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'Here are the Poems – they will explain themselves – as all poems should do without any comment'.

John Keats, in a letter to George and Georgiana Keats, 2 January 1819.

This page has a selection from Keats's poems and letters for you to enjoy.


At the beginning of 1814 Keats was in the fourth year of his apprenticeship to local doctor Thomas Hammond and under the care of his guardian Richard Abbey. By the end of 1815 he had enrolled at Guy’s Hospital and moved to Southwark. Throughout this period, he constantly wrote, encouraged by his school friend Charles Cowden Clarke.​

Imitation of Spenser

Now Morning from her orient chamber came,
And her first footsteps touch’d a verdant hill;
Crowning its lawny crest with amber flame,
Silv’ring the untained gushes of its rill;
Which, pure from mossy beds, did down distill,
And after parting beds of simple flowers,
By many streams a little lake did fill,
Which round its marge reflected woven bowers,
And, in its middle space, a sky that never lowers.

There the king-fisher saw his plumage bright
Vieing with fish of brilliant dye below;
Whose silken fins and golden scalès light
Cast upward, through the waves, a ruby glow:
There saw the swan his neck of arched snow,
And oar’d himself along with majesty;
Sparkled his jetty eyes; his feet did show
Beneath the waves like Afric’s ebony,
And on his back a fay reclined voluptuously.

Ah! could I tell the wonders of an isle
That in that fairest lake had placed been,
I could e’en Dido of her grief beguile;
Or rob from aged Lear his bitter teen:
For sure so fair a place was never seen,
Of all that ever charm’d romantic eye:
It seem’d an emerald in the silver sheen
Of the bright waters; or as when on high,
Through clouds of fleecy white, laughs the cœrulean sky.

And all around it dipp’d luxuriously
Slopings of verdure through the glassy tide,
Which, as it were in gentle amity,
Rippled delighted up the flowery side;
As if to glean the ruddy tears, it tried,
Which fell profusely from the rose-tree stem!
Haply it was the workings of its pride,
In strife to throw upon the shore a gem
Outvieing all the buds in Flora’s diadem.

Written probably in 1814. First published in 1817. Charles Brown called this poem Keats’s “earliest attempt”.

On Peace

Oh Peace! And dost thou with thy presence bless
The dwellings of this war-surrounded isle;
Soothing with placid brow our late distress,
Making the triple kingdom brightly smile?
Joyful I hail thy presence; and I hail
The sweet companions that await on thee;
Complete my joy – let not my first wish fail,
Let the sweet mountain nymph thy favorite be,
With England’s happiness proclaim Europa’s liberty.
Oh Europe, let not sceptred tyrants see
That thou must shelter in thy former state;
Keep thy chains burst, and boldly say thou art free;
Give thy kings law – leave not uncurbed the great;
So with the horrors past thou’lt win thy happier fate.

Written perhaps in April 1814, or later. First published in 1905.

... with this [letter] you will receive a skipping-rope which I purchased in order to encourage you to jump and skipp about, to avoid those nasty Chilblanes that so troubled you last Winter... Your poor Grandmother has been very ill indeed, but she is now recovering fast, she desires her love to you. Your brothers join in their love to you, and hope you use all your endeavours to improve, particularly in music; I can assure you they love you most affectionately, and will do any thing in their power to make you happy....
Letter from George Keats to Fanny Keats; December(?) 1814.

As from the darkening gloom a silver dove

As from the darkening gloom a silver dove
Upsoars, and darts into the Eastern light,
On pinions that nought moves but pure delight;
So fled thy soul into the realms above,
Regions of peace and everlasting love;
Where happy spirits, crowned with circlets bright
Of starry beam, and gloriously bedight,
Taste the high joy none but the bless’d can prove.
There thou or joinest the immortal quire
In melodies that even heaven fair
Fill with superior bliss, or, at desire
Of the omnipotent Father cleavest the air,
On holy message sent. – What pleasures higher?
Wherefore does any grief our joy impair?

Written in December 1814. Keats told Richard Woodhouse that “he had written it on the death of his grandmother, about five days afterward”. First published in 1876.

To Lord Byron

Byron, how sweetly sad thy melody,
Attuning still the soul to tenderness,
As if soft Pity with unusual stress
Had touch’d her plaintive lute; and thou, being by,
Hadst caught the tones, nor suffered them to die.
O’ershading sorrow doth not make thee less
Delightful: thou thy griefs dost dress
With a bright halo, shining beamily;
As when a cloud a golden moon doth veil,
Its sides are tinged with a resplendent glow,
Through the dark robe oft amber rays prevail,
And like fair veins in sable marble flow.
Still warble, dying swan, - still tell the tale,
The enchanting tale – the tale of pleasing woe.

Written in December 1814. First published in 1848.


In 1815 Keats ended his apprenticeship with Dr Hammond, and in October entered Guy's Hospital as a student. Keats lodged at first with three students in St Thomas's Street, and after they departed with Henry Stephens, George Mackereth and another student named Frankish. Keats soon obtained the position of Dresser. In November, searching for themes for his poetry, Keats wrote a poem in the form of an Epistle to his friend George Felton Mathew. He followed this with similar poems to his brother George and his friend Charles Cowden Clarke. Keats admired the radical poet and journalist Leigh Hunt; although Clarke was a friend of Hunt's, he did not introduce Keats to him until the following year.

Written on the Day That Mr. Leigh Hunt Left Prison

What though, for showing truth to flatter’d state,
Kind Hunt was shut in prison, yet has he,
In his immortal spirit, been as free
As the sky-searching lark, and as elate.
Minion of grandeur! think you he did wait?
Think you he nought but prison walls did see,
Till, so unwilling, thou unturn’dst the key?
Ah, no! far happier, nobler was his fate!
In Spenser’s halls he strayed, and bowers fair,
Culling enchanted flowers; and he flew
With daring Milton through the fields of air:
To regions of his own his genius true
Took happy flights. Who shall his fame impair
When thou art dead, and all thy wretched crew?

Written on 2 February 1815. Leigh Hunt was released from Horsemonger Lane Prison on that day, after serving a two-year sentence for libelling the Prince Regent. First published in 1817.

To Hope

When by my solitary hearth I sit,
And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;
When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moon-beams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof.

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chace him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright-eyed Hope, my morbid fancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
O let me think it is not quite in vain
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed –
Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head.

Written in February 1815. On the verso of the holograph copy Keats wrote this fragment: “They weren fully glad of their gude hap / And tasten all the Pleasausnces of joy.” First published in 1817.

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell

O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep, -
Nature’s observatory - whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.

Written either in late 1815, soon after Keats became a student at Guy’s Hospital, or in 1816. First published in the 'Examiner', 5 May 1816, and then in 1817.​

To George Felton Mathew (extract)

Sweet are the pleasures that to verse belong,
And doubly sweet a brotherhood in song;
Nor can remembrance, Mathew! bring to view
A fate more pleasing, a delight more true
Than that in which the brother Poets joy’d,
Who with combined powers, their wit employ’d
To raise a trophy to the drama’s muses.
The thought of this great partnership diffuses
Over the genius loving heart, a feeling
Of all that’s high, and great, and good, and healing.

Too partial friend! fain would I follow thee
Past each horizon of fine poesy;
Fain would I echo back each pleasant note
As o’er Sicilian seas, clear anthems float
’Mong the light skimming gondolas far parted,
Just when the sun his farewell beam has darted:
But ’tis impossible; far different cares
Beckon me sternly from soft “Lydian airs,”
And hold my faculties so long in thrall,
That I am oft in doubt whether at all
I shall again see Phœbus in the morning:
Or flush’d Aurora in the roseate dawning!
Or a white Naiad in a rippling stream;
Or a rapt seraph in a moonlight beam;
Or again witness what with thee I’ve seen,
The dew by fairy feet swept from the green,
After a night of some quaint jubilee
Which every elf and fay had come to see:
When bright processions took their airy march
Beneath the curved moon’s triumphal arch.

But might I now each passing moment give
To the coy muse, with me she would not live
In this dark city, nor would condescend
’Mid contradictions her delights to lend.

Written in November 1815. First published in 1817.

To a Poetical Friend (extract)

By George Felton Mathew

O thou who delightest in fanciful song,
And tellest strange tales of the elf and the fay;
Of giants tyrannic, whose talismans strong
Have power to charm gentle damsels astray;

Of courteous knights-errant, and high-mettled steeds;
Of forests enchanted, and marvellous streams;—
Of bridges, and castles, and desperate deeds;
And all the bright fictions of fanciful dreams:—

Of captures, and rescues, and wonderful loves;
Of blisses abounding in dark leafy bowers;—
Of murmuring music in shadowy groves,
And beauty reclined on her pillow of flowers:—

O where did thine infancy open its eyes?
And who was the nurse that attended thy spring?—
For sure thou'rt exotic to these frigid skies,
So splendid the song that thou lovest to sing.

And when evening shall free thee from Nature's decays,
And release thee from Study's severest control,
Oh warm thee in Fancy's enlivening rays,
And wash the dark spots of disease from thy soul.

And let not the spirit of Poesy sleep;
Of Fairies and Genii continue to tell—
Nor suffer the innocent deer's timid leap
To fright the wild bee from her flowery bell.

Written in 1815; First published in the European Magazine 70 (October 1816) p.365.


