Ode on the Poets – John Keats

Ode on the Poets

BARDS of Passion and of Mirth
Ye have left your souls on earth!
Have ye souls in heaven too,
Double-lived in regions new?

—Yes, and those of heaven commune
With the spheres of sun and moon;
With the noise of fountains wonderous
And the parle of voices thunderous;
With the whisper of heaven’s trees
And one another, in soft ease
Seated on Elysian lawns
Browsed by none but Dian’s fawns;
Underneath large blue-bells tented,
Where the daisies are rose-scented,
And the rose herself has got
Perfume which on earth is not;
Where the nightingale doth sing
Not a senseless, trance´d thing,
But divine melodious truth;
Philosophic numbers smooth;
Tales and golden histories
Of heaven and its mysteries.

Thus ye live on high, and then
On the earth ye live again;
And the souls ye left behind you
Teach us, here, the way to find you,
Where your other souls are joying,
Never slumber’d, never cloying.
Here, your earth-born souls still speak
To mortals, of their little week;
Of their sorrows and delights;
Of their passions and their spites;
Of their glory and their shame;
What doth strengthen and what maim:—
Thus ye teach us, every day,
Wisdom, though fled far away.

Bards of Passion and of Mirth
Ye have left your souls on earth!
Ye have souls in heaven too,
Double-lived in regions new!

John Keats

Ode – lyrical poetic form … meant to be sung … 50 to 200 lines

Of their sorrows and delights
^ ^ ^^ ^ ^^
Strong seven syllable iambic rhythm

Keats is famous for his odes this is not one of his well-known like ‘Ode to a Nightingale’.

S1 and S2 … the first four lines question whether poets have a soul in any after-life … then from line five we have a view of heaven in terms of the nature of earth – daisies are rose-scented … always an impossible task to come to terms with the undefinable nature of heaven … but of course very fitting to use a garden image. It is nice and poetic to think of heaven in such positive terms. A gift in the mind of the living for those poets who have departed this life.

Elysian lawns = the final resting places of the souls of the heroic Dian’s fawns = the goddess of hunt, moon and childbirth who could talk to and control animals (Greek Mythology)

S3 …If the departed have an after-life soul then this stanza states there is communication with their earth-born soul – Here, your earth-born souls still speak … and the communication is very positive – Thus ye teach us, every day / Wisdom, though fled far away. This is apart from any words left behind which are brought to life by the living ( I immediately think of the ‘The Dead Poets Society’).

The first and last four lines of the poem give emphasis on the duality of the soul – for those that belief in some kind of after-life. The nature of any on-going connectivity between the living and the departed poet is up to the reader to discover.

Keats wrote his poetry in seven years from a teenager up to his untimely death at the age of twenty five. He died of ‘consumption’ (TB) in Rome – he went to Italy seeking a better climate because of illness. He had trained in medicine and it is ironic that the medical assistance at that time promoted his early demise. Unfortunately he was not given opium to alleviate his painful end. His soul lives on below the clouds.

A link to Keats on Wikipedia

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