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Short poem

John Keats (1795-1821)

Ode on Melancholy

              1No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist
              2     Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
              3Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kiss'd
              4     By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
              5          Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
              6     Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
              7          Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
              8A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
              9     For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
            10          And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

            11But when the melancholy fit shall fall
            12     Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
            13That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
            14     And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
            15Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
            16     Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
            17          Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
            18Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
            19     Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
            20          And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

            21She dwells with Beauty--Beauty that must die;
            22     And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
            23Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
            24     Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
            25Ay, in the very temple of Delight
            26     Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
            27          Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
            28     Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
            29His soul shalt taste the sadness of her might,
            30          And be among her cloudy trophies hung.


1] The original first stanza of the poem, suppressed before publication ended: "you would fail/To find the Melancholy--whether she/Dreameth in any isle of Lethe dull."

6] death moth: the Death's-head moth.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: John Keats, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems (1820). Facs. edn.: Scolar Press, 1970. PR 4830 E20AB Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1820
RPO poem editor: J. R. MacGillivray
RP edition: 3RP 2.652.
Recent editing: 4:2001/12/20

Composition date: May 1819 - June 1819
Composition date note: May or June 1819
Form: English Ode
Rhyme: ababcdecde

Other poems by John Keats