​On 5 May Leigh Hunt published Keats's sonnet 'O Solitude' in the 'Examiner'. Keats qualified as an apothecary surgeon in July 1816 after passing his examination at Apothecaries Hall, but was not allowed to practise until he was 21, in October. In August and September he visited Margate with his brother Tom. Much to the disappointment of his guardian Richard Abbey, Keats soon decided to give up medicine in order to devote his attention to poetry. In October he met Leigh Hunt, Benjamin Haydon and John Hamilton Reynolds, and in November moved with his brothers to lodgings at 76 Cheapside.

Specimen of an Induction to a Poem (extract)

Lo! I must tell a tale of chivalry;
For large white plumes are dancing in mine eye.
Not like the formal crest of latter days:
But bending in a thousand graceful ways;
So graceful, that it seems no mortal hand,
Or e’en the touch of Archimago’s wand,
Could charm them into such an attitude.

Spenser! thy brows are arched, open, kind,
And come like a clear sun-rise to my mind;
And always does my heart with pleasure dance,
When I think on thy noble countenance:
Where never yet was ought more earthly seen
Than the pure freshness of thy laurels green.
Therefore, great bard, I not so fearfully
Call on thy gentle spirit to hover nigh
My daring steps: or if thy tender care,
Thus startled unaware,
Be jealous that the foot of other wight
Should madly follow that bright path of light
Trac’d by thy lov’d Libertas; he will speak,
And tell thee that my prayer is very meek;
That I will follow with due reverence,
And start with awe at mine own strange pretence.
Him thou wilt hear; so I will rest in hope
To see wide plains, fair trees and lawny slope:
The morn, the eve, the light, the shade, the flowers;
Clear streams, smooth lakes, and overlooking towers.

Written in 1816. First published in 1817.

To one who has been long in city pent

To one who has been long in city pent,
’Tis very sweet to look into the fair
And open face of heaven, - to breathe a prayer
Full in the smile of the blue firmament.
Who is more happy, when, with heart’s content,
Fatigued he sinks into some pleasant lair
Of wavy grass, and reads a debonair
And gentle tale of love and languishment?
Returning home at evening, with an ear
Catching the notes of Philomel, - an eye
Watching the sailing cloudlet’s bright career,
He mourns that day so soon has glided by:
E’en like the passage of an angel’s tear
That falls through the clear ether silently.

Written in June 1816. First published in 1817.

Happy is England! I could be content

Happy is England! I could be content
To see no other verdure than its own;
To feel no other breezes than are blown
Through its tall woods with high romances blent:
Yet do I sometimes feel a languishment
For skies Italian, and an inward groan
To sit upon an Alp as on a throne,
And half forget what world or worldling meant.
Happy is England, sweet her artless daughters;
Enough their simple loveliness for me,
Enough their whitest arms in silence clinging:
Yet do I often warmly burn to see
Beauties of deeper glance, and hear their singing,
And float with them about the summer waters.

Written in 1816. First published in 1817.

To My Brother George

Many the wonders I this day have seen:
The sun, when first he kist away the tears
That fill’d the eyes of morn; – the laurel’d peers
Who from the feathery gold of evening lean; –
The ocean with its vastness, its blue green,
Its ships, its rocks, its caves, its hopes, its fears, –
Its voice mysterious, which whoso hears
Must think on what will be, and what has been.
E’en now, dear George, while this for you I write,
Cynthia is from her silken curtains peeping
So scantly, that it seems her bridal night,
And she her half-discover’d revels keeping.
But what, without the social thought of thee,
Would be the wonders of the sky and sea?

Written at Margate in August 1816. First published in 1817.

To My Brother George (extract)

Full many a dreary hour have I past,
My brain bewilder’d, and my mind o’ercast
With heaviness; in seasons when I’ve thought
No spherey strains by me could e’er be caught
From the blue dome, though I to dimness gaze
On the far depth where sheeted lightning plays;
Or, on the wavy grass outstretch’d supinely,
Pry ’mong the stars, to strive to think divinely:
That I should never hear Apollo’s song,
Though feathery clouds were floating all along
The purple west, and, two bright streaks between,
The golden lyre itself were dimly seen:
That the still murmur of the honey bee
Would never teach a rural song to me:
That the bright glance from beauty’s eyelids slanting
Would never make a lay of mine enchanting,
Or warm my breast with ardour to unfold
Some tale of love and arms in time of old.

At times, ’tis true, I’ve felt relief from pain
When some bright thought has darted through my brain:
Through all that day I’ve felt a greater pleasure
Than if I’d brought to light a hidden treasure.
As to my sonnets, though none else should heed them,
I feel delighted, still, that you should read them.
Of late, too, I have had much calm enjoyment,
Stretch’d on the grass at my best lov’d employment
Of scribbling lines for you. These things I thought
While, in my face, the freshest breeze I caught.
E’en now I’m pillow’d on a bed of flowers
That crowns a lofty clift, which proudly towers
Above the ocean-waves. The stalks, and blades,
Chequer my tablet with their quivering shades.
On one side is a field of drooping oats,
Through which the poppies show their scarlet coats;
So pert and useless, that they bring to mind
The scarlet coats that pester human-kind.
And on the other side, outspread, is seen
Ocean’s blue mantle streak’d with purple, and green.
Now ’tis I see a canvass’d ship, and now
Mark the bright silver curling round her prow.
I see the lark down-dropping to his nest,
And the broad winged sea-gull never at rest;
For when no more he spreads his feathers free,
His breast is dancing on the restless sea.
Now I direct my eyes into the west,
Which at this moment is in sunbeams drest:
Why westward turn? ’Twas but to say adieu!
’Twas but to kiss my hand, dear George, to you!

Written at Margate in August, 1816. First published in 1817.

To Charles Cowden Clarke (extract)

Whene’er I venture on the stream of rhyme;
With shatter’d boat, oar snapt, and canvass rent,
I slowly sail, scarce knowing my intent;
Still scooping up the water with my fingers,
In which a trembling diamond never lingers.

By this, friend Charles, you may full plainly see
Why I have never penn’d a line to thee:
Because my thoughts were never free, and clear,
And little fit to please a classic ear;
Because my wine was of too poor a savour
For one whose palate gladdens in the flavour
Of sparkling Helicon...

...unwilling still
For you to try my dull, unlearned quill.
Nor should I now, but that I’ve known you long;
That you first taught me all the sweets of song:
The grand, the sweet, the terse, the free, the fine;
What swell’d with pathos, and what right divine:
Spenserian vowels that elope with ease,
And float along like birds o’er summer seas;
Miltonian storms, and more, Miltonian tenderness;
Michael in arms, and more, meek Eve’s fair slenderness.
Who read for me the sonnet swelling loudly
Up to its climax and then dying proudly?
Who found for me the grandeur of the ode,
Growing, like Atlas, stronger from its load?
Who let me taste that more than cordial dram,
The sharp, the rapier-pointed epigram?
Shew’d me that epic was of all the king,
Round, vast, and spanning all like Saturn’s ring?
You too upheld the veil from Clio’s beauty,
And pointed out the patriot’s stern duty;
The might of Alfred, and the shaft of Tell;
The hand of Brutus, that so grandly fell
Upon a tyrant’s head. Ah! had I never seen,
Or known your kindness, what might I have been?
What my enjoyments in my youthful years,
Bereft of all that now my life endears?
And can I e’er these benefits forget?
And can I e’er repay the friendly debt?...

Written at Margate in September 1816. First published in 1817.

'The busy time has just gone by, and I can now devote any time you may mention to the pleasure of seeing Mr Hunt – 't will be an Era in my existence... for it is no mean gratification to become acquainted with Men who in their admiration of Poetry do not jumble together Shakspeare and [Erasmus] Darwin – I have copied out a sheet or two of Verses which I composed some time ago, and find so much to blame in them that the best part will go into the fire...'
Letter to Charles Cowden Clarke; 9 October 1816.

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific – and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise –
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Written in October 1816. First published in the 'Examiner', 1 December 1816.

'I am nearly sorry that I have an engagement on Saturday' to which I have looked forward all the Week more especially because I particularly want to look into some beautiful Scenery – for poetical purposes.'
Letter to Joseph Severn; Lombard Street, 1 November 1816.

To My Brothers

Small, busy flames play through the fresh laid coals,
And their faint cracklings o’er our silence creep
Like whispers of the household gods that keep
A gentle empire o’er fraternal souls.
And while, for rhymes, I search around the poles,
Your eyes are fix’d, as in poetic sleep,
Upon the lore so voluble and deep,
That aye at fall of night our care condoles.
This is your birth-day, Tom, and I rejoice
That thus it passes smoothly, quietly.
Many such eves of gently whisp’ring noise
May we together pass, and calmly try
What are this world’s true joys, – ere the great voice,
From its fair face, shall bid our spirits fly.

Written on Tom Keats’s seventeenth birthday, 18 November 1816. Probably written at 76 Cheapside, London. Their lodgings were over the archway of Bird-in-Hand Court and near the Mermaid Tavern. Keats and his brothers had moved there about this time from Dean Street. First published in 1817.

Addressed to the Same [to Haydon]

Great spirits now on earth are sojourning;
He of the cloud, the cataract, the lake,
Who on Helvellyn’s summit, wide awake,
Catches his freshness from Archangel’s wing;
He of the rose, the violet, the spring,
The social smile, the chain for Freedom’s sake:
And lo! – whose stedfastness would never take
A meaner sound than Raphael’s whispering.
And other spirits there are standing apart
Upon the forehead of the age to come;
These, these will give the world another heart,
And other pulses. Hear ye not the hum
Of mighty workings? –
Listen awhile ye nations, and be dumb.

