Eng 332


I wandered lonely as a Cloud

William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and Hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden Daffodils;
Beside the Lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils.

Summary

The speaker was walking around through the hills and valleys, but he felt all lonely and mopey. Suddenly, as he passed a lake, he noticed a big group of yellow daffodils waving in the breeze. This wasn't just some scattered patch of daffodils. We’re talking thousands and thousands around this particular bay. And all these flowers were dancing.

Yes, the daffodils danced, and so did the waves of the lake. But the daffodils danced better. The speaker’s loneliness was replaced by joy, but he didn't even realize what a gift he has received until later. Now, whenever he’s feeling kind of blah, he just thinks of the daffodils, and his heart is happily dancing.

Lines 1-2

I wandered lonely as a Cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and Hills
,

  • The speaker describes how he walked around and felt as lonely as a cloud. He doesn’t say, "walked around," but uses the much more descriptive word "wandered."
  • "Wandered" means roaming around without a purpose, like when you explore something. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing. But in its metaphorical use, "wandered" can mean feeling purposeless and directionless in general. As in, you have questions like, "What’s the meaning of my life?"
  • The first concept that we want to take a look at is that the cloud is "lonely." Asking questions about what this means will help us get into the poem.
  • Are clouds lonely? Well, maybe the ones that float about valleys ("vales") and hills are lonely. It's more likely, the speaker is projecting his own loneliness on the clouds. But that still doesn’t explain the strange image, because clouds usually travel in groups. (Except in cartoons where you can have a single rain cloud following Wiley E. Coyote around just to ruin his day.)
  • Maybe a cloud is lonely because it is so far above the rest of the world. Its thoughts are just so "lofty," and maybe the speaker’s thoughts are, too.
  • Also, the cloud could be lonely because it floats over a natural landscape with no people in it. Maybe the speaker has thought of hills and valleys because he happens to be "wandering" through such a landscape.
  • These are some of the questions we’re hoping the poem will help us sort out after this mysterious beginning.

Lines 3-4

When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden Daffodils;

  • Suddenly ("all at once"), the speaker sees a group of daffodil flowers. We tend to think of daffodils as "yellow," but he uses the more majestic-sounding "golden."
  • He calls them a "crowd," so they must be packed tightly together. Then he elaborates on "crowd" by adding the noun "host." A host is just a big group.
  • Yes, "host" and "crowd" mean pretty much the same thing. Ah, but that’s where the connotations come in, those vague associations that attach to certain words. A "crowd" is associated with groups of people, while "host" is associated with angels, because people often refer to a "host of angels." Coupled with the description of their angelic "golden" color, we seem to be dealing with some very special daffodils.

Lines 5-6

Beside theLake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze
.

  • He sees the daffodils beside a lake and underneath some trees. It’s a breezy day, and the flowers "flutter" and "dance" on their stems.
  • Maybe now is a good time to step outside the poem for just a second to note that Wordsworth lived in a part of England known as the Lake District, which is filled with lots of hills, valleys and, of course, lakes. We can assume he’s walking in a fairly remote and wild part of the countryside.
  • Now, back to the poem. "Fluttering" suggests flight, which could bring us back to the angels or even birds or butterflies. "Dancing" is something that usually only humans do. The daffodils are given the qualities of humans and also of some kind of otherworldly creatures, perhaps.

Lines 7-8

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way
,

  • The emphasizes the point that there are a whole lot of daffodils. More daffodils than he has probably ever seen before. After all, these are flowers that usually grow in scattered groups in the wild or in people’s well-tended gardens.
  • The flowers stretch "continuously," without a break, like the stars in the Milky Way galaxy, each one gleaming like a star.
  • The comparison to stars provides new evidence that the speaker is trying to make us think of angels or other heavenly beings.

Lines 9-10

They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:

  • Like the Milky Way galaxy, the flowers are roughly concentrated in a line that seems to stretch as far as the eye can see ("never-ending"). They flowers line the shore ("margin") of a bay of the lake, which must be a relatively large lake.
  • If you’ve ever seen the Milky Way (or the photo in the link above), you know that the galaxy appears to be a band that has more stars and a brighter appearance than the night sky around it. It’s not a perfectly clear line, but more like a fuzzy approximation of a line. We imagine the same effect with the flowers. It’s not as if there are no flowers outside the shore of the lake, but most are concentrated on the shore.

Lines 11-12

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance
.

  • The speaker takes in "ten thousand" dancing flowers at once. That’s a lot of daffodils.
  • Wow, he’s fast at counting if he knows the number after only a quick glance. But, of course, the speaker is not actually counting, but just guessing. (It's like when you try to guess the number of gumballs in a jar.)
  • The flowers "toss their hands" while dancing to the wind. By "heads" we think he means the part of the flower with the petals, the weight of which causes the rest of the flower to bob.
  • "Sprightly" means happily or merrily. The word derives from "sprite," which refers to the playful little spirits that people once thought inhabited nature. "Sprites" are supernatural beings, almost like fairies.

Lines 13-14

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

  • The waves also dance in the breeze, but the daffodils seem happier than the waves. We know from Dorothy Wordsworth’s journal (see "In a Nutshell") that the day that inspired this poem was a stormy one, so the waves on this medium-to-large sized lake must have been larger than usual. Maybe they were even cresting into whitecaps.
  • The point is that the entire scene has suddenly been invested with a joyful human-like presence. Since waves do not bring as much joy as the yellow flowers, the flowers "out-did" the water with their happiness.
  • The waves "sparkle," which creates yet another association with the stars. Everything seems to be gleaming and twinkling and shining and sparkling.

Lines 15-16

A Poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:

  • The speaker reenters the poem. (We’ve haven’t seen you since the first line, buddy.) Except he refers to himself in the first person, by his vocation, "a poet."
  • Despite his earlier loneliness, the speaker now can’t help but feel happy, or "gay," with such a beautiful vision to look at.
  • Or, as he puts at, with such joyful and carefree ("jocund") "company" to hang out with. The flowers and waves feel like companions to him. They are all pals. Group hug!

Lines 17-18

I gazed--and gazed--but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

  • The repetition of "gaze" tells us that he kept looking at the flowers for a long time. It's as if the speaker enjoys looking at these daffodils at the time, but doesn’t realize exactly how great of a gift he has just received with this vision.
  • Apparently, the speaker doesn't think that he fully appreciated the vision at the time. This is a bit odd, because he seems to bereally enjoying those daffodils.
  • The word "wealth" expresses a more permanent kind of happiness. It also carries a hint of money that does not quite fit with the supernatural language that has come before.

Lines 19-20

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,

  • Now the speaker explains why the daffodils were such a great gift to him. He moves suddenly into the future, back from the lake and the windy day. He’s describing a habitual action, something he does often.
  • First, he sets the scene: he often sits on his couch, kind of feeling blah about life, with no great thoughts and sights. Sometimes his mind is empty and "vacant," like a bored teenager sitting on the sofa after school and trying to decide what to do. At other times he feels "pensive," which means he thinks kind-of-sad thoughts. You can’t be both "vacant" and "pensive" because one means "not thinking," and the other means "thinking while feeling blue." But he groups the two experiences together because both are vaguely unpleasant and dissatisfying.

Lines 21-22

They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;

  • So, often when our speaker gets in these downer moods, the image of the daffodils "flashes" through his mind.
  • The "inward eye" expresses what Wordsworth felt to be a deeper, truer spiritual vision. A person cannot share his or her own spiritual vision completely with others, and so it is a form of "solitude." But its truth and beauty make it "blissful."
  • Why does the speaker think of daffodils in exactly these moments? Maybe it's because the contrast between their joy and his unhappiness is so striking. Nonetheless, the vision is spontaneous, like a crack of lightning.

Lines 23-24

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the Daffodils

  • When the memory of the flowers and the lake flashes into his head, he feels happy again. It’s almost like the same experience he had while "wandering" through nature at the beginning of the poem, when the real daffodils pushed the loneliness out of his head.
  • The memory of the daffodils is as good as the real thing.
  • His heart is set to dancing, just like the flowers. He dances along "with" them – they are his cheerful companions once again.

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold

William Wordsworth

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;

And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold Summary

The speaker is telling us about the feeling he gets, has always gotten, and will always get when he sees a rainbow in the sky: his heart rejoices. He says that if he were ever to stop feeling this joy, he'd want to die.

He presents the paradox (contradictory statement) that the child is the father of the man. In other words, our adult selves still contain the kernel of our childhood selves. He wants his days to be, perhaps, like the days of a child, filled with—and tied together by—a reverence for nature.

Line 1

My heart leaps up when I behold

  • Officially, this poem is untitled, and so this is just the first line of the poem, not the title. But it is important in setting up the rest of the poem.
  • Basically, the line shows us that the poem is going to be about something that makes the speaker's heart leap up, presumably from joy. It's common to say "my heart leapt," but think about this expression. The heart has no legs. This makes it hard for it to literally leap on its own, so this is an example of personification. We can infer that the heart will "leap," even if the speaker is otherwise depressed. Perhaps he actually feels a kind of jolt in his chest.
  • We won't know why the speaker's heart is leaping up until we get to the next line. The suspense is killing us! For now, though, this line break helps with the rhythm of the poem and keeps us readers on our toes (for more on rhythm, go check out "Form and Meter").
  • Keep in mind that "behold" means to see or observe something, not to hold it. Behold is a pretty majestic word, so we suspect we're being set up for a majestic sight…

Line 2

A rainbow in the sky:

  • We find out what makes the speaker's heart leap up: a rainbow. Because of the strategic line break, and the indentation, our hearts leap a little bit when we read this line too—or at least our eyes do.
  • When you read this line, picture the last time you saw a rainbow and think about how it made you feel. Was it like this guy?
  • Note that the line ends with a colon. This means that what follows is probably related to it. Let's check it out…

Line 3

So was it when my life began;

  • This line and the next few after it create a sense of time in the poem. Here we learn that the speaker has had this feeling about rainbows ever since his life began, which we take to mean his childhood, when he was just a wee tyke.

