Wednesday 15 April 2020

'lopped Trees – Cow ruminating – ditto Donkey'

What better antidote to lockdown than to take a brisk coach journey with John Keats. Writing to his brothers George and Tom on this date in 1817, he reports that

'I am safe at Southampton – after having ridden three stages outside and the rest in for it began to be very cold. I did not know the Names of any of the Towns I passed through all I can tell you is that sometimes I saw dusty Hedges sometimes Ponds – then nothing – then a little Wood with trees look you like Launce’s Sister “as white as a Lily and as small as a Wand”* – then came houses which died away into a few straggling Barns then came hedge trees aforesaid again. As the Lamp light crept along the following things were discovered. “long heath brown furze”**—Hurdles here and there half a Mile—Park palings when the Windows of a House were always discovered by reflection—One Nymph of Fountain N.B. Stone—lopped Trees—Cow ruminating—ditto Donkey—Man and Woman going gingerly along—William seeing his Sisters over the Heath—John waiting with a Lanthen for his Mistress—Barbers Pole—Doctor’s Shop—However after having had my fill of these I popped my Head out just as it began to Dawn—N.B. this Tuesday Morn saw the Sun rise—of which I shall say nothing at present. I felt rather lonely this Morning at breakfast so I went and unbox’d a Shakspeare—“Here’s my Comfort.”*** I went immediately after Breakfast to the Southampton Water where I enquired for the Boat to the Isle of Wight as I intend seeing that place before I settle—it will go at 3 so shall I after having taken a Chop – I know nothing of this place but that it is long—tolerably broad—has bye streets—two or three Churches—a very respectable old Gate with two Lions to guard it – the Men and Women do not materially differ from those I have been in the Habit of seeing – I forgot to say that from dawn till half-past six I went through a most delightful Country—some open Down but for the most part thickly wooded. What surprised me most was an immense quantity of blooming Furze on each side the road cutting a most rural dash – The Southampton water when I saw it just now was no better than a low Water Water which did no more than answer my expectations—it will have mended its Manners by 3. From the Wharf are seen the Shores on each side stretching to the Isle of Wight. You Haydon, Reynolds, &c have been pushing each other out of my Brain by turns – I have conned over every Head in Haydon’s Picture [Christ's Entry into Jerusalem]—you must warn them not to be afraid should my Ghost visit them on Wednesday—tell Haydon to Kiss his Hand at Betty over the Way for me yea and to spy at her for me – I hope one of you will be competent to take part in a Trio while I am away—you need only aggravate your voices a little and mind not to speak Cues and all**** —when you have said Rum-ti-ti—you must not be rum any more or else another will take up the ti-ti alone and then he might be taken God shield us***** for little better than a Titmouse. By the by talking of Titmouse Remember me particularly to all my Friends—give my Love to the Miss Reynoldses and to Fanny who I hope you will soon see. Write to me soon about them all—and you George particularly how you get on with Wilkinson’s plan. What could I have done without my Plaid? I don’t feel inclined to write any more at present for I feel rather muzzy—you must be content with this fac simile of the rough plan of Aunt Dinah’s Counterpane –

Your most affectionate Brother

John Keats.

* Two Gentlemen of Verona
** The Tempest
*** The Tempest
**** Midsummer Night's Dream
***** Midsummer Night's Dream

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