Biography of John Keats 1795-1821

John Keats 1795-1821 is in Poets.

On 31 Oct 1795 John Keats was born.

Isabella and the Pot of Basil. In 1818 John Keats (age 22) adapted the story of Decameron Day Four Story Five to create the poem Isabella and the Pot of Basil. It was published in 1820.


Fair Isabel, poor simple Isabel!

Lorenzo, a young palmer in Love's eye!

They could not in the self-same mansion dwell

Without some stir of heart, some malady;

They could not sit at meals but feel how well

It soothed each to be the other by;

They could not, sure, beneath the same roof sleep

But to each other dream, and nightly weep.


With every morn their love grew tenderer,

With every eve deeper and tenderer still;

He might not in house, field, or garden stir,

But her full shape would all his seeing fill;

And his continual voice was pleasanter

To her, than noise of trees or hidden rill;

Her lute-string gave an echo of his name,

She spoilt her half-done broidery with the same.


He knew whose gentle hand was at the latch,

Before the door had given her to his eyes;

And from her chamber-window he would catch

Her beauty farther than the falcon spies;

And constant as her vespers would he watch,

Because her face was turn'd to the same skies;

And with sick longing all the night outwear,

To hear her morning-step upon the stair.


A whole long month of May in this sad plight

Made their cheeks paler by the break of June:

"To morrow will I bow to my delight,

"To-morrow will I ask my lady's boon."-

"O may I never see another night,

"Lorenzo, if thy lips breathe not love's tune."-

So spake they to their pillows; but, alas,

Honeyless days and days did he let pass;


Until sweet Isabella's untouch'd cheek

Fell sick within the rose's just domain,

Fell thin as a young mother's, who doth seek

By every lull to cool her infant's pain:

"How ill she is," said he, "I may not speak,

"And yet I will, and tell my love all plain:

"If looks speak love-laws, I will drink her tears,

"And at the least 'twill startle off her cares."


So said he one fair morning, and all day

His heart beat awfully against his side;

And to his heart he inwardly did pray

For power to speak; but still the ruddy tide

Stifled his voice, and puls'd resolve away-

Fever'd his high conceit of such a bride,

Yet brought him to the meekness of a child:

Alas! when passion is both meek and wild!


So once more he had wak'd and anguished

A dreary night of love and misery,

If Isabel's quick eye had not been wed

To every symbol on his forehead high;

She saw it waxing very pale and dead,

And straight all flush'd; so, lisped tenderly,

"Lorenzo!"-here she ceas'd her timid quest,

But in her tone and look he read the rest.


"O Isabella, I can half perceive

"That I may speak my grief into thine ear;

"If thou didst ever any thing believe,

"Believe how I love thee, believe how near

"My soul is to its doom: I would not grieve

"Thy hand by unwelcome pressing, would not fear

"Thine eyes by gazing; but I cannot live

"Another night, and not my passion shrive.


"Love! thou art leading me from wintry cold,

"Lady! thou leadest me to summer clime,

"And I must taste the blossoms that unfold

"In its ripe warmth this gracious morning time."

So said, his erewhile timid lips grew bold,

And poesied with hers in dewy rhyme:

Great bliss was with them, and great happiness

Grew, like a lusty flower in June's caress.


Parting they seem'd to tread upon the air,

Twin roses by the zephyr blown apart

Only to meet again more close, and share

The inward fragrance of each other's heart.

She, to her chamber gone, a ditty fair

Sang, of delicious love and honey'd dart;

He with light steps went up a western hill,

And bade the sun farewell, and joy'd his fill.


All close they met again, before the dusk

Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,

All close they met, all eves, before the dusk

Had taken from the stars its pleasant veil,

Close in a bower of hyacinth and musk,

Unknown of any, free from whispering tale.

Ah! better had it been for ever so,

Than idle ears should pleasure in their woe.


Were they unhappy then?-It cannot be-

Too many tears for lovers have been shed,

Too many sighs give we to them in fee,

Too much of pity after they are dead,

Too many doleful stories do we see,

Whose matter in bright gold were best be read;

Except in such a page where Theseus' spouse

Over the pathless waves towards him bows.


But, for the general award of love,

The little sweet doth kill much bitterness;

Though Dido silent is in under-grove,

And Isabella's was a great distress,

Though young Lorenzo in warm Indian clove

Was not embalm'd, this truth is not the less-

Even bees, the little almsmen of spring-bowers,

Know there is richest juice in poison-flowers.