Line 4

So is it now I am a man;

  • This line continues the thought from the line before. Now we learn that the speaker still gets excited by the sight of a rainbow, even as a mature adult. We understand that the speaker is reflecting as an adult, but really, he's just a kid at heart.

Lines 5-6

So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!

  • So we've heard about the thrill of rainbows in the speaker's past and present. Now we hear about the future. The speaker is sure that when he grows old, he will still be thrilled at the sight of a rainbow.
  • Then we get an indented line again, and we encounter a bit of a pause, at least visually. At the end of this pause, the speaker lets us know that he is so thrilled by rainbows that, if he ever lost this thrill, he would want to die. Intense.
  • Whom is he talking to here, though, when he says "let me die"? God? The Grim Reaper? Whomever he's addressing, they're not around in the poem. This kind of address to an absent or abstract audience is what's called in the biz an apostrophe.
  • This line is even followed by an exclamation point, so the speaker clearly wants to emphasize it! For him, life without the capacity to appreciate nature's beauty would not be worth living.

Line 7

The Child is father of the Man;

  • Famous line alert! Here we move away from talking specifically about the rainbow. This line is an example of a paradox—a contradictory statement. It's definitely a paradox that a child could father a man, right? You'd think it was the other way around.
  • Yet, in the context of this poem, the statement makes sense. The speaker has shown us how important it is that something that thrilled him when he was young continues to thrill him when he grows old. He is saying here that his childhood formed who he is as an adult—his self, as a child, fathered, or gave birth to, his adult self. It seems the speaker treasures the fact that he still has a childlike capacity for wonder.
  • Also note the capitalization of the words "Child" and "Man" in this line. This is a way to draw attention to the general truth of the line. It is meant to have a wider meaning than just in the speaker's life. A rainbow brings out the child in all of us.

Lines 8-9

And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

  • The speaker now expresses that he hopes nature will tie his days together forever, as we can imagine a child's days would be tied together by playing outside.
  • What do we mean by tied together? Well, they would all have the same thing in common. Think about when you went to the same park to play, every day of summer vacation. That experience tied your summer together. Well, here the speaker wants all of his days to feature this same feeling of wonder for the natural world.
  • We suspect that the speaker doesn't mean literal days here, but rather his time on earth—his life.
  • The glue, or rope, between these days is "natural piety." There are a few different ways to interpret this phrase. Piety normally has a religious connotation.
  • Someone who follows the laws of their religion and is very devoted to God would be called pious. So we might interpret "natural piety" as a religion that is natural, or not forced.
  • But there's not really much else about religion in this poem, so that interpretation seems a little off. What if "natural" referred not to something being genuine and sincere, but to the object of the piety? We think the speaker wants his days to be tied together by reverence and piety toward the natural world, rather than toward religion.
  • These two lines sort of put the rest of the poem in context. The rainbow, which thrills the speaker throughout his life, is an example of a form of natural piety, his sense of joy and wonder at the natural world. That sense is what he hopes to experience for the rest of his days, his time on earth.

Kubla Khan

Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the
green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By woman wailing for her demon lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion

Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

Kubla Khan Summary

This poem describes Xanadu, thepalaceofKubla Khan, a Mongol emperor and the grandson of Genghis Khan. The poem's speaker starts by describing the setting of Emperor's palace, which he calls a "pleasure dome." He tells us about a river that runs across the land and then flows through some underground caves and into the sea. He also tells us about the fertile land that surrounds the palace. The nearby area is covered in streams, sweet-smelling trees, and beautiful forests.

Then the speaker gets excited about the river again and tells us about the canyon through which it flows. He makes it into a spooky, haunted place, where you might find a "woman wailing for her demon lover." He describes how the river leaps and smashes through the canyon, first exploding up into a noisy fountain and then finally sinking down and flowing through those
underground caves into the ocean far away.

Stanza I (Lines 1-11) Summary

Lines 1-2

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure dome decree:

  • Here's the famous opener.
  • This line gets a lot of work done quickly. It introduces us to the title character (Kubla Khan), and begins to describe the amazing setting of the poem (Xanadu).
  • That "stately pleasure dome decree" means that he had a really fancy and beautiful palace built.
  • We want you to know right away that Coleridge is actually talking about a real place and a real guy.
  • Kubla Khan was the grandson of the legendary Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan, and he built a summer palace (called Xanadu, in English) inMongolia.
  • Marco Polo visited Xanadu, and helped to start the legend of its magnificence.
  • We're starting with actual history here, although by Coleridge's time Xanadu is already a bit of a legend.
  • Keep this little historical nugget in mind, as you read. Does this feel like a real place and a real person? Or does it seem completely imaginary? Maybe a little of both?

Lines 3-5

Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

  • The speaker begins to describe the geography of Xanadu. He starts by introducing us to the River Alph.
  • There's certainly no river inMongoliaby this name. Some scholars think that this is an allusion to the river Alpheus, a river inGreecethat was made famous in classical literature.
  • The name "Alph" might also make us think of the Greek letter "Alpha" which is the first letter of the Greek alphabet, and a symbol of beginnings.
  • These associations, and the fact that the river has a name at all, really make the Alph stand out in the beginning of this poem.
  • Notice how Coleridge is already stepping away from history: he is transforming this place, this person, and this story into his own creation.
  • "Kubla Khan" is definitely a poem as much about the journeys of the mind and the imagination as it is about the real world.
  • If this is partly an imaginary landscape, how does the poem's speaker make it look and feel? When he talks about "caverns measureless to man" we get a sense that this landscape is both huge and unknowable.
  • That slightly spooky feeling continues when we get to the "sunless sea." That's a pretty gloomy image to start out with, and it casts a shadow over these first few lines. It also gives us a sense of being in an imaginary landscape, because where else could a sea always be "sunless" and never bright or cheerful, or any of the other things a sea can be?
  • Also, check out how much shorter line 5 is than all the others. In a poem where all the lines have a carefully planned length, short lines stand out and make us take notice. It makes this image just a little lonelier. It also makes this line into more of a dead end, a stopping place, just like the sea is for the River Alph.

Lines 6-11

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

  • Now things become a little more cheerful.
  • The speaker takes us away from those gloomy, endless caverns, and tells us a little bit about the gardens around the palace.
  • You might have noticed that the language gets fancy here. A "sinuous rill" (line 3) is really just a twisty stream.
  • Coleridge often uses beautiful language to illustrate simple underlying concepts.
  • Here, the speaker is setting up a contrast between the scary, strange caverns and the pleasant, familiar space around the palace. He describes how the palace is "girdled" (that just means surrounded) by walls and towers. While the caverns were "measureless" (line 4) this space can be measured very precisely at "twice five miles."
  • Everything about this place feels safe and happy. It's protected by the walls, it's "fertile," the gardens are "bright," even the trees smell good ("incense-bearing").
  • Even though the forests are "ancient" the speaker manages to make them seem comforting too, since he tells us they are "enfolding sunny spots of greenery" (line 11).
  • Notice how the idea of "enfolding" echoes the sense of "girdled." The forest wraps around those little sunny spots and keeps them safe, just like the walls wrap around the palace and keep it safe.
  • The natural world outside is wild and strange, but within the palace walls things are peaceful and protected.

Stanza II (Lines 12-30) Summary

Lines 12-16

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the
green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By woman wailing for her demon lover!

  • Then, just like that, we get pulled back into the wild, slightly scary natural world. The speaker takes us back to the river Alph, which is beginning to seem almost like a character in this poem.
  • Xanadu is located in a valley surrounded by hills. The river cascades down the side of one of these hills, cutting a "deep chasm," or canyon, through it.
  • The chasm cuts a path "athwart a cedarn cover" which means that the entire hillside is covered in cedar trees. This river is violent and uncontrollable, completely unlike those poky little rills we heard about it line eight.
  • The speaker seems to be pulled toward this river like a magnet. He could have imagined himself sitting in those gardens, having someone feed him grapes.
  • But it's the "romantic" chasm that appeals to him, and gives the poem its life.
  • Can you feel how excited the speaker is when he talks about the river?
  • One way Coleridge tips us off to his excitement is with all of those exclamation points. They are all over the place in the first few lines of this section.
  • Look at just two examples: "a cedarn cover!"(line 13), "a savage place!"(line 14). The exclamation points really make those images pop out at you, don't they?
  • And how about that woman, the demon lover, and that waning moon?
  • The speaker is using them to let us know just how romantic and spooky the chasm really is.
  • Our speaker wants us to imagine a woman, maybe even the ghost of a woman, since she haunts this place.
  • Maybe she has been cursed, or has had a spell cast on her, and she has fallen in love with an evil spirit.
  • If this woman wanted to scream about her terrible fate, to let out all her sadness and her anger and her longing, where would she go? She'd go to a place just like this: a lonely, wild canyon, where no one could hear her but the "waning moon" (that just means the moon is getting smaller).
  • These images are really intense, and it gives us a little glimpse of a whole new story.
  • The speaker isn't saying that any of these things are there in the poem; he's saying that this is the kind of place where they would be at home.
  • He's coloring the mood of the landscape, not introducing new characters, so don't let the details throw you off too much.
  • Remember that we're hearing a description of a dream or a vision.
  • Have you ever been at that moment where you're about to fall asleep and something flashes across your mind? One minute it's there, and its really intense, maybe as intense as this woman and her demon. Then the next minute it's gone, just like the woman in this poem.

