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AO John Keats Poems AmblesideOnline.org

AmblesideOnline Poems of John Keats (1795-1821)

Biography by his closest friend, Charles Armitage Brown, here.
Original Manuscripts here.

01. - To Autumn (most beloved of Keats poems)

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
      Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
      With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
      And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
          To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
      With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
          For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Who hath not seen thee oft 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,
      Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
          Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
      Steady thy laden head across a brook;
      Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
          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 red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
          And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


02. - Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast as Though 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.


03. - On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer

(Chapman's translation of The Odyssey here)

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.


04. - Endymion (Book 1, First Stanzas . . . continued here)

A Poetic Romance.

"The stretched metre of an antique song."
Inscribed to the memory of Thomas Chatterton.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old and young,sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.
Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast,
They alway must be with us, or we die.

Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I
Will trace the story of Endymion.
The very music of the name has gone
Into my being, and each pleasant scene
Is growing fresh before me as the green
Of our own vallies: so I will begin
Now while I cannot hear the city's din;
Now while the early budders are just new,
And run in mazes of the youngest hue
About old forests; while the willow trails
Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer
My little boat, for many quiet hours,
With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
Many and many a verse I hope to write,
Before the daisies, vermeil rimm'd and white,
Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
I must be near the middle of my story.
O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,
With universal tinge of sober gold,
Be all about me when I make an end.
And now at once, adventuresome, I send
My herald thought into a wilderness:
There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress
My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.


05. - Ode on Indolence

The epigraph is from Matthew 6:28.
'They toil not, neither do they spin.'

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.
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?
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 ached 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.
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!
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-leaved 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.
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 dreary 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!


06. - Ode to Psyche Annotated version here

O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
      By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
      Even unto 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 globe, no oracle, no heat
      Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.
O brightest! though too late for antique vows,
      Too, too late for the fond believing lyte,
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 inspired.
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 glowers, 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!


07. - Ode on a Grecian urn (1820) famous line: "Beauty is truth, truth beauty"

Thou still unravished bride of quietness,
      Thou foster child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
      A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape
      Of deities or mortals, or of both,
          In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loath?
      What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
          What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?
Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
      Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endeared,
      Pipe to the spirit dities of no tone.
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
      Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
          Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal--yet, do not grieve;
      She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss
          Forever wilt thou love, and she be fair!
Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
      Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unweari-ed,
      Forever piping songs forever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
      Forever warm and still to be enjoyed,
          Forever panting, and forever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
      That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloyed,
          A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.
Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
      To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
      And all her silken flanks with garlands dressed?
What little town by river or sea shore,
      Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
          Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
      Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
          Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.
O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
      Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
      Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity. Cold Pastoral!
      When old age shall this generation waste,
          Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
      "Beauty is truth, truth beauty"--that is all
          Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.


08. - Ode to a Nightengale
Painting of Keats listening to a nightingale by Joseph Severn, 20 years after Keats death

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-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 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 gray 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 mossy ways.
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 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,
Call'd him 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 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 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
     Charm'd 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 fam'd 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?


09. - Ode to 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.
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.
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.


10. - Robin Hood to a Friend

No! those days are gone away,
And their hours are old and gray,
And their minutes buried all
Under the down-trodden pall
Ofthe leaves of many years:
Many times have winter's shears,
Frozen North, and chilling East,
Sounded tempests to the feast
Of the forest's whispering fleeces,
Since men knew nor rent nor leases.
     No, the bugle sounds no more,
And the twanging bow no more;
Silent is the ivory shrill
Past the heath and up the hill;
There is no mid-forest laugh,
Where lone Echo gives the half
To some wight, amaz'd to hear
Jesting, deep in forest drear.
     On the fairest time of June
You may go, with sun or moon,
Or the seven stars to light you,
Or the polar ray to right you;
But you never may behold
Little John, or Robin bold;
Never one, of all the clan,
Thrumming on an empty can
Some old hunting ditty, while
He doth his green way beguile
To fair hostess Merriment,
Down beside the pasture Trent;
For he left the merry tale,
Messenger for spicy ale.
     Gone, the merry morris din;
Gone, the song of Gamelyn;
Gone, the tough-belted outlaw
Idling in the "grene shawe";
All are gone away and past!
And if Robin should be cast
Sudden from his turfed grave,
And if Marian should have
Once again her forest days,
She would weep, and he would craze:
He would swear, for all his oaks,
Fall'n beneath the dockyard strokes,
Have rotted on the briny seas;
She would weep that her wild bees
Sang not to her--strange! that honey
Can't be got without hard money!
     So it is; yet let us sing
Honour to the old bow-string!
Honour to the bugle-horn!
Honour to the woods unshorn!
Honour to the Lincoln green!
Honour to the archer keen!
Honour to tight little John,
And the horse he rode upon!
Honour to bold Robin Hood,
Sleeping in the underwood!
Honour to maid Marian,
And to all the Sherwood clan!
Though their days have hurried by
Let us two a burden try.


11. - When I Have Fears That I may Cease to Be
(in a letter to John Hamilton Reynolds, his closest friend, January 31, 1818)

When I have fears that I may cease to be
     Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,
     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.

Poems selected by Bonnie Buckingham