About this poet

English Romantic poet John Keats was born on October 31, 1795, in London. The oldest of four children, he lost both his parents at a young age. His father, a livery-stable keeper, died when Keats was eight; his mother died of tuberculosis six years later. After his mother's death, Keats's maternal grandmother appointed two London merchants, Richard Abbey and John Rowland Sandell, as guardians. Abbey, a prosperous tea broker, assumed the bulk of this responsibility, while Sandell played only a minor role. When Keats was fifteen, Abbey withdrew him from the Clarke School, Enfield, to apprentice with an apothecary-surgeon and study medicine in a London hospital. In 1816 Keats became a licensed apothecary, but he never practiced his profession, deciding instead to write poetry.

Around this time, Keats met Leigh Hunt, an influential editor of the Examiner, who published his sonnets "On First Looking into Chapman's Homer" and "O Solitude." Hunt also introduced Keats to a circle of literary men, including the poets Percy Bysshe Shelley and William Wordsworth. The group's influence enabled Keats to see his first volume, Poems by John Keats, published in 1817. Shelley, who was fond of Keats, had advised him to develop a more substantial body of work before publishing it. Keats, who was not as fond of Shelley, did not follow his advice. Endymion, a four-thousand-line erotic/allegorical romance based on the Greek myth of the same name, appeared the following year. Two of the most influential critical magazines of the time, the Quarterly Review and Blackwood's Magazine, attacked the collection. Calling the romantic verse of Hunt's literary circle "the Cockney school of poetry," Blackwood's declared Endymion to be nonsense and recommended that Keats give up poetry. Shelley, who privately disliked Endymion but recognized Keats's genius, wrote a more favorable review, but it was never published. Shelley also exaggerated the effect that the criticism had on Keats, attributing his declining health over the following years to a spirit broken by the negative reviews.

Keats spent the summer of 1818 on a walking tour in Northern England and Scotland, returning home to care for his brother, Tom, who suffered from tuberculosis. While nursing his brother, Keats met and fell in love with a woman named Fanny Brawne. Writing some of his finest poetry between 1818 and 1819, Keats mainly worked on "Hyperion," a Miltonic blank-verse epic of the Greek creation myth. He stopped writing "Hyperion" upon the death of his brother, after completing only a small portion, but in late 1819 he returned to the piece and rewrote it as "The Fall of Hyperion" (unpublished until 1856). That same autumn Keats contracted tuberculosis, and by the following February he felt that death was already upon him, referring to the present as his "posthumous existence."

In July 1820, he published his third and best volume of poetry, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems. The three title poems, dealing with mythical and legendary themes of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance times, are rich in imagery and phrasing. The volume also contains the unfinished "Hyperion," and three poems considered among the finest in the English language, "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode on Melancholy," and "Ode to a Nightingale." The book received enthusiastic praise from Hunt, Shelley, Charles Lamb, and others, and in August, Frances Jeffrey, influential editor of the Edinburgh Review, wrote a review praising both the new book and Endymion.

The fragment "Hyperion" was considered by Keats's contemporaries to be his greatest achievement, but by that time he had reached an advanced stage of his disease and was too ill to be encouraged. He continued a correspondence with Fanny Brawne and—when he could no longer bear to write to her directly—her mother, but his failing health and his literary ambitions prevented their getting married. Under his doctor's orders to seek a warm climate for the winter, Keats went to Rome with his friend, the painter Joseph Severn. He died there on February 23, 1821, at the age of twenty-five, and was buried in the Protestant cemetery.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

The Poems of John Keats (1978)
The Poems of John Keats (1970)
The Poems of John Keats (1970)
Collections: The Poetical Works of Coleridge, Shelley, and Keats (1831)
Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820)
Endymion: A Poetic Romance (1818)
Poems (1817)

Prose

Letters of John Keats: A New Selection (1970)
The Letters of John Keats (1958)
Life, Letters, and Literary Remains of John Keats (1848)

Drama

Otho The Great: A Dramatic Fragment (1819)
King Stephen: A Dramatic Fragment (1819)
 

Endymion, Book I, [A thing of beauty is a joy for ever]

John Keats, 1795 - 1821
Book I
  
  
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.  
  
  Upon the sides of Latmos was outspread  
A mighty forest; for the moist earth fed  
So plenteously all weed-hidden roots            
Into o'er-hanging boughs, and precious fruits.  
And it had gloomy shades, sequestered deep,  
Where no man went; and if from shepherd's keep  
A lamb strayed far a-down those inmost glens,  
Never again saw he the happy pens            
Whither his brethren, bleating with content,  
Over the hills at every nightfall went.  
Among the shepherds, 'twas believed ever,  
That not one fleecy lamb which thus did sever  
From the white flock, but pass'd unworried            
By angry wolf, or pard with prying head,  
Until it came to some unfooted plains  
Where fed the herds of Pan: ay great his gains  
Who thus one lamb did lose. Paths there were many,  
Winding through palmy fern, and rushes fenny,            
And ivy banks; all leading pleasantly  
To a wide lawn, whence one could only see  
Stems thronging all around between the swell  
Of turf and slanting branches: who could tell  
The freshness of the space of heaven above,            
Edg'd round with dark tree tops? through which a dove  
Would often beat its wings, and often too  
A little cloud would move across the blue.  
  