Written on 20 November 1816. First published in 1817.

'Your letter has filld me with a proud pleasure and shall be kept by me as a stimulus to exertion – I begin to fix my eye upon one horizon... The idea of your sending it [his sonnet 'Great spirits now on earth'] to Wordsworth put me out of breath – you know with what Reverence – I would send my Wellwishes to him –'
Letter to Benjamin Haydon; Lombard Street, 21 November 1817.

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper’s – he takes the lead
In summer luxury, – he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket’s song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The grasshopper’s among some grassy hills.

Written on 30 December 1816. First published in 1817.

To a Young Lady Who Sent Me a Laurel Crown

Fresh morning gusts have blown away all fear
From my glad bosom – now from gloominess
I mount for ever – not an atom less
Than the proud laurel shall content my bier.
No! by the eternal stars! or why sit here
In the sun’s eye, and ’gainst my temples press
Apollo’s very leaves – woven to bless
By thy white fingers, and thy spirit clear.
Lo! who dares say, “Do this”? – Who dares call down
My will from its high purpose? who say, “Stand,”
Or, “Go”? This very moment I would frown
On abject Caesars – not the stoutest band
Of mailed heroes should tear off my crown: –
Yet would I kneel and kiss thy gentle hand!

Written in 1816 or 1817. First published in 1848.

On Receiving a Laurel Crown from Leigh Hunt

Minutes are flying swiftly; and as yet
Nothing unearthly has enticed my brain
Into a delphic labyrinth. I would fain
Catch an immortal thought to pay the debt
I owe to the kind poet who has set
Upon my ambitious head a glorious gain –
Two bending laurel springs – ’tis nearly pain
To be conscious of such a coronet.
Still time is fleeting, and no dream arises
Gorgeous as I would have it – only I see
A trampling down of what the world most prizes,
Turbans and crowns, and blank regality;
And then I run into most wild surmises
Of all the many glories that may be.

Written at the end of 1816 or early in 1817. Hunt’s two sonnets on receiving a laurel crown from Keats are dated 1 March 1817, but the poem possibly refer to a different incident. First published in 1914.


​By 1817 Keats's brother Tom had begun to show the first signs of tuberculosis. The three brothers decided to move to Hampstead where it was thought the air was healthier. Keats now became familiar with Leigh Hunt, the editor of the 'Examiner' magazine and also Charles Wentworth Dilke and his close friend Charles Brown, who had moved into Wentworth Place the previous year.

To Leigh Hunt, Esq.

Glory and loveliness have passed away;
For if we wander out in early morn,
No wreathed incense do we see upborne
Into the east, to meet the smiling day:
No crowd of nymphs soft voic’d and young, and gay,
In woven baskets bringing ears of corn,
Roses, and pinks, and violets, to adorn
The shrine of Flora in her early May.
But there are left delights as high as these,
And I shall ever bless my destiny,
That in a time, when under pleasant trees
Pan is no longer sought, I feel a free,
A leafy luxury, seeing I could please
With these poor offerings, a man like thee.

Written in February 1817. First published in 1817.

On Seeing the Elgin Marbles

My spirit is too weak – mortality
Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep,
And each imagined pinnacle and steep
Of godlike hardship tells me I must die
Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.
Yet ’tis a gentle luxury to weep
That I have not the cloudy winds to keep
Fresh for the opening of the morning’s eye.
Such dim-conceived glories of the brain
Bring round the heart an undescribable feud;
So do these wonders a most dizzy pain,
That mingles Grecian grandeur with the rude
Wasting of old time – with a billowy main –
A sun – a shadow of a magnitude.

Written on 1 or 2 March 1817. First published in 1817.

'... at first I feared your ardor might lead you to disregard the accumulated wisdom of ages in moral points – but the feelings put forth lately – have delighted my soul... I have read your Sleep & Poetry – it is a flash of lightening that will sound men from their occupations, and keep them trembling for the crash of thunder that will follow...
Letter from Benjamin Haydon to John Keats; March 1817.

'I felt rather lonely this Morning at breakfast so I went and unbox'd a Shakespeare – "There's my Comfort" – I went immediately after Breakfast to Southampton Water where I enquired for the Boat to the Isle of Wight as I intend seeing that place before I settle...'
Letter to George and Tom Keats; 15 April 1817.

'I have unpacked my books, put them into a snug corner – pinned up Haydon – Mary Queen of Scotts, and Milton with his daughters in a row. In the passage I found a head of Shakspeare which I had not before seen – It is most likely the same that George spoke so well of; for I like it extremely – Well – this head I have hung over my Books, just above the three in a row, having first discarded a french Ambassador – Now this alone is a good morning's work... From want of regular rest, I have been rather narvus – and the passage in Lear – "Do you not hear the Sea?" – has haunted me intensely.'
Letter to J.H. Reynolds; Carisbrooke, 17 April 1817.

On the Sea

It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand caverns; till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.
Often ’tis in such gentle temper found
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from whence it sometime fell,
When last the winds of heaven were unbound.
O ye who have your eyeballs vext and tir’d,
Feast them upon the wideness of the sea;
O ye whose ears are dinned with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody –
Sit ye near some old cavern’s mouth and brood
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired.

Written at Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight, probably on 17 April 1817. First published in the 'Champion', 17 August 1817.

'Whenever you write say a Word or two on some Passage in Shakespeare that my have come rather new to you; which must be continually happening, notwithstanding that we read the same Play forty times... I find I cannot exist without poetry – without eternal poetry – half the day will not do – the whole of it – I began with a little, but habit has made me a Leviathan – I had become all in a Tremble from not having written any thing of late...'
Letter to J.H. Reynolds; Carisbrooke, 18 April 1817.

Endymion: A Poetic Romance (extract from Book I)

A thing of beauty is a joy forever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
Trees old, and young sprouting a shady boon
For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
With the green world they live in; and clear rills
That for themselves a cooling covert make
‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
We have imagined for the mighty dead;
All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
An endless fountain of immortal drink,
Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

Nor do we merely feel these essences
For one short hour; no, even as the trees
That whisper round a temple become soon
Dear as the temple’s self, so does the moon,
The passion poesy, glories infinite,
Haunt us till they become a cheering light
Unto our souls, and bound to us so fast,
That, whether there be shine, or gloom o’ercast,
They always must be with us, or we die.

Begun toward the end of April 1817 at Carisbrooke, in the Isle of Wight. Completed in draft form in November 1817.

'I have asked myself so often why I should be a Poet more than other Men, – seeing how great a thing it is, – how great things are to be gained by it – What a thing to be in the Mouth of Fame – that at last the Idea has grown so monstrously beyond my seeming Power of attainment... I began my Poem about a Fortnight since and have done some every day except travelling ones – Perhaps I may have done a good deal for the time but it appears such a Pin's Point to me that I will not copy any out – When I consider that so many of these Pin points go to form a Bodkin point (God send I end not my Life with a bare Bodkin, in its modern sense) and that it requires a thousand bodkins to make a Spear bright enough to throw any light to posterity – I see that nothing but continual uphill Journeying? Now is there any thing more unpleasant... than to be so journeying and miss the Goal at last... Does Shelley go on telling strange Stories of the Death of kings? Tell him there are strange Stories of the death of Poets – some have died before they were conceived...'
Letter to Leigh Hunt; Margate, 10 May 1817.

'... truth is I have been in such a state of Mind as to read over my Lines [Endymion] and hate them. I am "One that gathers Samphire dreadful trade" the Cliff of Poesy Towers above me... I read and write about eight hours a day... There is no greater Sin after the 7 deadly than to flatter onself into an idea of being a great Poet... I never quite despair and I read Shakspeare – indeed I shall I think never read any other Book much... I am very near Agreeing with Hazlit that Shakspeare is enough for us...'
Letter to Benjamin Haydon; Margate, 10 May 1817.

'I went day by day at my Poem [Endymion] for a Month at the end of which time the other day I found my Brain so overwrought that I had neither Rhyme nor reason in it... instead of Poetry I have a swimming in my head – And feel all the effects of a Mental Debauch – lowness of Spirits – anxiety to go on without the Power to do so which does not at all tend to my ultimate Progression...'
Letter to Taylor and Hessey; Margate, 16 May 1817.

'You will be glad to hear that I have finished my second Book [of Endymion]...'
Letter to Benjamin Haydon; August 1817.

'Perhaps you might like to know what I am writing about – I will tell you –
Many Years ago there was a young handsome Shepherd who fed his flocks on a Mountain's Side called Latmus - he was a very contemplative sort of a Prson and lived solitry among the trees and Plains little thinking – that such a beautiful Creature as the Moon was growing mad in Love with him – However so it was; and when he was asleep on the Grass, she used to come down from heaven and admire him excessively from a long time; and at last could not refrain from carrying him away in her arms to the top of that high Mountain Latmus while he was a dreaming – but I dare say have read this and all the other beautiful Tales which have come down from the ancient times of that beautiful Greece. If you have not let me know and I will tell you more at large of others quite as delightful – ...'
Letter to Fanny Keats; Oxford, 10 September 1817.

