Poems


John Keats

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Table of Contents

  1. On a Dream
  2. To Ailsa Rock
  3. For There’s Bishop’s Teign
  4. Character of Charles Brown
  5. On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer
  6. The Day is Gone, and All Its Sweets Are Gone!
  7. The Eve of Saint Mark
  8. When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be
  9. Stood Tip-Toe Upon a Little Hill
  10. On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again
  11. Lines Rhymed in a Letter From Oxford
  12. How Many Bards Gild the Lapses of Time!
  13. Dedication [Of Poems, 1817] To Leigh Hunt, Esq.
  14. To One Who Has Been Long in City Pent
  15. A Song About Myself
  16. Ode (“Bards of Passion and of Mirth”)
  17. Ode on Indolence
  18. Ode on Melancholy
  19. Ode to Psyche
  20. Over the Hill and Over the Dale
  21. Where be you going, you Devon maid?
  22. O blush not so! O blush not so!
  23. Translated From Ronsard
  24. O Solitude! If I Must with Thee Dwell
  25. Imitation of Spenser
  26. Stanzas (“In Drear-Nighted December”)
  27. The Poet A Fragment
  28. To — (“What Can I Do to Drive Away”)
  29. To Homer
  30. To Sleep
  31. On Visiting the Tomb of Burns
  32. Why Did I Laugh To-night? No Voice Will Tell
  33. To Mrs Reynolds’s Cat
  34. Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art —
  35. Give Me Women, Wine, and Snuff

On a Dream

As Hermes once took to his feathers light

When lulled Argus, baffled, swoon’d and slept,

So on a Delphic reed my idle spright

So play’d, so charm’d, so conquer’d, so bereft

The dragon-world of all its hundred eyes,

And, seeing it asleep, so fled away:

Not to pure Ida with its snow-cold skies,

Nor unto Tempe where Jove griev’d a day;

But to that second circle of sad hell,

Where ‘mid the gust, the whirlwind, and the flaw

Of rain and hail-stones, lovers need not tell

Their sorrows. Pale were the sweet lips I saw,

Pale were the lips I kiss’d, and fair the form

I floated with, about that melancholy storm.

To Ailsa Rock

Hearken, thou craggy ocean pyramid!

Give answer from thy voice, the sea-fowls’ screams!

When were thy shoulders mantled in huge streams?

When from the sun was thy broad forehead hid?

How long is’t since the mighty Power bid

Thee heave to airy sleep from fathom dreams?

Sleep in the lap of thunder or sunbeams,

Or when grey clouds are thy cold coverlid?

Thou answer’st not, for thou art dead asleep;

Thy life is but two dead eternities —

The last in air, the former in the deep;

First with the whales, last with the eagle-skies —

Drown’d wast thou till an earthquake made thee steep,

Another cannot wake thy giant size.

For There’s Bishop’s Teign

i.

For there’s Bishop’s teign

And King’s teign

And Coomb at the clear Teign head —

Where close by the stream

You may have your cream

All spread upon barley bread.

ii.

There’s Arch Brook

And there’s Larch Brook

Both turning many a mill,

And cooling the drouth

Of the salmon’s mouth

And fattening his silver gill.

iii.

There is Wild Wood,

A mild hood

To the sheep on the lea o’ the down,

Where the golden furze,

With its green, thin spurs,

Doth catch at the maiden’s gown.

iv.

There is Newton Marsh

With its spear grass harsh —

A pleasant summer level

Where the maidens sweet

Of the Market Street

Do meet in the dusk to revel.

v.

There’s the Barton rich

With dyke and ditch

And hedge for the thrush to live in,

And the hollow tree

For the buzzing bee

And a bank for the wasp to hive in.

vi.

And O, and

The daisies blow

And the primroses are waken’d,

And violets white

Sit in silver plight,

And the green bud’s as long as the spike end.

vii.

Then who would go

Into dark Soho

And chatter with dack’d-hair’d critics,

When he can stay

For the new-mown hay

And startle the dappled prickets?

Character of Charles Brown

i.

He is to weet a melancholy carle:

Thin in the waist, with bushy head of hair

As hath the seeded thistle when in parle

It holds the Zephyr, ere it sendeth fair

Its light balloons into the summer air;

Therto his beard had not begun to bloom,

No brush had touch’d his chin or razor sheer;

No care had touch’d his cheek with mortal doom,

But new he was and bright as scarf from Persian loom.

ii.

Ne cared he for wine, or half-and-half;

Ne cared he for fish or flesh or fowl,

And sauces held he worthless as the chaff,

He ‘sdeigned the swine-head at the wassail-bowl;

Ne with lewd ribbalds sat he cheek by jowl,

Ne with sly Lemans in the scorner’s chair;

But after water-brooks this Pilgrim’s soul

Panted, and all his food was woodland air

Though he would oft-times feast on gilliflowers rare.

iii.

The slang of cities in no wise he knew,

Tipping the wink to him was heathen Greek;

He sipp’d no olden Tom or ruin blue,

Or nantz or cherry-brandy drank full meek

By many a damsel hoarse and rouge of cheek;

Nor did he know each aged watchman’s beat,

Nor in obscured purlieus would he seek

For curled Jewesses with ankles neat,

Who as they walk abroad make tinkling with their feet.

On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,

And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;

Round many western islands have I been

Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken;

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

He star’d at the Pacific — and all his men

Look’d at each other with a wild surmise —

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

The Day is Gone, and All Its Sweets Are Gone!

