Home  »  The Oxford Book of English Verse  »  628. Ode on Melancholy

Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.

John Keats. 1795–1821

628. Ode on Melancholy

NO, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist 
  Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine; 
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kist 
  By nightshade, ruby grape of Proserpine; 
Make not your rosary of yew-berries,         5
  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.  10
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,  15
  Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave, 
    Or on the wealth of globèd 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.  20
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  25
  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.  30