'You will be glad to hear that within these last three weeks I have written 1000 lines – which are the third Book of my Poem [Endymion]. My Ideas with respect to it I assure you are very low – and I would write the subject thoroughly again. but I am tired of it and think the time would be better spent in writing a new Romance... and all the good I expect from my employment this summer is the fruit of Experience which I hope to gather in my next Poem.'
Letter to Benjamin Haydon; Oxford, 28 September 1817.

'At any rate I have no right to talk until Endymion is finished – it will be a test, a trial of my Powers of Imagination and chiefly of my invention which is a rare thing indeed – by which I must make 4000 Lines of one bare circumstance and fill them with Poetry.... a long Poem is a test of Invention which I take to be the Polar Star of Poetry, as Fancy is the Sails, and Imagination the Rudder.'
Letter to Benjamin Bailey; Hampstead, 8 October 1817.

'There has been a flaming attack upon Hunt in the Endinburgh Magazine – I never read any thing so virulent – accusing him of the greatest Crimes... These Philipics are to come out in Numbers – calld 'the Cockney School of Poetry' There has been but one Number published... I have no doubt that the second Number was intended for me: but have hopes of its non appearance... I dont mind the thing much – but if he should go to such lengths with me as he has done with Hunt I must infallibly call him to an account... I dont relish his abuse...'
Letter to Benjamin Bailey; Hampstead, 3 November 1817.

Think not of it, sweet one, so

Think not of it, sweet one, so;
Give it not a tear;
Sigh thou mayst, but bid it go
Any, any where.

Do not look so sad, sweet one,
Sad and fadingly:
Shed one drop then – It is gone –
Oh! ’twas born to die.

Still so pale? – then, dearest, weep;
Weep! I’ll count the tears:
And each one shall be a bliss
For thee in after years.

Brighter has it left thine eyes
Than a sunny hill:
And thy whispering melodies
Are tenderer still.

Yet, as all things mourn awhile
At fleeting blisses,
Let us too! – but be our dirge
A dirge of kisses.

Written about 11 November 1817. First published in 1848.

In drear nighted December

In drear nighted December,
Too happy, happy tree,
Thy branches ne’er remember
Their green felicity –
The north cannot undo them
With a sleety whistle through them,
Nor frozen thawings glue them
From budding at the prime.

In drear nighted December,
Too happy, happy brook,
Thy bubblings ne’er remember
Apollo’s summer look
But with a sweet forgetting
They stay their crystal fretting,
Never, never petting
About the frozen time.

Ah! would ’twere so with many
A gentle girl and boy –
But were there ever any
Writh’d not of passed joy?
The feel of not to feel it,
When there is none to heal it,
Nor numbed sense to steel it,
Was never said in rhyme.

Written in December 1817. First published in 1829.

1818 part 1

​After spending the winter in Devon with George and Tom, Keats embarked on a walking tour of the Lake District and Scotland with Charles Brown. On his return, Tom’s health rapidly deteriorated and Keats nursed him during his final months.

To Mrs. Reynolds’s Cat

Cat! who hast past thy grand climacteric,
How many mice and rats hast in thy days
Destroy’d? – how many tit bits stolen? Gaze
With those bright languid segments green and prick
Those velvet ears – but prythee do not stick
Thy latent talons in me – and upraise
Thy gentle mew – and tell me all thy frays
Of fish and mice and rats and tender chick.
Nay, look not down, nor lick thy dainty wrists –
For all the wheezy asthma – and for all
Thy tail’s tip is nicked off – and though the fists
Of many a maid have given thee many a maul,
Still is that fur as soft as when the lists
In youth thou enter’dst on glass bottled wall.

Written on 16 January 1818. First published 1830.

Lines on Seeing a Lock of Milton’s Hair

Chief of organic numbers!
Old scholar of the spheres!
Thy spirit never slumbers,
But rolls about our ears
For ever, and for ever:
O, what a mad endeavour
Worketh he,
Who, to thy sacred and ennobled hearse,
Would offer a burnt sacrifice of verse
And melody.

How heavenward thou soundedst,
Live temple of sweet noise;
And discord unconfoundedst, –
Giving delight new joys,
And pleasure nobler pinions –
O, where are thy dominions?
Lend thine ear,
To a young Delian oath – aye, by thy soul,
By all that from thy mortal lips did roll;
And by the kernel of thine earthly love,
Beauty, in things on earth and things above;
When every childish fashion
Has vanish’d from my rhyme,
Will I, grey-gone in passion,
Leave to an after time
Hymning and harmony
Of thee, and of thy works, and of thy life;
But vain is now the burning, and the strife,
Pangs are in vain – until I grow high-rife
With old philosophy;
And mad with glimpses at futurity!

For many years my offerings must be hush’d.
When I do speak, I’ll think upon this hour,
Because I feel my forehead hot and flush’d –
Even at the simplest vassal of thy power;
A lock of thy bright hair –
Sudden it came,
And I was startled, when I caught thy name
Coupled so unaware;
Yet at the moment, temperate was my blood –
Methought I had beheld it from the Flood.

Written on 21 January 1818. First published 1838.

On Sitting Down to Read King Lear Once Again

O golden-tongued Romance, with serene lute!
Fair plumed siren, queen of far-away!
Leave melodizing on this wintry day,
Shut up thine olden pages, and be mute.
Adieu! for, once again, the fierce dispute
Betwixt damnation and impassion’d clay
Must I burn through; once more humbly assay
The bitter-sweet of this Shaksperean fruit.
Chief Poet! and ye clouds of Albion,
Begetters of our deep eternal theme!
When through the old oak forest I am gone,
Let me not wander in a barren dream:
But, when I am consumed in the fire,
Give me new phœnix wings to fly at my desire.

Written on 22 January 1818. First published on 8 November 1838.

When I have fears that I may cease to be

When I have fears that I may cease to be
Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,
Before high piled books, in charactry,
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 fairy 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.

Written toward the end of January 1818. First published in 1848.

Lines on the Mermaid Tavern

Souls of poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?
Have ye tippled drink more fine
Than mine host’s Canary wine?
Or are fruits of Paradise
Sweeter than those dainty pies
Of venison? O generous food!
Drest as though bod Robin Hood
Would, with his maid Marian,
Sup and bowse from horn and can.

I have heard that on a day
Mine host’s sign-board flew away,
Nobody knew whither, till
An astrologer’s old quill
To a sheepskin gave the story,
Said he saw you in your glory,
Underneath a new old sign
Sipping beverage divine,
And pledging with contented smack
The Mermaid in the zodiac.

Souls of poets dead and gone,
What Elysium have ye known,
Happy field or mossy cavern
Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?

Written at the beginning of February 1818. First published 1820.

'We hate poetry that has a palpable design upon us – and if we do not agree, seems to put its hand in its breeches pocket. Poetry should be great & unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself but with its subject.... I don't mean to deny Wordsworth's grandeur & Hunt's merit, but I mean to say we need not be teazed with grandeur & merit – when we can have them uncontaminated & unobtrusive. Let us have the old Poets, & robin Hood'
Letter to J.H. Reynolds; Hampstead, 3 February 1818.

Time’s sea hath been five years at its slow ebb

Time’s sea hath been five years at its slow ebb;
Long hours have to and fro let creep the sand,
Since I was tangled in thy beauty’s web,
And snared by the ungloving of thy hand:
And yet I never look on midnight sky,
But I behold thine eyes’ well-memoried light;
I cannot look upon the rose’s dye,
But to thy cheek my soul doth take its flight:
I cannot look on any budding flower,
But my fond ear, in fancy at thy lips,
And hearkening for a love-sound, doth devour
Its sweets in the wrong sense. – Thou dost eclipse
Every delight with sweet remembering,
And grief unto my darling joys dost bring.

Written on 4 February 1818. First published 1844.

Spenser, a jealous honorer of thine

Spenser, a jealous honorer of thine,
A forester deep in thy midmost trees,
Did last eve ask my promise to refine
Some English that might strive thine ear to please.
But Elfin-Poet, ’tis impossible
For an inhabitant of wintry earth
To rise like Phœbus with a golden quill,
Fire-wing’d, and make a morning in his mirth:
It is impossible to escape from toil
O’ the sudden, and receive thy spiriting: –
The flower must drink the nature of the soil
Before it can put forth its blossoming.
Be with me in the summer days, and I
Will for thine honor and his pleasure try.

Written on 5 February 1818. First published 1848.

'I have an idea that a Man might pass a very pleasant life in this mannaer – let him on any certain day read a certain Page of full Poesy or distilled Prose and let him wander with it, and muse upon it, and reflect from it, and bring home to it, and prophesy upon it, and dream upon it – until it becomes stale – but when will it do so? Never'
Letter to J.H. Reynolds; 19 February 1818.

O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind

O thou whose face hath felt the Winter’s wind;
Whose eye has seen the Snow clouds hung in Mist
And the black-elm tops ‘mong the freezing Stars
To thee the Spring will be a harvest-time –
O thou whose only book has been the light
Of supreme darkness which thou feddest on
Night after night, when Phoebus was away:
To thee the Spring shall be a tripple morn –
O fret not after knowledge – I have none
And yet my song comes native with the warmth
O fret not after knowledge – I have none
And yet the Evening listens – He who saddens
At thought of Idleness cannot be idle,
And he’s awake who thinks himself asleep.

Written in a letter to John Hamilton Reynolds on 19 February 1818. First published 1848.