The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone!

Sweet voice, sweet lips, soft hand, and softer breast,

Warm breath, light whisper, tender semi-tone,

Bright eyes, accomplish’d shape, and lang’rous waist!

Faded the flower and all its budded charms,

Faded the sight of beauty from my eyes,

Faded the shape of beauty from my arms,

Faded the voice, warmth, whiteness, paradise —

Vanish’d unseasonably at shut of eve,

When the dusk holiday or holinight

Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave

The woof of darkness thick, for hid delight;

But, as I’ve read love’s missal through to-day,

He’ll let me sleep, seeing I fast and pray.

The Eve of Saint Mark

Upon a Sabbath-day it fell;

Twice holy was the Sabbath-bell

That call’d the folk to evening prayer;

The city streets were clean and fair

From wholesome drench of April rains;

And, on the western window panes,

The chilly sunset faintly told

Of unmatur’d green vallies cold,

Of the green thorny bloomless hedge,

Of rivers new with spring-tide sedge,

Of primroses by shelter’d rills,

And daisies on the aguish hills.

Twice holy was the Sabbath-bell:

The silent streets were crowded well

With staid and pious companies,

Warm from their fire-side orat’ries,

And moving with demurest air

To even-song and vesper prayer.

Each arched porch and entry low

Was fill’d with patient folk and slow,

With whispers hush, and shuffling feet,

While play’d the organ loud and sweet.

The bells had ceas’d, the prayers begun,

And Bertha had not yet half done

A curious volume, patch’d and torn,

That all day long, from earliest morn,

Had taken captive her two eyes

Among its golden broideries;

Perplex’d her with a thousand things, —

The stars of Heaven, and angels’ wings,

Martyrs in a fiery blaze,

Azure saints in silver rays,

Moses’ breastplate, and the seven

Candlesticks John saw in Heaven,

The winged Lion of Saint Mark,

And the Covenantal Ark

With its many mysteries,

Cherubim and golden mice.

Bertha was a maiden fair,

Dwelling in the old Minster-square;

From her fire-side she could see

Sidelong its rich antiquity,

Far as the Bishop’s garden-wall;

Where sycamores and elm-trees tall,

Full-leav’d, the forest had outstript,

By no sharp north-wind ever nipt,

So shelter’d by the mighty pile.

Bertha arose, and read awhile

With forehead ‘gainst the window-pane.

Again she try’d, and then again,

Until the dusk eve left her dark

Upon the legend of St. Mark.

From plaited lawn-frill, fine and thin,

She lifted up her soft warm chin,

With aching neck and swimming eyes,

And daz’d with saintly imageries.

All was gloom, and silent all,

Save now and then the still foot-fall

Of one returning homewards late

Past the echoing minster-gate.

The clamorous daws, that all the day

Above tree-tops and towers play,

Pair by pair had gone to rest,

Each in its ancient belfry-nest,

Where asleep they fall betimes

To music of the drowsy chimes.

All was silent, all was gloom

Abroad and in the homely room:

Down she sat, poor cheated soul!

And struck a lamp from the dismal coal;

Lean’d forward with bright drooping hair

And slant book full against the glare.

Her shadow, in uneasy guise,

hover’d about, a giant size,

On ceiling-beam and old oak chair,

The parrot’s cage, and panel square;

And the warm angled winter screen,

On which were many monsters seen,

Call’d doves of Siam, Lima mice,

And legless birds of Paradise,

Macaw, and tender Avadavat,

And silken-furr’d Angora cat.

Untir’d she read, her shadow still

Glower’d about as it would fill

The room with wildest forms and shades,

As though some ghostly queen of spades

Had come to mock behind her back,

And dance, and ruffle her garments black.

Untir’d she read the legend page

Of holy Mark, from youth to age,

On land, on sea, in pagan chains,

Rejoicing for his many pains.

Sometimes the learned Eremite

With golden star, or dagger bright,

Referr’d to pious poesies

Written in smallest crow-quill size

Beneath the text; and thus the rhyme

Was parcell’d out from time to time:

“Gif ye wol stonden hardie wight —

Amiddes of the blacke night —

Righte in the churche porch, pardie

Ye wol behold a companie

Approchen thee full dolourouse

For sooth to sain from everich house

Be it in City or village

Wol come the Phantom and image

Of ilka gent and ilka carle

Whom colde Deathe hath in parle

And wol some day that very year

Touchen with foule venime spear

And sadly do them all to die —

Hem all shalt thou see verilie —

And everichon shall by thee pass

All who must die that year Alas

— Als writith he of swevenis

Men han beforne they wake in bliss,

Whanne that hir friendes thinke hem bound

In crimped shroude farre under grounde;

And how a litling child mote be

A saint er its nativitie,

Gif that the modre (God her blesse!)

Kepen in solitarinesse,

And kissen devoute the holy croce.

Of Goddes love and Sathan’s force

He writith; and thinges many mo:

Of swiche thinges I may not show,

Bot I must tellen verilie

Somdel of Sainte Cicilie,

And chieflie what he auctorethe

Of Sainte Markis life and dethe:”

At length her constant eyelids come

Upon the fervent martyrdom;

Then lastly to his holy shrine,

Exalt amid the tapers’ shine

At Venice, —

When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be

When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,

Before high-piled books in charact’ry

Hold like rich garners the full ripen’d grain;

When I behold upon the night’s starr’d face

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows with the magic hand of chance;

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,

That I shall never look upon thee more,

Never have relish in the faery power

Of unreflecting love; — then on the shore

Of the wide world I stand alone, and think

Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

I Stood Tip-Toe Upon a Little Hill

“Places of nestling green for Poets made.”
— Story of Rimini.