With her two brothers this fair lady dwelt,

Enriched from ancestral merchandize,

And for them many a weary hand did swelt

In torched mines and noisy factories,

And many once proud-quiver'd loins did melt

In blood from stinging whip;-with hollow eyes

Many all day in dazzling river stood,

To take the rich-ored driftings of the flood.


For them the Ceylon diver held his breath,

And went all naked to the hungry shark;

For them his ears gush'd blood; for them in death

The seal on the cold ice with piteous bark

Lay full of darts; for them alone did seethe

A thousand men in troubles wide and dark:

Half-ignorant, they turn'd an easy wheel,

That set sharp racks at work, to pinch and peel.


Why were they proud? Because their marble founts

Gush'd with more pride than do a wretch's tears?-

Why were they proud? Because fair orange-mounts

Were of more soft ascent than lazar stairs?-

Why were they proud? Because red-lin'd accounts

Were richer than the songs of Grecian years?-

Why were they proud? again we ask aloud,

Why in the name of Glory were they proud?


Yet were these Florentines as self-retired

In hungry pride and gainful cowardice,

As two close Hebrews in that land inspired,

Paled in and vineyarded from beggar-spies,

The hawks of ship-mast forests-the untired

And pannier'd mules for ducats and old lies-

Quick cat's-paws on the generous stray-away,-

Great wits in Spanish, Tuscan, and Malay.


How was it these same ledger-men could spy

Fair Isabella in her downy nest?

How could they find out in Lorenzo's eye

A straying from his toil? Hot Egypt's pest

Into their vision covetous and sly!

How could these money-bags see east and west?-

Yet so they did-and every dealer fair

Must see behind, as doth the hunted hare.


O eloquent and famed Boccaccio!

Of thee we now should ask forgiving boon,

And of thy spicy myrtles as they blow,

And of thy roses amorous of the moon,

And of thy lilies, that do paler grow

Now they can no more hear thy ghittern's tune,

For venturing syllables that ill beseem

The quiet glooms of such a piteous theme.


Grant thou a pardon here, and then the tale

Shall move on soberly, as it is meet;

There is no other crime, no mad assail

To make old prose in modern rhyme more sweet:

But it is done-succeed the verse or fail-

To honour thee, and thy gone spirit greet;

To stead thee as a verse in English tongue,

An echo of thee in the north-wind sung.


These brethren having found by many signs

What love Lorenzo for their sister had,

And how she lov'd him too, each unconfines

His bitter thoughts to other, well nigh mad

That he, the servant of their trade designs,

Should in their sister's love be blithe and glad,

When 'twas their plan to coax her by degrees

To some high noble and his olive-trees.


And many a jealous conference had they,

And many times they bit their lips alone,

Before they fix'd upon a surest way

To make the youngster for his crime atone;

And at the last, these men of cruel clay

Cut Mercy with a sharp knife to the bone;

For they resolved in some forest dim

To kill Lorenzo, and there bury him.


So on a pleasant morning, as he leant

Into the sun-rise, o'er the balustrade

Of the garden-terrace, towards him they bent

Their footing through the dews; and to him said,

"You seem there in the quiet of content,

"Lorenzo, and we are most loth to invade

"Calm speculation; but if you are wise,

"Bestride your steed while cold is in the skies.


"To-day we purpose, ay, this hour we mount

"To spur three leagues towards the Apennine;

"Come down, we pray thee, ere the hot sun count

"His dewy rosary on the eglantine."

Lorenzo, courteously as he was wont,

Bow'd a fair greeting to these serpents' whine;

And went in haste, to get in readiness,

With belt, and spur, and bracing huntsman's dress.


And as he to the court-yard pass'd along,

Each third step did he pause, and listen'd oft

If he could hear his lady's matin-song,

Or the light whisper of her footstep soft;

And as he thus over his passion hung,

He heard a laugh full musical aloft;

When, looking up, he saw her features bright

Smile through an in-door lattice, all delight.


"Love, Isabel!" said he, "I was in pain

"Lest I should miss to bid thee a good morrow:

"Ah! what if I should lose thee, when so fain

"I am to stifle all the heavy sorrow

"Of a poor three hours' absence? but we'll gain

"Out of the amorous dark what day doth borrow.

"Good bye! I'll soon be back."-"Good bye!" said she:-

And as he went she chanted merrily.


So the two brothers and their murder'd man

Rode past fair Florence, to where Arno's stream

Gurgles through straiten'd banks, and still doth fan

Itself with dancing bulrush, and the bream

Keeps head against the freshets. Sick and wan

The brothers' faces in the ford did seem,

Lorenzo's flush with love.-They pass'd the water

Into a forest quiet for the slaughter.