Dear Reynolds, as last night I lay in bed (extract)

Dear Reynolds, I have a mysterious tale
And cannot speak it. The first page I read
Upon a lampit rock of green sea weed
Among the breakers. – ’Twas a quiet eve;
The rocks were silent – the wide sea did weave
An tumultuous fringe of silver foam
Along the flat brown sand. I was at home,
And should have been most happy – but I saw
Too far into the sea; where every maw
The greater on the less feeds evermore: –
But I saw too distinct into the core
Of an eternal fierce destruction,
And so from happiness was I was far gone.
Still am I sick of it: and though to-day
I’ve gathered young spring-leaves, and flowers gay
Of periwinkle and wild strawberry,
Still do I that most fierce destruction see,
The shark at savage prey – the hawk at pounce,
The gentle robin, like a pard or ounce,
Ravening a worm. – Away ye horrid moods,
Moods of one’s mind! You know I hate them well,
You know I’d sooner be a clapping bell
To some Kamschatkan missionary church,
Than with these horrid moods be left in lurch.
Do you get health – and Tom the same – I’ll dance,
And from detested moods in new romance
Take refuge....

Written at Teignmouth on 25 March 1818. First published in 1848.

Isabella; or, The Pot of Basil (extract; stanzas 53 and 54)

And she forgot the stars, the moon, and sun,
And she forgot the blue above the trees,
And she forgot the dells where waters run,
And she forgot the chilly autumn breeze;
She had no knowledge when the day was done,
And the new morn she saw not: but in peace
Hung over her sweet Basil evermore,
And moisten’d it with tears unto the core.

And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
Of Basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
So that the jewel, safely casketed,
Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.

Written in February to April 1818. First published in 1820.

To Homer

Standing aloof in giant ignorance,
Of thee I hear and of the Cyclades,
As one who sits ashore and longs perchance
To visit dolphin-coral in deep seas.
So thou wast blind; – but then the veil was rent,
For Jove uncurtain’d heaven to let thee live,
And Neptune made for thee a spumy tent,
And Pan made sing for thee his forest-hive;
Aye, on the shores of darkness there is light,
And precipices show untrodden green,
There is a budding morrow in midnight,
There is a triple sight in blindness keen;
Such seeing hadst thou as it once befel
To Dian, Queen of Earth, and Heaven, and Hell.

Written in 1818. First published in 1848.

Sweet, sweet is the greeting of eyes

Sweet, sweet is the greeting of eyes
And sweet is the voice in its greeting,
When adieux have grown old and goodbyes
Fade away where old time is retreating.
Warm the nerve of a welcoming hand,
And earnest a kiss on the brow,
When we meet over sea and o’er land
Where furrows are new to the plough.

Written at Keswick on 28 June 1818 in a letter to George and Georgiana Keats. First published in 1925.

On Visiting the Tomb of Burns

The town, the churchyard, and the setting sun,
The clouds, the trees, the rounded hills all seem,
Though beautiful, cold – strange – as in a dream
I dreamed long ago. Now new begun,
The short-lived, paly summer is but won
From winter’s ague, for one hour’s gleam;
Though saphire warm, their stars do never beam;
All is cold beauty, pain is never done
For who has mind to relish, Minos-wise,
The real of beauty, free from that dead hue
Sickly imagination and sick pride
Cast wan upon it! Burns! with honour due
I have oft honoured thee. Great shadow, hide
Thy face – I sin against thy native skies.

Written on 1 July 1818, the day on which Keats visited Burn’s tomb at Dumfries. First published in 1848.

To Ailsa Rock

Hearken, thou craggy ocean pyramid,
Give answer by thy voice, the sea fowls’ screams!
When were thy shoulders mantled in huge streams?
When from the sun was thy broad forehead hid?
How long is’t since the mighty power bid
Thee heave to airy sleep from fathom dreams –
Sleep in the lap of thunder or sunbeams,
Or when grey clouds are thy cold coverlid?
Thou answer’st not, for thou art dead asleep;
Thy life is but two dead eternities,
The last in air, the former in the deep –
First with the whales, last with the eagle skies;
Drown’d wast thou till an earthquake made thee steep –
Another cannot wake thy giant size!

Written at Girvan, Ayrshire, on 10 July 1818. First published in Hunt’s 'Literary Pocket-Book for 1819', p.225.

Read me a lesson, Muse, and speak it loud

Read me a lesson, Muse, and speak it loud
Upon the top of Nevis, blind in mist!
I look into the chasms, and a shroud
Vaprous doth hide them; just so much I wist
Mankind do know of hell: I look o’erhead,
And there is sullen mist; even so much
Mankind can tell of heaven: mist is spread
Before the earth beneath me; even such,
Even so vague is man’s sight of himself.
Here are the craggy stones beneath my feet;
Thus much I know, that, a poor witless elf,
I tread on them; that all my eye doth meet
Is mist and crag – not only on this height,
But in the world of thought and mental might.

Written on the top of Ben Nevis on 2 August 1818. First published in 1838.

1818 part 2

​Keats returned to his lodgings in Hampstead to find that Tom was no better. On the 1st December 1818, aged 19, Tom died. John walked to Wentworth place early that morning and Brown invited him to share lodgings with him at the house. It was here that Keats first met Fanny Brawne. Keats’s lodgings at Wentworth Place suited him well. The Brown and Dilke households were on very friendly terms and they met continually for meals, walks and card-parties.

Where’s the Poet? Show him! show him

Where’s the Poet? Show him! show him!
Muses nine, that I may know him!
’Tis the man who with a man
Is an equal, be he king
Or poorest of the beggar-clan,
Or any other wondrous thing
A man may be ’twixt ape and Plato;
’Tis the man who with a bird,
Wren or eagle, finds his way to
All its instincts; – he hath heard
The lion’s roaring, and can tell
What his horny throat expresseth;
And to him the tiger’s yell
Comes articulate, and presseth
On his ear like mother-tongue;
* * * * * * * * *

Written in 1818. First published in 1848.

Fancy (extract)

Ever let the Fancy roam,
Pleasure never is at home:
At a touch sweet Pleasure melteth,
Like to bubbles when rain pelteth;
Then let winged Fancy wander
Through the thought still spread beyond her:
Open wide the mind’s cage-door,
She’ll dart forth, and cloudward soar.
O sweet Fancy! let her loose;
Summer’s joys are spoilt by use,
And the enjoying of the spring
Fades as does its blossoming;
Autumn’s red-lipp’d fruitage too,
Blushing through the mist and dew,
Cloys with tasting: What do then?
Sit thee by the ingle, when
The sear faggot blazes bright,
Spirit of a winter’s night;
When the soundless earth is muffled,
And the caked snow is shuffled
From the ploughboy’s heavy shoon;
When the Night doth meet the Noon
In a dark conspiracy
To banish Even from her sky....

Written toward the end of 1818. First published in 1820.

Hyperion: A Fragment (an extract from Book III, ll.36-79)

The nightingale had ceas’d, and a few stars
Were lingering in the heavens, while the thrush
Began calm-throated. Throughout all the isle
There was no covert, no retired cave
Unhaunted by the murmurous noise of waves,
Though scarcely heard in many a green recess.
He listen’d, and he wept, and his bright tears
Went trickling down the golden bow he held.
Thus with half-shut suffused eyes he stood,
While from beneath some cumbrous boughs hard by
With solemn step an awful Goddess came,
And there was purport in her looks for him,
Which he with eager guess began to read
Perplex’d, the while melodiously he said:
“How cam’st thou over the unfooted sea?
Or hath that antique mien and robed form
Mov’d in these vales invisible till now?
Sure I have heard those vestments sweeping o’er
The fallen leaves, when I have sat alone
In cool mid-forest. Surely I have traced
The rustle of those ample skirts about
These grassy solitudes, and seen the flowers
Lift up their heads, as still the whisper pass’d.
Goddess! I have beheld those eyes before,
And their eternal calm, and all that face,
Or I have dream’d.” – “Yes,” said the supreme shape,
“Thou hast dream’d of me; and awaking up
Didst find a lyre all golden by thy side,
Whose strings touch’d by thy fingers, all the vast
Unwearied ear of the whole universe
Listen’d in pain and pleasure at the birth
Of such new tuneful wonder. Is’t not strange
That thou shoulds’t weep, so gifted? Tell me, youth,
What sorrow thou cast feel; for I am sad
When thou dost shed a tear: explain thy griefs
To one who in this lonely isle hath been
The watcher of thy sleep and hours of life,
From the young day when first thy infant hand
Pluck’d witless the weak flowers, till thine arm
Could bend that bow heroic to all times.
Show thy heart’s secret to an ancient Power
Who hath forsaken old and sacred thrones
For prophecies of thee, and for the sake
Of loveliness new born.”

Begun in the closing months of 1818 and abandoned in or before April 1819. First published in 1820.

I had a dove, and the sweet dove died

I had a dove, and the sweet dove died
And I have thought it died of grieving;
O what could it grieve for? Its feet were tied
With a silken thread of my own hand’s weaving:
Sweet little red feet! why would you die?
Why would you leave me, sweet bird, why?
You liv’d alone on the forest tree,
Why, pretty thing, could you not live with me?
I kiss’d you oft, and gave you white pease;
Why not live sweetly as in the green trees?

Written at the end of December 1818 or the beginning of January 1819. First published in 1848.