Lines 17-24

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.

  • More about this river. Seriously, he really likes it. Apparently it comes rushing down the hillside at every moment ("momently") like a "fountain."
  • Of course, rivers don't usually stop moving, so Coleridge doesn't need to tell us that it flows at every moment. However, he wants us to think of the river not as something continuous, but as something that is created each moment.
  • The speaker wants us to focus on the wild, rushing, violent excitement of the water.
  • Coleridge and his poet-friends, the Romantics, loved scenes like this, where the tremendous power of nature is unleashed and we get to watch.
  • Coleridge gets so carried away by this scene that he turns the earth into a kind of "seething," "breathing" animal.
  • The rushing water becomes the sound of its "fast thick pants," as if the earth were really tired from doing a lot of exercise. He really wants you to hear and almost feel the rushing force of that river.
  • You can't just dip into an image like this. It's like trying to get a drink from a fire hose.
  • Coleridge keeps this intensity up line after line, plunging us into the river again and again.
  • After a while, this turns into a snowstorm of images and analogies.
  • Apparently the river is bouncing off the rocks, which reminds the speaker of the clatter of hail, or grain raining down out of the air as it is being separated from the chaff.
  • We could dig into each one of these images, and we definitely wouldn't want to stop you from looking as closely as possible at every one of these lines. But we think what the speaker is really after here is a feeling.
  • Do you feel the rushing of the river, the crash of the water against the rocks?
  • If yes, then the poem is doing its job. Each image is meant to drive home that feeling of wild natural force.
  • In a sense these lines are like a symphony – a rush of feeling and sound and excitement that's meant to pick you up and carry you along.

Lines 25-28

Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:

  • Suddenly things calm down a little.
  • Our favorite river reaches the flat plain of the valley where Xanadu is located, and it begins to "meander with a mazy motion" (line 25).
  • So, now we've gotten the whole story of the river, from the perspective of someone in Xanadu.
  • The first glimpse is of the river rushing down a deep canyon cut into a wooded hillside. The water is moving fast and furious, almost like a waterfall, but not quite so steep. It bounces off rocks and creates a lot of big ruckus.
  • The river then flattens out and turns into a proper river, flowing gently through Xanadu for five miles until it reaches a bunch of caves or "caverns."
  • Nobody knows how deep these caverns are. They are so huge you couldn't possibly measure them. But we do know that they seem to contain an underground ocean, into which the river flows.

See all those "m" sounds? We call that repetition of the first sound in a word "alliteration."

  • Coleridge has gotten us all worked up, and now, to show us he can, he slows it all down.
  • One minute the river's making a "fast thick pant," then it's lazy and murmuring in the woods and dales.
  • You know how some pop songs start out quiet, build up until they are fast and loud and then quiet down again?
  • That's what's happening here. The speaker took us up to peak, and now he's taking us down again, circling back to the quiet, spooky images that started the poem.
  • To bring this idea home, the speaker repeats the phrase "caverns measureless to man" that we first heard in line 4. Remember that "sunless sea" in line 5? It's back too, this time as a "lifeless ocean" (line 28).
  • Different words, same gloomy idea.

Lines 29-30

And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

  • Coleridge could have ended the poem there, with that "lifeless ocean."
  • In that case, it would have been almost perfectly symmetrical.
  • But what fun would that be? This is supposed to an intense vision, after all.
  • Plus, what about Kubla, our title character? It almost seems like Coleridge has forgotten him.
  • Well now he's back, in the last two lines of this section. As the poem's pace slows down, the "tumult" of the river becomes an echo of the intense rush we just felt.
  • Like us, Kubla listens from a distance, and what does he hear? "Ancestral voices prophesying war" (line 30).
  • This is Genghis Khan's grandson, after all, so he probably spent a lot of time thinking about war, even when he wasn't listening to rushing rivers.
  • This new image takes us away from the river, and into the even wilder second half of the poem. Think this is all a little strange already? Just wait!

To Nature

by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
(1634-1693)

It may indeed be fantasy when I
Essay to draw from all created things

Deep, heartfelt, inward joy that closely clings;

And trace in leaves and flowers that round me lie

Lessons of love and earnest piety.

So let it be; and if the
wide world rings
In mock of this belief, it brings

Nor fear, nor grief, nor vain perplexity.

So will I build my altar in the fields,

And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be,

And the sweet fragrance that the
wild flower yields
Shall be the incense I will yield to Thee,

Thee only God! and thou shalt not despise

Even me, the priest of this poor sacrifice.

Summary

To Nature, a beautiful and meaningful poem written by an English poet, literary critic and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) says the difference or the similarity between nature and human.

The word created things denotes in the second line of the poem means all creature and plats in the universe.

The poet is having deep, heartfelt and inward joy. This expression shows the intense and personal experience of the poet.

In the poem, the poet says it may indeed be phantasy. But I think, The experience of the poet was not only a phantasy because the poet experiences the presence of god in the nature.

The third and fourth line says the poet is tracing for love and earnest piety in the nature around him. If we can find beauty in everything we will gifted with joy.

The expression "let it be" suggests the belief of poet.

The eighth line denotes that some people may ridicule the poet's ideas, but he is not worried of afraid. The poet is thinking that the nature is his place for worship. The field is altar, the sky is the dome, the wild flowers make the incenses. The poet is saying the sacrifice is poor because he is not the real priest.

Here the poet is the priest of the nature. A poet will find the beauty in everything. This is the common between the poet and the priest.


The Rape of the Lock   by Alexander Pope

This Nymph, to the Destruction of Mankind,

Nourish'd two Locks, which graceful hung behind

In equal Curls, and well conspir'd to deck

With shining Ringlets her smooth Iv'ry Neck.

Love in these Labyrinths his Slaves detains,

And mighty Hearts are held in slender Chains.

With hairy Sprindges we the Birds betray,

Slight Lines of Hair surprize the Finny Prey,

Fair Tresses Man's Imperial Race insnare,

And Beauty draws us with a single Hair.

Th' Adventrous Baron the bright Locks admir'd,

He saw, he wish'd, and to the Prize aspir'd:

Resolv'd to win, he meditates the way,

By Force to ravish, or by Fraud betray;

For when Success a Lover's Toil attends,

Few ask, if Fraud or Force attain'd his Ends.

For this, e're Phoebus rose, he had implor'd

Propitious Heav'n, and ev'ry Pow'r ador'd,

But chiefly Love — to Love an Altar built,

Of twelve vast French Romances, neatly gilt.

There lay three Garters, half a Pair of Gloves;

And all the Trophies of his former Loves.

With tender Billet-doux he lights the Pyre,

And breathes three am'rous Sighs to raise the Fire.

Then prostrate falls, and begs with ardent Eyes

Soon to obtain, and long possess the Prize:

The Pow'rs gave Ear, and granted half his Pray'r,

The rest, the Winds dispers'd in empty Air.


The Rape of the Lock opens with a brief letter from Pope to the poem's real-life subject, Arabella ("Belle") Fermor. In the letter, he explains why he wrote the poem in the first place, the circumstances that led him to publish it, and why he dedicates it to Arabella.

With Canto I, the official story begins. Here we meet Belinda, the poem's beautiful, rich, young society heroine, cuddled up with her dog in her sumptuous bedroom, just barely awake in the late morning/early afternoon. She's been having a sexy dream in which a handsome, well-dressed young man whispers sweet nothings into her ear. We're off to a rather pleasant start.

We learn that the dream has come from the sylph, Ariel, the airy spirit who watches over her. In the dream, Ariel explains the entire spirit-world of the poem, and introduces the sylphs and gnomes who will play important roles in the action later on. Belinda wakes up fully and rings for her maid, who helps her get dressed and put on her makeup for the day. Invisible to the humans, Belinda's army of attendant sylphs help with her face, hair, and outfit. As Canto II opens, a resplendent Belinda is in a barge, sailing down the River Thames on her way to a fancy party at Hampton Court, one of the country residences of the royal family. We learn here that her hairstyle features two curling locks that hang down the back of her neck. Ariel the sylph makes a speech to all of the other sylphs, telling them he's had a premonition that something terrible is about to happen, and that they should all be on their guard during the party.

Finally, Pope introduces us to the locks themselves, the main subject of the poem's title, which he describes as hanging, perfectly curled and shiny, down the back of Belinda's neck.

In these lines we also meet the Baron, the male protagonist of the story, who Pope tells us has been plotting and planning to steal those locks for a long time.

In fact, we learn in lines 35-44 that he spent the early morning of this very day praying for the opportunity. We also learn in lines 45–46 that his prayers have been halfway granted. Belinda's doom is sealed.

Do you think that the locks of hair hanging down Belinda's neck are accidental? Yeah right. She's actually "Nourish'd" (20) them both, knowing full well that a few strategic curls can be very attractive. Pope gives us two tidy metaphors here: in lines 23-24 the locks are "slender Chains" with the power to enslave their beholder; in lines 25-28 they are tools for catching admirers, much like "Sprindges" (i.e. snares) or fishing line might catch a bird or a fish.

If love was a battlefield in the first Canto, here at the beginning of the second Canto love is a little more like a hunting trip, with Belinda out to catch herself a boyfriend. We wouldn't say she is literally planning on tying up a likely dude with her hair, though (this isn't Tangled, kids).