There was Lorenzo slain and buried in,

There in that forest did his great love cease;

Ah! when a soul doth thus its freedom win,

It aches in loneliness-is ill at peace

As the break-covert blood-hounds of such sin:

They dipp'd their swords in the water, and did tease

Their horses homeward, with convulsed spur,

Each richer by his being a murderer.


They told their sister how, with sudden speed,

Lorenzo had ta'en ship for foreign lands,

Because of some great urgency and need

In their affairs, requiring trusty hands.

Poor Girl! put on thy stifling widow's weed,

And 'scape at once from Hope's accursed bands;

To-day thou wilt not see him, nor to-morrow,

And the next day will be a day of sorrow.


She weeps alone for pleasures not to be;

Sorely she wept until the night came on,

And then, instead of love, O misery!

She brooded o'er the luxury alone:

His image in the dusk she seem'd to see,

And to the silence made a gentle moan,

Spreading her perfect arms upon the air,

And on her couch low murmuring, "Where? O where?"


But Selfishness, Love's cousin, held not long

Its fiery vigil in her single breast;

She fretted for the golden hour, and hung

Upon the time with feverish unrest-

Not long-for soon into her heart a throng

Of higher occupants, a richer zest,

Came tragic; passion not to be subdued,

And sorrow for her love in travels rude.


In the mid days of autumn, on their eves

The breath of Winter comes from far away,

And the sick west continually bereaves

Of some gold tinge, and plays a roundelay

Of death among the bushes and the leaves,

To make all bare before he dares to stray

From his north cavern. So sweet Isabel

By gradual decay from beauty fell,


Because Lorenzo came not. Oftentimes

She ask'd her brothers, with an eye all pale,

Striving to be itself, what dungeon climes

Could keep him off so long? They spake a tale

Time after time, to quiet her. Their crimes

Came on them, like a smoke from Hinnom's vale;

And every night in dreams they groan'd aloud,

To see their sister in her snowy shroud.


And she had died in drowsy ignorance,

But for a thing more deadly dark than all;

It came like a fierce potion, drunk by chance,

Which saves a sick man from the feather'd pall

For some few gasping moments; like a lance,

Waking an Indian from his cloudy hall

With cruel pierce, and bringing him again

Sense of the gnawing fire at heart and brain.


It was a vision.-In the drowsy gloom,

The dull of midnight, at her couch's foot

Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb

Had marr'd his glossy hair which once could shoot

Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom

Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute

From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears

Had made a miry channel for his tears.


Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;

For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,

To speak as when on earth it was awake,

And Isabella on its music hung:

Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,

As in a palsied Druid's harp unstrung;

And through it moan'd a ghostly under-song,

Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.


Its eyes, though wild, were still all dewy bright

With love, and kept all phantom fear aloof

From the poor girl by magic of their light,

The while it did unthread the horrid woof

Of the late darken'd time,-the murderous spite

Of pride and avarice,-the dark pine roof

In the forest,-and the sodden turfed dell,

Where, without any word, from stabs he fell.


Saying moreover, "Isabel, my sweet!

"Red whortle-berries droop above my head,

"And a large flint-stone weighs upon my feet;

"Around me beeches and high chestnuts shed

"Their leaves and prickly nuts; a sheep-fold bleat

"Comes from beyond the river to my bed:

"Go, shed one tear upon my heather-bloom,

"And it shall comfort me within the tomb.


"I am a shadow now, alas! alas!

"Upon the skirts of human-nature dwelling

"Alone: I chant alone the holy mass,

"While little sounds of life are round me knelling,

"And glossy bees at noon do fieldward pass,

"And many a chapel bell the hour is telling,

"Paining me through: those sounds grow strange to me,

"And thou art distant in Humanity.


"I know what was, I feel full well what is,

"And I should rage, if spirits could go mad;

"Though I forget the taste of earthly bliss,

"That paleness warms my grave, as though I had

"A Seraph chosen from the bright abyss

"To be my spouse: thy paleness makes me glad;

"Thy beauty grows upon me, and I feel

"A greater love through all my essence steal."


The Spirit mourn'd "Adieu!"-dissolv'd, and left

The atom darkness in a slow turmoil;

As when of healthful midnight sleep bereft,

Thinking on rugged hours and fruitless toil,

We put our eyes into a pillowy cleft,

And see the spangly gloom froth up and boil:

It made sad Isabella's eyelids ache,

And in the dawn she started up awake;


"Ha! ha!" said she, "I knew not this hard life,

"I thought the worst was simple misery;

"I thought some Fate with pleasure or with strife

"Portion'd us-happy days, or else to die;

"But there is crime-a brother's bloody knife!

