Saturday, April 11, 2009

"Ode on Melancholy" - John Keats

Ode on Melancholy

NO, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf's-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kist
By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine;
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,
Nor let the beetle, nor the death-moth be
Your mournful Psyche, nor the downy owl
A partner in your sorrow's mysteries;
For shade to shade will come too drowsily,
And drown the wakeful anguish of the soul.

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of glob├Ęd peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

She dwells with Beauty—Beauty that must die;
And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips
Bidding adieu; and aching Pleasure nigh,
Turning to poison while the bee-mouth sips:
Ay, in the very temple of Delight
Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous tongue
Can burst Joy's grape against his palate fine;
His soul shall taste the sadness of her might,
And be among her cloudy trophies hung.

The first stanza of this poem explains that the reader must not forget or try and avoid the feeling of melancholy which is evident from the first line, "No, no! Go not to Lethe, neither twist." Lethe hapens to be a river that people drink from to forget and Keats is telling you to basically embrace your melancholy, do not try to forget or repel what it feels like. And he does not want us to find comfort in our prayers using the Yew-Beads.

In the second stanza, Keats uses figurative language (to make a meaning fresh or clearer, to express complexity, to capture a physical or sensory effect, or to extend meaning) while describing the fit of melancholy as dropping from the heavens and on to the flowers that droop. He uses flowers because although the flowers are drooping, they are still beautiful. Keats wants the reader to realize that they should make some kind of good out of any situation. Although the "shroud" of rain hides the "green hill" the hills will still be there when the rain is gone. He wants us to wait out the feelings, embrace them, and somehow see it as a positive emotion.

In the third stanza, Keats explains that even joy is short-lived. Beauty and Joy must die. Keats is telling us that we must embrace all feelings because it is wrong to surpress them. He doesn't tell us what happens if we do, but he does not want us to have that happen.

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