John Keats

The Castle Builder



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In short, convince you that however wise
You may have grown from Convent libraries,
I have, by many yards at least, been carding
A longer skein of wit in Convent garden. 

A very Eden that same place must be!
Pray what demesne? Whose Lordship’s legacy?
What, have you convents in that Gothic Isle?
Pray pardon me, I cannot help but smile.

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Sir, Convent Garden is a monstrous beast
From morning, four o’clock, to twelve at noon,
It swallows cabbages without a spoon.
And then, from twelve till two, this Eden made is
A promenade for cooks and ancient ladies;
And then for supper, ’stead of soup and poaches,
It swallows chairmen, damns, and Hackney coaches.
In short, Sir, ’tis a very place for monks,
For it containeth twenty thousand punks,
Which any man may number for his sport,
By following fat elbows up a court.

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In such like nonsense would I pass an hour
With random Friar, or Rake upon his tour,
Or one of few of that imperial host
Who came unmaimed from the Russian frost

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To-night I’ll have my friar – let me think
About my room, – I’ll have it in the pink;
It should be rich and sombre, and the moon,
Just in its mid-life in the midst of June,
Should look thro’ four large windows and display
Clear, but for gold-fish vases in the way,
Their glassy diamonding on Turkish floor;
The tapers keep aside, an hour and more,
To see what else the moon alone can show;
While the night-breeze doth softly let us know
My terrace is well bower’d with oranges.
Upon the floor the dullest spirit sees
A guitar-ribband and a lady’s glove
Beside a crumple-leaved tale of love;
A tambour-frame, with Venus sleeping there,
All finish’d but some ringlets of her hair;
A viol, bow-strings torn, cross-wise upon
A glorious folio of Anacreon;
A skull upon a mat of roses lying,
Ink’d purple with a song concerning dying;
An hour-glass on the turn, amid the trails
Of passion-flower; – just in time there sails
A cloud across the moon, – the lights bring in!
And see what more my phantasy can win.
It is a gorgeous room, but somewhat sad;
The draperies are so, as tho’ they had
Been made for Cleopatra’s winding-sheet;
And opposite the stedfast eye doth meet
A spacious looking-glass, upon whose face,
In letters raven-sombre, you may trace
Old ‘Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin.’
Greek busts and statuary have ever been
Held, by the finest spirits, fitter far
Than vase grotesque and Siamesian jar;
Therefore ’tis sure a want of Attic taste
That I should rather love a Gothic waste
Of eyesight on cinque-coloured potter’s clay,
Than on the marble fairness of old Greece.
My table-coverlits of Jason’s fleece
And black Numidian sheep-wool should be wrought,
Gold, black, and heavy, from the Lama brought.
My ebon sofas should delicious be
With down from Leda’s cygnet progeny.
My pictures all Salvator’s, save a few
Of Titian’s portraiture, and one, though new,
Of Haydon’s in its fresh magnificence.
My wine – O good! ’tis here at my desire,
And I must sit to supper with my friar.

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