"Sweet Spirit, thou hast school'd my infancy:

"I'll visit thee for this, and kiss thine eyes,

"And greet thee morn and even in the skies."


When the full morning came, she had devised

How she might secret to the forest hie;

How she might find the clay, so dearly prized,

And sing to it one latest lullaby;

How her short absence might be unsurmised,

While she the inmost of the dream would try.

Resolv'd, she took with her an aged nurse,

And went into that dismal forest-hearse.


See, as they creep along the river side,

How she doth whisper to that aged Dame,

And, after looking round the champaign wide,

Shows her a knife.-"What feverous hectic flame

"Burns in thee, child?-What good can thee betide,

"That thou should'st smile again?"-The evening came,

And they had found Lorenzo's earthy bed;

The flint was there, the berries at his head.


Who hath not loiter'd in a green church-yard,

And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,

Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,

To see skull, coffin'd bones, and funeral stole;

Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr'd,

And filling it once more with human soul?

Ah! this is holiday to what was felt

When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.


She gaz'd into the fresh-thrown mould, as though

One glance did fully all its secrets tell;

Clearly she saw, as other eyes would know

Pale limbs at bottom of a crystal well;

Upon the murderous spot she seem'd to grow,

Like to a native lily of the dell:

Then with her knife, all sudden, she began

To dig more fervently than misers can.


Soon she turn'd up a soiled glove, whereon

Her silk had play'd in purple phantasies,

She kiss'd it with a lip more chill than stone,

And put it in her bosom, where it dries

And freezes utterly unto the bone

Those dainties made to still an infant's cries:

Then 'gan she work again; nor stay'd her care,

But to throw back at times her veiling hair.


That old nurse stood beside her wondering,

Until her heart felt pity to the core

At sight of such a dismal labouring,

And so she kneeled, with her locks all hoar,

And put her lean hands to the horrid thing:

Three hours they labour'd at this travail sore;

At last they felt the kernel of the grave,

And Isabella did not stamp and rave.


Ah! wherefore all this wormy circumstance?

Why linger at the yawning tomb so long?

O for the gentleness of old Romance,

The simple plaining of a minstrel's song!

Fair reader, at the old tale take a glance,

For here, in truth, it doth not well belong

To speak:-O turn thee to the very tale,

And taste the music of that vision pale.


With duller steel than the Persèan sword

They cut away no formless monster's head,

But one, whose gentleness did well accord

With death, as life. The ancient harps have said,

Love never dies, but lives, immortal Lord:

If Love impersonate was ever dead,

Pale Isabella kiss'd it, and low moan'd.

'Twas love; cold,-dead indeed, but not dethroned.


In anxious secrecy they took it home,

And then the prize was all for Isabel:

She calm'd its wild hair with a golden comb,

And all around each eye's sepulchral cell

Pointed each fringed lash; the smeared loam

With tears, as chilly as a dripping well,

She drench'd away:-and still she comb'd, and kept

Sighing all day-and still she kiss'd, and wept.


Then in a silken scarf,-sweet with the dews

Of precious flowers pluck'd in Araby,

And divine liquids come with odorous ooze

Through the cold serpent pipe refreshfully,-

She wrapp'd it up; and for its tomb did choose

A garden-pot, wherein she laid it by,

And cover'd it with mould, and o'er it set

Sweet Basil, which her tears kept ever wet.


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.


O Melancholy, linger here awhile!

O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!

O Echo, Echo, from some sombre isle,

Unknown, Lethean, sigh to us-O sigh!

Spirits in grief, lift up your heads, and smile;

Lift up your heads, sweet Spirits, heavily,

And make a pale light in your cypress glooms,

Tinting with silver wan your marble tombs.


Moan hither, all ye syllables of woe,

From the deep throat of sad Melpomene!

Through bronzed lyre in tragic order go,

And touch the strings into a mystery;

Sound mournfully upon the winds and low;

For simple Isabel is soon to be

Among the dead: She withers, like a palm

Cut by an Indian for its juicy balm.


O leave the palm to wither by itself;

Let not quick Winter chill its dying hour!-

It may not be-those Baalites of pelf,

Her brethren, noted the continual shower

From her dead eyes; and many a curious elf,

Among her kindred, wonder'd that such dower

Of youth and beauty should be thrown aside

By one mark'd out to be a Noble's bride.


And, furthermore, her brethren wonder'd much

Why she sat drooping by the Basil green,

And why it flourish'd, as by magic touch;

Greatly they wonder'd what the thing might mean:

They could not surely give belief, that such

A very nothing would have power to wean

Her from her own fair youth, and pleasures gay,

And even remembrance of her love's delay.


