John Keats


BOOK I. - (excerpts)

  A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
  Its loveliness increases; it will never
  Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
  A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
  Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
  Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
  A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
  Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
  Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
  Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways                    10
  Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
  Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
  From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
  Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
  For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
  With the green world they live in; and clear rills
  That for themselves a cooling covert make
  'Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
  Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
  And such too is the grandeur of the dooms                      20
  We have imagined for the mighty dead;
  All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
  An endless fountain of immortal drink,
  Pouring unto us from the heaven's brink.

    Nor do we merely feel these essences
  For one short hour; no, even as the trees
  That whisper round a temple become soon
  Dear as the temple's self, so does the moon,
  The passion poesy, glories infinite,
  Haunt us till they become a cheering light                     30
  Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
  That, whether there be shine, or gloom o'ercast,
  They alway must be with us, or we die.

    Therefore, 'tis with full happiness that I
  Will trace the story of Endymion.
  The very music of the name has gone
  Into my being, and each pleasant scene
  Is growing fresh before me as the green
  Of our own vallies: so I will begin
  Now while I cannot hear the city's din;                        40
  Now while the early budders are just new,
  And run in mazes of the youngest hue
  About old forests; while the willow trails
  Its delicate amber; and the dairy pails
  Bring home increase of milk. And, as the year
  Grows lush in juicy stalks, I'll smoothly steer
  My little boat, for many quiet hours,
  With streams that deepen freshly into bowers.
  Many and many a verse I hope to write,
  Before the daisies, vermeil rimm'd and white,                  50
  Hide in deep herbage; and ere yet the bees
  Hum about globes of clover and sweet peas,
  I must be near the middle of my story.
  O may no wintry season, bare and hoary,
  See it half finished: but let Autumn bold,
  With universal tinge of sober gold,
  Be all about me when I make an end.
  And now at once, adventuresome, I send
  My herald thought into a wilderness:
  There let its trumpet blow, and quickly dress                  60
  My uncertain path with green, that I may speed
  Easily onward, thorough flowers and weed.


"Peona! ever have I long'd to slake                         770
  My thirst for the world's praises: nothing base,
  No merely slumberous phantasm, could unlace
  The stubborn canvas for my voyage prepar'd--
  Though now 'tis tatter'd; leaving my bark bar'd
  And sullenly drifting: yet my higher hope
  Is of too wide, too rainbow-large a scope,
  To fret at myriads of earthly wrecks.
  Wherein lies happiness? In that which becks
  Our ready minds to fellowship divine,
  A fellowship with essence; till we shine,                     780
  Full alchemiz'd, and free of space. Behold
  The clear religion of heaven! Fold
  A rose leaf round thy finger's taperness,
  And soothe thy lips: hist, when the airy stress
  Of music's kiss impregnates the free winds,
  And with a sympathetic touch unbinds
  Eolian magic from their lucid wombs:
  Then old songs waken from enclouded tombs;
  Old ditties sigh above their father's grave;
  Ghosts of melodious prophecyings rave                         790
  Round every spot were trod Apollo's foot;
  Bronze clarions awake, and faintly bruit,
  Where long ago a giant battle was;
  And, from the turf, a lullaby doth pass
  In every place where infant Orpheus slept.
  Feel we these things?--that moment have we stept
  Into a sort of oneness, and our state
  Is like a floating spirit's. But there are
  Richer entanglements, enthralments far
  More self-destroying, leading, by degrees,                    800
  To the chief intensity: the crown of these
  Is made of love and friendship, and sits high
  Upon the forehead of humanity.
  All its more ponderous and bulky worth
  Is friendship, whence there ever issues forth
  A steady splendour; but at the tip-top,
  There hangs by unseen film, an orbed drop
  Of light, and that is love: its influence,
  Thrown in our eyes, genders a novel sense,
  At which we start and fret; till in the end,                  810
  Melting into its radiance, we blend,
  Mingle, and so become a part of it,--
  Nor with aught else can our souls interknit
  So wingedly: when we combine therewith,
  Life's self is nourish'd by its proper pith,
  And we are nurtured like a pelican brood.
  Aye, so delicious is the unsating food,
  That men, who might have tower'd in the van
  Of all the congregated world, to fan
  And winnow from the coming step of time                       820
  All chaff of custom, wipe away all slime
  Left by men-slugs and human serpentry,
  Have been content to let occasion die,
  Whilst they did sleep in love's elysium.
  And, truly, I would rather be struck dumb,
  Than speak against this ardent listlessness:
  For I have ever thought that it might bless
  The world with benefits unknowingly;
  As does the nightingale, upperched high,
  And cloister'd among cool and bunched leaves--                830
  She sings but to her love, nor e'er conceives
  How tiptoe Night holds back her dark-grey hood.
  Just so may love, although 'tis understood
  The mere commingling of passionate breath,
  Produce more than our searching witnesseth:
  What I know not: but who, of men, can tell
  That flowers would bloom, or that green fruit would swell
  To melting pulp, that fish would have bright mail,
  The earth its dower of river, wood, and vale,
  The meadows runnels, runnels pebble-stones,                   840
  The seed its harvest, or the lute its tones,
  Tones ravishment, or ravishment its sweet,
  If human souls did never kiss and greet?