The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience)

William Blake

A little black thing among the snow,
Crying "'weep! 'weep!" in notes of woe!
"Where are thy father and mother? Say!"--
"They are both gone up to the church to pray.

"Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smiled among the winter's snow,
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

"And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no
injury,
And are gone to
praise God and his priest and king,
Who make up a heaven of our misery."

The Chimney Sweeper (Songs of Experience) Summary

The speaker sees a child covered in soot, lying alone in the snow. Good start. The child tells him that his parents, who have forced him into chimney sweeping, are praying at a nearby church. The end.

Lines 1-2

A little black thing among the snow,
Crying "'weep! 'weep!" in notes of woe!

  • Okay, okay, so this isn't exactly a sentence. Still, we can work with it. These lines seem to be an observation.
  • The speaker sees a little black thing in the snow. And that little black thing is sadly crying "'weep! 'weep!"
  • That's all well and good, but what in the world is this little black thing? A person? An animal? We're gonna go ahead and guess that it's the subject (and title) of the poem—a chimney sweeper.
  • That also means that this little black thing is a young boy, because in Blake's day, that's who swept chimneys.
  • The fact that this little guy is referred to as a thing is telling. The speaker doesn't even see him as a person. Harsh.
  • The chimney sweeper probably looks black because he's covered in soot.
  • There are more than a few things we can notice about these lines, poetically speaking.
  • First, there's the stark contrast between the soot-covered boy and the pure white snow he's sitting in. That's quite an image.
  • Then there's the rhyme—snow and woe. That's a perfect rhyme, nice and neat, and since these two lines go together, we call this a rhyming couplet.

Lines 3-4

"Where are thy father and mother? Say!"--
"They are both gone up to the church to pray.

  • Instead of leaving the poor kid alone, the speaker asks him a question. He seems a bit concerned for the little guy, because he wants to know where his parents are.
  • But he's also more than a little abrupt. He practically demands the kid tell him what's up ("Say!")
  • The chimney sweeper says that his parents have gone to church.
  • And there's that perfect rhyme again. Say and way. Look out for this pattern of rhymes to continue—or be broken.

Line 5-8

"Because I was happy upon the heath,
And smiled among the winter's snow,
They clothed me in the clothes of death,
And taught me to sing the notes of woe.

  • This little chimney sweeper doesn't stop there. Actually, he's quite the talker. Now he's going to tell us his whole story.
  • Because he was happy, smiled a lot, and had fun in the great outdoors, his parents dressed him up in clothes of death and taught him to sing sad notes.
  • Okay, so this isn't quite literal, right? We mean, what are clothes of death? That's gotta be a metaphor for something.
  • Does this refer to a chimney sweeper's uniform? An outfit one might wear in a coffin? The two, for Blake, are synonymous (because chimney sweeping was dangerous, led to the death of one's childhood, etc.).
  • Did the parents literally teach their child to "sing the notes of woe"? Probably not. This is also a metaphor for the way his parents forced him into this terrible job. And that terrible job has made him cry, so in a way, his parents are responsible for his woe.
  • There are some interesting causal relationships going on here, aren't there? Apparently this kid's parents made him miserable by forcing him into this chimney sweeping job because he was so happy. What's up with that?
  • There are two ways to read this: (1) His parents thought something along the lines of, oh, our boy's doing fine, so why don't we put him to work? Or (2) Our boy is just too happy. Let's give him a rough job to toughen him up a bit.
  • Either way, it doesn't sound like the best parenting in the world. This mother-father duo is responsible for their son's suffering.
  • And finally, we've got some more rhymes going on here. Only now instead of rhyming couplets, we've got an alternating rhyme scheme of ABAB. Heath rhymes with death (well, close enough), and snow once again rhymes with woe.

Lines 9-10

"And because I am happy and dance and sing,
They think they have done me no injury,

  • At the beginning of the final stanza, the chimney sweeper continues his sad story.
  • He says that his parents think they haven't done him any harm because he still happy, and dances, and sings.
  • The chimney sweeper doesn't seem very happy, or very tuneful; maybe his parents don't realize that his "song" is made up of the notes of woe.
  • Since these lines don't rhyme, we can probably bet that this stanza will follow the ABAB rhyme scheme set up in the second stanza.

Lines 11-12

And are gone to praise God and his priest and king,
Who make up a heaven of our misery."

  • The chimney sweeper again tells us that his parents have gone to church, where they "praise God and his priest and king."
  • Well that sounds nice enough, right?
  • Right. But then he goes on to tell this passer-by (our speaker) that this dynamic trio makes up "a heaven of our misery."
  • Okay, that doesn't sound so nice. But what does the phrase "make up a heaven of our misery" really mean?
  • Does it mean that God and his priest and king make the chimney sweeper's misery a little less miserable by adding a dose of heaven to it? We don't think so.
  • Or does it mean that God, his priest, and his king enjoy themselves at the kids' expense? In other words—they're all happy-go-lucky while the kid toils in their chimneys?
  • Or does it mean that God, his priest, and his king think there's a heaven because they assume that these little chimney-sweeping kiddos are totally happy with their lousy lot (maybe because they dance and sing), when in fact they're totally miserable?
  • It's a tricky line, for sure, but in any case, one thing is certain: this little boy is implicating God, the church, and the government in his suffering. And his parents, too, for that matter.
  • He may be a kid, but he definitely has some strong opinions. And we think he might be acting as William Blake's mouthpiece here. Blake uses the kid's words to blame these social institutions—religion, the church, government, family—for treating these children as slaves.

CRADLE SONG

William Blake (1757-1827)

Dreaming in the joys of night;

Sleep, sleep; in thy sleep

Little sorrows sit and weep.

Sweet babe, in thy face

Soft desires I can trace,

Secret joys and secret smiles,

Little pretty infant wiles.

As thy softest limbs I feel,

Smiles as of the morning steal

O'er thy cheek, and o'er thy breast

Where thy little heart doth rest.

O the cunning wiles that creep

In thy little heart asleep!

When thy little heart doth wake,

Then the dreadful night shall break.

Summary

This poem is meant to be a lullaby sung by a mother to her child. The accompanying plate depicts the mother watching over her newborn under she soft shading of a large tree. Just like the last word in the title, "song," and the simple 'aabb ccdd eeff ...' rhyming scheme, it is fair to assume that Blake intended this lyric to be sung.

On a deeper level, Blake is reaching out to glorify the natural world, within which we live, in the face of a more subjective heaven, where the Gods reside. There is a revealing humanistic 'heavenly' innocence and purity that the mother praises in the child who holds "secret joys and secret smiles." Notice how the "infant's smiles and wiles" is capable of beguiling both heaven and earth alike.

Analysis

"Cradle Song" is often praised as a perfect balance between thought and emotion, capturing the mother's joy and love for her child while at the same time expressing her largest fears and meditation on the child's future role in man's world. The ending of the fourth stanza is perhaps the strongest example of the mother's fear, certainty, and gloom that one day her child's "little heart [will] wake" and when that happens, "the dreadful lightnings break." Blake's repeated theme of passing from innocence to experience is obvious in this sweet lullaby.

The speaker is at peace with her child and situation at the beginning of the poem. The personification placed on "little sorrows" who "sit and weep" during the night is representative of the peace found in night, the period of innocence in Blake's constant-running imagery of oppositions between night and day, and suggests the passing of the child from one world (harmful earth) to the next (safe heaven). But notice when morning breaks in line 10, the tranquility is "stolen" from the child, and "cunning wiles" begin to creep into the child's heart (the mother even refers to the morning as "dreadful").

Overall, the poem can be read as a metaphor for the mother's awareness and inability to alter or stop her child from growing up in this world and losing all of his/her innocence. The first half of the poem is a snapshot of how peaceful and joyful the sleeping babe is, but "youthful harvesting" is inevitable, and the mother is left saddened at the fact that while her child may "beguile both heaven and earth" at the moment, it is only a temporary serenity, and it will not be long before all purity and innocence is lost.

Ode to the West Wind

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Canto I

O
wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O Thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

Ode to the West Wind Summary

The speaker of the poem appeals to the West Wind to infuse him with a new spirit and a new power to spread his ideas. In order to invoke the West Wind, he lists a series of things the wind has done that illustrate its power: driving away the autumn leaves, placing seeds in the earth, bringing thunderstorms and the cyclical "death" of the natural world, and stirring up the seas and oceans.

The speaker wishes that the wind could affect him the way it does leaves and clouds and waves. Because it can’t, he asks the wind to play him like an instrument, bringing out his sadness in its own musical lament. Maybe the wind can even help him to send his ideas all over the world; even if they’re not powerful in their own right, his ideas might inspire others. The sad music that the wind will play on him will become a prophecy. The West Wind of autumn brings on a cold, barren period of winter, but isn’t winter always followed by a spring?

Lines 1-5

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,

Pestilence-stricken multitudes:

  • The speaker appeals to the West Wind four times in this first canto, or section, of the poem. (We don’t find out what he’s actually asking the wind to do for him until the end of the canto.)
  • Lines 1-5 are the first appeal, in which the speaker describes the West Wind as the breath of Autumn.
  • Like a magician banishing ghosts or evil spirits, the West Wind sweeps away the dead leaves. These dead leaves are multicolored, but not beautiful in the way we usually think of autumn leaves – their colors are weird and ominous and seem almost diseased (like "pestilence-stricken multitudes").

