The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review
littlereview

Poem for Monday


Ode to a Nightingale
By John Keats


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,
    But being too happy in thine happiness,--
        That thou, light-winged 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-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
    Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
    Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
        With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
            And purple-stained 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 gray hairs,
    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,
    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 embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
    Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
    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 mused rhyme,
    To take into the air my quiet breath;
        Now more than ever seems it rich to die,
    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
    Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
        She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
            The same that oft-times 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 fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
    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?

--------

Another mentioned in yesterday's Poet's Choice by Robert Pinsky in The Washington Post Book World. "Flowers and storms and birds all come to an end, as we do, but differently," he writes. "[Wallace] Stevens concentrates on that difference in mortality. John Keats, a century before, had written in his 'Ode to a Nightingale': 'Thou wast not born for death, immortal bird;/No hungry generations tread thee down.' The generations of nightingales, each bird singing the same way, don't eagerly replace one another with the individual hunger that Keats recognizes in human poets."

Sunday I worked while the kids were at Hebrew school, translating a rather interesting Patrick Stewart interview -- I will not be sorry when his latest round of publicity is over with and I don't have to cover whatever he babbled about four out of seven days a week, and I can't imagine that even the biggest geeks reading TrekToday are that interested -- I was tempted to turn a Nana Visitor news bullet into an article just for variety and because she's always interesting and engaged with the people she works with, rather than talking like it's all about her, but I had enough work to do already -- but I must say that I always enjoy Stewart's Bush-and-Schwarzenegger-bashing and his using not wanting to pay taxes to such administrations as a reason for having moved back to Britain.

When the kids got home, we all watched football together again...well, some people watched while some people sat at their computers and nodded occasionally toward the television and wrote smut. But we had family bonding over the Giants shutout, at least. I had intended to visit perkypaduan afterward on the way to the Garden of Lights at Wheaton Regional Park, but she begged off due to exhaustion, so we went straight to Brookside Gardens and walked through on the last night of the winter light show, which was lovely, though some year I hope to see it with a bit of snow on the ground.


Pagoda, trees, sculpted animals and fountain lit up at the Garden of Lights (if you want to see the sea monster, dragonflies or thunderstorm, last year's photos are here).


A cardinal "flies" between the trees; others hosted squirrels and bees.


The rainbow stretches between "raining" clouds at the edge of the woods.


Some of the formal gardens have flowers even during the winter light show. Here are pansies with lit trees in the background.


Lights (and me) reflected in a reflective globe near the greenhouses.
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It was late by the time we left and we hadn't made it to the grocery store, so we had California Tortilla for dinner. At night we watched The West Wing with Martin Sheen's lovely, sad tribute to John Spencer, and I was glad it was such a great Leo episode...I love him and Annabeth together now that Annabeth/Toby appears to be an utter impossibility, and I was sorry that there wasn't more alone time for Leo and her as well as Leo and Josh. But I knew he was going to remember that he was smarter than the people running the campaign, and I enjoyed that storyline more than the Santos' domestic crises which I feel like we've seen before; they're writing Helen way too one-note too often and her interactions with Donna all felt really forced, like they needed to come up with something for Donna to do so they gave her that. The local PBS station had Henry VIII on afterward, and we let the kids stay up late because they really wanted to watch...it's really too old for them in terms of both the violence and the sexual politics but I love that my kids know so much English history and are so interested in it.
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