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, unwearièd,
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 its 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.’
John Keats (1795-1821)
- Born: 31 October 1795
- Birthplace: Near London, England
- Died: 23 February 1821 (tuberculosis)
- Place of Death: Rome, Papal State
John Keats is considered one of the greatest English poets of the 19th century, the author of Romantic classics such as “Endymion” and “Ode to a Nightingale.” Keats began his career as a surgeon’s apprentice, but gave up medicine for literary pursuits in 1814. With the help of Percy Shelley, Keats published his first collection in 1817. His productive years between 1818 and 1820 yielded some of his best-known poems, including “Lamia,” “the Eve of St. Agnes” and “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” In 1821 he left England and went to Italy for health reasons, but died a few months later, leaving his epic poem “Hyperion” unfinished. In his short life he influenced many English poets, and his vivid imagery and sensual style later had an impact on the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a group of painters that included Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
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