Hush, hush, tread softly, hush, hush, my dear

Hush, hush, tread softly, hush, hush, my dear,
All the house is asleep, but we know very well
That the jealous, the jealous old baldpate may hear,
Though you’ve padded his night-cap, O sweet Isabel.
Though your feet are more light than a fairy’s feet,
Who dances on bubble where brooklets meet –
Hush, hush, tread softly, hush, hush, my dear,
For less than a nothing the jealous can hear.

No leaf doth tremble, no ripple is there
On the river – all’s still, and the night’s sleepy eye
Closes up, and forgets all its Lethean care,
Charmed to death by the drone of the humming may fly.
And the moon, whether prudish or complaisant,
Hath fled to her bower, well knowing I want
No light in the darkness, no torch in the gloom,
But my Isabel’s eyes and her lips pulped with bloom.

Lift the latch, ah gently! ah tenderly, sweet,
We are dead if that latchet gives one little chink.
Well done – now those lips and a flowery seat:
The old man may sleep, and the planets may wink;
The shut rose shall dream of our loves and awake
Full blown, and such warmth for the morning take;
The stockdove shall hatch her soft brace and shall coo,
While I kiss to the melody, aching all through.

Written in 1818. First published in 1845. There is a transcript, possibly by Fanny Brawne, in a copy of Hunt’s 'Literary Pocket-Book for 1819', which is now in the Keats House Collection.

1819 part 1

In April 1819 the Dilke family moved to Westminster and the Brawne family moved to Wentworth Place, occupying the larger side of the house. Keats was now the neighbour of their eldest daughter, Fanny Brawne, and a friendship began to blossom. Even though Keats had little money or prospects, some form of engagement was arranged between them. and they exchanged rings.
​The Eve of St. Agnes (extract)

Awakening up, he took her hollow lute, –
Tumultuous, – and, in chords that tenderest be,
He play’d an ancient ditty, long since mute,
In Provence call’d, “La belle dame sans mercy”:
Close to her ear touching the melody; –
Wherewith disturb’d, she utter’d a soft moan:
He ceased – she panted quick – and suddenly
Her blue affrayed eyes wide open shone:
Upon his knees he sank, pale as smooth-sculptured stone.

Her eyes were open, but she still beheld,
Now wide awake, the vision of her sleep:
There was a painful change, that nigh expell’d
The blisses of her dream so pure and deep:
At which fair Madeline began to weep,
And moan forth witless words with many a sigh;
While still her gaze on Porphyro would keep;
Who knelt, with joined hands and piteous eye,
Fearing to move or speak, she look’d so dreamingly.

“Ah, Porphyro!” said she, “but even now
Thy voice was at sweet tremble in mine ear,
Made tuneable with every sweetest vow;
And those sad eyes were spiritual and clear:
How chang’d thou art! how pallid, chill, and drear!
Give me that voice again, my Porphyro,
Those looks immortal, those complainings dear!
Oh leave me not in this eternal woe,
For if thou diest, my love, I know not where to go.”

Beyond a mortal man impassion’d far
At these voluptuous accents, he arose,
Ethereal, flush’d, and like a throbbing star
Seen mid the sapphire heaven’s deep repose;
Into her dream he melted, as the rose
Blendeth its odour with the violet, –
Solution sweet: meantime the frost-wind blows
Like Love’s alarum pattering the sharp sleet
Against the window-panes; St. Agnes’ moon hath set.

Composed at Chichester and Bedhampton during the last two weeks of January and perhaps the first days of February 1819. First published in 1820.

Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell

Why did I laugh tonight? No voice will tell:
No god, no demon of severe response,
Deigns to reply from heaven or from hell.
Then to my human heart I turn at once -
Heart! thou and I are here sad and alone;
Say, wherefore did I laugh? O mortal pain!
O darkness! darkness! ever must I moan,
To question heaven and hell and heart in vain!
Why did I laugh? I know this being’s lease -
My fancy to its utmost blisses spreads:
Yet could I on this very midnight cease,
And the world’s gaudy ensigns see in shreds.
Verse, fame, and beauty are intense indeed,
But death intenser - death is life’s high meed.

Written in March 1819. First published in 1848.

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art

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 mask
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.

Written in 1819. First published in 1838.

La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad

O what can ail thee, knight at arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.
O what can ail thee, knight at arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.
I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.
I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful, a fairy’s child;
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.
I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.
I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A fairy’s song.
She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said –
I love thee true.
She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh’d full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.
And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d – Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.
I saw pale kings, and princes too,
Pale warriors, death pale were they all;
They cried – “La belle dame sans merci
Hath thee in thrall!”
I saw their starv’d lips in the gloam
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here
On the cold hill’s side.
And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Written on 21st or 28th April 1819. First published in 1820.

Sonnet to Sleep

O soft embalmer of the still midnight,
Shutting with careful fingers and benign
Our gloom-pleas’d eyes, embower’d from the light,
Enshaded in forgetfulness divine:
O soothest Sleep! if so it please thee, close,
In midst of this thine hymn, my willing eyes,
Or wait the Amen ere thy poppy throws
Around my bed its lulling charities.
Then save me or the passed day will shine
Upon my pillow, breeding many woes:
Save me from curious conscience, that still hoards
Its strength for darkness, burrowing like the mole;
Turn the key deftly in the oiled wards,
And seal the hushed casket of my soul.

Written probably toward the end of April 1819. First published in 1838.

Ode to Psyche

O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
Even into thine own soft-conched ear:
Surely I dreamt to-day, or did I see
The winged Psyche with awaken’d eyes?
I wander’d in a forest thoughtlessly,
And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
Saw two fair creatures, couched side by side
In deepest grass, beneath the whisp’ring roof
Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran
A brooklet, scarce espied:
’Mid hush’d, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian,
They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass;
Their arms embraced, and their pinions too;
Their lips touch’d not, but had not bade adieu,
As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber,
And ready still past kisses to outnumber
At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:
The winged boy I knew;
But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove?
His Psyche true!

O latest born and loveliest vision far
Of all Olympus’ faded hierarchy!
Fairer than Phœbe’s sapphire-region’d star,
Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,
Nor altar heap’d with flowers;
Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan
Upon the midnight hours;
no voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet
From chain-swung censer teeming;
No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat
Of pale-mouth’d prophet dreaming.

O brightest! though too late for antique vows,
Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,
When holy were the haunted forest boughs,
Holy the air, the water, and the fire;
Yet even in these days so far retir’d
From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,
Fluttering among the faint Olympians,
I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspired.
So let me be thy choir, and make a moan
Upon the midnight hours;
Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet
From swinged censer teeming;
Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat
Of pale-mouth’d prophet dreaming.

Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane
In some untrodden region of my mind,
Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,
Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:
Far, far around shall those dark-cluster’d trees
Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;
And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,
The moss-lain Dryads shall be lull’d to sleep;
And in the midst of this wide quietness
A rosy sanctuary will I dress
With the wreath’d trellis of a working brain,
With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,
With all the gardener Fancy e’er could feign,
Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:
And there shall be for thee all soft delight
That shadowy thought can win,
A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,
To let the warm Love in!

Written in April 1819. First published in 1820.

Two or three posies

Two or three posies
With two or three simples
Two or three noses
With two or three pimples –
Two or three wise men
And two or three ninnies
Two or three purses
And two or three guineas
Two or three raps
At two or three doors
Two or three naps
Of two or three hours –
Two or three cats
And two or three mice
Two or three sprats
At a very good price –
Two or three sandies
And two or three tabbies
Two or three dandies –
And two Mrs. –
Two or three smiles
And two or three frowns
Two or three miles
To two or three towns
Two or three pegs
For two or three bonnets
Two or three dove’s eggs
To hatch into sonnets –

Written probably on 1 May 1819, in a letter to Fanny Keats. First published in 1883.

Ode to a Nightingale

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 Provençal 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 tomorrow.

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?

Written in May 1819. First published in 1819.

Ode on a Grecian Urn

Thou still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring’d legend haunts about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal – yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! That cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! More happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! With brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou , silent form, does tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,” – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Written in 1819. First published in 1820.

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 kiss’d
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 globed 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.

Written in 1819. First published in 1820.

Ode on Indolence
“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 masque?
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 ached 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!

A third time 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,
Though in her lids hung the sweet tears of May;
The open casement press’d a new-leaved 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!

Written in the spring of 1819. First published in 1848.

1819 part 2

Lamia (extract)

She was a Gordian shape of dazzling hue,
Vermilion-spotted, golden, green, and blue;
Striped like a zebra, freckled like a pard,
Eyed like a peacock, and all crimson barr’d’;
And full of silver moons, that, as she breathed,
Dissolv’d, or brighter shone, or interwreathed
Their lustres with the gloomier tapestries –
So rainbow-sided, touch’d with miseries,
She seem’d, at once, some penanced lady elf,
Some demon’s mistress, or the demon’s self.
Upon her crest she wore a wannish fire
Sprinkled with stars, like Ariadne’s tiar:
Her head was serpent, but ah, bitter-sweet!
She had a woman’s mouth with all its pearls complete:
And for her eyes: what could such eyes do there
But weep, and weep, that they were born so fair?
As Proserpine still weeps for her Sicilian air.
Her throat was serpent, but the words she spake
Came, as through bubbling honey, for Love’s sake,
And thus; while Hermes on his pinions lay,
Like a stoop’d falcon ere he takes his prey.

