The complete poetical works and letters of John Keats/Written on the Day that Mr. Leigh Hunt left Prison
WRITTEN ON THE DAY THAT MR. LEIGH HUNT LEFT PRISON
Either the 2d or 3d of February, 1815. Charles Cowden Clarke, to whom Keats showed the sonnet, writes in his recollections: 'This I feel to be the first proof I had received of his having committed himself in verse; and how clearly do I recollect the conscious look and hesitation with which he offered it! There are some momentary glances by beloved friends that fade only with life.' The sonnet was printed in the 1817 volume.
What though, for showing truth to flatter'd state,
Kind Hunt was shut in prison, yet has he,
In his immortal spirit, been as free
As the sky-searching lark, and as elate.
Minion of grandeur! think you he did wait?
Think you he nought but prison-walls did see,
Till, so unwilling, thou unturn'dst the key?
Ah, no! far happier, nobler was his fate!
In Spenser's halls he strayed, and bowers fair,
Culling enchanted flowers; and he flew
With daring Milton through the fields of air:
To regions of his own his genius true
Took happy flights. Who shall his fame impair
When thou art dead, and all thy wretched crew?