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John Keats (1795-1821)

Ode to Psyche


              1O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
              2      By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
              3And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
              4      Even into thine own soft-conched ear:
              5Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see
              6      The winged Psyche with awaken'd eyes?
              7I wander'd in a forest thoughtlessly,
              8      And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
              9Saw two fair creatures, couched side by side
            10      In deepest grass, beneath the whisp'ring roof
            11      Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran
            12           A brooklet, scarce espied:

            13Mid hush'd, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
            14      Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian,
            15They lay calm-breathing, on the bedded grass;
            16      Their arms embraced, and their pinions too;
            17      Their lips touch'd not, but had not bade adieu,
            18As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber,
            19And ready still past kisses to outnumber
            20      At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:
            21           The winged boy I knew;
            22But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
            23           His Psyche true!

            24O latest born and loveliest vision far
            25      Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy!
            26Fairer than Ph{oe}be's sapphire-region'd star,
            27      Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
            28Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
            29           Nor altar heap'd with flowers;
            30Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan
            31           Upon the midnight hours;
            32No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet
            33      From chain-swung censer teeming;
            34No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
            35      Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming.

            36O brightest! though too late for antique vows,
            37      Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,
            38When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
            39      Holy the air, the water, and the fire;
            40Yet even in these days so far retir'd
            41      From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,
            42      Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
            43I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspir'd.
            44So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
            45           Upon the midnight hours;
            46Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
            47      From swinged censer teeming;
            48Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
            49      Of pale-mouth'd prophet dreaming.

            50Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
            51      In some untrodden region of my mind,
            52Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
            53      Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:
            54Far, far around shall those dark-cluster'd trees
            55      Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;
            56And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,
            57      The moss-lain Dryads shall be lull'd to sleep;
            58And in the midst of this wide quietness
            59A rosy sanctuary will I dress
            60  With the wreath'd trellis of a working brain,
            61      With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
            62With all the gardener Fancy e'er could feign,
            63      Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:
            64And there shall be for thee all soft delight
            65      That shadowy thought can win,
            66A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
            67      To let the warm Love in!

Notes

21] In later Greek mythology Psyche was personified as the beloved of Eros.

28] though temple thou hast none. "You must recollect that Psyche was not embodied as a goddess before the time of Apuleius the Platonist, who lived after the Augustan age, and consequently the goddess was never worshipped or sacrificed to with any of the ancient fervour, and perhaps never thought of in the old religion: I am more orthodox than to let a heathen goddess be so neglected" (Keats).

41] lucent fans. Psyche was generally represented in works of art as having butterfly wings.


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 2.647.
Recent editing: 4:2001/12/28

Composition date: 1819
Form: Irregular English Ode


Other poems by John Keats