This sonnet by John Keats was part of a series of conversation in verse
between Keats and the histrical painter Benjamin Robert Haydon in early 1817. Haydon had taken
Keats to see the Elgin marbles, which had just been purchased from Lord Elgin
and placed on display in the British Museum. Keats had been characteristically
quiet, and then wrote "On Seeing the Elgin Marbles" to Haydon so he wouldn't think
he hadn't liked them. This was his response to Haydon's response.
To Haydon with a Sonnet Written on Seeing the Elgin Marbles
Forgive me, Haydon, that I cannot speak
Definitively on these mighty things;
Forgive me that I have not eagle's wings--
That what I want I know not where to seek:
And think that I would not be overmeek
In rolling out upfollow'd thunderings,
Even to the steep of Helciconian springs,
Were I of ample strength for such a freak.
Think too that all those numbers should be thine;
Who else? In this who touch thy vesture's hem?
For when men star'd at what was most divine
With browless idiotism--o'erweening phlegm--
Thou hadst beheld the Hesperean shine
Of their star in the east and gone to worship them.