  Full in the middle of this pleasantness  
There stood a marble altar, with a tress            
Of flowers budded newly; and the dew  
Had taken fairy phantasies to strew  
Daisies upon the sacred sward last eve,  
And so the dawned light in pomp receive.  
For 'twas the morn: Apollo's upward fire            
Made every eastern cloud a silvery pyre  
Of brightness so unsullied, that therein  
A melancholy spirit well might win  
Oblivion, and melt out his essence fine  
Into the winds: rain-scented eglantine             
Gave temperate sweets to that well-wooing sun;  
The lark was lost in him; cold springs had run  
To warm their chilliest bubbles in the grass;  
Man's voice was on the mountains; and the mass  
Of nature's lives and wonders puls'd tenfold,             
To feel this sun-rise and its glories old.  
  
  Now while the silent workings of the dawn  
Were busiest, into that self-same lawn  
All suddenly, with joyful cries, there sped  
A troop of little children garlanded;             
Who gathering round the altar, seemed to pry  
Earnestly round as wishing to espy  
Some folk of holiday: nor had they waited  
For many moments, ere their ears were sated  
With a faint breath of music, which ev'n then             
Fill'd out its voice, and died away again.  
Within a little space again it gave  
Its airy swellings, with a gentle wave,  
To light-hung leaves, in smoothest echoes breaking  
Through copse-clad vallies,—ere their death, oer-taking 
The surgy murmurs of the lonely sea.  
  
  And now, as deep into the wood as we  
Might mark a lynx's eye, there glimmered light  
Fair faces and a rush of garments white,  
Plainer and plainer shewing, till at last             
Into the widest alley they all past,  
Making directly for the woodland altar.  
O kindly muse! let not my weak tongue faulter  
In telling of this goodly company,  
Of their old piety, and of their glee:             
But let a portion of ethereal dew  
Fall on my head, and presently unmew  
My soul; that I may dare, in wayfaring,  
To stammer where old Chaucer used to sing.  
  
  Leading the way, young damsels danced along,             
Bearing the burden of a shepherd song;  
Each having a white wicker over brimm'd  
With April's tender younglings: next, well trimm'd,  
A crowd of shepherds with as sunburnt looks  
As may be read of in Arcadian books;             
Such as sat listening round Apollo's pipe,  
When the great deity, for earth too ripe,  
Let his divinity o'er-flowing die  
In music, through the vales of Thessaly:  
Some idly trailed their sheep-hooks on the ground,             
And some kept up a shrilly mellow sound  
With ebon-tipped flutes: close after these,  
Now coming from beneath the forest trees,  
A venerable priest full soberly,  
Begirt with ministring looks: alway his eye             
Stedfast upon the matted turf he kept,  
And after him his sacred vestments swept.  
From his right hand there swung a vase, milk-white,  
Of mingled wine, out-sparkling generous light;  
And in his left he held a basket full             
Of all sweet herbs that searching eye could cull:  
Wild thyme, and valley-lilies whiter still  
Than Leda's love, and cresses from the rill.  
His aged head, crowned with beechen wreath,  
Seem'd like a poll of ivy in the teeth             
Of winter hoar. Then came another crowd  
Of shepherds, lifting in due time aloud  
Their share of the ditty. After them appear'd,  
Up-followed by a multitude that rear'd  
Their voices to the clouds, a fair wrought car,             
Easily rolling so as scarce to mar  
The freedom of three steeds of dapple brown:  
Who stood therein did seem of great renown  
Among the throng. His youth was fully blown,  
Shewing like Ganymede to manhood grown;             
And, for those simple times, his garments were  
A chieftain king's: beneath his breast, half bare,  
Was hung a silver bugle, and between  
His nervy knees there lay a boar-spear keen.  
A smile was on his countenance; he seem'd,             
To common lookers on, like one who dream'd  
Of idleness in groves Elysian:  
But there were some who feelingly could scan  
A lurking trouble in his nether lip,  
And see that oftentimes the reins would slip             
Through his forgotten hands: then would they sigh,  
And think of yellow leaves, of owlets cry,  
Of logs piled solemnly.—Ah, well-a-day,  
Why should our young Endymion pine away!  
  
  Soon the assembly, in a circle rang'd,             
Stood silent round the shrine: each look was chang'd  
To sudden veneration: women meek  
Beckon'd their sons to silence; while each cheek  
Of virgin bloom paled gently for slight fear.  
Endymion too, without a forest peer,             
Stood, wan, and pale, and with an awed face,  
Among his brothers of the mountain chase.  
In midst of all, the venerable priest  
Eyed them with joy from greatest to the least,  
And, after lifting up his aged hands,             
Thus spake he: "Men of Latmos! shepherd bands!  
Whose care it is to guard a thousand flocks:  
Whether descended from beneath the rocks  
That overtop your mountains; whether come  
From vallies where the pipe is never dumb;             
Or from your swelling downs, where sweet air stirs  
Blue hare-bells lightly, and where prickly furze  
Buds lavish gold; or ye, whose precious charge  
Nibble their fill at ocean's very marge,  
Whose mellow reeds are touch'd with sounds forlorn             
By the dim echoes of old Triton's horn:  
Mothers and wives! who day by day prepare  
The scrip, with needments, for the mountain air;  
And all ye gentle girls who foster up  
Udderless lambs, and in a little cup             
Will put choice honey for a favoured youth:  
Yea, every one attend! for in good truth  
Our vows are wanting to our great god Pan.  
Are not our lowing heifers sleeker than  
Night-swollen mushrooms? Are not our wide plains             
Speckled with countless fleeces? Have not rains  
Green'd over April's lap? No howling sad  
Sickens our fearful ewes; and we have had  
Great bounty from Endymion our lord.  
The earth is glad: the merry lark has pour'd             
His early song against yon breezy sky,  
That spreads so clear o'er our solemnity."  
  
