him, and Keats's correspondence and interaction with Reynolds is the best example of this feature of his poetic career. Keats was infinitely the better poet, but Reynolds was much wittier (he became best known for his satirical work) and, equally important, very generous to friends, so it is not surprising that they became and remained friends. Reynolds lived longer; and he insisted that his tombstone read, "The Friend of Keats".

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