I stood tip-toe upon a little hill,

The air was cooling, and so very still,

That the sweet buds which with a modest pride

Pull droopingly, in slanting curve aside,

Their scantly leav’d, and finely tapering stems,

Had not yet lost those starry diadems

Caught from the early sobbing of the morn.

The clouds were pure and white as flocks new shorn,

And fresh from the clear brook; sweetly they slept

On the blue fields of heaven, and then there crept

A little noiseless noise among the leaves,

Born of the very sigh that silence heaves:

For not the faintest motion could be seen

Of all the shades that slanted o’er the green.

There was wide wand’ring for the greediest eye,

To peer about upon variety;

Far round the horizon’s crystal air to skim,

And trace the dwindled edgings of its brim;

To picture out the quaint, and curious bending

Of a fresh woodland alley, never ending;

Or by the bowery clefts, and leafy shelves,

Guess where the jaunty streams refresh themselves.

I gazed awhile, and felt as light, and free

As though the fanning wings of Mercury

Had play’d upon my heels: I was light-hearted,

And many pleasures to my vision started;

So I straightway began to pluck a posey

Of luxuries bright, milky, soft and rosy.

A bush of May flowers with the bees about them;

Ah, sure no tasteful nook would be without them;

And let a lush laburnum oversweep them,

And let long grass grow round the roots to keep them

Moist, cool and green; and shade the violets,

That they may bind the moss in leafy nets.

A filbert hedge with wild briar overtwined,

And clumps of woodbine taking the soft wind

Upon their summer thrones; there too should be

The frequent chequer of a youngling tree,

That with a score of light green brethren shoots

From the quaint mossiness of aged roots:

Round which is heard a spring-head of clear waters

Babbling so wildly of its lovely daughters

The spreading blue-bells: it may haply mourn

That such fair clusters should be rudely torn

From their fresh beds, and scattered thoughtlessly

By infant hands, left on the path to die.

Open afresh your round of starry folds,

Ye ardent marigolds!

Dry up the moisture from your golden lids,

For great Apollo bids

That in these days your praises should be sung

On many harps, which he has lately strung;

And when again your dewiness he kisses,

Tell him, I have you in my world of blisses:

So haply when I rove in some far vale,

His mighty voice may come upon the gale.

Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight:

With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,

And taper fingers catching at all things,

To bind them all about with tiny rings.

Linger awhile upon some bending planks

That lean against a streamlet’s rushy banks,

And watch intently Nature’s gentle doings:

They will be found softer than ring-dove’s cooings.

How silent comes the water round that bend;

Not the minutest whisper does it send

To the o’erhanging sallows: blades of grass

Slowly across the chequer’d shadows pass.

Why, you might read two sonnets, ere they reach

To where the hurrying freshnesses aye preach

A natural sermon o’er their pebbly beds;

Where swarms of minnows show their little heads,

Staying their wavy bodies ‘gainst the streams,

To taste the luxury of sunny beams

Temper’d with coolness. How they ever wrestle

With their own sweet delight, and ever nestle

Their silver bellies on the pebbly sand.

If you but scantily hold out the hand,

That very instant not one will remain;

But turn your eye, and they are there again.

The ripples seem right glad to reach those cresses,

And cool themselves among the em’rald tresses;

The while they cool themselves, they freshness give,

And moisture, that the bowery green may live:

So keeping up an interchange of favours,

Like good men in the truth of their behaviours.

Sometimes goldfinches one by one will drop

From low hung branches; little space they stop;

But sip, and twitter, and their feathers sleek;

Then off at once, as in a wanton freak:

Or perhaps, to show their black, and golden wings,

Pausing upon their yellow flutterings.

Were I in such a place, I sure should pray

That naught less sweet, might call my thoughts away,

Than the soft rustle of a maiden’s gown

Fanning away the dandelion’s down;

Than the light music of her nimble toes

Patting against the sorrel as she goes.

How she would start, and blush, thus to be caught

Playing in all her innocence of thought.

O let me lead her gently o’er the brook,

Watch her half-smiling lips, and downward look;

O let me for one moment touch her wrist;

Let me one moment to her breathing list;

And as she leaves me may she often turn

Her fair eyes looking through her locks auburne.

What next? A tuft of evening primroses,

O’er which the mind may hover till it dozes;

O’er which it well might take a pleasant sleep,

But that ’tis ever startled by the leap

Of buds into ripe flowers; or by the flitting

Of diverse moths, that aye their rest are quitting;

Or by the moon lifting her silver rim

Above a cloud, and with a gradual swim

Coming into the blue with all her light.

O Maker of sweet poets, dear delight

Of this fair world, and all its gentle livers;

Spangler of clouds, halo of crystal rivers,

Mingler with leaves, and dew and tumbling streams,

Closer of lovely eyes to lovely dreams,

Lover of loneliness, and wandering,

Of upcast eye, and tender pondering!

Thee must I praise above all other glories

That smile us on to tell delightful stories.