Written in July and August 1819. First published in 1820.​

Pensive they sit, and roll their languid eyes

Pensive they sit, and roll their languid eyes,
Nibble their toasts, and cool their tea with sighs,
Or else forget the purpose of the night,
Forget their tea – forget their appetite.
See, with cross’d arms they sit – ah hapless crew,
The fire is going out, and no one rings
For coals, and therefore no coals Betty brings.
A fly is in the milk pot – must he die
Circled by a humane society?
No, no, there Mr. Werter takes his spoon,
Inverts it – dips the handle, and lo, soon
The little struggler, sav’d from perils dark,
Across the teaboard draws a long wet mark.
Romeo! Arise! take snuffers by the handle;
There’s a large cauliflower in each candle,
A winding-sheet – Ah me! I must away
To No. 7, just beyond the Circus gay.
“Alas, my friend! your coat sits very well:
Where may your taylor live?” “I may not tell –
O pardon me – I’m absent now and then.
Where might my taylor live? – I say again
I cannot tell. Let me no more be teas’d –
He lives in Wapping, might live where he pleas’d.”

Written at Winchester on 17 September 1819, in a letter to George and Georgiana Keats. First published in 1877.

To Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,–
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue,
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

Written at Winchester on 19 September 1819. First published in 1820.

I cry your mercy – pity – love! – aye, love

I cry your mercy – pity – love! – aye, love,
Merciful love that tantalises not,
One-thoughted, never wand’ring, guileless love,
Unmask’d, and being seen - without a blot!
O, let me have thee whole, – all, – all – be mine!
That shape, that fairness, that sweet minor zest
Of love, your kiss, those hands, those eyes divine,
That warm, white, lucent, million-pleasured breast, -
Yourself - your soul – in pity give me all,
Withhold no atom’s atom or I die,
Or living on perhaps, your wretched thrall,
Forget, in the mist of idle misery,
Life’s purposes, the palate of my mind
Losing its gust, and my ambition blind.

Probably written toward the end of 1819. First published in 1848.

To Fanny

Physician Nature! let my spirit blood!
O ease my heart of verse and let me rest;
Throw me upon thy tripod, till the flood
Of stifling numbers ebbs from my full breast.
A theme! a theme! Great Nature! give a theme;
Let me begin my dream.
I come – I see thee, as thou standest there,
Beckon me out into the wintry air.

Ah! dearest love, sweet home of all my fears
And hopes and joys and panting miseries, –
To-night, if I may guess, thy beauty wears
A smile of such delight,
As brilliant and as bright,
As when with ravished, aching, vassal eyes,
Lost in a soft amaze,
I gaze, I gaze!

Who now, with greedy looks, eats up my feast?
What stare outfaces now my silver moon!
Ah! keep that hand unravished at the least;
Let, let the amorous burn –
But, prithee, do not turn
The current of your heart from me so soon:
O save, in charity,
The quickest pulse for me.

Save it for me, sweet love! though music breathe
Voluptuous visions into the warm air,
Though swimming through the dance’s dangerous wreath,
Be like an April day,
Smiling and cold and gay,
A temperate lily, temperate as fair;
Then, heaven! there will be
A warmer June for me.

Why this, you’ll say – my Fanny! – is not true;
Put your soft hand upon your snowy side,
Where the heart beats: confess – ‘tis nothing new -
Must not a woman be
A feather on the sea,
Swayed to and fro by every wind and tide?
Of as uncertain speed
As blow-ball from the mead?

I know it – and to know it is despair
To one who loves you as I love, sweet Fanny,
Whose heart goes fluttering for you every where,
Nor when away you roam,
Dare keep its wretched home:
Love, love alone, has pains severe and many;
Then, loveliest! keep me free
From torturing jealousy.

Ah! if you prize my subdued soul above
The poor, the fading, brief pride of an hour:
Let none profane my Holy See of Love,
Or with a rude hand break
The sacramental cake:
Let none else touch the just new-budded flower;
If not - may my eyes close,
Love, on their last repose!

Probably written toward the end of 1819 or during the early months of 1820. First published in 1848.

This living hand, now warm and capable

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood,
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d. See, here it is –
I hold it towards you.

Probably written toward the end of 1819. First published in 1898.

1820 - 1821

​In 1820, Keats began to show the first signs of tuberculosis after travelling on the outside of a coach in freezing weather to save money. For the next two months, Keats lived as an invalid at Wentworth Place, but he was forced to move to nearby Kentish Town when Brown let his house for the summer. Suffering from the effects of tuberculosis, Keats returned to Wentworth Place where he was nursed by Fanny and her mother. He was advised to spend the winter in a warmer climate and money was raised for him to go to Italy, accompanied by his friend Joseph Severn. On 13th September Keats set off for Gravesend to board the sailing brig Maria Crowther. Taking up lodgings in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, he was cared for by an English doctor and for a short while, recovered enough to go on walks. However, on the 10th December Keats suffered a relapse and rapidly weakened. On the 23rd February 1821 Keats died with Severn by his side.

In after time a sage of mickle lore

In after time a sage of mickle lore,
Yclep’d Typographus, the giant took
And did refit his limbs as heretofore,
And made him read in many a learned book,
And into many a lively legend look;
Thereby in goodly themes so training him,
That all his brutishness he quite forsook,
When, meeting Artegall and Talus grim,
The one he struck stone blind, the other’s eyes wox dim.

Written in 1820. Charles Brown wrote that this was “the last stanza, of any kind, that [Keats] wrote before his lamented death”. First published in 1839.

Remembering Keats

Keats received this sonnet praising him in a letter dated 9 November 1818 from 'Mr P. Fenbank' (possibly Mary-Ann Jeffery):

Star of high promise — not to this dark age
Do thy mild light and loveliness belong;—
For it is blind intolerant and wrong;
Dead to empyreal soarings, and the rage
Of scoffing spirits bitter war doth wage
With all that hold integrity of song.
Yet thy clear beam shall shine through ages strong
To ripest times a light — and heritage.
And there breathe now who dote upon thy fame,
Whom thy wild numbers wrap beyond their being,
Who love the freedom of the Lays — their aim
Above the scope of a dull tribe unseeing —
And there is one whose hand will never scant
From his poor store of fruits all thou can'st want.

Here is a selection of poems published after Keats's death.​

To the Memory of John Keats
By John Clare

The world, its hopes, and fears, have pass'd away;
No more its trifling thou shalt feel or see;
Thy hopes are ripening in a brighter day,
While these left buds thy monument shall be.
When Rancour's aims have past in nought away,
Enlarging specks discern'd in more than thee,
And beauties 'minishing which few display,—
When these are past, true child of Poesy,
Thou shalt survive — Ah, while a being dwells,
With soul, in Nature's joys, to warm like thine,
With eye to view her fascinating spells,
And dream entranced o'er each form divine,
Thy worth, Enthusiast, shall be cherish'd here,—
Thy name with him shall linger, and be dear.

First published in The Village Minstrel, Vol. 2 (1821), p.207.

Sonnet, on the Death of the Poet John Keats
By John Taylor (Keats's publisher)

And art thou dead? Thou very sweetest bird
That ever made a moonlight forest ring,
Its wild unearthly music mellowing:
Shall thy rich notes no more, no more be heard?
Never! Thy beautiful romantic themes,
That made it mental Heav'n to hear thee sing,
Lapping th' enchanted soul in golden dreams,
Are mute! Ah vainly did Italia fling
Her healing ray around thee — blossoming
With flushing flow'rs long wedded to thy verse:
Those flow'rs, those sunbeams, but adorn thy hearse;
And the warm gales that faintly rise and fall
In music's clime — themselves so musical—
Shall chaunt the Minstrel's dirge far from his father's hall.

First published in the London Magazine, 3 (May 1821) p.526.

Stanzas to the Memory of Mr. Keats, the poet, who died at Rome on this day twelvemonth
By H. D.

Another knell has rung to-day,
And call'd another mortal home;
A flower which bloom'd but to decay,
And wither in "Imperial Rome."
A flow'r which might have been the pride
Of many a Briton's son and daughter,
Is gone for aye, — 'twas he who cried,
"O let my name be writ in water."

Say, saw ye not the sparkling lyre,
By airy hands unstrung?
And heard ye not the notes expire,
And melt into a funeral song?
Oh! 'twas a song of grief and woe,
Unlike the odes of reeking slaughter,
It sang of him that's now laid low,
Who'd fain have writ his name in water.

He ask'd a grave, and that was all,
No marbled monument or bust,
Then fell to earth, as roses fall,
That mix their sweetness with the dust.
Tho' many keep pursuing Fame,
Few, very few have ever caught her,
Yet with that few let Keats's name,
Be found, at last — not writ in water.
Feb. 23d. 1822.

Sonnet written in Keats's Endymion
By Thomas Hood

I saw pale Dian, sitting by the brink
Of silver falls, the overflow of fountains
From cloudy steeps; and I grew sad to think
Endymion's foot was silent on those mountains,
And he but a hush'd name, that Silence keeps
In dear remembrance, — lonely, and forlorn,
Singing it to herself until she weeps
Tears that perchance still glisten in the morn;—
And as I mused, in dull imaginings,
There came a flash of garments, and I knew
The awful Muse by her harmonious wings
Charming the air to music as she flew—
Anon there rose an echo through the vale
Gave back Endymion in a dream-like tale.

Published in the London Magazine, 7 (May 1823) p.541.

