chapter  1
12 Pages

The Early Sonnets

WithWalter Jackson Bate

A large portion of the verse which read, first at the school in Enfield with Charles Cowden Clarke and especially later with George Felton Mathew, to whom he addressed his first poetic epistle, was composed of the sonnets, odes, elegiac quatrains, and Spenserian stanzas of the century. In the verse written immediately after his earliest, eighteenth-century phase and before Isabella, Keats's attempt to secure a sensuously rich and luxurious medium of expression frequently resulted in looseness and languor, and the models which he followed at the time were largely such as to encourage this result. The early sonnets of Keats, finally, in marked contrast to those he wrote later, make abundant use of the feminine ending, as in Sweeter by far than Hybla's honied roses. Patterned though they are in general after the eighteenth-century sonnet, the stylistic texture of Keats's early sonnets was woven of many and diverse strands.