"Autobiographies of great nations are written in three manuscripts – a book of deeds, a book of words, and a book of art.
Of the three, I would choose the latter as truest testimony." - Sir Kenneth Smith, Great Civilisations

"I must write each day without fail, not so much for the success of the work, as in order not to get out of my routine." - Leo Tolstoy

I have never believed that one should wait until one is inspired because I think the pleasures of not writing are so
great that if you ever start indulging them you will never write again. - John Updike

"The life of every man is a diary in which he means to write one story, and writes another; and his humblest hour
is when he compares the volume as it is with what he vowed to make it." - J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Friday, February 28, 2014

John Keats - Song of the Indian Maid (from Endymion)

Poet John Keats

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
John Keats. 1795–1821
623. Song of the Indian Maid
          O SORROW!
          Why dost borrow
  The natural hue of health, from vermeil lips?—
          To give maiden blushes
          To the white rose bushes?         5
  Or is it thy dewy hand the daisy tips?

          O Sorrow!
          Why dost borrow
  The lustrous passion from a falcon-eye?—
          To give the glow-worm light?  10
          Or, on a moonless night,
  To tinge, on siren shores, the salt *sea-spry?

          O Sorrow!
          Why dost borrow
  The mellow ditties from a mourning tongue?—  15
          To give at evening pale
          Unto the nightingale,
  That thou mayst listen the cold dews among?

          O Sorrow!
          Why dost borrow  20
  Heart's lightness from the merriment of May?—
          A lover would not tread
          A cowslip on the head,
  Though he should dance from eve till peep of day—
          Nor any drooping flower  25
          Held sacred for thy bower,
  Wherever he may sport himself and play.

          To Sorrow
          I bade good morrow,
  And thought to leave her far away behind;  30
          But cheerly, cheerly,
          She loves me dearly;
  She is so constant to me, and so kind:

          I would deceive her
          And so leave her,  35
  But ah! she is so constant and so kind.
Beneath my palm-trees, by the river side,
I sat a-weeping: in the whole world wide
There was no one to ask me why I wept,—
        And so I kept  40
Brimming the water-lily cups with tears
        Cold as my fears.

Beneath my palm-trees, by the river side,
I sat a-weeping: what enamour'd bride,
Cheated by shadowy wooer from the clouds,  45
        But hides and shrouds
Beneath dark palm-trees by a river side?

And as I sat, over the light blue hills
There came a noise of revellers: the rills
Into the wide stream came of purple hue—  50
        'Twas Bacchus and his crew!
The earnest trumpet spake, and silver thrills
From kissing cymbals made a merry din—
        'Twas Bacchus and his kin!
Like to a moving vintage down they came,  55
Crown'd with green leaves, and faces all on flame;
All madly dancing through the pleasant valley,
        To scare thee, Melancholy!
O then, O then, thou wast a simple name!
And I forgot thee, as the berried holly  60
By shepherds is forgotten, when in June
Tall chestnuts keep away the sun and moon:—
        I rush'd into the folly!

Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus stood,
Trifling his ivy-dart, in dancing mood,  65
        With sidelong laughing;
And little rills of crimson wine imbrued
His plump white arms and shoulders, enough white
        For Venus' pearly bite;
And near him rode Silenus on his ass,  70
Pelted with flowers as he on did pass
        Tipsily quaffing.

'Whence came ye, merry Damsels! whence came ye,
So many, and so many, and such glee?
Why have ye left your bowers desolate,  75
        Your lutes, and gentler fate?'—
'We follow Bacchus! Bacchus on the wing,
Bacchus, young Bacchus! good or ill betide,
We dance before him thorough kingdoms wide:—  80
Come hither, lady fair, and joinèd be
        To our wild minstrelsy!'

'Whence came ye, jolly Satyrs! whence came ye,
So many, and so many, and such glee?
Why have ye left your forest haunts, why left  85
        Your nuts in oak-tree cleft?'—
'For wine, for wine we left our kernel tree;
For wine we left our heath, and yellow brooms,
        And cold mushrooms;
For wine we follow Bacchus through the earth;  90
Great god of breathless cups and chirping mirth!
Come hither, lady fair, and joinèd be
        To our mad minstrelsy!'

