Ode to the 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 has 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 and blissful Hippocrene
with cluster’d 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 grey 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 verd’rous 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 covered up in leaves,
and mid-May’s eldest child,
   the coming musk rose, full of sweetest 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,
called 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 thus thy soul abroad
   in such an ecstasy!
Still would thou sing and I have ears in vain
   for 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 selfsame 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 oftimes hath
   charm’d magic casements opening on the foam
   of perilous seas, in fairy lands forlorn.


Forlorn! The very word is like a bell
   to toll me back from thee unto myself.
Adieu! The fancy cannot cheat so well
   as she is fain’d to do, deceiving elf!
Adieu! Adieu! Thy plaintive anthem fades
   past the near meadows, over the still stream,
up the hillside and now ’tis buried deep
   in the next valley’s glades.
Was it a vision real or a waking dream?
Fled is that music — do I wake or sleep?

The above arrangement is based on the original manuscript of 1819 by John Keats, and on the manuscript of his brother written shortly thereafter. There are numerous and interesting differences from the first print edition. Even the title is a little different. Enjoy!