Poems published in 1820, by John Keats

Ode on Melancholy.


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. 10


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. 20


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. 30

Notes on Ode on Melancholy.

l. 1. Lethe. See Lamia, i. 81, note.

l. 2. Wolf’s-bane, aconite or hellebore — a poisonous plant.

l. 4. nightshade, a deadly poison.

ruby . . . Proserpine. Cf. Swinburne’s Garden of Proserpine.

Proserpine. Cf. Lamia, i. 63, note.

l. 5. yew-berries. The yew, a dark funereal-looking tree, is constantly planted in churchyards.

l. 7. your mournful Psyche. See Introduction to the Ode to Psyche, p. 236.

l. 12. weeping cloud. l. 14. shroud. Giving a touch of mystery and sadness to the otherwise light and tender picture.

l. 16. on . . . sand-wave, the iridescence sometimes seen on the ribbed sand left by the tide.

l. 21. She, i.e. Melancholy — now personified as a goddess. Compare this conception of melancholy with the passage in Lamia, i. 190–200. Cf. also Milton’s personifications of Melancholy in L’Allegro and Il Penseroso.

l. 30. cloudy, mysteriously concealed, seen of few.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:56