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Who hath not seen thee ost amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep, Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers; And sometime like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue; Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies; And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.
A singular instance of Keats's delicate perception occurred in the composition of this ode. In the original manuscript, he had intended to represent the vulgar connection of Melancholy with gloom and horror, in contrast with the emotion that incites to
"glut thy sorrow on a morning rose, Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globed peonies"; and which essentially
“lives in Beauty - Beauty that must die, And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu." The first stanza, therefore, was the following — as grim a picture as Blake or Fuseli could have dreamed and painted :
“ Though you should build a bark of dead men's bones,
And rear a phantom gibbet for a mast,
To fill it out, blood-stained and aghast ;
Your cordage large uprootings from the skull
Dreameth in any isle of Lethe dull." But no sooner was this written than the poet became conscious that the coarseness of the contrast would destroy the general effect of luxurious tenderness which it was the object of the poem to produce, and he confined the gross notion of Melancholy to less violent images, and let the ode at once begin,
O, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine; Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.
But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud, That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
She dwells with Beauty - Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips. Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips: Ay, in the very temple of Delight Veild Melancholy has her sovran shrine, Though seen of none save him whose strenuous
tongue Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine; His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.
TO A NIGHTINGALE.
In the spring of 1819, a nightingale built her pest next Mr. Bevan's house. Keats took great pleasure in her song, and one morning took his chair from the breakfast-table to the grass plot under a plum tree, where be remained between two and three hours. He then rerched the house with some scraps of paper in his hand, which he suon put together in the form of this ode.
Y 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 past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, But being too happy in thy 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 Flora and the country-green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sun-burnt mirt! ! 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, And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, Cluster'd 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
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; Fast-fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves. Vol. III.