Therefore they watch'd a time when they might sift

This hidden whim; and long they watch'd in vain;

For seldom did she go to chapel-shrift,

And seldom felt she any hunger-pain;

And when she left, she hurried back, as swift

As bird on wing to breast its eggs again;

And, patient as a hen-bird, sat her there

Beside her Basil, weeping through her hair.


Yet they contriv'd to steal the Basil-pot,

And to examine it in secret place:

The thing was vile with green and livid spot,

And yet they knew it was Lorenzo's face:

The guerdon of their murder they had got,

And so left Florence in a moment's space,

Never to turn again.-Away they went,

With blood upon their heads, to banishment.


O Melancholy, turn thine eyes away!

O Music, Music, breathe despondingly!

O Echo, Echo, on some other day,

From isles Lethean, sigh to us-O sigh!

Spirits of grief, sing not your "Well-a-way!"

For Isabel, sweet Isabel, will die;

Will die a death too lone and incomplete,

Now they have ta'en away her Basil sweet.


Piteous she look'd on dead and senseless things,

Asking for her lost Basil amorously:

And with melodious chuckle in the strings

Of her lorn voice, she oftentimes would cry

After the Pilgrim in his wanderings,

To ask him where her Basil was; and why

'Twas hid from her: "For cruel 'tis," said she,

"To steal my Basil-pot away from me."


And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,

Imploring for her Basil to the last.

No heart was there in Florence but did mourn

In pity of her love, so overcast.

And a sad ditty of this story born

From mouth to mouth through all the country pass'd:

Still is the burthen sung-"O cruelty,

"To steal my Basil-pot away from me!"

1819. Joseph Severn (age 25). Portrait of John Keats (age 23).

La Belle Dame Sans Merci by John Keats. In 1819 John Keats (age 23) wrote La Belle Dame Sans Merci. The poem is simple in structure with twelve stanzas of four lines each in an ABCB rhyme scheme. The original 1819 version ...

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering?.

The sedge has withered 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 faery'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 looked at me as she did love,

And made sweet moan.

I sat her on my pacing steed,

And nothing else saw all day long,

For sidelong would she bend, and sing

A faery'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 sighed full sore,

And there I shut her wild, wild eyes

With kisses four.

And there she lullèd me asleep,

And there I dreamed-Ah! woe betide!

The latest dream I ever dreamt

On the cold hill 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 starved lips in the gloam,

With horrid warning gapèd 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 withered from the lake,

And no birds sing.

Before 1821. William Hilton (age 34). Portrait of the poet John Keats (age 25).

Before 1821. William Hilton (age 34). Portrait of the poet John Keats (age 25).

1821 to 1823. Joseph Severn (age 27). Portrait of John Keats (age 25).

23 Feb 1821. Joseph Severn (age 27). Portrait of John Keats (age 25) on his deathbed.

On 23 Feb 1821 John Keats (age 25) died.

24 Feb 1821 John Keats (deceased) was buried at the Cimitero Acattolico, Rome. His last request was to be placed under a tombstone bearing no name or date, only the words, "Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water." His gravestone is inscribed with "This Grave contains all that was Mortal, of a YOUNG ENGLISH POET, Who, on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart, at the Malicious Power of his Enemies, Desired these Words to be engraven on his Tomb Stone Here lies One Whose Name was writ in Water Feb 24th 1821.

Attribution: Howardhudson at English Wikipedia, CC BY 2.5 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Adonais by Percy Bysshe Shelley. In Apr 1821 Percy Bysshe Shelley composed his elegy to John Keats. The poem is a 495 line pastoral elegy in 55 Spenserian stanzas.


I weep for Adonais-he is dead!

Oh, weep for Adonais! though our tears

Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!

And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years

To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers,

And teach them thine own sorrow, say: "With me

Died Adonais; till the Future dares

Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be

An echo and a light unto eternity!"


Where wert thou, mighty Mother, when he lay,

When thy Son lay, pierc'd by the shaft which flies

In darkness? where was lorn Urania

When Adonais died? With veiled eyes,

'Mid listening Echoes, in her Paradise

She sate, while one, with soft enamour'd breath,

Rekindled all the fading melodies,

With which, like flowers that mock the corse beneath,

He had adorn'd and hid the coming bulk of Death.


Oh, weep for Adonais-he is dead!

Wake, melancholy Mother, wake and weep!