Lines 5-8

O Thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,

Each like a corpse within its grave, until

  • The speaker appeals to the West Wind a second time.
  • This time, the West Wind is described as carrying seeds to their grave-like places in the ground, where they’ll stay until the spring wind comes and revives them. The wind burying seeds in the ground is like a charioteer driving corpses to their graves.

Lines 8-12

Each like a corpse within its grave, until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill

(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)

With living hues and odours plain and hill:

  • Once the West Wind has carried the seeds into the ground, they lie there all winter, and then are woken by the spring wind.
  • Shelley thinks of the spring wind as blue (or, to be specific, "azure").
  • The spring wind seems to be the cause of all the regeneration and flowering that takes place in that season. It blows a "clarion" (a kind of trumpet) and causes all the seeds to bloom. It fills both "plain and hill" with "living hues and odours." It also opens buds into flowers the way a shepherd drives sheep.

Lines 13-14

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!

  • The speaker appeals to the West Wind twice more, describing it as a "Wild Spirit" that’s everywhere at once.
  • The West Wind is both "Destroyer and Preserver"; it brings the death of winter, but also makes possible the regeneration of spring.
  • Now we find out (sort of) what the speaker wants the wind to do: "hear, oh, hear!" For the moment, that’s all he’s asking – just to be listened to. By the wind.

Percy Shelley
Love's Philosophy


The Fountains mingle with the Rivers
And the Rivers with the Oceans,
The winds of Heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine? --

See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother,
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

Summary

Loves Philosophy is purely a romantic poem written by one of the famous romantic poets, Percy Bysshe Shelly.

Shelly is best known for his classics in English Language. His poems were all classic and well explained and many of them were made plays. But unfortunately he did not live to see or hear his success.

His works were all well renowned and had all well in dept meaning to it. During his education period, he was not very happy as his idealism and controversial philosophies were working out and at those times he did write many poems. For this Shelly was expelled from school as he expressed his atheistic views. Shelly had a second marriage with Percy and he felt initially it was a perfect match as they had a love in writing novels and poems.

This poem which describes about ones feelings for Love was beautifully penned down. After reading this poem, it leaves behind one with the feeling of being loved and to love once again. The words that have been used are beautifully picked to express the poet’s feelings and would make the reader also have a feel for the love.

The poem has a resemblance to his life where, in his real life he was not a winner in love and marriages. His first marriage was not satisfactory and later on he re-married and again was not that content. With such kind of life situations, the carving for love has made him put out his feelings into this beautiful poem.

The first stanza clearly explains that each living object is associated with another, or each living being is meant for another. However the last line says, why not me to you? This shows that he did have a vacuum in life and could not express his feel of love or have never felt being loved. It depicts not only his life, but for any person that carves for being loved.

The second stanza, again explains that the mountains and waves, the sunlight and moonbeams all kisses their loved, but how will they all be worth, if you don’t kiss me? A wonderful way of expressing the feel of Love is what exactly this poem is all about. Shelly is great poet, who has put his thought and feel for love in such a beautiful manner, that no person who has read this would ever turn back to think, how to love to be loved!!!

When I have fears that I may cease to be

John Keats

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my
pen has glean'd my teeming brain,
Before high-piled books, in charactery,

Hold like rich garners the full ripen'd grain;

When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,

Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

And think that I may never live to trace

Their shadows, with the
magic hand of chance;
And when I feel, fair creature of an hour,

That I shall never look upon thee more,

Never have relish in the faery power

Of unreflecting love;--then on the shore

Of the
wide world I stand alone, and think
Till love and fame to nothingness do sink.

When I have fears that I may cease to be Summary

Keats' speaker contemplates all of the things that he wants in life: namely, success, fame, and love. C'mon, is that too much to ask?

Well, as it turns out, the speaker is pretty sure that it is. See, he doesn't want just any old fame. He wants Fame. Capital letters and neon lights. (Okay – so they didn't have neon lights in the early 19th century, but you get our point.) He doesn't want just any old love, either. He wants that soul-stripping, earth-shaking, sky-tumbling once-in-a-lifetime sort of rapture. To sum it all up, he wants to be the star of pretty much every romantic movie ever.

Here's the problem: the speaker is also pretty sure that his life will end long before he'll be able to achieve any of these goals. That's why his description of his desires is so tinged with desperation – chances are, his life will be over far, far too quickly.

This poem charts both the speaker's desires and his despair (in that order). Come to think of it, the poem doesn't exactly end on a happy note. But hey, what's a good melodrama without a little tragedy?

Lines 1-2

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean'd my teeming brain,

  • Wow. Keats sure doesn't pull his punches. This poem starts out by laying it on the line: what would happen if I died today? (Take a second and think about that. Chances are that it doesn't inspire all that many happy thoughts.)
  • Come to think of it, how often do you think about how (and when) you're going to die? Nowadays, we'd call that morbid. In fact, we might even send you to a counselor to make sure that you're not about to commit suicide. Death just isn't one of those topics that healthy people spend all that much time worrying about, right?
  • Well, that wasn't true for the Romantics. See, back in the early 19th century, everyone who was anyone (literarily speaking) did a good bit of thinking about their own mortality. It helped to put things into perspective: big, scary world vs. little, mortal human being. That's just how things were.
  • Acknowledging your mortality doesn't make you any less fearful, though. That's precisely the problem that sets this poem in motion. See, Keats knows that he's got quite a bit to say. In fact, his brain is "teeming" with the poems that he has yet to write.
  • The first two lines of this poem set up a hypothetical world. Keats isn't dead yet (although, eerily enough, he will be within a few years). His poem, however, is based on two certainties:
  • 1. He WILL have lots of important stuff to write.
  • 2. He WILL die before he has a chance to write it all.
  • Directing the reader towards two things that haven't yet happened (and which will, of course, cancel each other out) places us in a very weird situation. We're deep inside a very contradictory imagination – that of the poet himself.

Lines 3-4

Before high piled books, in charactery,
Hold like rich garners the full-ripen'd grain;

  • Ah, metaphor. But what does it mean?
  • Here's the rough translation: If I die before I have written lots of books (that's the "high piled books," in case you were wondering) which hold my words like a grain silo (that's the "garner") holds ripe grain…
  • Keats had some seriously flowery language up his sleeves. If you're a fan, don't worry. Keats has lots more to come.
  • Why play around with all of this metaphorical language? Well, some interesting things happen when Keats starts to compare his poetry (or, more broadly, the products of his imagination) to other things. The image he chooses refers straight back to nature: his poems are like harvested wheat. They're the natural product of a fruitful earth (or, er… his brain). It's almost like Keats' mind becomes an natural element in this particular metaphor.
  • Look a little bit closer, though, and something strange starts to occur. Harvested grain is, well, dead. It's not the actual living plant. It's that dry, brittle husk containing the seeds of future growth. Published poems, to follow this metaphor, aren't alive in the same way that the poet's brain is. Just like grain, though, it's the published poems that bring in the bucks. (After all, who ever head of paying good money for a wheat plant?)

Lines 5-6

When I behold, upon the night's starr'd face,
Huge cloudy symbols of a high romance,

  • Now Keats' speaker is gazing up at the night sky – and finding in the clouds all of the "symbols" of high romance.
  • Wait a second… love in the clouds? Well, this particular kind of romance isn't exactly your run of the mill everyday love. It's elevated ("high") romance. If we were feeling flowery, we'd call it celestial. Or heavenly. It's the stuff of chivalric legend – the sweeping tales of romance and brave knights in shining armor and all that fine stuff than never really seems to happen on a first date. (Or, come to think of it, any date at all. Sigh.)
  • We're not saying that Keats' version of romance is impossible. It's just pretty clear that he sees the world through some pretty heavily rose-colored glasses. After all, he's not looking for love from the people around him. Nope. He's looking up in the clouds. (And when was the last time that you found good lovin' up there?)

Lines 7-8

And feel that I may never live to trace
Their shadows, with the magic hand of chance;

  • Oh, wait. Two lines of optimistic dreaming were, it turns out, a few lines too many. We're back to thinking about death here.
  • Also, we're once again diving headfirst into some seriously imaginative language. Tracing the shadows of romance with the "magic hand of chance"? What does that even mean? (We have to admit, we're beginning to worry about Keats' ability to win over the ladies.)
  • Here's a rough translation of what's going on here: Any sort of love or romance is dependent on a healthy dose of good luck (or, in Keats' language, "chance"). It's like that Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sliding Doors (or John Cusack in Serendipity) – you never know how one chance encounter or one small decision will shape your love life.
  • We're guessing that Keats is actually pretty excited about the randomness of love. It's that randomness which makes things exciting, right. That's why it's rather sad that he thinks he'll die before experiencing this kind of love.

Lines 9-10

And when I feel, fair creature of an hour!
That I shall never look upon thee more,

  • Hmmm… let's take a little poll here: who feels excited about being called a "fair creature of an hour"? Anyone? Anyone?
  • On the positive side, being "fair" is the 19th-century equivalent of being hot. So, that's good. Being the "creature of an hour," though, could mean a couple of things – and we're warning you now, neither of them are good.
  • For one thing, it could mean that the "hour" is Keats' hour: as in, he likes you now, but tomorrow….well, who knows?
  • Then again, it could mean that you're mortal, just like him. In other words, in comparison to things like the heavens and the clouds, which measure time in eons, humans measure time in hours. You don't have all that much time to spend on this earth.
  • See? Neither one is particularly flattering, is it? Unless, of course, you buy into Keats' strange sort of ecstatic hopelessness. In that case, you're good to go.