  Thus ending, on the shrine he heap'd a spire  
Of teeming sweets, enkindling sacred fire;  
Anon he stain'd the thick and spongy sod             
With wine, in honour of the shepherd-god.  
Now while the earth was drinking it, and while  
Bay leaves were crackling in the fragrant pile,  
And gummy frankincense was sparkling bright  
'Neath smothering parsley, and a hazy light             
Spread greyly eastward, thus a chorus sang:  
  
  "O THOU, whose mighty palace roof doth hang  
From jagged trunks, and overshadoweth  
Eternal whispers, glooms, the birth, life, death  
Of unseen flowers in heavy peacefulness;             
Who lov'st to see the hamadryads dress  
Their ruffled locks where meeting hazels darken;  
And through whole solemn hours dost sit, and hearken  
The dreary melody of bedded reeds—  
In desolate places, where dank moisture breeds             
The pipy hemlock to strange overgrowth;  
Bethinking thee, how melancholy loth  
Thou wast to lose fair Syrinx—do thou now,  
By thy love's milky brow!  
By all the trembling mazes that she ran,             
Hear us, great Pan!  
  
  "O thou, for whose soul-soothing quiet, turtles  
Passion their voices cooingly 'mong myrtles,  
What time thou wanderest at eventide  
Through sunny meadows, that outskirt the side             
Of thine enmossed realms: O thou, to whom  
Broad leaved fig trees even now foredoom  
Their ripen'd fruitage; yellow girted bees  
Their golden honeycombs; our village leas  
Their fairest-blossom'd beans and poppied corn;             
The chuckling linnet its five young unborn,  
To sing for thee; low creeping strawberries  
Their summer coolness; pent up butterflies  
Their freckled wings; yea, the fresh budding year  
All its completions—be quickly near,             
By every wind that nods the mountain pine,  
O forester divine!  
  
  "Thou, to whom every fawn and satyr flies  
For willing service; whether to surprise  
The squatted hare while in half sleeping fit;             
Or upward ragged precipices flit  
To save poor lambkins from the eagle's maw;  
Or by mysterious enticement draw  
Bewildered shepherds to their path again;  
Or to tread breathless round the frothy main,             
And gather up all fancifullest shells  
For thee to tumble into Naiads' cells,  
And, being hidden, laugh at their out-peeping;  
Or to delight thee with fantastic leaping,  
The while they pelt each other on the crown             
With silvery oak apples, and fir cones brown—  
By all the echoes that about thee ring,  
Hear us, O satyr king!  
  
  "O Hearkener to the loud clapping shears,  
While ever and anon to his shorn peers             
A ram goes bleating: Winder of the horn,  
When snouted wild-boars routing tender corn  
Anger our huntsman: Breather round our farms,  
To keep off mildews, and all weather harms:  
Strange ministrant of undescribed sounds,             
That come a swooning over hollow grounds,  
And wither drearily on barren moors:  
Dread opener of the mysterious doors  
Leading to universal knowledge—see,  
Great son of Dryope,             
The many that are come to pay their vows  
With leaves about their brows!  
  
  Be still the unimaginable lodge  
For solitary thinkings; such as dodge  
Conception to the very bourne of heaven,             
Then leave the naked brain: be still the leaven,  
That spreading in this dull and clodded earth  
Gives it a touch ethereal—a new birth:  
Be still a symbol of immensity;  
A firmament reflected in a sea;             
An element filling the space between;  
An unknown—but no more: we humbly screen  
With uplift hands our foreheads, lowly bending,  
And giving out a shout most heaven rending,  
Conjure thee to receive our humble Paean,             
Upon thy Mount Lycean!  
  
