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ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE.18
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk.
In some melodious plot
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 sun-burnt mirth!
And purple-stainèd mouth ;
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;
And leaden-eyed despairs;
Or new love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
way! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards;
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
And mid-May's eldest child,
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,
To take into the air my quiet breath ;
In such an ecstacy!
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;
The same that ofttimes hath
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.19
Forlorn ! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.
In the next valley-glades ?
Fled is that music? Do I wake or sleep?
18 “ Ode to a Nightingale.”—This poem was written in a house at the foot of Highgate Hill, on the border of the fields looking towards Hampstead. The poet had then his mortal illness upon him, and knew it. Never was the voice of death sweeter.
19 “ Charm'd magic casements,” &c.—This beats Claude's Enchanted Castle, and the story of King Beder in the Arabian Nights. You do not know what the house is, or where, nor who the bird. Perhaps a king himself. But you see the window, open on the perilous sea, and hear the voice from out the trees in which it is nested, sending its warble over the foam. The whole is at once vague and particular, full of mysterious life. You see nobody, though something is heard ; and you know not what of beauty or wickedness is to come over that sea. Perhaps it was suggested by some fairy tale. I remember nothing of it in the dream-like wildness of things in Palmerin of England, a book which is full of color and home landscapes, ending with a noble and affecting scene of war; and of which Keats was very fond.
ON FIRST LOOKING INTO CHAPMAN'S HOMER.
Much have I travell’d in the realms gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been,
That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne ;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene,
When a new planet swims into his ken ;
He stard at the Pacific20—and all his men
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.21
20 « He stared at the Pacific,” &c.
has been thought by some too violent, but it is precisely the word required by the occasion. The Spaniard was too original and ardent a man either to look, or to affect to look, coldly superior to it. His “eagle eyes” are from life, as may be seen by Titian's portrait of him.
The public are indebted to Mr. Charles Knight for a cheap reprint of Homer and Chapman.
21 “ Silent, upon a peak in Darien.”—A most fit line to conclude our volume.
We leave the reader standing upon it, with all the illimitable world of thought and feeling before him, to which his imagination will have been brought, while journeying through these “realms of gold.”