Epistle to Reynolds

Keats earliest portrait by Joseph Severn in 1816

Keats earliest portrait by Joseph Severn in 1816

On 3rd May 1818 Keats left Teignmouth.  On the eve of his departure he wrote to his friend Joshua Hamilton Reynolds.  It was also to Reynolds that he had written six weeks earlier including in his letter his final poem written as part of the ‘Teignmouth cycle’.

It is a long poem and I have extracted here the last stanza which, it is believed, contains references to Teignmouth and his feelings whilst here.  For more information about the poem and its interpretation follow the link at the end.

Epistle to Joshua Reynolds
(John Keats, 25th March 1818)

Dear Reynolds! I have a mysterious tale
And cannot speak it. The first page I read
Upon a lampit rock of green sea-weed
Among the breakers; ’twas a quiet eve,
The rocks were silent, the wide sea did weave
An untumultuous fringe of silver foam
Along the flat brown sand; I was at home
And should have been most happy,– but I saw
Too far into the sea, where every maw
The greater on the less feeds evermore.
But I saw too distinct into the core
Of an eternal fierce destruction,
And so from happiness I far was gone.
Still am I sick of it, and though to-day
I’ve gather’d young spring-leaves, and flowers gay
Of periwinkle and wild strawberry,
Still do I that most fierce destruction see,
The Shark at savage prey, the Hawk at pounce,
The gentle Robin, like a Pard or Ounce,
Ravening a worm — Away, ye horrid moods!
Moods of one’s mind! You know I hate them well.
You know I’d sooner be a clapping Bell
To some Kamschatcan Missionary Church,
Than with these horrid moods be left i’ the lurch.
Do you get health — and Tom the same — I’ll dance,
And from detested moods in new Romance
Take refuge. Of bad lines a Centaine dose
Is sure enough — and so ‘here follows prose.’

Want to know more?  Check out ‘Epistle to Reynolds



One thought on “Epistle to Reynolds

  1. Pingback: Poetry Walk | Teignmouth in Verse

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