  Even while they brought the burden to a close,  
A shout from the whole multitude arose,  
That lingered in the air like dying rolls  
Of abrupt thunder, when Ionian shoals             
Of dolphins bob their noses through the brine.  
Meantime, on shady levels, mossy fine,  
Young companies nimbly began dancing  
To the swift treble pipe, and humming string.  
Aye, those fair living forms swam heavenly             
To tunes forgotten—out of memory:  
Fair creatures! whose young children's children bred  
Thermopylæ its heroes—not yet dead,  
But in old marbles ever beautiful.  
High genitors, unconscious did they cull             
Time's sweet first-fruits—they danc'd to weariness,  
And then in quiet circles did they press  
The hillock turf, and caught the latter end  
Of some strange history, potent to send  
A young mind from its bodily tenement.             
Or they might watch the quoit-pitchers, intent  
On either side; pitying the sad death  
Of Hyacinthus, when the cruel breath  
Of Zephyr slew him,—Zephyr penitent,  
Who now, ere Phoebus mounts the firmament,             
Fondles the flower amid the sobbing rain.  
The archers too, upon a wider plain,  
Beside the feathery whizzing of the shaft,  
And the dull twanging bowstring, and the raft  
Branch down sweeping from a tall ash top,             
Call'd up a thousand thoughts to envelope  
Those who would watch. Perhaps, the trembling knee  
And frantic gape of lonely Niobe,  
Poor, lonely Niobe! when her lovely young  
Were dead and gone, and her caressing tongue             
Lay a lost thing upon her paly lip,  
And very, very deadliness did nip  
Her motherly cheeks. Arous'd from this sad mood  
By one, who at a distance loud halloo'd,  
Uplifting his strong bow into the air,             
Many might after brighter visions stare:  
After the Argonauts, in blind amaze  
Tossing about on Neptune's restless ways,  
Until, from the horizon's vaulted side,  
There shot a golden splendour far and wide,             
Spangling those million poutings of the brine  
With quivering ore: 'twas even an awful shine  
From the exaltation of Apollo's bow;  
A heavenly beacon in their dreary woe.  
Who thus were ripe for high contemplating,             
Might turn their steps towards the sober ring  
Where sat Endymion and the aged priest  
'Mong shepherds gone in eld, whose looks increas'd  
The silvery setting of their mortal star.  
There they discours'd upon the fragile bar             
That keeps us from our homes ethereal;  
And what our duties there: to nightly call  
Vesper, the beauty-crest of summer weather;  
To summon all the downiest clouds together  
For the sun's purple couch; to emulate             
In ministring the potent rule of fate  
With speed of fire-tailed exhalations;  
To tint her pallid cheek with bloom, who cons  
Sweet poesy by moonlight: besides these,  
A world of other unguess'd offices.             
Anon they wander'd, by divine converse,  
Into Elysium; vieing to rehearse  
Each one his own anticipated bliss.  
One felt heart-certain that he could not miss  
His quick gone love, among fair blossom'd boughs,             
Where every zephyr-sigh pouts and endows  
Her lips with music for the welcoming.  
Another wish'd, mid that eternal spring,  
To meet his rosy child, with feathery sails,  
Sweeping, eye-earnestly, through almond vales:             
Who, suddenly, should stoop through the smooth wind,  
And with the balmiest leaves his temples bind;  
And, ever after, through those regions be  
His messenger, his little Mercury.  
Some were athirst in soul to see again             
Their fellow huntsmen o'er the wide champaign  
In times long past; to sit with them, and talk  
Of all the chances in their earthly walk;  
Comparing, joyfully, their plenteous stores  
Of happiness, to when upon the moors,             
Benighted, close they huddled from the cold,  
And shar'd their famish'd scrips. Thus all out-told  
Their fond imaginations,—saving him  
Whose eyelids curtain'd up their jewels dim,  
Endymion: yet hourly had he striven             
To hide the cankering venom, that had riven  
His fainting recollections. Now indeed  
His senses had swoon'd off: he did not heed  
The sudden silence, or the whispers low,  
Or the old eyes dissolving at his woe,             
Or anxious calls, or close of trembling palms,  
Or maiden's sigh, that grief itself embalms:  
But in the self-same fixed trance he kept,  
Like one who on the earth had never stept.  
Aye, even as dead-still as a marble man,             
Frozen in that old tale Arabian.  
  
  Who whispers him so pantingly and close?  
Peona, his sweet sister: of all those,  
His friends, the dearest. Hushing signs she made,  
And breath'd a sister's sorrow to persuade             
A yielding up, a cradling on her care.  
Her eloquence did breathe away the curse:  
She led him, like some midnight spirit nurse  
Of happy changes in emphatic dreams,  
Along a path between two little streams,—             
Guarding his forehead, with her round elbow,  
From low-grown branches, and his footsteps slow  
From stumbling over stumps and hillocks small;  
Until they came to where these streamlets fall,  
With mingled bubblings and a gentle rush,             
Into a river, clear, brimful, and flush  
With crystal mocking of the trees and sky.  
A little shallop, floating there hard by,  
Pointed its beak over the fringed bank;  
And soon it lightly dipt, and rose, and sank,             
And dipt again, with the young couple's weight,—  
Peona guiding, through the water straight,  
Towards a bowery island opposite;  
Which gaining presently, she steered light  
Into a shady, fresh, and ripply cove,             
Where nested was an arbour, overwove  
By many a summer's silent fingering;  
To whose cool bosom she was used to bring  
Her playmates, with their needle broidery,  
And minstrel memories of times gone by.             
  
  So she was gently glad to see him laid  
Under her favourite bower's quiet shade,  
On her own couch, new made of flower leaves,  
Dried carefully on the cooler side of sheaves  
When last the sun his autumn tresses shook,             
And the tann'd harvesters rich armfuls took.  
Soon was he quieted to slumbrous rest:  
But, ere it crept upon him, he had prest  
Peona's busy hand against his lips,  
And still, a sleeping, held her finger-tips             
In tender pressure. And as a willow keeps  
A patient watch over the stream that creeps  
Windingly by it, so the quiet maid  
Held her in peace: so that a whispering blade  
Of grass, a wailful gnat, a bee bustling             
Down in the blue-bells, or a wren light rustling  
Among seer leaves and twigs, might all be heard.  
  