For what has made the sage or poet write

But the fair paradise of Nature’s light?

In the calm grandeur of a sober line,

We see the waving of the mountain pine;

And when a tale is beautifully staid,

We feel the safety of a hawthorn glade:

When it is moving on luxurious wings,

The soul is lost in pleasant smotherings:

Fair dewy roses brush against our faces,

And flowering laurels spring from diamond vases;

O’er head we see the jasmine and sweet briar,

And bloomy grapes laughing from green attire;

While at our feet, the voice of crystal bubbles

Charms us at once away from all our troubles:

So that we feel uplifted from the world,

Walking upon the white clouds wreath’d and curl’d.

So felt he, who first told, how Psyche went

On the smooth wind to realms of wonderment;

What Psyche felt, and Love, when their full lips

First touch’d; what amorous, and fondling nips

They gave each other’s cheeks; with all their sighs,

And how they kist each other’s tremulous eyes:

The silver lamp, — the ravishment, — the wonder —

The darkness, — loneliness, — the fearful thunder;

Their woes gone by, and both to heaven upflown,

To bow for gratitude before Jove’s throne.

So did he feel, who pull’d the boughs aside,

That we might look into a forest wide,

To catch a glimpse of Fauns, and Dryades

Coming with softest rustle through the trees;

And garlands woven of flowers wild, and sweet,

Upheld on ivory wrists, or sporting feet:

Telling us how fair, trembling Syrinx fled

Arcadian Pan, with such a fearful dread.

Poor nymph, — poor Pan, — how he did weep to find,

Nought but a lovely sighing of the wind

Along the reedy stream; a half-heard strain,

Full of sweet desolation — balmy pain.

What first inspired a bard of old to sing

Narcissus pining o’er the untainted spring?

In some delicious ramble, he had found

A little space, with boughs all woven round;

And in the midst of all, a clearer pool

Than e’er reflected in its pleasant cool,

The blue sky here, and there, serenely peeping

Through tendril wreaths fantastically creeping.

And on the bank a lonely flower he spied,

A meek and forlorn flower, with naught of pride,

Drooping its beauty o’er the watery clearness,

To woo its own sad image into nearness:

Deaf to light Zephyrus it would not move;

But still would seem to droop, to pine, to love.

So while the poet stood in this sweet spot,

Some fainter gleamings o’er his fancy shot;

Nor was it long ere he had told the tale

Of young Narcissus, and sad Echo’s bale.

Where had he been, from whose warm head out-flew

That sweetest of all songs, that ever new,

That aye refreshing, pure deliciousness,

Coming ever to bless

The wanderer by moonlight? to him bringing

Shapes from the invisible world, unearthly singing

From out the middle air, from flowery nests,

And from the pillowy silkiness that rests

Full in the speculation of the stars.

Ah! surely he had burst our mortal bars;

Into some wond’rous region he had gone,

To search for thee, divine Endymion!

He was a Poet, sure a lover too,

Who stood on Latmus’ top, what time there blew

Soft breezes from the myrtle vale below;

And brought in faintness solemn, sweet, and slow

A hymn from Dian’s temple; while upswelling,

The incense went to her own starry dwelling.

But though her face was clear as infant’s eyes,

Though she stood smiling o’er the sacrifice,

The Poet wept at her so piteous fate,

Wept that such beauty should be desolate:

So in fine wrath some golden sounds he won,

And gave meek Cynthia her Endymion.

Queen of the wide air; thou most lovely queen

Of all the brightness that mine eyes have seen!

As thou exceedest all things in thy shine,

So every tale, does this sweet tale of thine.

O for three words of honey, that I might

Tell but one wonder of thy bridal night!

Where distant ships do seem to show their keels,

Phoebus awhile delay’d his mighty wheels,

And turn’d to smile upon thy bashful eyes,

Ere he his unseen pomp would solemnize.

The evening weather was so bright, and clear,

That men of health were of unusual cheer;

Stepping like Homer at the trumpet’s call,

Or young Apollo on the pedestal:

And lovely women were as fair and warm,

As Venus looking sideways in alarm.

The breezes were ethereal, and pure,

And crept through half-closed lattices to cure

The languid sick; it cool’d their fever’d sleep,

And soothed them into slumbers full and deep.

Soon they awoke clear eyed: nor burnt with thirsting,

Nor with hot fingers, nor with temples bursting:

And springing up, they met the wond’ring sight

Of their dear friends, nigh foolish with delight;

Who feel their arms, and breasts, and kiss and stare,

And on their placid foreheads part the hair.

Young men, and maidens at each other gaz’d

With hands held back, and motionless, amaz’d

To see the brightness in each other’s eyes;

And so they stood, fill’d with a sweet surprise,

Until their tongues were loos’d in poesy.

Therefore no lover did of anguish die:

But the soft numbers, in that moment spoken,

Made silken ties, that never may be broken.

Cynthia! I cannot tell the greater blisses,

That follow’d thine, and thy dear shepherd’s kisses:

Was there a poet born? — but now no more,

My wand’ring spirit must no further soar. —

On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again

O golden tongued Romance, with serene lute!

Fair plumed Syren, Queen of far-away!

Leave melodizing on this wintry day,

Shut up thine olden pages, and be mute:

Adieu! for once again the fierce dispute

Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay

Must I burn through; once more humbly assay

The bitter-sweet of this Shakespearian fruit.

