Apr 25, 2022
In this eighth season of The Well Read Poem, we are reading six
poems about birds. Since antiquity, birds have supplied rich
material to poets, being by turns regal, charming, absurd,
delicate, dangerous, and philosophical creatures. This season is
dedicated to the animal lovers in our audience, particularly to
Emily Raible who suggested the subject in the first place.
Today's poem is "Ode to a Nightingale" by John Keats. Poem
begins at timestamp 2:23.
"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
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
some melodious plot
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,
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,
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
among the leaves hast never known,
the fever, and the fret
men sit and hear each other groan;
shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,
grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.
Away! away! for
I will fly to thee,
by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the
viewless wings of Poesy,
dull brain perplexes and retards:
thee! tender is the night,
And haply the
Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
here there is no light,
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
seasonable month endows
The grass, the
thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
mid-May's eldest child,
musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.
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
such an ecstasy!
thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.
Thou wast not
born for death, immortal Bird!
generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear
this passing night was heard
days by emperor and clown:
self-same song that found a path
sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
same that oft-times hath
casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.
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.
thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near
meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
the next valley-glades:
Was it a
vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?