Text and publication First publ. M & W, 10 Nov. 1855; repr. 1863, 1865 2, 1868, 1880, 1888. Our text is 1855.

Composition and date The direct allusion to Keats at the end of the poem, and the strong likelihood that he was the model for the ‘true poet’ of the poem, suggest a date following the publication in 1848 of Richard Monckton Milnes’s Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats, important for the establishment of Keats’s fame beyond a devoted circle of admirers (who included B.: see below). The subject of his own popularity was on B.’s mind throughout the 1840s, but was sharpened by the relative ill success of CE & ED in 1850; in the same year his friend and rival Tennyson published In Memoriam and became Poet Laureate, and EBB.’s poetry continued to outsell his own. A date between 1850 and 1854 seems likely; the poem may be close to the letter in which B. told his friend Joseph Milsand that he was writing lyrics as ‘a sort of first step towards popularity’ (24 Feb. 1853; first publ. in Revue Germanique xii [1921] 253).