Lines 11-12

Never have relish in the faery power
Of unreflecting love; […]

  • Notice all of the negative constructions stacking up here? It's all the semantic counterpart to Keats' philosophy of negative capability. Want to know what we mean? Check out what we have to say about negative capability in "Symbolism, Imagery, Wordplay."
  • Once again, emotions (like, say, love) are painted in the most grand and imaginative language possible. Love's a "faery power." Maybe that means it's magical and wonderful and generally amazing – just like fairies. Then again, maybe it means that, just like fairies, love doesn't really exist.
  • Maybe being thrown into "unreflecting" love is a way to get caught up in the crazy, stupid, exciting thrill of forgetting your better judgment and smooching that girl (or guy) you know you should just leave alone.
  • But has forgetting your better judgment ever turned out to be a good plan in the long run? That's precisely the quandary that Keats packs into one small line (line 12, in case you were wondering). Is stupid crazy love a good thing? We sure can't say, but that doesn't mean that it's not appealing.

Lines 12-14

[…] —then on the shore
Of the wide world I stand alone, and think,
Till Love and Fame to nothingness do sink.

  • If you know anything about sonnets, you probably know that they are fourteen lines long and usual have a "turn," a point in the poem that signals a major reversal in the thoughts or desires that shaped the first few lines of the poem. Oftentimes the turn occurs around line 8 or 9.
  • Keats actually starts his turn in line twelve. Don't worry, we'll talk more about that in our "Form and Meter" section.
  • Keats has spent a good deal of time thinking about fame, writing, and desire, as well as the possibilities and impossibilities of love. Now, though, he takes a step back and scopes out the "wide world." This, folks, is a key Romantic move. You could almost write up a formula for all Romantic poetry based upon it:
  1. Speaker gets caught up in tumultuous, overwhelming, passionate desires.
  2. Speaker goes off alone to contemplate nature.
  3. Speaker realizes that all his/her desires are petty and small – especially when they're compared to the scope of the outside world.
  • See? Keats follows this formula exactly. You could almost say that he wrote it himself. In fact, we think we will.

Bright Star, would I were stedfast as thou art

John Keats

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art
Not in lone splendor hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen masque
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death—

Bright Star, would I were stedfast as thou art Summary

The speaker in this poem is talking to a star. Weird, huh? Well, in poetry, you can get away with anything. So what does he tell the star? Well, he starts off by saying how he wishes he were as "stedfast" as it is. Because the star he's talking about doesn't move, it's likely that Keats means the North Star (a.k.a. Polaris). The North Star, of course, is the one star that doesn't move in the sky, because it is directly above the North Pole. Thus, sailors use it as a point of navigation.

All very interesting, but why is Keats's speaker talking to the star? Hard to say, because, then in the next line, he shifts gears, and starts talking about all the ways in which he
doesn't want to be like the star. Now it seems he doesn't like the idea of spending all eternity in loneliness, watching the chill-inducing spectacle of water flowing endlessly around the earth, and snow falling on barren landscapes. Hm.

So what was up with all that wanting to be a star business? In the ninth line, we start to get a hint. The speaker wants to be like a star in the sense that the star doesn't move, and never changes. But he wants to take that whole never moving, never changing bit, and put it in a different context. He wants to spend all eternity with his head lying on his girlfriend's breast. And if he can't spend all eternity like that, he'd rather die, by swooning. So, basically, he'd like to be like the star, but...

Line 1

Bright Star, would I were stedfast as thou art

  • The speaker begins by calling by name the person he's talking to. Or, not the person, but the thing: the "Bright Star." But he's talking to it as if it were a person.
  • Then he reveals why he's talking to the star: he wishes that he were as "stedfast" as the star is. (In case you didn't catch that, "would I were stedfast as thou art" is a shortened way of saying "would [that] I were [as] stedfast as thou art," which is an old-fashioned way of saying, "I wish I were as steadfast as you are." All cool?)
  • From this, we can tell that he is talking to the North Star, also known as Polaris, which is the only star that remains motionless in the sky while the other stars appear to revolve around it (source). As a result, the North Star is often used for navigation.
  • Because the North Star is often used for navigation, a person looking at it would typically be a traveler, especially a traveler by sea.
  • Travelers are often homesick. If you're constantly on the move, you might start to think about settling down, becoming more "stedfast." Could this be why Keats's speaker is talking to the star, and saying he wants to be like it?

Line 2

Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,

  • Now Keats surprises us – instead of throwing a fastball like we were expecting, he's thrown a changeup. (You might think the baseball metaphor doesn't fit Keats, but he was actually an occasional cricket player, as he reveals in the beginning of this famous letter to his brother and sister-in-law. If our man had grown up inAmerica, we think he would have been a baseball player all the way.)
  • So, what makes Keats's second line a changeup? Simple. He started off in the first line by telling us that he wanted to be like the star he sees in the heavens. But now, in the very second line of the poem, he starts telling us how he doesn't want to be like the star. Huh?
  • On the whole, the description of the star still sounds pretty nifty, what with fancy words like "splendor" and the idea of being "aloft" (i.e., "above," or "at the highest point of") the night.
  • So what's not to like? We don't know…maybe that word "lone" has something to do with it? We guess we'll just have to wait and see…

Line 3

And watching, with eternal lids apart,

  • It looks like "waiting and seeing" is the name of the game. That's because Keats is continuing his description of what the star does: it keeps an eye on stuff.
  • And yes, we said "keeps an eye" on purpose. Sure, we know that the stars you learn about in astronomy class don't have eyeballs, or eyelids, but this is a poetic star, and if Keats says that it keeps its "lids" (i.e., "eyelids") "apart," then we've just got to take his word for it.
  • OK, so the star spends its time watching, what's so bad about that? Could it have something to do with that word "eternal"? What's that word "eternal" doing there? What does Keats mean by "eternal lids"? That sounds pretty weird, doesn't it?
  • To explain what's going on here, we have to bring in a little bit of fancy poetry terminology (sorry). The terminology we need is "transferred epithet." Now, we know that sounds really complicated, but it's actually really simple. Here's the deal:
  • An "epithet" is basically just the same as an adjective: it's a word that gets stuck onto something else to describe it. A "transferred epithet," then, is an epithet that should be attached to one word in the sentence, but gets stuck on to another word just to mix things up a bit.
  • In this case, you could say that the epithet "eternal" most naturally goes with the word "apart." Let's try rewriting the line to show what we mean here: "And watching, with lids eternally apart." That makes pretty good sense, right?
  • So, the idea is that, not only does the star watch things and keep its eyelids open, but it does so eternally.
  • Why did Keats transfer the epithet "eternal" from "apart" to "lids"? No one can know for sure, but we're guessing it has to do with sound. The way Keats ended up doing it works much better for technical metrical reasons (we will explain Keats's metrics in more detail in our "Form and Meter" and "Sound Check" sections). You can tell this just by sounding the two versions out: "And watching, with lids eternally apart" vs. "And watching, with eternal lids apart."
  • Now, you certainly don't have to agree with us, but we're willing to bet that you will agree with us that the second version sounds better. (It's fine if you disagree, of course – after all, we didn't actually bet anything.)
  • So, the way Keats ended up doing works well as far as the sound is concerned. But does it make any sense?
  • If you think about it, it actually does, even if it isn't quite as clear as it would be if he had kept the epithet stuck on "apart," where it seems to belong most naturally.
  • Think about it: if the star keeps its eyelids apart, and if its eyelids are eternal, doesn't that kind of add up to the same thing as saying that it will keep its eyelids apart eternally? It may be a little less clear, but we still think it works out OK, so Keats gets away with this one.
  • But let's get back to the main story. Line 3 continues the description of what the star does. Remember, that this is still in the category of stuff that the star does that the speaker of the poem doesn't want to do, following from the "Not" at the beginning of line 2.
  • Oh yeah, and one last thing. What is the star watching? We still don't know.

Line 4

Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,

  • Here Keats continues the description of the star. Now he mixes things up a little by throwing in a simile.
  • What's that? A simile is when you explicitly compare something to something else: A is like B.
  • Here, Keats is comparing the way in which the star is watching to the way "nature's patient, sleepless Eremite" might watch something. Makes things so much clearer, right? Uh, then again, maybe not.
  • We're guessing that most of these words should be familiar to you, though there are one or two pitfalls. First of all, you should be aware that "patient" is here being used as an adjective (a word describing a noun), just as in the sentence "the patient poet took time in writing her poem." It isn't being used as a noun, as it would be in the sentence, "the poet took so long writing her poem that she ended up as a patient in an insane asylum."
  • OK, so "patient" and "sleepless" are both adjectives modifying "Eremite," but this leaves a major elephant in the room. What the heck is an Eremite?
  • Actually, it isn't that complicated. An "eremite" is just an old-fashioned way of saying "hermit." (If you look at the two words or say them one after the other, you can see how they are really just different ways of pronouncing the same word.)
  • So why did Keats use this old-fashioned word "eremite" when he could have just said "hermit"? Was "eremite" just the normal way of saying it back in the early nineteenth century, when this poem was written?
  • Actually, no. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the pronunciation "hermit" was actually the more common pronunciation ever since the middle of the seventeenth century. After that, people who used it were being deliberately old-fashioned, using it for poetic or rhetorical effect.
  • But what poetic or rhetorical effect might Keats have been going for?
  • Well, one obvious one is the rhyme: "Eremite" rhymes with "night" and "hermit" doesn't. Score one for "Eremite."
  • But wait – the Oxford English Dictionary actually tells us something more! It says that, after the middle of the seventeenth century, people also sometimes used the word "eremite" to emphasize the Greek origin of the word, "eremia," which means desert. That's because the first hermits were people who moved into the desert to be closer to God.
  • Could this be relevant to Keats's poem? We don't know about you, but we're pretty tempted to connect up the idea of the "hermit" or "Eremite" with the description of the star in line 2 as "in LONE splendour hung aloft the night."
  • So, by calling the star an "Eremite," Keats's is emphasizing the star's aloneness.
  • As for the fact that he capitalizes the word "Eremite"…we're not so sure, and are open to suggestions.
  • Still, nothing says we can't try to think it through together. The description of the Eremite in the beginning of the line, "Nature's patient, sleepless" kind of singles it out as a singular, special thing. Maybe it's this idea of singling the one eremite out as the super-important one that makes Keats capitalize this word. And that kind of connects with the singular importance of the North Star as the one that doesn't move, right?
  • So, from line 4, we know that the star is like a solitary dweller in the desert, is extremely patient, and never sleeps. Keep in mind that this whole simile got introduced to explain the way in which the star is watching. What's it watching again? We still don't know.

