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 tomorrow.
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?
John Keats (1795–1821) was one of the greatest of the younger generation of English Romantic poets. He started his career as an apprentice to a surgeon but soon gave it up for poetry. His poetic career lasted for only four years but, during this short span, he evolved from an ordinary poet to an exceptionally mature poetic force. His poetry celebrates beauty, which he considered the ultimate truth. It is portrayed in extremely sensuous images that have been created through beautiful verbal pictures. The image of the nightingale’s bower in the poem is an apt illustration of the poet’s craft in this respect.
Ruth : a woman in the Bible who left her own people to live with her mother-inlaw, Naomi. After the death of her husband, marries Boaz and is the ancestor of King David.
Provencal : ( p r o n o u n c e d Provensaal) of the district of Provence in France, known for its bards and its grapevines.
Hippocrene : a fountain in Mount Helicon associated with poetry - in the poem it refers to the wine that inspires poetic ability.
Lethe : in ancient Greek mythology, an imaginary river whose water, when drunk, was thought to make the dead forget their life on Earth.
Dryad : in stories, a female spirit that lives in a tree.
The word POETRY originates from a Greek word meaning TO MAKE. A poet is thus a maker and the poem something that is made or created. No single definition of poetry is possible but some characteristic features of poetry may be mentioned. Poetry has a musical quality with rhythm, pitch, metre and it may use figures of speech such as simile and metaphor. While quite a few poems in this selection are in traditional forms, the unit also includes modern poems that are free from formal restrictions.