Chief Poet! and ye clouds of Albion,

Begetters of our deep eternal theme!

When through the old oak Forest I am gone,

Let me not wander in a barren dream,

But when I am consumed in the fire,

Give me new Phoenix wings to fly at my desire.

Lines Rhymed in a Letter From Oxford

i.

The Gothic looks solemn,

The plain Doric column

Supports an old Bishop and Crosier;

The mouldering arch,

Shaded o’er by a larch

Stands next door to Wilson the Hosier.

ii.

Vice — that is, by turns, —

O’er pale faces mourns

The black tassell’d trencher and common hat;

The Chantry boy sings,

The Steeple-bell rings,

And as for the Chancellor — dominat.

iii.

There are plenty of trees,

And plenty of ease,

And plenty of fat deer for Parsons;

And when it is venison,

Short is the benison, —

Then each on a leg or thigh fastens.

John Keats

How Many Bards Gild the Lapses of Time!

How many bards gild the lapses of time!

A few of them have ever been the food

Of my delighted fancy, — I could brood

Over their beauties, earthly, or sublime:

And often, when I sit me down to rhyme,

These will in throngs before my mind intrude:

But no confusion, no disturbance rude

Do they occasion; ’tis a pleasing chime.

So the unnumber’d sounds that evening store;

The songs of birds — the whisp’ring of the leaves —

The voice of waters — the great bell that heaves

With solemn sound, — and thousand others more,

That distance of recognizance bereaves,

Make pleasing music, and not wild uproar.

Dedication [Of Poems, 1817] To Leigh Hunt, Esq.

Glory and loveliness have pass’d away;

For if we wander out in early morn,

No wreathed incense do we see upborne

Into the east, to meet the smiling day:

No crowd of nymphs soft voic’d and young, and gay,

In woven baskets bringing ears of corn,

Roses, and pinks, and violets, to adorn

The shrine of Flora in her early May.

But there are left delights as high as these,

And I shall ever bless my destiny,

That in a time, when under pleasant trees

Pan is no longer sought, I feel a free,

A leafy luxury, seeing I could please

With these poor offerings, a man like thee.

To One Who Has Been Long in City Pent

To one who has been long in city pent,

’Tis very sweet to look into the fair

And open face of heaven, — to breathe a prayer

Full in the smile of the blue firmament.

Who is more happy, when, with heart’s content,

Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair

Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair

And gentle tale of love and languishment?

Returning home at evening, with an ear

Catching the notes of Philomel, — an eye

Watching the sailing cloudlet’s bright career,

He mourns that day so soon has glided by:

E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear

That falls through the clear ether silently.

A Song About Myself

i.

There was a naughty boy,

A naughty boy was he,

He would not stop at home,

He could not quiet be —

He took

In his knapsack

A book

Full of vowels

And a shirt

With some towels,

A slight cap

For night cap,

A hair brush,

Comb ditto,

New stockings

For old ones

Would split O!

This knapsack

Tight at’s back

He rivetted close

And followed his nose

To the north,

To the north,

And follow’d his nose

To the north.

ii.

There was a naughty boy

And a naughty boy was he,

For nothing would he do

But scribble poetry —

He took

An ink stand

In his hand

And a pen

Big as ten

In the other,

And away

In a pother

He ran

To the mountains

And fountains

And ghostes

And postes

And witches

And ditches

And wrote

In his coat

When the weather

Was cool,

Fear of gout,

And without

When the weather

Was warm —

Och the charm

When we choose

To follow one’s nose

To the north,

To the north,

To follow one’s nose

To the north!

iii.

There was a naughty boy

And a naughty boy was he,

He kept little fishes

In washing tubs three

In spite

Of the might

Of the maid

Nor afraid

Of his Granny-good —

He often would

Hurly burly

Get up early

And go

By hook or crook

To the brook

And bring home

Miller’s thumb,

Tittlebat

Not over fat,

Minnows small

As the stall

Of a glove,

Not above

The size

Of a nice

Little baby’s

Little fingers —

O he made

’Twas his trade

Of fish a pretty kettle

A kettle —

A kettle

Of fish a pretty kettle

A kettle!

iv.

There was a naughty boy,

And a naughty boy was he,

He ran away to Scotland

The people for to see —

There he found

That the ground

Was as hard,

That a yard

Was as long,

That a song

Was as merry,

That a cherry

Was as red,

That lead

Was as weighty,

That fourscore

Was as eighty,

That a door

Was as wooden

As in England —

So he stood in his shoes

And he wonder’d,

He wonder’d,

He stood in his

Shoes and he wonder’d.

Ode

(“Bards of Passion and of Mirth”)

Bards of Passion and of Mirth,

Ye have left your souls on earth!

Have ye souls in heaven too,

Double-lived in regions new?

Yes, and those of heaven commune

With the spheres of sun and moon;

With the noise of fountains wond’rous,

And the parle of voices thund’rous;

With the whisper of heaven’s trees

And one another, in soft ease

Seated on Elysian lawns

Brows’d by none but Dian’s fawns;

Underneath large blue-bells tented,

Where the daisies are rose-scented,

And the rose herself has got

Perfume which on earth is not;

Where the nightingale doth sing

Not a senseless, tranced thing,

But divine melodious truth;

Philosophic numbers smooth;

Tales and golden histories

Of heaven and its mysteries.

