Ode on a Grecian Urn

- 1795-1821

Thou still unravish'd 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 loth?
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 endear'd,
  Pipe to the spirit ditties 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,
    For ever 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, unwearied,
  For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
  For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
    For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
  That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
    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 drest?
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.

More by John Keats

On First Looking into Chapman's Homer

Much have I traveled 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-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet never did I 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 stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Looked at each other with a wild surmise—
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

To Fanny

Physician Nature! let my spirit blood!
   O ease my heart of verse and let me rest;
Throw me upon thy tripod, till the flood
   Of stifling numbers ebbs from my full breast.
A theme! a theme! Great Nature! give a theme;
         Let me begin my dream.
I come—I see thee, as thou standest there,
Beckon me out into the wintry air.

Ah! dearest love, sweet home of all my fears
   And hopes and joys and panting miseries,—
To-night, if I may guess, thy beauty wears
         A smile of such delight,
         As brilliant and as bright,
   As when with ravished, aching, vassal eyes,
         Lost in a soft amaze,
         I gaze, I gaze!

Who now, with greedy looks, eats up my feast?
   What stare outfaces now my silver moon!
Ah! keep that hand unravished at the least;
         Let, let the amorous burn—
         But, prithee, do not turn
   The current of your heart from me so soon:
         O save, in charity,
         The quickest pulse for me.

Save it for me, sweet love! though music breathe
   Voluptuous visions into the warm air,
Though swimming through the dance’s dangerous wreath,
         Be like an April day,
         Smiling and cold and gay,
   A temperate lily, temperate as fair;
         Then, heaven! there will be
         A warmer June for me.

Why this, you’ll say—my Fanny!—is not true;
   Put your soft hand upon your snowy side,
Where the heart beats: confess—'tis nothing new -
         Must not a woman be
         A feather on the sea,
   Swayed to and fro by every wind and tide?
         Of as uncertain speed
         As blow-ball from the mead?

I know it—and to know it is despair
   To one who loves you as I love, sweet Fanny,
Whose heart goes fluttering for you every where,
         Nor when away you roam,
         Dare keep its wretched home:
   Love, love alone, has pains severe and many;
         Then, loveliest! keep me free
         From torturing jealousy.

Ah! if you prize my subdued soul above
   The poor, the fading, brief pride of an hour:
Let none profane my Holy See of Love,
         Or with a rude hand break
         The sacramental cake:
   Let none else touch the just new-budded flower;
         If not—may my eyes close,
         Love, on their last repose!

I cry your mercy—pity—love!—ay, love

To Fanny.

I cry your mercy—pity—love!—ay, love!
  Merciful love that tantalises not
One-thoughted, never-wandering, guileless love,
  Unmask'd, and being seen—without a blot!
O! let me have thee whole,—all—all—be mine!
  That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of love, your kiss,—those hands, those eyes divine,
  That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast,—
Yourself—your soul—in pity give me all,
  Withhold no atom's atom or I die,
Or living on, perhaps, your wretched thrall,
  Forget, in the mist of idle misery,
Life's purposes,—the palate of my mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!