  O magic sleep! O comfortable bird,  
That broodest o'er the troubled sea of the mind  
Till it is hush'd and smooth! O unconfin'd             
Restraint! imprisoned liberty! great key  
To golden palaces, strange minstrelsy,  
Fountains grotesque, new trees, bespangled caves,  
Echoing grottos, full of tumbling waves  
And moonlight; aye, to all the mazy world             
Of silvery enchantment!—who, upfurl'd  
Beneath thy drowsy wing a triple hour,  
But renovates and lives?—Thus, in the bower,  
Endymion was calm'd to life again.  
Opening his eyelids with a healthier brain,             
He said: "I feel this thine endearing love  
All through my bosom: thou art as a dove  
Trembling its closed eyes and sleeked wings  
About me; and the pearliest dew not brings  
Such morning incense from the fields of May,             
As do those brighter drops that twinkling stray  
From those kind eyes,—the very home and haunt  
Of sisterly affection. Can I want  
Aught else, aught nearer heaven, than such tears?  
Yet dry them up, in bidding hence all fears             
That, any longer, I will pass my days  
Alone and sad. No, I will once more raise  
My voice upon the mountain-heights; once more  
Make my horn parley from their foreheads hoar:  
Again my trooping hounds their tongues shall loll             
Around the breathed boar: again I'll poll  
The fair-grown yew tree, for a chosen bow:  
And, when the pleasant sun is getting low,  
Again I'll linger in a sloping mead  
To hear the speckled thrushes, and see feed             
Our idle sheep. So be thou cheered sweet,  
And, if thy lute is here, softly intreat  
My soul to keep in its resolved course."  
  
  Hereat Peona, in their silver source,  
Shut her pure sorrow drops with glad exclaim,             
And took a lute, from which there pulsing came  
A lively prelude, fashioning the way  
In which her voice should wander. 'Twas a lay  
More subtle cadenced, more forest wild  
Than Dryope's lone lulling of her child;             
And nothing since has floated in the air  
So mournful strange. Surely some influence rare  
Went, spiritual, through the damsel's hand;  
For still, with Delphic emphasis, she spann'd  
The quick invisible strings, even though she saw             
Endymion's spirit melt away and thaw  
Before the deep intoxication.  
But soon she came, with sudden burst, upon  
Her self-possession—swung the lute aside,  
And earnestly said: "Brother, 'tis vain to hide             
That thou dost know of things mysterious,  
Immortal, starry; such alone could thus  
Weigh down thy nature. Hast thou sinn'd in aught  
Offensive to the heavenly powers? Caught  
A Paphian dove upon a message sent?             
Thy deathful bow against some deer-herd bent,  
Sacred to Dian? Haply, thou hast seen  
Her naked limbs among the alders green;  
And that, alas! is death. No, I can trace  
Something more high perplexing in thy face!"             
  
  Endymion look'd at her, and press'd her hand,  
And said, "Art thou so pale, who wast so bland  
And merry in our meadows? How is this?  
Tell me thine ailment: tell me all amiss!—  
Ah! thou hast been unhappy at the change             
Wrought suddenly in me. What indeed more strange?  
Or more complete to overwhelm surmise?  
Ambition is no sluggard: 'tis no prize,  
That toiling years would put within my grasp,  
That I have sigh'd for: with so deadly gasp             
No man e'er panted for a mortal love.  
So all have set my heavier grief above  
These things which happen. Rightly have they done:  
I, who still saw the horizontal sun  
Heave his broad shoulder o'er the edge of the world,             
Out-facing Lucifer, and then had hurl'd  
My spear aloft, as signal for the chace—  
I, who, for very sport of heart, would race  
With my own steed from Araby; pluck down  
A vulture from his towery perching; frown             
A lion into growling, loth retire—  
To lose, at once, all my toil breeding fire,  
And sink thus low! but I will ease my breast  
Of secret grief, here in this bowery nest.  
  