Line 5

The moving waters at their priestlike task

  • Aha! Now Keats shows his hand! We know what the star is watching. Or…do we?
  • Once we start looking at this line carefully, it seems to raise more questions than it answers.
  • The star is watching "moving waters" – but which moving waters?
  • And the waters are performing a "priestlike task" – but what is this task?
  • Clearly, we're going to have to keep reading.

Line 6

Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,

  • Now we learn what the "priestlike task" of the "moving waters" is: it is a "task of pure ablution." We also learn where this task is performed "round earth's human shores." Huh?
  • Let's take those parts one at a time.
  • First of all: what the heck is "ablution"? The main meaning of "ablution" that Keats is using here is of a ritual cleansing. This matches up pretty well with the idea of the "priestlike" quality of the waters' task.
  • OK, but what about the "earth's human shores"? Basically, the idea is that human activity has stretched all over the globe; the shores of a continent of land are the edges of human life – when the waters flow around these landforms, they are flowing around the boundaries of the human world.
  • Now, we don't know if you're going to agree with this, but doesn't it kind of seem as if the ideas of the shores' being "human" and that of "ablution" are somehow connected, as if humanity's presence were some sort of pollution that had to be washed clean? Of course, we do know from contemporary life that humans are a great source of pollution, so the idea isn't crazy.
  • But does this mean that Keats has a completely negative view of humanity? We don't think it does necessarily – but we'll just have to keep reading to see what happens.

Line 7

Or gazing on the new soft-fallen masque

  • Now we see Keats mixing things up once again. Instead of continuing with his description of the waters mysteriously cleansing or purifying the shores of the human world, he hits us up with an "Or" – we are going to learn about something else that the star does, instead of more about the first thing.
  • Not to say that there aren't similarities between the first thing the star does and the second. Before, we're told that the star was "watching" something, and now we're told that it is "gazing on" something. These activities are pretty similar to each other. Did Keats just mix up the verbs to keep things interesting? What's the difference between "watching" something and "gazing on it"? We're not sure either, we just think it's worth thinking about.
  • Something else is different in this second of the star's activities. The first time, when we learned that the star was "watching" something (in line 3), we had to wait until line 5 to find out what it was watching. This time, we're told immediately what it is "gazing on": the "new soft-fallen mask."
  • But wait, is that any clearer? What the heck is a "new soft-fallen masque"? Don't worry about the weird spelling – "masque" here is just an old-fashioned, slightly fancy way of spelling "mask." But that's the least of our worries: the speaker still isn't really giving us much of a clue to what's going on here. It looks like Keats has cleverly forced us to keep reading once again.

Line 8

Of snow upon the mountains and the moors—

  • Now Keats lets the other shoe drop: the mask that the star "gazes upon" (line 7) is actually a "mask / Of snow" that is falling upon "the mountains and the moors."
  • Learning this new detail in line 8 actually forces us to reinterpret line 7. Why? Because now we know that the mask that the star was watching wasn't a real mask, but instead a metaphorical mask. Literally speaking, the star is watching a layer of snow falling; Keats, in writing the poem, just chose to describe this layer of snow as a "mask."
  • Why might he have done so? What is the effect of this image? Well, a mask is a covering, right? And in this case, the layer of snow is indeed covering something else. What's it covering? The "mountains and the moors."
  • Of these two words, we're pretty sure you know what a "mountain" is, but a "moor" might be a little more unfamiliar – at least if you come from somewhere other thanEngland.
  • A "moor," according to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, is "an expanse of open rolling infertile land" or "a boggy area; especially: one that is peaty and dominated by grasses and sedges" (source). If you have read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles, or Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, or William Shakespeare's King Lear, you will have encountered moors before.
  • The basic idea of a "moor," then, is that it is a barren, lonely, uninhabited place. And so are mountains, usually.
  • So, really, Keats is talking about one blank, cold, barren substance, "snow," landing on, and creating a mask over, two blank, cold, barren, lonely landscapes: "the mountains and the moors." This is laying it on a little thick, isn't it?
  • Either way, we don't know about you, but we're definitely getting a chilly feeling from these lines – one that echoes the mournful image of the waves washing the earth (lines 5-6) and the loneliness of the star (lines 2-4) earlier in the poem.
  • Do all these sensations help explain why Keats doesn't want to be like the star? We sure think so. But what about why he wants to be like the star? Didn't he start off the whole poem by telling the star how he wishes he "were stedfast as thou art"? What about that? Did he just forget about it? What's going on here?

Line 9

No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable

  • Hm…was Keats listening to us a moment ago? Just when we thought he was forgetting what he was talking about, he shows us that he was in control all along.
  • The "No" at the beginning of this line is kind of like an exclamation, the speaker's final comment on just about everything that has come before. After spinning out that whole long description of what he doesn't want (everything about the star beginning in line 2), it now looks like he's washing his hands of the whole thing…but does he?
  • No: the speaker of this poem isn't an either/or kind of guy. He doesn't have to either be entirely like the star or entirely unlike the star. Instead, because it's his poem, he gets to pick and choose which aspects of the star he wants to be like and which he doesn't want to be like.
  • Which aspects does he want to be like? He tells us: "still stedfast, still unchangeable." Even though the general idea of this line is probably pretty clear, to have a full understanding of it, it helps to know that Keats is using "still" in an old-fashioned way, where it means "always." So the idea is really that he will be "always steadfast, always unchangeable."
  • This matches up perfectly with what we learned in line 1: "Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art." It's starting to look like the speaker definitely admires the fact that the star is so dependable, he just doesn't like where the star hangs out (way up in the sky), and he doesn't like what the star looks at (lonely images of waters and snow falling on barren landscapes).
  • OK, fair enough Mr. Poetic-Speaker-Man, you've told us what you like about the star and what you don't like about it. But do you have any constructive criticism to make things better?

Line 10

Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,

  • Ahh, that does sound better. Now the speaker starts making a bit more sense: sure, he'd love to be as "stedfast" as the star, but he isn't jazzed about sitting up in the high heavens taking in all those dreary sights. Instead, he'd like to be just as "stedfast" in resting his head on his girlfriend's breast.
  • Everything in this line seems pretty self-explanatory…maybe except for the word "ripening." What do you think the poet could have been going for here?
  • Our best guess is that the speaker's girlfriend is still fairly young and so is still in the process of "filling out," so to speak.
  • Do you think it's possible that the word "ripening" also gives a feeling of sweetness and warmth that contrasts with the cold images of the waters and the snow falling on barren landscapes?
  • We think this is certainly possible, especially since so many poets describe the skin of their (female) objects of affection as "snow-white" or "snowy." So, the stereotypical thing for Keats to do here would be to follow suit. In fact, if you've read enough Romantic poetry, you might automatically visualize the love's breast as "snow" colored, even without Keats telling you (as in fact he doesn't).
  • Thus, you could almost say that Keats is counting on his readers having this expectation, so that they then get a surprise when he doesn't follow the playbook. This heightens the contrast between this image and the images that have come before, and might lead to an even stronger sense of sweetness and warmth at this point.

Line 11

To feel for ever its soft swell and fall,

  • The speaker continues his description of what he would like to be able to do. Now we learn that, while resting his head on his girlfriend's breast, he would also get to feel her breathing.
  • By bringing in the idea of "for ever," Keats continues to emphasize the main aspect of the star's existence the speaker would like to have: its permanence.
  • Note that, in some editions of this poem, depending on which of Keats's manuscript versions they were taking as their starting point, the words "swell" and "fall" appear in the opposite order. For an example of this, check out this version of the poem, which reproduces the text as it appeared when the poem was first printed in 1848 (27 years after Keats's death).
  • What difference do you think the order of the words makes? Which order do you prefer? Why?

Line 12

Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,

  • Here the speaker spins out his description of what he'd like to do even further.
  • Even though he would be resting his face on his girlfriend's breast like a pillow, he doesn't want to fall asleep there and miss out on all the action. Instead, he would rather remain awake forever.
  • This is another parallel between the speaker and the star, which keeps its eyes open forever (as we learned from Keats's reference to its "eternal lids apart" in line 3). Once again, context is everything. It's a lot better to be forever awake with your head resting on your girlfriend than in is to be high up in the barren cosmos with nothing but equally barren sights to feast your eyes on.
  • This line is also interesting because it takes an idea that might normally be a bad thing ("unrest"), and makes it a good thing, by sticking the adjective "sweet" in front of it.