Thus ye live on high, and then

On the earth ye live again;

And the souls ye left behind you

Teach us, here, the way to find you,

Where your other souls are joying,

Never slumber’d, never cloying.

Here, your earth-born souls still speak

To mortals, of their little week;

Of their sorrows and delights;

Of their passions and their spites;

Of their glory and their shame;

What doth strengthen and what maim.

Thus ye teach us, every day,

Wisdom, though fled far away.

Bards of Passion and of Mirth,

Ye have left your souls on earth!

Ye have souls in heaven too,

Double-lived in regions new!

Ode on Indolence

They toil not, neither do they spin.

i.

One morn before me were three figures seen,

With bowed necks, and joined hands, side-faced;

And one behind the other stepp’d serene,

In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;

They pass’d, like figures on a marble urn

When shifted round to see the other side;

They came again, as, when the urn once more

Is shifted round, the first seen shades return;

And they were strange to me, as may betide

With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.

ii.

How is it, Shadows! that I knew ye not?

How came ye muffled in so hush a masque?

Was it a silent deep-disguised plot

To steal away, and leave without a task

My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour;

The blissful cloud of summer-indolence

Benumb’d my eyes; my pulse grew less and less;

Pain had no sting, and pleasure’s wreath no flower:

O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense

Unhaunted quite of all but-nothingness?

iii.

A third time came they by; — alas! wherefore?

My sleep had been embroider’d with dim dreams;

My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o’er

With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams:

The morn was clouded, but no shower fell,

Though in her lids hung the sweet tears of May;

The open casement press’d a new-leav’d vine,

Let in the budding warmth and throstle’s lay;

O Shadows! ’twas a time to bid farewell!

Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.

iv.

A third time pass’d they by, and, passing, turn’d

Each one the face a moment whiles to me;

Then faded, and to follow them I burn’d

And ach’d for wings because I knew the three;

The first was a fair Maid, and Love her name;

The second was Ambition, pale of cheek,

And ever watchful with fatigued eye;

The last, whom I love more, the more of blame

Is heap’d upon her, maiden most unmeek, —

I knew to be my demon Poesy.

v.

They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings:

O folly! What is love! and where is it?

And for that poor Ambition! it springs

From a man’s little heart’s short fever-fit;

For Poesy! — no, — she has not a joy, —

At least for me, — so sweet as drowsy noons,

And evenings steep’d in honied indolence;

O, for an age so shelter’d from annoy,

That I may never know how change the moons,

Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!

vi.

So, ye three Ghosts, adieu! Ye cannot raise

My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass;

For I would not be dieted with praise,

A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce!

Fade softly from my eyes, and be once more

In masque-like figures on the dreamy urn;

Farewell! I yet have visions for the night,

And for the day faint visions there is store;

Vanish, ye Phantoms! from my idle spright,

Into the clouds, and never more return!

Ode on Melancholy

i.

No, 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;

Make not your rosary of yew-berries,

Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be

Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl

A partner in your sorrow’s mysteries;

For shade to shade will come too drowsily,

And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

ii.

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;

Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,

Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,

Or on the wealth of globed peonies;

Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,

Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,

And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

iii.

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

Veil’d 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.

Ode to Psyche

O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung

By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,

And pardon that thy secrets should be sung

Even into thine own soft-conched ear:

Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see

The winged Psyche with awaken’d eyes?

I wander’d in a forest thoughtlessly,

And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,

Saw two fair creatures, couched side by side

In deepest grass, beneath the whisp’ring roof

Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran

A brooklet, scarce espied:

‘Mid hush’d, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,

Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian,

They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass;

Their arms embraced, and their pinions too;

Their lips touch’d not, but had not bade adieu,

As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber,

And ready still past kisses to outnumber

At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:

The winged boy I knew;

But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?

His Psyche true!

O latest born and loveliest vision far

Of all Olympus’ faded hierarchy!

Fairer than Phoebe’s sapphire-region’d star,

Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;

Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,

Nor altar heap’d with flowers;

Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan

Upon the midnight hours;

No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet

From chain-swung censer teeming;

No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat

Of pale-mouth’d prophet dreaming.

O brightest! though too late for antique vows,

Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,

When holy were the haunted forest boughs,

Holy the air, the water, and the fire;

Yet even in these days so far retir’d

From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,

Fluttering among the faint Olympians,

I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspir’d.

So let me be thy choir, and make a moan

Upon the midnight hours;

Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet

From swinged censer teeming;

Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat

Of pale-mouth’d prophet dreaming.

Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane

In some untrodden region of my mind,

Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,

Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:

Far, far around shall those dark-cluster’d trees

Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;

And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,

The moss-lain Dryads shall be lull’d to sleep;

And in the midst of this wide quietness

A rosy sanctuary will I dress

With the wreath’d trellis of a working brain,

With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,

With all the gardener Fancy e’er could feign,

Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:

And there shall be for thee all soft delight

That shadowy thought can win,

A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,

To let the warm Love in!

Over the Hill and Over the Dale

Over the hill and over the dale,

And over the bourn to Dawlish —

Where gingerbread wives have a scanty sale

And gingerbread nuts are smallish.

Rantipole Betty she ran down a hill

And kicked up her petticoats fairly;

Says I I’ll be Jack if you will be Gill —

So she sat on the grass debonairly.

Here’s somebody coming, here’s somebody coming!

Says I ’tis the wind at a parley;

So without any fuss any hawing and humming

She lay on the grass debonairly.

