Keats' Poems and Letters


A fragment.

Young Calidore is paddling o'er the lake;

His healthful spirit eager and awake

To feel the beauty of a silent eve,

Which seem'd full loath this happy world to leave;

The light dwelt o'er the scene so lingeringly.

He bares his forehead to the cool blue sky,

And smiles at the far clearness all around,

Until his heart is well nigh over wound,

And turns for calmness to the pleasant green

Of easy slopes, and shadowy trees that lean

So elegantly o'er the waters' brim

And show their blossoms trim.

Scarce can his clear and nimble eye-sight follow

The freaks, and dartings of the black-wing'd swallow,

Delighting much, to see it half at rest,

Dip so refreshingly its wings, and breast

'Gainst the smooth surface, and to mark anon,

The widening circles into nothing gone.

And now the sharp keel of his little boat

Comes up with ripple, and with easy float,

And glides into a bed of water lillies:

Broad leav'd are they and their white canopies

Are upward turn'd to catch the heavens' dew.

Near to a little island's point they grew;

Whence Calidore might have the goodliest view

Of this sweet spot of earth. The bowery shore

Went off in gentle windings to the hoar

And light blue mountains: but no breathing man

With a warm heart, and eye prepared to scan

Nature's clear beauty, could pass lightly by

Objects that look'd out so invitingly

On either side. These, gentle Calidore

Greeted, as he had known them long before.

The sidelong view of swelling leafiness,

Which the glad setting sun, in gold doth dress;

Whence ever, and anon the jay outsprings,

And scales upon the beauty of its wings.

The lonely turret, shatter'd, and outworn,

Stands venerably proud; too proud to mourn

Its long lost grandeur: fir trees grow around,

Aye dropping their hard fruit upon the ground.

The little chapel with the cross above

Upholding wreaths of ivy; the white dove,

That on the windows spreads his feathers light,

And seems from purple clouds to wing its flight.

Green tufted islands casting their soft shades

Across the lake; sequester'd leafy glades,

That through the dimness of their twilight show

Large dock leaves, spiral foxgloves, or the glow

Of the wild cat's eyes, or the silvery stems

Of delicate birch trees, or long grass which hems

A little brook. The youth had long been viewing

These pleasant things, and heaven was bedewing

The mountain flowers, when his glad senses caught

A trumpet's silver voice. Ah! it was fraught

With many joys for him: the warder's ken

Had found white coursers prancing in the glen:

Friends very dear to him he soon will see;

So pushes off his boat most eagerly,

And soon upon the lake he skims along,

Deaf to the nightingale's first under-song;

Nor minds he the white swans that dream so sweetly:

His spirit flies before him so completely.

And now he turns a jutting point of land,

Whence may be seen the castle gloomy, and grand:

Nor will a bee buzz round two swelling peaches,

Before the point of his light shallop reaches

Those marble steps that through the water dip:

Now over them he goes with hasty trip,

And scarcely stays to ope the folding doors:

Anon he leaps along the oaken floors

Of halls and corridors.

Delicious sounds! those little bright-eyed things

That float about the air on azure wings,

Had been less heartfelt by him than the clang

Of clattering hoofs; into the court he sprang,

Just as two noble steeds, and palfreys twain,

Were slanting out their necks with loosened rein;

While from beneath the threat'ning portcullis

They brought their happy burthens. What a kiss,

What gentle squeeze he gave each lady's hand!

How tremblingly their delicate ancles spann'd!

Into how sweet a trance his soul was gone,

While whisperings of affection

Made him delay to let their tender feet

Come to the earth; with an incline so sweet

From their low palfreys o'er his neck they bent:

And whether there were tears of languishment,

Or that the evening dew had pearl'd their tresses,

He feels a moisture on his cheek, and blesses

With lips that tremble, and with glistening eye

All the soft luxury

That nestled in his arms. A dimpled hand,

Fair as some wonder out of fairy land,

Hung from his shoulder like the drooping flowers

Of whitest Cassia, fresh from summer showers:

And this he fondled with his happy cheek

As if for joy he would no further seek;

When the kind voice of good Sir Clerimond

Came to his ear, like something from beyond

His present being: so he gently drew

His warm arms, thrilling now with pulses new,

From their sweet thrall, and forward gently bending,

Thank'd heaven that his joy was never ending;

While 'gainst his forehead he devoutly press'd

A hand heaven made to succour the distress'd;

A hand that from the world's bleak promontory

Had lifted Calidore for deeds of glory.

Amid the pages, and the torches' glare,

There stood a knight, patting the flowing hair

Of his proud horse's mane: he was withal

A man of elegance, and stature tall:

So that the waving of his plumes would be

High as the berries of a wild ash tree,

Or as the winged cap of Mercury.

His armour was so dexterously wrought

In shape, that sure no living man had thought

It hard, and heavy steel: but that indeed

It was some glorious form, some splendid weed,

In which a spirit new come from the skies

Might live, and show itself to human eyes.

'Tis the far-fam'd, the brave Sir Gondibert,

Said the good man to Calidore alert;

While the young warrior with a step of grace

Came up,--a courtly smile upon his face,

And mailed hand held out, ready to greet

The large-eyed wonder, and ambitious heat

Of the aspiring boy; who as he led

Those smiling ladies, often turned his head

To admire the visor arched so gracefully

Over a knightly brow; while they went by

The lamps that from the high-roof'd hall were pendent,

And gave the steel a shining quite transcendent.

Soon in a pleasant chamber they are seated;

The sweet-lipp'd ladies have already greeted

All the green leaves that round the window clamber,

To show their purple stars, and bells of amber.

Sir Gondibert has doff'd his shining steel,

Gladdening in the free, and airy feel

Of a light mantle; and while Clerimond

Is looking round about him with a fond,

And placid eye, young Calidore is burning

To hear of knightly deeds, and gallant spurning

Of all unworthiness; and how the strong of arm

Kept off dismay, and terror, and alarm

From lovely woman: while brimful of this,

He gave each damsel's hand so warm a kiss,

And had such manly ardour in his eye,

That each at other look'd half staringly;

And then their features started into smiles

Sweet as blue heavens o'er enchanted isles.

Softly the breezes from the forest came,

Softly they blew aside the taper's flame;

Clear was the song from Philomel's far bower;

Grateful the incense from the lime-tree flower;

Mysterious, wild, the far heard trumpet's tone;

Lovely the moon in ether, all alone:

Sweet too the converse of these happy mortals,

As that of busy spirits when the portals

Are closing in the west; or that soft humming

We hear around when Hesperus is coming.

Sweet be their sleep.