Friday, July 6, 2012

Ode to Melancholy - John Keats - analysis

Ode To 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.
John Keats (written 1819)

Stanza 1
Lethe – Greek mythology, one of the five rivers of Hades
Wolfs-bane- poisonous plant (Aconitum)
Proserpine - Greek goddess Persephone, queen of the underworld

The message is clear – do not consider suicide and of more import accept the experience of melancholy  - experience to the full the anguish of the soul (today we use anti-depressants)

 Stanza 2
Look to beauty in nature and focus on that … and the beauty of woman (ignoring other side issues in this regard) … glut thy sorrow by drinking deep into this form of antidote

Stanza 3
Your melancholy is a measure of your appreciation of the world (sensitivity) the two must go hand in hand … joy and sadness goes hand in hand …
In the very temple of Delight
    Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine

Here is an internet link to more detailed analysis on this Ode … including an initial stanza that was removed prior to publication

The removed stanza below would have been an good introduction …
Though you should build a bark of dead men's bones,
    And rear a phantom gibbet for a mast,
Stitch creeds together for a sail, with groans
    To fill it out, bloodstained and aghast;
Although your rudder be a Dragon's tail,
    Long sever'd, yet still hard with agony,
        Your cordage large uprootings from the skull
Of bald Medusa; certes you would fail
    To find the Melancholy, whether she
       Dreameth in any isle of Lethe dull.

... you can’t find or pinpoint melancholy down in any physical sense on any journey into Hades

Medusa – Greek Mythology  … gazing on her would turn you to stone … using her head as a weapon see …
… and an Internet link to the life and works of John Keats …

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