Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Keats: Melancholy.

Some Keats. I haven't read this for a few years. Or months. Or something.

Ode on 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 kist
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 globèd 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.


David said...

Oh, what a treat! Good old google. There was a first struck-out stanza:

Though you should build a bark of dead men's bones,
And rear a phantom gibbet for a mast,
Stitch creeds together for a sail, with groans
To fill it out, bloodstained and aghast;
Although your rudder be a Dragon's tail,
Long sever'd, yet still hard with agony,
Your cordage large uprootings from the skull
Of bald Medusa; certes you would fail
To find the Melancholy, whether she
Dreameth in any isle of Lethe dull.

I think poor old Keats decided that one was 'a bit too mad sounding'. I quite like the imagery. Especially "large uprootings from the skull /
Of bald Medusa". However, I'm glad he struck it, nonetheless.

Kate said...

This is the only poem I know by heart! I can't think why.
Thanks for the extra censored stanza. I don't think I've come across that before.
'yet still hard with agony' - that's my favourite bit, but then i have a filthy mind.

David said...

I always found 'whose strenuous tongue / Can burst Joy's grape' rather striking as a lad.' :-) Filthy minds the lot of us.