  "This river does not see the naked sky,             
Till it begins to progress silverly  
Around the western border of the wood,  
Whence, from a certain spot, its winding flood  
Seems at the distance like a crescent moon:  
And in that nook, the very pride of June,             
Had I been used to pass my weary eves;  
The rather for the sun unwilling leaves  
So dear a picture of his sovereign power,  
And I could witness his most kingly hour,  
When he doth lighten up the golden reins,             
And paces leisurely down amber plains  
His snorting four. Now when his chariot last  
Its beams against the zodiac-lion cast,  
There blossom'd suddenly a magic bed  
Of sacred ditamy, and poppies red:             
At which I wondered greatly, knowing well  
That but one night had wrought this flowery spell;  
And, sitting down close by, began to muse  
What it might mean. Perhaps, thought I, Morpheus,  
In passing here, his owlet pinions shook;             
Or, it may be, ere matron Night uptook  
Her ebon urn, young Mercury, by stealth,  
Had dipt his rod in it: such garland wealth  
Came not by common growth. Thus on I thought,  
Until my head was dizzy and distraught.             
Moreover, through the dancing poppies stole  
A breeze, most softly lulling to my soul;  
And shaping visions all about my sight  
Of colours, wings, and bursts of spangly light;  
The which became more strange, and strange, and dim,             
And then were gulph'd in a tumultuous swim:  
And then I fell asleep. Ah, can I tell  
The enchantment that afterwards befel?  
Yet it was but a dream: yet such a dream  
That never tongue, although it overteem             
With mellow utterance, like a cavern spring,  
Could figure out and to conception bring  
All I beheld and felt. Methought I lay  
Watching the zenith, where the milky way  
Among the stars in virgin splendour pours;             
And travelling my eye, until the doors  
Of heaven appear'd to open for my flight,  
I became loth and fearful to alight  
From such high soaring by a downward glance:  
So kept me stedfast in that airy trance,             
Spreading imaginary pinions wide.  
When, presently, the stars began to glide,  
And faint away, before my eager view:  
At which I sigh'd that I could not pursue,  
And dropt my vision to the horizon's verge;             
And lo! from opening clouds, I saw emerge  
The loveliest moon, that ever silver'd o'er  
A shell for Neptune's goblet: she did soar  
So passionately bright, my dazzled soul  
Commingling with her argent spheres did roll             
Through clear and cloudy, even when she went  
At last into a dark and vapoury tent—  
Whereat, methought, the lidless-eyed train  
Of planets all were in the blue again.  
To commune with those orbs, once more I rais'd             
My sight right upward: but it was quite dazed  
By a bright something, sailing down apace,  
Making me quickly veil my eyes and face:  
Again I look'd, and, O ye deities,  
Who from Olympus watch our destinies!             
Whence that completed form of all completeness?  
Whence came that high perfection of all sweetness?  
Speak, stubborn earth, and tell me where, O Where  
Hast thou a symbol of her golden hair?  
Not oat-sheaves drooping in the western sun;             
Not—thy soft hand, fair sister! let me shun  
Such follying before thee—yet she had,  
Indeed, locks bright enough to make me mad;  
And they were simply gordian'd up and braided,  
Leaving, in naked comeliness, unshaded,             
Her pearl round ears, white neck, and orbed brow;  
The which were blended in, I know not how,  
With such a paradise of lips and eyes,  
Blush-tinted cheeks, half smiles, and faintest sighs,  
That, when I think thereon, my spirit clings             
And plays about its fancy, till the stings  
Of human neighbourhood envenom all.  
Unto what awful power shall I call?  
To what high fane?—Ah! see her hovering feet,  
More bluely vein'd, more soft, more whitely sweet             
Than those of sea-born Venus, when she rose  
From out her cradle shell. The wind out-blows  
Her scarf into a fluttering pavilion;  
'Tis blue, and over-spangled with a million  
Of little eyes, as though thou wert to shed,             
Over the darkest, lushest blue-bell bed,  
Handfuls of daisies."—"Endymion, how strange!  
Dream within dream!"—"She took an airy range,  
And then, towards me, like a very maid,  
Came blushing, waning, willing, and afraid,             
And press'd me by the hand: Ah! 'twas too much;  
Methought I fainted at the charmed touch,  
Yet held my recollection, even as one  
Who dives three fathoms where the waters run  
Gurgling in beds of coral: for anon,             
I felt upmounted in that region  
Where falling stars dart their artillery forth,  
And eagles struggle with the buffeting north  
That balances the heavy meteor-stone;—  
Felt too, I was not fearful, nor alone,             
But lapp'd and lull'd along the dangerous sky.  
Soon, as it seem'd, we left our journeying high,  
And straightway into frightful eddies swoop'd;  
Such as ay muster where grey time has scoop'd  
Huge dens and caverns in a mountain's side:             
There hollow sounds arous'd me, and I sigh'd  
To faint once more by looking on my bliss—  
I was distracted; madly did I kiss  
The wooing arms which held me, and did give  
My eyes at once to death: but 'twas to live,             
To take in draughts of life from the gold fount  
Of kind and passionate looks; to count, and count  
The moments, by some greedy help that seem'd  
A second self, that each might be redeem'd  
And plunder'd of its load of blessedness.             
Ah, desperate mortal! I ev'n dar'd to press  
Her very cheek against my crowned lip,  
And, at that moment, felt my body dip  
Into a warmer air: a moment more,  
Our feet were soft in flowers. There was store             
Of newest joys upon that alp. Sometimes  
A scent of violets, and blossoming limes,  
Loiter'd around us; then of honey cells,  
Made delicate from all white-flower bells;  
And once, above the edges of our nest,             
An arch face peep'd,—an Oread as I guess'd.  
  
  "Why did I dream that sleep o'er-power'd me  
In midst of all this heaven? Why not see,  
Far off, the shadows of his pinions dark,  
And stare them from me? But no, like a spark             
That needs must die, although its little beam  
Reflects upon a diamond, my sweet dream  
Fell into nothing—into stupid sleep.  
And so it was, until a gentle creep,  
A careful moving caught my waking ears,             
And up I started: Ah! my sighs, my tears,  
My clenched hands;—for lo! the poppies hung  
Dew-dabbled on their stalks, the ouzel sung  
A heavy ditty, and the sullen day  
Had chidden herald Hesperus away,             
With leaden looks: the solitary breeze  
Bluster'd, and slept, and its wild self did teaze  
With wayward melancholy; and r thought,  
Mark me, Peona! that sometimes it brought  
Faint fare-thee-wells, and sigh-shrilled adieus!—             
Away I wander'd—all the pleasant hues  
Of heaven and earth had faded: deepest shades  
Were deepest dungeons; heaths and sunny glades  
Were full of pestilent light; our taintless rills  
Seem'd sooty, and o'er-spread with upturn'd gills             
Of dying fish; the vermeil rose had blown  
In frightful scarlet, and its thorns out-grown  
Like spiked aloe. If an innocent bird  
Before my heedless footsteps stirr'd, and stirr'd  
In little journeys, I beheld in it             
A disguis'd demon, missioned to knit  
My soul with under darkness; to entice  
My stumblings down some monstrous precipice:  
Therefore I eager followed, and did curse  
The disappointment. Time, that aged nurse,             
Rock'd me to patience. Now, thank gentle heaven!  
These things, with all their comfortings, are given  
To my down-sunken hours, and with thee,  
Sweet sister, help to stem the ebbing sea  
Of weary life."