Yet wherefore? Quench within their burning bed

Thy fiery tears, and let thy loud heart keep

Like his, a mute and uncomplaining sleep;

For he is gone, where all things wise and fair

Descend-oh, dream not that the amorous Deep

Will yet restore him to the vital air;

Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair.


Most musical of mourners, weep again!

Lament anew, Urania! He died,

Who was the Sire of an immortal strain,

Blind, old and lonely, when his country's pride,

The priest, the slave and the liberticide,

Trampled and mock'd with many a loathed rite

Of lust and blood; he went, unterrified,

Into the gulf of death; but his clear Sprite

Yet reigns o'er earth; the third among the sons of light.


Most musical of mourners, weep anew!

Not all to that bright station dar'd to climb;

And happier they their happiness who knew,

Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time

In which suns perish'd; others more sublime,

Struck by the envious wrath of man or god,

Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime;

And some yet live, treading the thorny road,

Which leads, through toil and hate, to Fame's serene abode.


But now, thy youngest, dearest one, has perish'd,

The nursling of thy widowhood, who grew,

Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherish'd,

And fed with true-love tears, instead of dew;

Most musical of mourners, weep anew!

Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last,

The bloom, whose petals nipp'd before they blew

Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste;

The broken lily lies-the storm is overpast.


To that high Capital, where kingly Death

Keeps his pale court in beauty and decay,

He came; and bought, with price of purest breath,

A grave among the eternal.-Come away!

Haste, while the vault of blue Italian day

Is yet his fitting charnel-roof! while still

He lies, as if in dewy sleep he lay;

Awake him not! surely he takes his fill

Of deep and liquid rest, forgetful of all ill.


He will awake no more, oh, never more!

Within the twilight chamber spreads apace

The shadow of white Death, and at the door

Invisible Corruption waits to trace

His extreme way to her dim dwelling-place;

The eternal Hunger sits, but pity and awe

Soothe her pale rage, nor dares she to deface

So fair a prey, till darkness and the law

Of change shall o'er his sleep the mortal curtain draw.


Oh, weep for Adonais! The quick Dreams,

The passion-winged Ministers of thought,

Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams

Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught

The love which was its music, wander not-

Wander no more, from kindling brain to brain,

But droop there, whence they sprung; and mourn their lot

Round the cold heart, where, after their sweet pain,

They ne'er will gather strength, or find a home again.


And one with trembling hands clasps his cold head,

And fans him with her moonlight wings, and cries,

"Our love, our hope, our sorrow, is not dead;

See, on the silken fringe of his faint eyes,

Like dew upon a sleeping flower, there lies

A tear some Dream has loosen'd from his brain."

Lost Angel of a ruin'd Paradise!

She knew not 'twas her own; as with no stain

She faded, like a cloud which had outwept its rain.


One from a lucid urn of starry dew

Wash'd his light limbs as if embalming them;

Another clipp'd her profuse locks, and threw

The wreath upon him, like an anadem,

Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem;

Another in her wilful grief would break

Her bow and winged reeds, as if to stem

A greater loss with one which was more weak;

And dull the barbed fire against his frozen cheek.


Another Splendour on his mouth alit,

That mouth, whence it was wont to draw the breath

Which gave it strength to pierce the guarded wit,

And pass into the panting heart beneath

With lightning and with music: the damp death

Quench'd its caress upon his icy lips;

And, as a dying meteor stains a wreath

Of moonlight vapour, which the cold night clips,

It flush'd through his pale limbs, and pass'd to its eclipse.


And others came . . Desires and Adorations,

Winged Persuasions and veil'd Destinies,

Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering Incarnations

Of hopes and fears, and twilight Phantasies;

And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,

And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam

Of her own dying smile instead of eyes,

Came in slow pomp; the moving pomp might seem

Like pageantry of mist on an autumnal stream.


All he had lov'd, and moulded into thought,

From shape, and hue, and odour, and sweet sound,

Lamented Adonais. Morning sought

Her eastern watch-tower, and her hair unbound,

Wet with the tears which should adorn the ground,

Dimm'd the aëreal eyes that kindle day;

Afar the melancholy thunder moan'd,

Pale Ocean in unquiet slumber lay,

And the wild Winds flew round, sobbing in their dismay.


Lost Echo sits amid the voiceless mountains,

And feeds her grief with his remember'd lay,

And will no more reply to winds or fountains,

Or amorous birds perch'd on the young green spray,

Or herdsman's horn, or bell at closing day;

Since she can mimic not his lips, more dear

Than those for whose disdain she pin'd away

Into a shadow of all sounds: a drear

Murmur, between their songs, is all the woodmen hear.


