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Ode On Indolence

John Keats 1795 (Moorgate) – 1821 (Rome)

ONE morn before me were three figures seen,
  I With bowed necks, and joined hands, side-faced;
And one behind the other stepp'd serene,
  In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;
They pass'd, like figures on a marble urn,
  When shifted round to see the other side;
  They came again; as when the urn once more
Is shifted round, the first seen shades return;
  And they were strange to me, as may betide
  With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.

How is it, Shadows! that I knew ye not?
  How came ye muffled in so hush a masque?
Was it a silent deep-disguised plot
  To steal away, and leave without a task
My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour;
  The blissful cloud of summer-indolence
  Benumb'd my eyes; my pulse grew less and less;
Pain had no sting, and pleasure's wreath no flower:
  O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense
  Unhaunted quite of all but---nothingness?

A third time came they by;---alas! wherefore?
  My sleep had been embroider'd with dim dreams;
My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o'er
  With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams:
The morn was clouded, but no shower fell,
  Tho' in her lids hung the sweet tears of May;
  The open casement press'd a new-leav'd vine,
Let in the budding warmth and throstle's lay;
  O Shadows! 'twas a time to bid farewell!
  Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.

A third time pass'd they by, and, passing, turn'd
  Each one the face a moment whiles to me;
Then faded, and to follow them I burn'd
  And ached for wings, because I knew the three;
The first was a fair maid, and Love her name;
  The second was Ambition, pale of cheek,
  And ever watchful with fatigued eye;
The last, whom I love more, the more of blame
  Is heap'd upon her, maiden most unmeek,---
  I knew to be my demon Poesy.

They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings:
  O folly! What is Love! and where is it?
And for that poor Ambition---it springs
  From a man's little heart's short fever-fit;
For Poesy!---no,---she has not a joy,---
  At least for me,---so sweet as drowsy noons,
  And evenings steep'd in honied indolence;
O, for an age so shelter'd from annoy,
  That I may never know how change the moons,
  Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!

So, ye three Ghosts, adieu! Ye cannot raise
  My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass;
For I would not be dieted with praise,
  A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce!
Fade sofdy from my eyes, and be once more
  In masque-like figures on the dreamy urn;
  Farewell! I yet have visions for the night,
And for the day faint visions there is store;
  Vanish, ye Phantoms! from my idle spright,
  Into the clouds, and never more return!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:28 min read
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John Keats

John Keats was an English Romantic poet. more…

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