                  Thus ended he, and both             
Sat silent: for the maid was very loth  
To answer; feeling well that breathed words  
Would all be lost, unheard, and vain as swords  
Against the enchased crocodile, or leaps  
Of grasshoppers against the sun. She weeps,             
And wonders; struggles to devise some blame;  
To put on such a look as would say, Shame  
On this poor weakness! but, for all her strife,  
She could as soon have crush'd away the life  
From a sick dove. At length, to break the pause,             
She said with trembling chance: "Is this the cause?  
This all? Yet it is strange, and sad, alas!  
That one who through this middle earth should pass  
Most like a sojourning demi-god, and leave  
His name upon the harp-string, should achieve             
No higher bard than simple maidenhood,  
Singing alone, and fearfully,—how the blood  
Left his young cheek; and how he used to stray  
He knew not where; and how he would say, nay,  
If any said 'twas love: and yet 'twas love;             
What could it be but love? How a ring-dove  
Let fall a sprig of yew tree in his path;  
And how he died: and then, that love doth scathe,  
The gentle heart, as northern blasts do roses;  
And then the ballad of his sad life closes             
With sighs, and an alas!—Endymion!  
Be rather in the trumpet's mouth,—anon  
Among the winds at large—that all may hearken!  
Although, before the crystal heavens darken,  
I watch and dote upon the silver lakes             
Pictur'd in western cloudiness, that takes  
The semblance of gold rocks and bright gold sands,  
Islands, and creeks, and amber-fretted strands  
With horses prancing o'er them, palaces  
And towers of amethyst,—would I so tease             
My pleasant days, because I could not mount  
Into those regions? The Morphean fount  
Of that fine element that visions, dreams,  
And fitful whims of sleep are made of, streams  
Into its airy channels with so subtle,             
So thin a breathing, not the spider's shuttle,  
Circled a million times within the space  
Of a swallow's nest-door, could delay a trace,  
A tinting of its quality: how light  
Must dreams themselves be; seeing they're more slight             
Than the mere nothing that engenders them!  
Then wherefore sully the entrusted gem  
Of high and noble life with thoughts so sick?  
Why pierce high-fronted honour to the quick  
For nothing but a dream?" Hereat the youth             
Look'd up: a conflicting of shame and ruth  
Was in his plaited brow: yet his eyelids  
Widened a little, as when Zephyr bids  
A little breeze to creep between the fans  
Of careless butterflies: amid his pains             
He seem'd to taste a drop of manna-dew,  
Full palatable; and a colour grew  
Upon his cheek, while thus he lifeful spake.  
  
  "Peona! ever have I long'd to slake  
My thirst for the world's praises: nothing base,             
No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace  
The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar'd—  
Though now 'tis tatter'd; leaving my bark bar'd  
And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope  
Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope,             
To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks.  
Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks  
Our ready minds to fellowship divine,  
A fellowship with essence; till we shine,  
Full alchemiz'd, and free of space. Behold             
The clear religion of heaven! Fold  
A rose leaf round thy finger's taperness,  
And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress  
Of music's kiss impregnates the free winds,  
And with a sympathetic touch unbinds             
Eolian magic from their lucid wombs:  
Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs;  
Old ditties sigh above their father's grave;  
Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave  
Round every spot where trod Apollo's foot;             
Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,  
Where long ago a giant battle was;  
And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass  
In every place where infant Orpheus slept.  
Feel we these things?—that moment have we stept             
Into a sort of oneness, and our state  
Is like a floating spirit's. But there are  
Richer entanglements, enthralments far  
More self-destroying, leading, by degrees,  
To the chief intensity: the crown of these             
Is made of love and friendship, and sits high  
Upon the forehead of humanity.  
All its more ponderous and bulky worth  
Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth  
A steady splendour; but at the tip-top,             
There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop  
Of light, and that is love: its influence,  
Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense,  
At which we start and fret; till in the end,  
Melting into its radiance, we blend,             
Mingle, and so become a part of it,—  
Nor with aught else can our souls interknit  
So wingedly: when we combine therewith,  
Life's self is nourish'd by its proper pith,  
And we are nurtured like a pelican brood.             
Aye, so delicious is the unsating food,  
That men, who might have tower'd in the van  
Of all the congregated world, to fan  
And winnow from the coming step of time  
All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime             
Left by men-slugs and human serpentry,  
Have been content to let occasion die,  
Whilst they did sleep in love's elysium.  
And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb,  
Than speak against this ardent listlessness:             
For I have ever thought that it might bless  
The world with benefits unknowingly;  
As does the nightingale, upperched high,  
And cloister'd among cool and bunched leaves—  
She sings but to her love, nor e'er conceives             
How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood.  
Just so may love, although 'tis understood  
The mere commingling of passionate breath,  
Produce more than our searching witnesseth:  
What I know not: but who, of men, can tell             
That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell  
To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,  
The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,  
The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,  
The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,             
Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,  
If human souls did never kiss and greet?  
  