Grief made the young Spring wild, and she threw down

Her kindling buds, as if she Autumn were,

Or they dead leaves; since her delight is flown,

For whom should she have wak'd the sullen year?

To Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear

Nor to himself Narcissus, as to both

Thou, Adonais: wan they stand and sere

Amid the faint companions of their youth,

With dew all turn'd to tears; odour, to sighing ruth.


Thy spirit's sister, the lorn nightingale

Mourns not her mate with such melodious pain;

Not so the eagle, who like thee could scale

Heaven, and could nourish in the sun's domain

Her mighty youth with morning, doth complain,

Soaring and screaming round her empty nest,

As Albion wails for thee: the curse of Cain

Light on his head who pierc'd thy innocent breast,

And scar'd the angel soul that was its earthly guest!


Ah, woe is me! Winter is come and gone,

But grief returns with the revolving year;

The airs and streams renew their joyous tone;

The ants, the bees, the swallows reappear;

Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Seasons' bier;

The amorous birds now pair in every brake,

And build their mossy homes in field and brere;

And the green lizard, and the golden snake,

Like unimprison'd flames, out of their trance awake.


Through wood and stream and field and hill and Ocean

A quickening life from the Earth's heart has burst

As it has ever done, with change and motion,

From the great morning of the world when first

God dawn'd on Chaos; in its stream immers'd,

The lamps of Heaven flash with a softer light;

All baser things pant with life's sacred thirst;

Diffuse themselves; and spend in love's delight,

The beauty and the joy of their renewed might.


The leprous corpse, touch'd by this spirit tender,

Exhales itself in flowers of gentle breath;

Like incarnations of the stars, when splendour

Is chang'd to fragrance, they illumine death

And mock the merry worm that wakes beneath;

Nought we know, dies. Shall that alone which knows

Be as a sword consum'd before the sheath

By sightless lightning?-the intense atom glows

A moment, then is quench'd in a most cold repose.


Alas! that all we lov'd of him should be,

But for our grief, as if it had not been,

And grief itself be mortal! Woe is me!

Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene

The actors or spectators? Great and mean

Meet mass'd in death, who lends what life must borrow.

As long as skies are blue, and fields are green,

Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow,

Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow.


He will awake no more, oh, never more!

"Wake thou," cried Misery, "childless Mother, rise

Out of thy sleep, and slake, in thy heart's core,

A wound more fierce than his, with tears and sighs."

And all the Dreams that watch'd Urania's eyes,

And all the Echoes whom their sister's song

Had held in holy silence, cried: "Arise!"

Swift as a Thought by the snake Memory stung,

From her ambrosial rest the fading Splendour sprung.


She rose like an autumnal Night, that springs

Out of the East, and follows wild and drear

The golden Day, which, on eternal wings,

Even as a ghost abandoning a bier,

Had left the Earth a corpse. Sorrow and fear

So struck, so rous'd, so rapt Urania;

So sadden'd round her like an atmosphere

Of stormy mist; so swept her on her way

Even to the mournful place where Adonais lay.


Out of her secret Paradise she sped,

Through camps and cities rough with stone, and steel,

And human hearts, which to her aery tread

Yielding not, wounded the invisible

Palms of her tender feet where'er they fell:

And barbed tongues, and thoughts more sharp than they,

Rent the soft Form they never could repel,

Whose sacred blood, like the young tears of May,

Pav'd with eternal flowers that undeserving way.


In the death-chamber for a moment Death,

Sham'd by the presence of that living Might,

Blush'd to annihilation, and the breath

Revisited those lips, and Life's pale light

Flash'd through those limbs, so late her dear delight.

"Leave me not wild and drear and comfortless,

As silent lightning leaves the starless night!

Leave me not!" cried Urania: her distress

Rous'd Death: Death rose and smil'd, and met her vain caress.


"Stay yet awhile! speak to me once again;

Kiss me, so long but as a kiss may live;

And in my heartless breast and burning brain

That word, that kiss, shall all thoughts else survive,

With food of saddest memory kept alive,

Now thou art dead, as if it were a part

Of thee, my Adonais! I would give

All that I am to be as thou now art!

But I am chain'd to Time, and cannot thence depart!


"O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert,

Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men

Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart

Dare the unpastur'd dragon in his den?

Defenceless as thou wert, oh, where was then

Wisdom the mirror'd shield, or scorn the spear?

Or hadst thou waited the full cycle, when

Thy spirit should have fill'd its crescent sphere,

The monsters of life's waste had fled from thee like deer.