Here’s somebody here and here’s somebody there!

Says I hold your tongue you young Gipsey;

So she held her tongue and lay plump and fair

And dead as a Venus tipsy.

O who wouldn’t hie to Dawlish fair,

O who wouldn’t stop in a Meadow,

O who would not rumple the daisies there

And make the wild fern for a bed do!

Teignmouth, Spring 1818.

Where be you going, you Devon maid?

Where be you going, you Devon maid?

And what have ye there in the basket?

Ye tight little fairy, just fresh from the dairy,

Will ye give me some cream if I ask for it?

I love your hills and I love your dales,

And I love your flocks a-bleating;

But oh, on the heather to lie together,

With both our hearts a-beating!

I’ll put your basket all safe in a nook;

Your shawl I’ll hang on a willow;

And we will sigh in the daisy’s eye,

And kiss on a grass-green pillow.

O blush not so! O blush not so!

O blush not so! O blush not so!

Or I shall think you knowing;

And if you smile, the blushing while,

Then maidenheads are going.

There’s a blush for won’t, and a blush for shan’t,

And a blush for having done it;

There’s a blush for thought, and a blush for nought,

And a blush for just begun it.

O sigh not so! O sigh not so!

For it sounds of Eve’s sweet pippin;

By those loosen’d hips, you have tasted the pips,

And fought in an amorous nipping.

Will you play once more, at nice cut-core,

For it only will last our youth out;

And we have the prime of the kissing time,

We have not one sweet tooth out.

There’s a sigh for yes, and a sigh for no,

And a sigh for I can’t bear it!

O what can be done? Shall we stay or run?

O cut the sweet apple and share it!

January, 1818

Translated From Ronsard

Nature withheld Cassandra in the skies

For more adornment a full thousand years;

She took their cream of Beauty’s fairest dyes,

And shap’d and tinted her above all Peers:

Meanwhile Love kept her dearly with his wings,

And underneath their shadow fill’d her eyes

With such a richness that the cloudy Kings

Of high Olympus utter’d slavish sighs.

When from the Heavens I saw her first descend

My heart took fire, and only burning pains

They were my pleasures — they my Life’s sad end;

Love pour’d her beauty into my warm veins . . .

O Solitude! If I Must with Thee Dwell

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,

Let it not be among the jumbled heap

Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep, —

Nature’s observatory — whence the dell,

Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,

May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep

‘Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap

Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.

But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,

Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,

Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,

Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be

Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,

When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

Imitation of Spenser

Now Morning from her orient chamber came,

And her first footsteps touch’d a verdant hill;

Crowning its lawny crest with amber flame,

Silv’ring the untainted gushes of its rill;

Which, pure from mossy beds, did down distill,

And after parting beds of simple flowers,

By many streams a little lake did fill,

Which round its marge reflected woven bowers,

And, in its middle space, a sky that never lowers.

There the king-fisher saw his plumage bright

Vieing with fish of brilliant dye below;

Whose silken fins, and golden scales’ light

Cast upward, through the waves, a ruby glow:

There saw the swan his neck of arched snow,

And oar’d himself along with majesty;

Sparkled his jetty eyes; his feet did show

Beneath the waves like Afric’s ebony,

And on his back a fay reclined voluptuously.

Ah! could I tell the wonders of an isle

That in that fairest lake had placed been,

I could e’en Dido of her grief beguile;

Or rob from aged Lear his bitter teen:

For sure so fair a place was never seen,

Of all that ever charm’d romantic eye:

It seem’d an emerald in the silver sheen

Of the bright waters; or as when on high,

Through clouds of fleecy white, laughs the coerulean sky.

And all around it dipp’d luxuriously

Slopings of verdure through the glossy tide,

Which, as it were in gentle amity,

Rippled delighted up the flowery side;

As if to glean the ruddy tears, it tried,

Which fell profusely from the rose-tree stem!

Haply it was the workings of its pride,

In strife to throw upon the shore a gem

Outvieing all the buds in Flora’s diadem.

Stanzas

(“In Drear-Nighted December”)

i.

In drear-nighted December,

Too happy, happy tree,

Thy branches ne’er remember

Their green felicity:

The north cannot undo them,

With a sleety whistle through them;

Nor frozen thawings glue them

From budding at the prime.

ii.

In drear-nighted December,

Too happy, happy brook,

Thy bubblings ne’er remember

Apollo’s summer look;

But with a sweet forgetting,

They stay their crystal fretting,

Never, never petting

About the frozen time.

iii.

Ah! would ’twere so with many

A gentle girl and boy!

But were there ever any

Writh’d not of passed joy?

The feel of not to feel it,

When there is none to heal it,

Nor numbed sense to steel it,

Was never said in rhyme.

The Poet

A Fragment

Where’s the Poet? show him! show him,

Muses nine! that I may know him!

’Tis the man who with a man

Is an equal, be he King

Or poorest of the beggar-clan,

Or any other wondrous thing

A man may be ‘twixt ape and Plato;

’Tis the man who with a bird,

Wren or eagle, finds his way to

All its instincts; he hath heard

The lion’s roaring, and can tell

What his horny throat expresseth,

And to him the tiger’s yell

Comes articulate and presseth

On his ear like mother-tongue . . .

TO—

(“What Can I Do to Drive Away”)

What can I do to drive away

Remembrance from my eyes? for they have seen,

Aye, an hour ago, my brilliant Queen!

