Tuesday, March 23, 2010

As though of hemlock I had drunk



Not having been granted continued access to these behind-the-wall-things of Oxford, I am feeling a bit melodramatic and melancholy today.  It is not from a pitying state, however, that I look to the TB-consumed Keats for comfort but as a reminder that what I feel is reasonable for one that wants little else of life than to be swept, tossed, drowned, picked up gently, warmed by the fire by the insatiable restless mind that is mine.  This mind sighs vulnerably today making my body sorrowful that it might choose the unreasonable again as it always has.  It is more devoted to itself, its intricacies, fervor, wonder, fatalistic tendencies than it is devoted to its long complacent continuation.  I don't speak of hemlock, no, not that.  But I do speak of listening to what it is that I am, bowing down to that, not talking myself out of it.  My life is a slave to this mind that will die if it is not continually swept into a fury of emotion, into a fury of breath-paused captivation by being surrounded with the things those Oxford walls now stand against it seeing.  But other doors will open, for this hand will forever knock on behalf of its weeping, longing, melodious mind that will not rest.  Will not rest until this hand can no longer knock on doors.




(If you were me you would hear Terry Davies playing "Sebastian" in the background as you read the above paragraph, followed by Mark Bradshaw's "Ode to a Nightingale" as you read what is below.  Thankfully you are likely not--like me.)

Ode to a Nightingale
John Keats (1795-1821)

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains 
    My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk, 
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains 
    One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk: 
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, 
    But being too happy in thine happiness, - 
        That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees, 
              
  In some melodious plot 
    Of beechen green and shadows numberless, 
        Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been 
    Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth, 
Tasting of Flora and the country green, 
    Dance, and Proven├žal song, and sunburnt mirth! 
O for a beaker full of the warm South, 
    Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene, 
        With beaded bubbles winking at the brim, 
                
And purple-stained mouth; 
    That I might drink, and leave the world unseen, 
        And with thee fade away into the forest dim:


Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget 
    What thou among the leaves hast never known, 
The weariness, the fever, and the fret 
    Here, where men sit and hear each other groan; 
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, 
    Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; 
        Where but to think is to be full of sorrow 
                
And leaden-eyed despairs, 
    Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes, 
        Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.


Away! away! for I will fly to thee, 
    Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards, 
But on the viewless wings of Poesy, 
    Though the dull brain perplexes and retards: 
Already with thee! tender is the night, 
    And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne, 
        Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays; 
               
 But here there is no light, 
    Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown 
        Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.


I cannot see what flowers are at my feet, 
    Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs, 
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet 
    Wherewith the seasonable month endows 
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild; 
    White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine; 
        Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves; 
                
And mid-May's eldest child, 
    The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine, 
        The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.


Darkling I listen; and, for many a time 
    I have been half in love with easeful Death, 
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme, 
    To take into the air my quiet breath; 
Now more than ever seems it rich to die, 
    To cease upon the midnight with no pain, 
        While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad 
           
     In such an ecstasy! 
    Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain - 
        To thy high requiem become a sod.


Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird! 
    No hungry generations tread thee down; 
The voice I hear this passing night was heard 
    In ancient days by emperor and clown: 
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path 
    Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home, 
        She stood in tears amid the alien corn; 
               
 The same that oft-times hath 
    Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam 
        Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.


Forlorn! the very word is like a bell 
    To toll me back from thee to my sole self! 
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well 
    As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf. 
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades 
    Past the near meadows, over the still stream, 
        Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep 
                In the next valley-glades: 
    Was it a vision, or a waking dream? 
        Fled is that music: - Do I wake or sleep?


No comments:

Post a Comment