Lines on seeing a Portrait of Keats
By Letitia Elizabeth Landon

The dark curls cluster round thy graceful head,
And hang o'er thy pale forehead, where the mind
Her visible temple hath; upon thy lip
Is throned a rich and melancholy smile,
So sad, it seems prophetic of the doom
That hangs o'er thy young life, and thine eye wears
An inward look where outward things but pass
Unnoticed: thou dost hold communion with
Thoughts dark and terrible; a blight hangs o'er
The spring flowers of thy youth; the seeds of death
Are sown within thy bosom, and there is
Upon thee consciousness of fate. The light
That lingers on thy face is as a star,
The last remaining one, a shadowy beam
Of those which have been. Ardent hopes were thine,
Dreams of the laurel and of high renown,
Ere health departed; and on thy wan lip
And hope-forsaken cheek a spirit burns,
Which will not wholly pass till in the grave.
I looked upon thee, youthful minstrel! thou
Wert like the lovely presence of a dream;
Such shapes as come when, o'er the sleeper's brain,
The memory floats of some wild, saddening tale;
And he has slept, his inmost spirit filled
With sorrow's beautiful imaginings,
Or as th' Endymion of thine own sweet song.
I look'd upon thy open brow, and felt
Almost an interest like to life in thee;
Thine influence is upon the heart; thou can'st
Awaken such sweet sympathies, we think
Of youth, of genius, gathered like the rose
In the first blushing of its purple morn;
Of a bright harp, whose chords for aye are mute,
But whose rich breathings are remembered still;
Whose tone can never be forgotten.

Published in The Examiner (12 September 1824) p.581.

Sonnet to the Memory of John Keats
By Thomas M—s

Like to the tinkling of the pilgrim rills,
Unseen amid green shadows, — lilies' bowls—
Whence Dryads drink the spring-dew of their souls—
Lilies! whose leaves the life of freshness fills!
Like to that woodland music — when from hills,
Tree-shrowded, the hoarse wind-wave wildly howls—
Is thy lyre's breathing: — mocking earth's controls,
Gildeth the stream which from yon heaven distils.
And let the winds howl on! — the myriad voices
Of waving forests echo the wild shout!
Calmly, yet ceaselessly, the brook rejoices,
While trees their leaf and life are wearing out,
The cloud may bear the rivulet to heaven,
Whilst the dark trunks to rot on earth are given!

Published in the Oriental Herald, 17 (April 1828) p.109.

Memorials of John Keats
By Gaston [probably William Smith Williams, who was employed by Keats's publishers Taylor and Hessey]

Sir, — The anecdote of Keats, which appeared in a late number of your Table-Book, recalled his image to my "mind's eye" as vividly, through the tear of regret, as the long-buried pictures on the walls of Pompeii appear when water is thrown over them; and I turned to reperuse the written record of my feelings, at hearing him spoken of a few months since. These lines I trouble you with, thinking they may gratify the feelings of some one of his friends, and trusting their homeliness may be pardoned for the sake of the feeling which dictated them.

I should also be glad of this opportunity to express the wishes of many of his admirers for a portrait of Keats. There are two in existence; one, a spirited profile sketch by Haydon; the other, a beautiful miniature by his friend Severn; but neither have been engraved. Mr. Severn's return to England will probably produce some memorial of his "span of life," and a more satisfactory account of his last moments than can be gleaned from report. The opportunity that would thus be afforded of giving to the world the posthumous remains of his genius, will, it is to be hoped, not be neglected. Such a volume would be incomplete without a portrait; which, if seen by the most prejudiced of his literary opponents, would turn the laugh of contempt into a look of thoughtful regret. Hoping my rhymes will not frustrate my wishes, I remain, sir,

Your obliged correspondent,
and humble servant,
Sept. 13, 1827.


Thy name, dear Keats, is not forgotten quite
E'en in this dreary pause — Fame's dark twilight—
The space betwixt death's starry-vaulted sky,
And the bright dawn of immortality.
That time when tear and elegy lie cold
Upon the barren tomb, and ere enrolled
Thy name upon the list of honoured men,
In the world's volume writ with History's lasting pen.

No! there are some who in their bosom's haven
Cherish thy mem'ry — on whose hearts are graven
The living recollections of thy worth—
Thy frank sincerity, thine ardent mirth;
That nobleness of spirit, so allied
To these high qualities it quick descried
In others' natures, that by sympathies
It knit with them in friendship's strongest ties—
Th' enthusiasm which thy soul pervaded—
The deep poetic feeling, which invaded
The narrow channel of thy stream of life,
And wrought therein consuming, inward strife.—
All these and other kindred excellencies
Do those who knew thee dwell upon, and thence is
Derived a cordial, fresh remembrance
Of thee, as though thou wert but in a trance.
I, too, can think of thee, with friendship's glow,
Who but at distance only didst thee know;
And oft thy gentle form flits past my sight
In transient day dreams, and a tranquil light,
Like that of warm Italian skies, comes o'er
My sorrowing heart — I feel thou art no wore—
Those mild, pure skies thou long'st to look upon,
Till friends, in kindness, bade thee oft "Begone
To that more genial clime, and breathe the air
Of southern shores; thy wasted strength repair."
Then all the Patriot burst upon thy soul;
Thy love of country made thee shun the goal
(As thou prophetically felt 'twould be,)
Of thy last pilgrimage. Thou cross'd the sea,
Leaving thy heart and hopes in England here.
And went as doth a corpse upon its bier!
Still do I see thee on the river's strand
Take thy last step upon thy native land—
Still feel the last kind pressure of thy hand.
A calm dejection in thy youthful face,
To which e'en sickness lent a tender grace—
A hectic bloom — the sacrificial flower,
Which marks th' approach of Death's all-withering power.
Oft do my thoughts keep vigils at thy tomb
Across the sea, beneath the walls of Rome;
And even now a tear will find its way,
Heralding pensive thoughts which thither stray.—
How must they mourn who feel what I but know?
What can assuage their poignancy of woe,
If I, a stranger, (save that I had been
Where thou wast, and thy gentleness had seen,)
Now feel mild sorrow and a welcome sadness
As then I felt, whene'er I saw thee, gladness?—
Mine was a friendship all upon one side;
Thou knewest me by name and nought beside.
In humble station, I but shar'd the smile
Of which some trivial thought might thee beguile!
Happy in that — proud but to hear thy voice
Accost me: inwardly did I rejoice
To gain a word from thee, and if a thought
Stray'd into utterance, quick the words I caught.
I laid in wait to catch a glimpse of thee,
And plann'd where'er thou wert that I might be.
I look'd on thee as a superior being,
Whom I felt sweet content in merely seeing:
With thy fine qualities I stor'd my mind;
And now thou'rt gone, their mem'ry stays behind.
Mixt admiration fills my heart, nor can
I tell which most to love — the Poet or the Man.
November, 1826.

Published in William Hone’s ‘The Table Book’, 2 (1828) pp.371-72.

Lays of the Periodicals: Oh! He was great in Cockney Land

Oh! he was great in Cockney Land, the monarch of his kind,
'Tis said he died of phthysic by the ignorant and blind;
'Twas we assassinated him — ah! regicidal deed;
And he has left Endymion for those who choose to read.

From book to book we hurry on, reviewing as before,
From Log-books writ in Arctic seas to Log-books writ on shore;
From arid plains in Afric to the icy Polar main,
As though we had not murder'd him, the glory of Cockayne.

Remorseless, — nothing heeding the reproaches of his race,
And martyring King Rimini, who reigneth in his place;
But he is made of sterner stuff, unsentimental fellow!
And lives, delighting still to case his nether man in yellow.

Published in Blackwood's Magazine, 25 (June 1829) p.732.

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The young Endymion sleeps Endymion's sleep;
The shepherd-boy whose tale was left half told!
The solemn grove uplifts its shield of gold
To the red rising moon, and loud and deep
The nightingale is singing from the steep;
It is midsummer, but the air is cold;
Can it be death? Alas, beside the fold
A shepherd's pipe lies shattered near his sheep.
Lo! in the moonlight gleams a marble white,
On which I read: "Here lieth one whose name
Was writ in water." And was this the meed
Of his sweet singing? Rather let me write:
"The smoking flax before it burst to flame
Was quenched by death, and broken the bruised reed."

From: The Masque of Pandora and Other Poems, 1875.

On Keats
By Christina Rosetti

A garden in a garden: a green spot
Where all is green: most fitting slumber-place
For the strong man grown weary of a race
Soon over. Unto him a goodly lot
Hath fallen in fertile ground; there thorns are not,
But his own daisies: silence, full of grace,
Surely hath shed a quiet on his face:
His earth is but sweet leaves that fall and rot.
What was his record of himself, ere he
Went from us? Here lies one whose name was writ
In water: while the chilly shadows flit
Of sweet Saint Agnes' Eve; while basil springs,
His name, in every humble heart that sings,
Shall be a fountain of love, verily.

Poets in the 20th Century have continued to be inspired by Keats, including:

Charles Causley: Keats at Teignmouth

Amy Clampitt: Voyages: A Homage to John Keats

Robert Frost: Something Like a Star

Robert Gittings: Wentworth Place

Thom Gunn: Keats at Highgate

Thomas Hardy: Rome: At the Pyramid of Cestius near the Graves of Shelley and Keats; At Lulworth Cove a Century Back; At a House in Hampstead

Tony Harrison: A Kumquat for John Keats; Them and [uz]