John Keats, selected poems Contents
- Bright Star! Would I were steadfast as thou
- The Eve of St Agnes
- ‘Hush, hush! tread softly! hush, hush, my dear!’
- Isabella: or The Pot of Basil
- La Belle Dame Sans Merci
- Lines to Fanny (‘What can I do to drive away’)
- O Solitude, if I must with thee dwell
- Ode on a Grecian Urn
- Ode on Indolence
- Ode to a Nightingale
- Ode to Autumn
- Ode to Melancholy
- Ode to Psyche
- On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer
- On Seeing the Elgin Marbles
- On the Sea
- Sleep and Poetry
- Time’s sea hath been five years at its slow ebb
- To Ailsa Rock
- To Leigh Hunt
- To Mrs Reynolds’s Cat
- To My Brothers
- To Sleep
- When I have fears that I may cease to be
To Leigh Hunt: Synopsis and Commentary
Synopsis of To Leigh Hunt
Keats laments that the ideal beauties of the classical past have now passed away. No incense rises from altars dedicated to the gods, there are no nymphs to decorate Flora’s shrine. However, the modern age does have its compensations. Even though no one seeks the god Pan any more, Keats still obtains immense pleasure from the feeling that he can offer up his poems (his ‘poor offerings’) to his friend Leigh Hunt.
Commentary on To Leigh Hunt
Leigh Hunt was a poet and essayist. He edited The Examiner, a periodical which became a focus of liberal opinion and attracted a number of leading writers to write articles for it. He was imprisoned (1813-15) with his brother for two years for a libel on the Prince Regent, the future George IV.
Keats met Leigh Hunt in the autumn of 1816. Leigh Hunt wrote of his first meeting with Keats:
Cowden Clarke recalled that from that day until the end of his life Keats was welcomed as a ‘familiar of the [Hunts’] household’ in Hampstead, a world filled with books, paintings, music, liberal politics and opportunities to meet some of the most significant thinkers of the age.
This poem was written in 1817, probably in February, as the dedicatory poem to the volume of Keats’ Poems published in that year. Apparently it was written extremely quickly. The final pages of the proof copy of Poems were handed to him at a party held in his lodgings in Cornhill and Keats was told that if he wanted to supply a dedicatory poem he would have to produce it then and there.
In the words of his friend Cowden Clarke, Keats:
nymphs: mythological nature spirits, imagined as beautiful maidens inhabiting rivers, woods, or other locations
Flora: in Roman mythology, the goddess of flowering plants
Pan: a god of flocks and herds, typically represented with the horns, ears and legs of a goat on a man’s body
offerings: things offered as a religious sacrifice or a token of devotion.
Investigating commentary on To Leigh Hunt...
- Why do you think there are so many references to the classical world in this poem addressed to Keats’ friend?
- Is it essential to know the biographical context of this poem – or would it still work if one knew nothing of the relationship between Keats and Hunt?
- What features of the poem make the speed of its writing particularly surprising?
Scan and go
Scan on your mobile for direct link.