chapter  2
10 Pages

The Early Couplets

WithWalter Jackson Bate

Despite his gift for lyricism, the greater portion of Kests's earlier verse was epistolary and narrative rather than lyrical, and the form in which he composed this verse, the heroic couplet, was one which had largely dominated non-lyrical verse since the Restoration and which was by no means neglected in Keats's own day. The prosodic influences, moreover, which guided the temper and structure of Keats's early couplets the influences of Chapman, Browne, and especially Hunt, were not, as in the case of the sonnets, influences which were often dissimilar in nature. Hiatus or vowel-gaping, moreover, is extreme and persistent in the early couplets. In the couplets, however, as in his early sonnets, it is probable that Keats again followed Hunt. It outlines near the close of the first book of Endymion, the specifically concrete towards which bent was always directed was still the 'rose-leaf' and little else, at least on the stylistic level.