    "Now, if this earthly love has power to make
  Men's being mortal, immortal; to shake
  Ambition from their memories, and brim
  Their measure of content; what merest whim,
  Seems all this poor endeavour after fame,
  To one, who keeps within his stedfast aim
  A love immortal, an immortal too.                             850
  Look not so wilder'd; for these things are true,
  And never can be born of atomies
  That buzz about our slumbers, like brain-flies,
  Leaving us fancy-sick. No, no, I'm sure,
  My restless spirit never could endure
  To brood so long upon one luxury,
  Unless it did, though fearfully, espy
  A hope beyond the shadow of a dream.
  My sayings will the less obscured seem,
  When I have told thee how my waking sight                     860
  Has made me scruple whether that same night
  Was pass'd in dreaming.


  I started up, when lo! refreshfully,
  There came upon my face, in plenteous showers,                900
  Dew-drops, and dewy buds, and leaves, and flowers,
  Wrapping all objects from my smothered sight,
  Bathing my spirit in a new delight.
  Aye, such a breathless honey-feel of bliss
  Alone preserved me from the drear abyss
  Of death, for the fair form had gone again.
  Pleasure is oft a visitant; but pain
  Clings cruelly to us, like the gnawing sloth
  On the deer's tender haunches: late, and loth,
  'Tis scar'd away by slow returning pleasure.                  910
  How sickening, how dark the dreadful leisure
  Of weary days, made deeper exquisite,
  By a fore-knowledge of unslumbrous night!
  Like sorrow came upon me, heavier still,
  Than when I wander'd from the poppy hill:
  And a whole age of lingering moments crept
  Sluggishly by, ere more contentment swept
  Away at once the deadly yellow spleen.
  Yes, thrice have I this fair enchantment seen;
  Once more been tortured with renewed life.                    920
  When last the wintry gusts gave over strife
  With the conquering sun of spring, and left the skies
  Warm and serene, but yet with moistened eyes
  In pity of the shatter'd infant buds,--
  That time thou didst adorn, with amber studs,
  My hunting cap, because I laugh'd and smil'd,
  Chatted with thee, and many days exil'd
  All torment from my breast;--'twas even then,
  Straying about, yet, coop'd up in the den
  Of helpless discontent,--hurling my lance                     930
  From place to place, and following at chance,
  At last, by hap, through some young trees it struck,
  And, plashing among bedded pebbles, stuck
  In the middle of a brook,--whose silver ramble
  Down twenty little falls, through reeds and bramble,
  Tracing along, it brought me to a cave,
  Whence it ran brightly forth, and white did lave
  The nether sides of mossy stones and rock,--
  'Mong which it gurgled blythe adieus, to mock
  Its own sweet grief at parting. Overhead,                     940
  Hung a lush scene of drooping weeds, and spread
  Thick, as to curtain up some wood-nymph's home.
  "Ah! impious mortal, whither do I roam?"
  Said I, low voic'd: "Ah, whither! 'Tis the grot
  Of Proserpine, when Hell, obscure and hot,
  Doth her resign; and where her tender hands
  She dabbles, on the cool and sluicy sands:
  Or 'tis the cell of Echo, where she sits,
  And babbles thorough silence, till her wits
  Are gone in tender madness, and anon,                         950
  Faints into sleep, with many a dying tone
  Of sadness. O that she would take my vows,
  And breathe them sighingly among the boughs,
  To sue her gentle ears for whose fair head,
  Daily, I pluck sweet flowerets from their bed,
  And weave them dyingly--send honey-whispers
  Round every leaf, that all those gentle lispers
  May sigh my love unto her pitying!
  O charitable echo! hear, and sing
  This ditty to her!--tell her"--so I stay'd                    960
  My foolish tongue, and listening, half afraid,
  Stood stupefied with my own empty folly,
  And blushing for the freaks of melancholy.
  Salt tears were coming, when I heard my name
  Most fondly lipp'd, and then these accents came:
  "Endymion! the cave is secreter
  Than the isle of Delos. Echo hence shall stir
  No sighs but sigh-warm kisses, or light noise
  Of thy combing hand, the while it travelling cloys
  And trembles through my labyrinthine hair."                   970
  At that oppress'd I hurried in.--Ah! where
  Are those swift moments? Whither are they fled?
  I'll smile no more, Peona; nor will wed
  Sorrow the way to death; but patiently
  Bear up against it: so farewel, sad sigh;
  And come instead demurest meditation,
  To occupy me wholly, and to fashion
  My pilgrimage for the world's dusky brink.
  No more will I count over, link by link,
  My chain of grief: no longer strive to find                   980
  A half-forgetfulness in mountain wind
  Blustering about my ears: aye, thou shalt see,
  Dearest of sisters, what my life shall be;
  What a calm round of hours shall make my days.
  There is a paly flame of hope that plays
  Where'er I look: but yet, I'll say 'tis naught--
  And here I bid it die. Have not I caught,
  Already, a more healthy countenance?
  By this the sun is setting; we may chance
  Meet some of our near-dwellers with my car."                  990

spoken  Ayelet Firstenberg - David Juda - Shelley Johnson