  "Now, if this earthly love has power to make  
Men's being mortal, immortal; to shake  
Ambition from their memories, and brim             
Their measure of content; what merest whim,  
Seems all this poor endeavour after fame,  
To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim  
A love immortal, an immortal too.  
Look not so wilder'd; for these things are true,             
And never can be born of atomies  
That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies,  
Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I'm sure,  
My restless spirit never could endure  
To brood so long upon one luxury,             
Unless it did, though fearfully, espy  
A hope beyond the shadow of a dream.  
My sayings will the less obscured seem,  
When I have told thee how my waking sight  
Has made me scruple whether that same night             
Was pass'd in dreaming. Hearken, sweet Peona!  
Beyond the matron-temple of Latona,  
Which we should see but for these darkening boughs,  
Lies a deep hollow, from whose ragged brows  
Bushes and trees do lean all round athwart,             
And meet so nearly, that with wings outraught,  
And spreaded tail, a vulture could not glide  
Past them, but he must brush on every side.  
Some moulder'd steps lead into this cool cell,  
Far as the slabbed margin of a well,             
Whose patient level peeps its crystal eye  
Right upward, through the bushes, to the sky.  
Oft have I brought thee flowers, on their stalks set  
Like vestal primroses, but dark velvet  
Edges them round, and they have golden pits:             
'Twas there I got them, from the gaps and slits  
In a mossy stone, that sometimes was my seat,  
When all above was faint with mid-day heat.  
And there in strife no burning thoughts to heed,  
I'd bubble up the water through a reed;             
So reaching back to boy-hood: make me ships  
Of moulted feathers, touchwood, alder chips,  
With leaves stuck in them; and the Neptune be  
Of their petty ocean. Oftener, heavily,  
When love-lorn hours had left me less a child,             
I sat contemplating the figures wild  
Of o'er-head clouds melting the mirror through.  
Upon a day, while thus I watch'd, by flew  
A cloudy Cupid, with his bow and quiver;  
So plainly character'd, no breeze would shiver             
The happy chance: so happy, I was fain  
To follow it upon the open plain,  
And, therefore, was just going; when, behold!  
A wonder, fair as any I have told—  
The same bright face I tasted in my sleep,             
Smiling in the clear well. My heart did leap  
Through the cool depth.—It moved as if to flee—  
I started up, when lo! refreshfully,  
There came upon my face, in plenteous showers,  
Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers,             
Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight,  
Bathing my spirit in a new delight.  
Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss  
Alone preserved me from the drear abyss  
Of death, for the fair form had gone again.             
Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain  
Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth  
On the deer's tender haunches: late, and loth,  
'Tis scar'd away by slow returning pleasure.  
How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure             
Of weary days, made deeper exquisite,  
By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night!  
Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still,  
Than when I wander'd from the poppy hill:  
And a whole age of lingering moments crept             
Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept  
Away at once the deadly yellow spleen.  
Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen;  
Once more been tortured with renewed life.  
When last the wintry gusts gave over strife             
With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies  
Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes  
In pity of the shatter'd infant buds,—  
That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs,  
My hunting cap, because I laugh'd and smil'd,             
Chatted with thee, and many days exil'd  
All torment from my breast;—'twas even then,  
Straying about, yet, coop'd up in the den  
Of helpless discontent,—hurling my lance  
From place to place, and following at chance,             
At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck,  
And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck  
In the middle of a brook,—whose silver ramble  
Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble,  
Tracing along, it brought me to a cave,             
Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave  
The nether sides of mossy stones and rock,—  
'Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock  
Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead,  
Hung a lush screen of drooping weeds, and spread             
Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph's home.  
"Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?"  
Said I, low voic'd: "Ah whither! 'Tis the grot  
Of Proserpine, when Hell, obscure and hot,  
Doth her resign; and where her tender hands             
She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands:  
Or 'tis the cell of Echo, where she sits,  
And babbles thorough silence, till her wits  
Are gone in tender madness, and anon,  
Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone             
Of sadness. O that she would take my vows,  
And breathe them sighingly among the boughs,  
To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head,  
Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed,  
And weave them dyingly—send honey-whispers             
Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers  
May sigh my love unto her pitying!  
O charitable echo! hear, and sing  
This ditty to her!—tell her"—so I stay'd  
My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid,             
Stood stupefied with my own empty folly,  
And blushing for the freaks of melancholy.  
Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name  
Most fondly lipp'd, and then these accents came:  
‘Endymion! the cave is secreter             
Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir  
No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise  
Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys  
And trembles through my labyrinthine hair."  
At that oppress'd I hurried in.—Ah! where             
Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled?  
I'll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed  
Sorrow the way to death, but patiently  
Bear up against it: so farewel, sad sigh;  
And come instead demurest meditation,             
To occupy me wholly, and to fashion  
My pilgrimage for the world's dusky brink.  
No more will I count over, link by link,  
My chain of grief: no longer strive to find  
A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind             
Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see,  
Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be;  
What a calm round of hours shall make my days.  
There is a paly flame of hope that plays  
Where'er I look: but yet, I'll say 'tis naught—             
And here I bid it die. Have not I caught,  
Already, a more healthy countenance?  
By this the sun is setting; we may chance  
Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car."  
  
  This said, he rose, faint-smiling like a star             
Through autumn mists, and took Peona's hand:  
They stept into the boat, and launch'd from land.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

John Keats

John Keats

Born in 1795, John Keats was an English Romantic poet and author of three poems considered to be among the finest in the English language.

by this poet

poem
Four Seasons fill the measure of the year;
There are four seasons in the mind of man:
He has his lusty Spring, when fancy clear Takes in all beauty with an easy span: He has his Summer, when luxuriously Spring's honeyed cud of youthful thought he loves To ruminate, and by such dreaming high Is
poem
As late I rambled in the happy fields,	
   What time the sky-lark shakes the tremulous dew	
   From his lush clover covert;—when anew	
Adventurous knights take up their dinted shields:	
I saw the sweetest flower wild nature yields,	        
   A fresh-blown musk-rose; 'twas the first that threw	
   Its sweets
poem
The poetry of earth is never dead:
   When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
   And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's--he takes the lead
   In summer luxury,--he has never done
   With his delights; for when tired out with fun