Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A PASSSGE TO ITALY, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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A PASSSGE TO ITALY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The channel glitters underneath the moon!
Last Line: As steadfast -- as thou -- art. . . .
Subject(s): Sea Voyages


The Channel glitters underneath the moon!
Severn and I shall be at Naples soon;
At Naples soon enough, and then at Rome.
Brown has my letter now -- if Brown's at home.
I thought at Gravesend surely. . . . Good old Brown,
Rare 'mid the Lakes -- how kind in London-town!
Thank God for Wentworth Place!

Oh, curse this croup,
I might be infant at the Swan and Hoop
Once more, by the infernal way I cough!
Bull-pup John Keats, a pretty taking-off!
Confound this throat! That Scottish travelling. . . .
And never even learned the Highland fling;
Only, at Dumfries, (How one lives and learns!)
Wrote a bad sonnet -- very bad! -- on Burns.

Urr-r-r-r! Well, it's easier now. Gods, what a night!
How goes it? "Great ring of pure and endless light
All calm as it was bright."
Good words, good Vaughan. Who quoted him? Did Lamb
Or Wordsworth? Wordsworth! Why, the man's a clam!
"A pretty piece of paganism." -- damn!
I wish him chivvied by bacchanals laying fear on
A second Pentheus of Mount Citheron. . . .
Yet no . . . I'll save him from my utter scorn
Because of "Triton and his wreathed horn."

Oh, well, let me forget -- let me forget,
Or else I may remember Lockhart yet,
Old Lockhart-mock-heart, -- yes, or Mr. Abbey,
The dragon of our gold -- the miauling tabby!
Ah, Fanny . . . Fanny? At the name I'm gone.
And yet all names lead back to . . . Fool and pawn,
Miserable!

"An idle, loafing felley."
That's you, John Keats. And there is Percy Shelley
To play my host at Pisa, if I would.
I won't. Although I'm sure he's very good.

Well, well, God save Apothecaries Hall!
Suppose I'd turned the surgeon, after all, --
Suppose away "Endymion," call me wise,
And carol "One more surgeon made at Guy's!
He never read with Clarke at Clerkenwell.
Leigh Hunt's 'Examiner' will never tell
Of pristine 'Chapman's Homer,' and the rest.
He saw the dullest thing was for the best,
So waxed at money-bags respectable!"

And failed God's fiery charge! And stinks in Hell!

See, little breeze upon my forehead, see,
We all become what we were meant to be,
Just with a little courage! and there's still
Within each poet's heart the enchanted hill
Of vision -- or "beside Hydaspes cool"
The "faery city, 'neath the potent rule
Of Emperor Elfinan."

I must agree,
Though musical, that beldame "Sans Merci,"
The thing Hunt printed in the "Indicator,"
Seems trivial now, and "Cap and Bells" seems greater.
Good lack, far livelier! Until it cloyed
Even on the taste of -- tch! tch! -- "Lucy Lloyd!"

Well, goodly Reynolds, our Boccaccio tales
Fell by the wayside, and our wits were snails,
And only "Isabella" stood me staunch,
Blooms late -- and withers on my poisoned branch!
Jeffrey can't help. The brush fire's burning brightly.
And in goes Taylor and Hessey's tome, politely.

It must be late. How goes the line I wrote,
The one that to myself I love to quote,
The one to me that makes all others mute?
"Oh, golden-tongued Romance with serene lute!"
A brave epitome, my lad, John Keats!
There your soul speaks. There your heart truly beats,
Free of the strained archaic, Spenser's lure,
In homage unto Shakspere held secure.
Grant that -- this cough! -- I live to weave such rhyme --
Urr-r-r-r! Curse it! Curse it! -- in a warmer clime.

Good night, inconstant home! Good night, my heart, --
And one -- and one -- who will not know her part!
Bright star, would she were steadfast as thou art. . . .
Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art. . . .
As steadfast -- as thou -- art. . . .





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