Line 13

Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,

  • More description of what the speaker would like to do. This description seems pretty similar to what he said back in line 11, when he said he wanted to "feel for ever its soft swell and fall." Is he just repeating himself for effect? Are we learning anything new here?
  • Well, we think that, in one way, the speaker is repeating himself – and that there's kind of a point to that. After all, he is saying that he would like to do the same thing forever and ever and ever for the rest of all eternity, and so it makes sense for him to repeat words to give you a sense of that.
  • But, in another way, we also think that he isn't repeating himself, but is introducing new information. That's because, the first time that he talked about his girlfriend's breathing, it was in the context of the sense of touch: he would "feel" her chest rising and falling. Now, it is in the context of the sense of hearing: he wants to "hear" her breathing, too.
  • Before we forget: one other notable thing about this line, of course, is the repetition of the word "still" at the beginning. Have we heard this word in the poem before? Yes we have, back in line 9: "yet still stedfast, still unchangeable." Why do you think he chose to emphasize the word at this point?
  • Does "still" even still (hehe) mean the same thing it did before? Could it now mean "still" in the sense of "motionless"? Could it mean both? If so, which of the two meanings is the "main" meaning here, and which is the secondary meaning? These are all things you should be thinking about here. Remember though: because this is a poem, it's perfectly possible for multiple meanings of a word to be present at the same time.

Line 14

And so live ever—or else swoon to death—

  • Now Keats comes to the punchline, if you want to call it that, the line that takes us from the cosmic perspective to the human perspective, that says what we've been thinking all along, but haven't had the guts to say…
  • Sorry, we were just imitating Keats in taking our sweet time before coming to the point. The point? Ah yes, the point: the speaker now says that, if he can't live forever in the way he has just described, he would rather "swoon to death."
  • But here's the question: is this a real set of alternatives? Let's put it another way: let's say Keats's parents (who unfortunately died when he was a child, long before they would have had the chance to read this poem) were having a talk with him about his future, and he said, "You know, what I really want to do with my future is either (a) live forever with my head on my girlfriend's breast or (b) swoon to death." Would they think he was being very realistic?
  • We would say no. Hate to break it to you, but you can't live forever with your head delicately resting on your girlfriend's rack. You would probably get a mean crick in your neck, she would end up with bruises, and one of you would have to go to the bathroom sometime.
  • As for option (b), that doesn't seem too realistic either. How many people do you know that have "swooned" to death? Probably not many, and, if they did, it was probably because they did there swooning in some inconvenient location, like, say, at the top of a really tall cliff. And even then, they probably didn't swoon to death purely because they were missing out on some bosom-pillow action.
  • So, it's clear that neither of these is a realistic option. Does that mean Keats isn't being serious? We wouldn't say so. That's because both options reflect a serious desire, even if the desire is for something completely unrealistic.
  • Or is it completely unrealistic? Is it possible that, even if the process of "swooning" comes a bit out of left field, Keats's mention of death can't help but remind us of the fate of all humans?
  • Doesn't this inevitably make us realize that the speaker will, in fact die, and that his desire to lie with his beloved forever won't come true?
  • How to think about this ending is, of course, a matter of personal taste. But we at Shmoop think it's highly likely that ending with the word "death" is Keats's way of giving us the "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" that his speaker is also doomed. This draws the ultimate contrast between the frailty of human mortals and the unchanging immortality of the Bright Star from line 1.
  • One final thing: note than, in the text of the poem we're using (the Oxford World's Classics edition edited by Elizabeth Cook), the poem ends with a dash: "—". This follows the punctuation of one of Keats's own manuscript versions of the poem. Other modern editors (probably most of them) prefer to add a period at the end. Is there a different mood created by the two forms of punctuation? If so, what is it? If you were the editor, would you have followed Keats's manuscript punctuation, or would you have modernized it? Why?

She Walks in Beauty

Lord Byron

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellowed to that tender light

Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,

Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express

How pure, how dear their
dwelling place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,

So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints
that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

She Walks in Beauty Summary

The poem is about an unnamed woman. She's really quite striking, and the speaker compares her to lots of beautiful, but dark, things, like "night" and "starry skies." The second stanza continues to use the contrast between light and dark, day and night, to describe her beauty. We also learn that her face is really "pure" and "sweet." The third stanza wraps it all up – she's not just beautiful, she's "good" and "innocent," to boot.

Lines 1-2

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

  • An unnamed woman "walks in beauty." This is an odd way of saying that she's beautiful, isn't it? "Walk[ing] in beauty" makes her beauty seem more dynamic – as though it's partly her movement and the spring in her step that make her beautiful. She's not just a pretty face in a portrait; it's the whole living, breathing, "walk[ing]" woman that's beautiful.
  • Her beauty is compared to "night." This seems strange – night is dark, right? Aren't beautiful women usually compared to "a summer's day"? (That would be Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, in case you were wondering).
  • But the featured woman isn't just compared to any "night," she's compared to a night in a place where there are no clouds and lots of stars. We suppose that means she has a very clear and lovely complexion? Or perhaps being "cloudless" has more to do with her personality – her conscience might be as clear as a "cloudless" sky.
  • You see "starry skies" at night, but the brightness of the stars relieves the darkness of the night. This is the first hint of a contrast between light and dark in the poem.
  • There's some pretty sweet alliteration in these lines. You might want to head over to the "Symbols" section for more on that before moving forward.

Lines 3-4

And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:

  • The contrast between light and dark that was first brought up by the "starry skies" in line 2 is repeated and developed in line 3.
  • Everything that is great about both "dark" and "bright" come together in this woman. Essentially, she's got the best of both.
  • Her "aspect" can mean both her facial expression and her overall appearance.
  • So her whole appearance and especially her "eyes" create some kind of harmony between "dark" and "bright."
  • If this seems weird to you, think of a really beautiful person who has dark eyes that always seem to sparkle – or someone whose eye color contrasts with his or her hair color in an attractive way. That's what Byron's talking about – contrast that creates beauty and harmony.
  • Byron's setting up a binary, or opposition, between "bright" and "dark," but it's important to realize that neither is considered better or worse than the other. Both have aspects that are "best."

Lines 5-6

Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

  • Everything that's great about both "dark and bright" (line 3) is "mellow'd," or toned down to something that's more "tender" and less intense than the light you get during the day.
  • Since Byron has been talking about night, try thinking about starlight or moonlight – that would be a "tender light" that is less "gaudy," or bright and blinding, than the light you get during the day.

Lines 7-10

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,

Or softly lightens o'er her face;

  • The balance between "shade" and light in the lady's beauty is so perfect that if you added one more "shade," or took away a single "ray" of light, you'd mess everything up.
  • Fiddling with that balance at all would "half impair," or partially damage, the woman's beauty.
  • Her beauty and "grace" are so hard to define that they're "nameless." The poet can't quite put his finger on what makes her so "grace[ful]," but he'll give it a try. After all, that's what the poem is doing – attempting to put sentiments into words.
  • This "nameless grace" is visible in every lock of her black hair("every raven tress") and it "lightens" her face.
  • Look – more about the contrast of light and dark. The balance between light and dark that creates her "nameless grace" is apparent in both her dark hair and in the expression that "lightens" her face.

Lines 11-12

Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their
dwelling place.

  • The expression on the woman's face shows how "serenely sweet" her "thoughts" are.
  • Her "sweet" expression, the speaker reasons, is an accurate reflection of what's going on inside her mind, which is the "dwelling place" of her thoughts.
  • Here we have another binary, or set of contrasts, to keep track of: her exterior expression, and her interior thoughts.
  • The "sweet[ness]" of this lady's expression suggests that her mind is "pure" and innocent.
  • "Dear," in this context (and in British English generally), means both precious and valuable.

Lines 13-15

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,

The smiles that win, the tints
that glow,

  • The woman's smiles and her healthy blushes ("tints") that "glow" on her "cheek" and "brow" are serene and "calm." ("Brow" is just a poetic way of saying forehead.)
  • In other words, she's quiet and rather elegant – she doesn't joke and laugh a lot; she seems to be more of the lovely and regal type.
  • But even though she's quiet and "calm," her "smiles" and blushes are "eloquent" Her face is very expressive, even if she doesn't say much out loud.

Lines 16-18

But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,

A heart whose love is innocent!

  • But what, exactly, do those "smiles" express? We're so glad you asked: Byron tells us that they reflect all the time that the woman has spent doing good deeds.
  • She's certainly not just a pretty face – she's also kind and good, which is why she's able to look so "calm" and serene: her conscience is at rest.
  • The woman's serenity and "smiles" also reflect the calmness of her mind. Because she's a good person, her "mind" is at "peace with all below" (everyone on earth).
  • Not only that, but her "love is innocent." This could mean that she's not in love with anyone, or it could mean that she is, but that her love is pure and "innocent" – in other words, that it's not a sexual love.


الملفات المرفقة

NEWS



SECOND TERM OF 1439/1440


My Tips for Studying


ANNOUNCEMENT


ترقبوا


TERM COURSES

م

اسم المقرر

رمز المقرر

الشعبة

1

الكتابة 2

Writing 2

Engl 214


10

2

اساليب التخاطب

Speech

Eng 412


23

3

الترجمة 2

Translation 2

Eng 411


28

4

الشعر الرومانسي

Romantic Poetry

Eng 332

21

5

الشعر الفيكتوري

Victorian Poetry

Eng 431

34

6

الشعر الحديث

Modern Poetry

Eng 432

39

7

النقد الأدبي 2

Criticism 2

Eng 461

42



WORK HOURS

FOR YOU, I AM ALWAYS



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