Do any of you like John Keats? Famous English Romantic poet who lived in the Romantic Era. Born 1795, died young of tuberculosis in 1821 at age 25. He led a pretty sad life. Other Romantic poets were Percy Bysshe Shelley, Lord Byron, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sidney Lamb, Thomas Carlyle and William Wordsworth. There sure was a lot of great poetry around back in those days. Except for the tuberculosis and doctors who tried to cure you via blood loss, it was probably a great time to be alive. I have wandered through quite a few of Keats’ poems, but that doesn’t mean that I understood what was going on in all of them. Keats’ poems are often hard to understand. But even if can’t figure out what the poem is about, they often feel real nice to read due to the beauty of the language. However, Ode to a Nightingale seems pretty straightforward to me. It’s beautiful stuff!

Ode to a Nightingale

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains One minute last, and Lethe-wards had sunk: ‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, But being too happy in thine happiness, That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees, In some melodious plot Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, Singest of summer in full-throated ease.   O for a draught of vintage! That hath been Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth, Tasting of Floa and the country-green, Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth! O for a beaker full of the warm South! Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, And purple-stained mouth, That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, And with thee fade away into the forest dim-   Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget What thou among the leaves hast never known, The weariness the fever and the fret Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last grey hairs, Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; Where but to think is to be full of sorrow And leaden-eyed despairs; Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.   Away! Away! For I will fly to thee, Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, But on the viewless wings of Poesy, Though the dull brain perplexes and retards. Already with thee! Tender is the night, Clustered around by all her starry Fays; But here there is no light, Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.   I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, Nor what soft incense hands upon the boughs, But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet Wherewith the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild – White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; Fast fading violets covered up in leaves; And mid-May’s eldest child, The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.   Darkling I listen; and, for many a time I have been half in love with easeful Death, Called hi soft names in many a mused rhyme, To take into the air my quiet breath; Now more than ever seems it rich to die, To cease upon the midnight with no pain, While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad In such an ecstasy! Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain – To thy high requiem become a sod.   Thou wast born for death, immortal Bird! No hungry generations tread thee down; The voice I hear this passing night was heard In ancient days by emperor and clown: Perhaps the self-same song that found a path Through the sad heart of Ruth, when sick for home, She stood in tears amid the alien corn; The same that oft-times hath Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.   Forlorn! The very word is like a bell To toll me back from thee to my sole self! Adieu! The fancy cannot cheat so well As she is famed to do, deceiving elf. Adieu! Adieu! Thy plaintive anthem fades Past the near-meadows, over the still stream, Up the hill-side; and now ‘tis buried deep In the next valley-glades: Was it a vision, or a waking dream? Fled is that music – Do I wake or sleep?

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6 thoughts on “Keats”

  1. Keats is great. I have admired him since my early college days and have always been saddened by his early death. A few years ago I managed to acquire an antique life mask of Keats done by a sculptor intending to produce a portrait. The mask was owned by a distant branch of Keats’ family until I got it. I keep it next to one of Coleridge from a Princeton library and Blake from a long gone antique shop.

  2. Considering the short life span, you would definitely want to embrace a “Seize the Day” mentality in that time.

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