|I took this photo in Santry Woods, Oct 2010|
What astonishes me more than anything is the tone, the colouring, the slate, the stone, the moss, the rock-weed, or, if I may so say, the intellect, the countenance of such places. The space, the magnitude of mountains and waterfalls are well imagined before one sees them; but this countenance or intellectual tone must surpass every imagination and defy any rememberance. I shall learn poetry here and shall henceforth write more than ever, for the abstract endeavour of being able to add a mite to that mass of beauty which is harvested from these grand materials, by the finest spirits, and put into etherial experience for the relish of one's fellows. I cannot think with Hazlitt that theser scenes make man appear little. I never forgot my stature so completely - I live in the eye; and my imagination, surpassed, is at rest. (The Letters of John Keats, Gittings, p. 103)The Irish versus the Scots:
Keats was astounded at the poverty and filth of Irish people in comparison to the relative comfort and cleanliness of the Scots. He calls the Irish by the nickname "Paddies." One wonders how old this nickname is and who first used it - a subject of a future post perhaps! Be that as it may, let us listen to Keats describing the Irish:
On our walk in Ireland we had too much opportunity the worse than nakedness, the rags, the dirt and misery of the poor common Irish - A Scotch cottage, though in that sometimes (sic) the smoke has no exit but at the door, is a pallace (sic) to an Irish one. (Letter to Tom Keats, 3,5,7,9, July 1818, Gittings, p. 119)
Sonnet on top of Ben Nevis:
WRITTEN ON TOP OF THE BEN NEVISThis is a powerful sonnet which Keats wrote to his brother Tom from the top of Ben Nevis. The letter is dated 3, 6 August 1818. (See ibid., pp 145-148) I will leave it to you the reader to ponder this wonderful and profound poems. No words of mine could elucidate it. Encounter the mist and the mystery that is at the heart of humanity with Keats on the top of Ben Nevis by slowly pondering the above lines!
Read me a lesson, Muse, and speak it loud
Upon the top of Nevis, blind in mist!
I look into the chasms, and a shroud
Vapurous doth hide them - just so much I wist
Mankind do know of hell; I look o'erhead,
And there is sullen mist, - even so much
Mankind can tell of heaven; mist is spread
Before the earth, beneath me, - even such,
Even so vague is man's sight of himself!
Here are the craggy stones beneath my feet, -
Thus much I know that, a poor witless elf,
I tread on them, - that all my eye doth meet
Is mist and crag, not only on this height,
But in the world of thought and mental might!