A Movie Log

A blog formerly known as Bookishness

By Charles Matthews

Monday, March 29, 2010

Poem of the Day: John Keats

Ode to a Nightingale 

1
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 past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 
     But being too happy in thine happiness -- 
          That thou, light-wingéd Dryad of the trees, 
               In some melodious plot
     Of beechen green, and shadows numberless, 
          Singest of summer in full-throated ease. 

2
O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been 
     Cooled a long age in the deep-delvéd earth, 
Tasting of Flora and the country green, 
     Dance, and Provençal 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-stainéd mouth; 
     That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, 
          And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

3
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 gray hairs,
     Where youth grows pale, and specter-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 tomorrow. 

4
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,
          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.

5
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, 
     Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, 
But, in embalméd 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 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. 

6
Darkling I listen; and for many a time 
     I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Called him soft names in many a muséd rhyme,
     To take upon 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.

7
Thou wast not 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 selfsame 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 ofttimes hath 
     Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
          Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.          

8
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?
--John Keats 

I think that if it comes to defending civilization against the barbarian hordes, this poem will be one of the works I'll squirrel away in a lockbox along with Bach's cello suites, Mozart's operas, a few Vermeers, Jane Austen's novels and the films of Preston Sturges.

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