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the loss seems to be outweighed by the gain in the avoidance of confusion and of the danger of a flavor of illiteracy, and he who objects to this innovation is respectfully recommended to examine carefully the orthography of the Keats texts before pronouncing final judgment.

The matter of punctuation has been more difficult still, since an experienced writer means a point as definitely as he means a word. With Keats, however, a point is frequently rather a confession of confusion than the expression of a conviction. He was not infrequently in evident doubt in regard to what punctuation he did mean. I have meddled as little as possible with his punctuation, but even in cases where Keats read the proof-sheets I have not been constrained by a superstitious reverence for obvious and confusing errors simply because they were his.

The whole question is whether an editor is to be bound slavishly to the letter or is within proper limits to insist upon the freedom of the spirit. I believe deeply in treating the work of the masters with reverence ; but I believe also that the truest reverence is shown when devotion is guided by common sense.

A. B. JUNE, 1895.

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INTRODUCTION.

I

Genius and death have conferred upon John° Keats a double immortality. Forever he remains young, as forever his song is full of melody. The rich sweetness of his verse touches the more surely because behind it lies the pathos of that early grave ; and among all the writers of the century there is probably none who has excited deeper feelings of admiration and sympathy. He is, too, one of the most difficult of poets to discuss. The overflowing beauty of the work he did inevitably provokes the question : What might he have done ? Every critic must have felt how hard it is to judge the poetry of Keats without reference to what might have followed it had he lived. It is obvious, however, that it is idle to speculate upon what might have been ; and that what was written must be regarded not as part of a life-work uncompleted, but as a whole in and of itself. Taken as it is and for what it is, it is abundantly able to stand alone ; it is sufficientiy beautiful and sufficiently important to hold readers by its charm as long as English poetry endures, and to se ure for the poet an unchallenged place among the SONG

tals, even were all pathos and personal feeling entirely LA B

und forgotten.

F DEDICA

II WRITT

parents of Keats were not such as would have seemed *How

be the ancestors of a genius. The father was an KEEN,

in a livery-stable, and had married the daughter of To G. A

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