Over wide streams and mountains great we went,
And, save when Bacchus kept his ivy tent,  95
Onward the tiger and the leopard pants,
        With Asian elephants:
Onward these myriads—with song and dance,
With zebras striped, and sleek Arabians' prance,
Web-footed alligators, crocodiles, 100
Bearing upon their scaly backs, in files,
Plump infant laughers mimicking the coil
Of seamen, and stout galley-rowers' toil:
With toying oars and silken sails they glide,
        Nor care for wind and tide.

Mounted on panthers' furs and lions' manes,
From rear to van they scour about the plains;
A three days' journey in a moment done;
And always, at the rising of the sun,
About the wilds they hunt with spear and horn, 110
        On spleenful unicorn.

I saw Osirian Egypt kneel adown
        Before the vine-wreath crown!
I saw parch'd Abyssinia rouse and sing
        To the silver cymbals' ring! 115
I saw the whelming vintage hotly pierce
        Old Tartary the fierce!
The kings of Ind their jewel-sceptres vail,
And from their treasures scatter pearlèd hail;
Great Brahma from his mystic heaven groans, 120
        And all his priesthood moans,
Before young Bacchus' eye-wink turning pale.
Into these regions came I, following him,
Sick-hearted, weary—so I took a whim
To stray away into these forests drear, 125
        Alone, without a peer:
And I have told thee all thou mayest hear.

        Young Stranger!
        I've been a ranger
In search of pleasure throughout every clime; 130
        Alas! 'tis not for me!
        Bewitch'd I sure must be,
To lose in grieving all my maiden prime.

        Come then, Sorrow,
        Sweetest Sorrow! 135
Like an own babe I nurse thee on my breast:
        I thought to leave thee,
        And deceive thee,
But now of all the world I love thee best.

        There is not one, 140
        No, no, not one
But thee to comfort a poor lonely maid;
        Thou art her mother,
        And her brother,
Her playmate, and her wooer in the shade.


*GLOSS:  [sea-spry] sea-spray.

- Source Credit: Bartleby.com - http://www.bartleby.com/101/623.html

John Keats - Ode to a Nightingale

Poet John Keats

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
John Keats. 1795–1821
624. Ode to a Nightingale
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,         5
  But being too happy in thine happiness,
    That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,
          In some melodious plot
  Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O for a draught of vintage! that hath been
  Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country-green,
  Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South!  15
  Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
          And purple-stainèd mouth;
  That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

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 grey hairs,  25
  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.

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,  35
  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.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
  Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet
  Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;  45
  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.

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 musèd rhyme,
  To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,  55
  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.

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  65
  Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
          The same that ofttimes hath
  Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
  To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
  As she is famed to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades  75
  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?  80

Source: Bartleby.com - http://www.bartleby.com/101/624.html

John Keats, 1795-1821
Ode to a Nightingale: Written May 1819, Publ January 1829


To some he is the king of the Romantic poets. John Keats only lived for 25 years, but in that time managed to produce an array of sensual poems that have reverberated across literature and popular culture.

Born in 1795, Keats came from a modest background and had lost both his parents by the time he was 15. From a young age he wanted to be a poet, but studied medicine at Guy's Hospital. There he began communicating with Leigh Hunt, an established poet who praised Keats' work and encouraged him to give up his studies and concentrate on literature full-time. Keats developed the notion of "negative capability" - the idea that the poet must be able to lose himself in an imaginative experience to create great poetry.

The struggle of the poet to achieve this ideal state is explored in poems such as Ode to a Nightingale and Ode on a Grecian Urn . Around 1818 Keats contracted tuberculosis. The following year he met the unrequited love of his life Fanny Brawne, and it is this period which gave rise to the beguilingly beautiful odes for which he is best remembered. In summer 1820 Keats travelled to Italy to recuperate. However he fell ill during the journey and died in 1821. He is buried in Rome, under the epitaph: 'Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water.'

Keats' impact is hard to overestimate. Keats didn't just stir fellow poets, such as Alfred, Lord Tennyson, his influence can still be found in books as wildly diverse as Neil Gaiman's graphic novels and science fiction writer Dan Simmons. 

The Romantics - Liberty (BBC documentary)

The Romantics - Eternity (BBC documentary) BBC History Essentials

Byron, Keats and Shelley lived short lives, but the radical
way in which they lived them would change the world.

For additional notes, summary, and analysis link here to Keats' Kingdom