Ode on Indolence

by John Keats


           ‘They toil not, neither do they spin.’
One morn before me were three figures seen,
     With bowed necks, and joined hands, side-faced ;
And one behind the other stepp’d serene,
     In placid sandals, and in white robes graced ;
They pass’d, like figures on a marble urn,
     When shifted round to see the other side ;
          They came again ; as when the urn once more
Is shifted round, the first seen shades return ;
     And they were strange to me, as may betide
          With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.
How is it, Shadows ! that I knew ye not ?
     How came ye muffled in so hush a mask ?
Was it a silent deep-disguised plot
     To steal away, and leave without a task
My idle days ? Ripe was the drowsy hour ;
     The blissful cloud of summer-indolence
          Benumb’d my eyes ; my pulse grew less and less ;
Pain had no sting, and pleasure’s wreath no flower :
     O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense
          Unhaunted quite of all but—nothingness ?
A third time pass’d they by, and, passing, turn’d
     Each one the face a moment whiles to me ;
Then faded, and to follow them I burn’d
     And ach’d for wings because I knew the three ;
The first was a fair Maid, and Love her name ;
     The second was Ambition, pale of cheek,
          And ever watchful with fatigued eye ;
The last, whom I love more, the more of blame
     Is heap’d upon her, maiden most unmeek,—
          I knew to be my demon Poesy.
They faded, and, forsooth ! I wanted wings :
     O folly ! What is love ! and where is it ?
And for that poor Ambition ! it springs
     From a man’s little heart’s short fever-fit ;
For Poesy !—no,—she has not a joy,—
     At least for me,—so sweet as drowsy noons,
          And evenings steep’d in honied indolence ;
O, for an age so shelter’d from annoy,
     That I may never know how change the moons,
          Or hear the voice of busy common-sense !
And once more came they by ;— alas ! wherefore ?
     My sleep had been embroider'd with dim dreams ;
My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o'er
     With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams :
The morn was clouded, but no shower fell,
     Tho' in her lids hung the sweet tears of May ;
          The open casement press'd a new-leav'd vine ,
     Let in the budding warmth and throstle's lay ;
O Shadows ! 'twas a time to bid farewell !
          Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.
So, ye three Ghosts, adieu ! Ye cannot raise
     My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass ;
For I would not be dieted with praise,
     A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce !
Fade softly from my eyes, and be once more
     In masque-like figures on the dreamy urn ;
          Farewell ! I yet have visions for the night,
And for the day faint visions there is store ;
          Vanish, ye Phantoms ! from my idle spright,
     Into the clouds, and never more return !
John Keats | Classic Poems
La Belle Dame Sans Merci ] Ode to a Nightingale ] Ode on a Grecian Urn ] [ Ode on Indolence ] Ode to Psyche ] Ode on Melancholy ] Ode to autumn ]





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