Ode to a Nightingale

- 1795-1821

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-winged 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
  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:

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 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.

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,
    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.

5.

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.

6.

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.

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 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.

8.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
  To toil 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?

More by John Keats

Ode on a Grecian Urn

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.

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!