Touch has a memory. O say, love, say,

What can I do to kill it and be free

In my old liberty?

When every fair one that I saw was fair

Enough to catch me in but half a snare,

Not keep me there:

When, howe’er poor or particolour’d things,

My muse had wings,

And ever ready was to take her course

Whither I bent her force,

Unintellectual, yet divine to me; —

Divine, I say! — What sea-bird o’er the sea

Is a philosopher the while he goes

Winging along where the great water throes?

How shall I do

To get anew

Those moulted feathers, and so mount once more

Above, above

The reach of fluttering Love,

And make him cower lowly while I soar?

Shall I gulp wine? No, that is vulgarism,

A heresy and schism,

Foisted into the canon law of love; —

No, — wine is only sweet to happy men;

More dismal cares

Seize on me unawares, —

Where shall I learn to get my peace again?

To banish thoughts of that most hateful land,

Dungeoner of my friends, that wicked strand

Where they were wreck’d and live a wrecked life;

That monstrous region, whose dull rivers pour

Ever from their sordid urns unto the shore,

Unown’d of any weedy-haired gods;

Whose winds, all zephyrless, hold scourging rods,

Iced in the great lakes, to afflict mankind;

Whose rank-grown forests, frosted, black, and blind,

Would fright a Dryad; whose harsh herbag’d meads

Make lean and lank the starv’d ox while he feeds;

There flowers have no scent, birds no sweet song,

And great unerring Nature once seems wrong.

O, for some sunny spell

To dissipate the shadows of this hell!

Say they are gone, — with the new dawning light

Steps forth my lady bright!

O, let me once more rest

My soul upon that dazzling breast!

Let once again these aching arms be plac’d,

The tender gaolers of thy waist!

And let me feel that warm breath here and there

To spread a rapture in my very hair, —

O, the sweetness of the pain!

Give me those lips again!

Enough! Enough! it is enough for me

To dream of thee!

To Homer

Standing aloof in giant ignorance,

Of thee I hear and of the Cyclades,

As one who sits ashore and longs perchance

To visit dolphin-coral in deep seas.

So thou wast blind! — but then the veil was rent,

For Jove uncurtain’d Heaven to let thee live,

And Neptune made for thee a spumy tent,

And Pan made sing for thee his forest-hive;

Aye, on the shores of darkness there is light,

And precipices show untrodden green;

There is a budding morrow in midnight;

There is a triple sight in blindness keen;

Such seeing hadst thou as it once befel

To Dian, Queen of Earth, and Heaven, and Hell.

To Sleep

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,

Shutting with careful fingers and benign

Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,

Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:

O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close

In midst of this thine hymn my willing eyes,

Or wait the amen ere thy poppy throws

Around my bed its lulling charities.

Then save me, or the passed day will shine

Upon my pillow, breeding many woes;

Save me from curious conscience, that still lords

Its strength for darkness, burrowing like a mole;

Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,

And seal the hushed casket of my soul.

On Visiting the Tomb of Burns

The town, the churchyard, and the setting sun,

The clouds, the trees, the rounded hills all seem,

Though beautiful, cold — strange — as in a dream

I dreamed long ago, now new begun.

The short-liv’d, paly summer is but won

From winter’s ague for one hour’s gleam;

Through sapphire warm their stars do never beam:

All is cold Beauty; pain is never done.

For who has mind to relish, Minos-wise,

The real of Beauty, free from that dead hue

Sickly imagination and sick pride

Cast wan upon it? Burns! with honour due

I oft have honour’d thee. Great shadow, hide

Thy face; I sin against thy native skies.

Why Did I Laugh To-night? No Voice Will Tell

Why did I laugh to-night? No voice will tell:

No God, no Demon of severe response,

Deigns to reply from Heaven or from Hell.

Then to my human heart I turn at once.

Heart! Thou and I are here sad and alone;

I say, why did I laugh! O mortal pain!

O Darkness! Darkness! ever must I moan,

To question Heaven and Hell and Heart in vain.

Why did I laugh? I know this Being’s lease,

My fancy to its utmost blisses spreads;

Yet would I on this very midnight cease,

And the world’s gaudy ensigns see in shreds.

Verse, Fame, and Beauty are intense indeed,

But Death intenser — Death is Life’s high meed.

To Mrs Reynolds’s Cat

Cat! who hast passed thy grand climacteric,

How many mice and rats hast in thy days

Destroyed? How many tit-bits stolen? Gaze

With those bright languid segments green, and prick

Those velvet ears — but prithee do not stick

Thy latent talons in me, and up-raise

Thy gentle mew, and tell me all thy frays

Of fish and mice, and rats and tender chick.

Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists —

For all thy wheezy asthma, and for all

Thy tail’s tip is nicked off, and though the fists

Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,

Still is that fur as soft as when the lists

In youth thou enteredst on glass-bottled wall.

Bright star! would I were steadfast as thou art —

BRIGHT star! would I were steadfast as thou art —

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,

The moving waters at their priestlike task

Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,

Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask

Of snow upon the mountains and the moors —

No — yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,

Pillow’d upon my fair love’s ripening breast,

To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

And so live ever — or else swoon to death.

Give Me Women, Wine, and Snuff

GIVE me women, wine, and snuff

Untill I cry out “hold, enough!”

You may do so sans objection

Till the day of resurrection:

For, bless my beard, they aye shall be

My beloved Trinity.

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