"The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;

The obscene ravens, clamorous o'er the dead;

The vultures to the conqueror's banner true

Who feed where Desolation first has fed,

And whose wings rain contagion; how they fled,

When, like Apollo, from his golden bow

The Pythian of the age one arrow sped

And smil'd! The spoilers tempt no second blow,

They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low.


"The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn;

He sets, and each ephemeral insect then

Is gather'd into death without a dawn,

And the immortal stars awake again;

So is it in the world of living men:

A godlike mind soars forth, in its delight

Making earth bare and veiling heaven, and when

It sinks, the swarms that dimm'd or shar'd its light

Leave to its kindred lamps the spirit's awful night."


Thus ceas'd she: and the mountain shepherds came,

Their garlands sere, their magic mantles rent;

The Pilgrim of Eternity (age 33), whose fame

Over his living head like Heaven is bent,

An early but enduring monument,

Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song

In sorrow; from her wilds Ierne sent

The sweetest lyrist of her saddest wrong,

And Love taught Grief to fall like music from his tongue.


Midst others of less note, came one frail Form,

A phantom among men; companionless

As the last cloud of an expiring storm

Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,

Had gaz'd on Nature's naked loveliness,

Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray

With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness,

And his own thoughts, along that rugged way,

Pursu'd, like raging hounds, their father and their prey.


A pardlike Spirit beautiful and swift-

A Love in desolation mask'd-a Power

Girt round with weakness-it can scarce uplift

The weight of the superincumbent hour;

It is a dying lamp, a falling shower,

A breaking billow; even whilst we speak

Is it not broken? On the withering flower

The killing sun smiles brightly: on a cheek

The life can burn in blood, even while the heart may break.


His head was bound with pansies overblown,

And faded violets, white, and pied, and blue;

And a light spear topp'd with a cypress cone,

Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew

Yet dripping with the forest's noonday dew,

Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart

Shook the weak hand that grasp'd it; of that crew

He came the last, neglected and apart;

A herd-abandon'd deer struck by the hunter's dart.


All stood aloof, and at his partial moan

Smil'd through their tears; well knew that gentle band

Who in another's fate now wept his own,

As in the accents of an unknown land

He sung new sorrow; sad Urania scann'd

The Stranger's mien, and murmur'd: "Who art thou?"

He answer'd not, but with a sudden hand

Made bare his branded and ensanguin'd brow,

Which was like Cain's or Christ's-oh! that it should be so!


What softer voice is hush'd over the dead?

Athwart what brow is that dark mantle thrown?

What form leans sadly o'er the white death-bed,

In mockery of monumental stone,

The heavy heart heaving without a moan?

If it be He, who, gentlest of the wise,

Taught, sooth'd, lov'd, honour'd the departed one,

Let me not vex, with inharmonious sighs,

The silence of that heart's accepted sacrifice.


Our Adonais has drunk poison-oh!

What deaf and viperous murderer could crown

Life's early cup with such a draught of woe?

The nameless worm would now itself disown:

It felt, yet could escape, the magic tone

Whose prelude held all envy, hate and wrong,

But what was howling in one breast alone,

Silent with expectation of the song,

Whose master's hand is cold, whose silver lyre unstrung.


Live thou, whose infamy is not thy fame!

Live! fear no heavier chastisement from me,

Thou noteless blot on a remember'd name!

But be thyself, and know thyself to be!

And ever at thy season be thou free

To spill the venom when thy fangs o'erflow;

Remorse and Self-contempt shall cling to thee;

Hot Shame shall burn upon thy secret brow,

And like a beaten hound tremble thou shalt-as now.


Nor let us weep that our delight is fled

Far from these carrion kites that scream below;

He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead;

Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now.

Dust to the dust! but the pure spirit shall flow

Back to the burning fountain whence it came,

A portion of the Eternal, which must glow

Through time and change, unquenchably the same,

Whilst thy cold embers choke the sordid hearth of shame.


Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep,

He hath awaken'd from the dream of life;

'Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep

With phantoms an unprofitable strife,

And in mad trance, strike with our spirit's knife

Invulnerable nothings. We decay

Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief

Convulse us and consume us day by day,

And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.


He has outsoar'd the shadow of our night;

Envy and calumny and hate and pain,

And that unrest which men miscall delight,

Can touch him not and torture not again;

From the contagion of the world's slow stain

He is secure, and now can never mourn

A heart grown cold, a head grown gray in vain;

Nor, when the spirit's self has ceas'd to burn,

With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.


He lives, he wakes-'tis Death is dead, not he;

Mourn not for Adonais. Thou young Dawn,

Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee

The spirit thou lamentest is not gone;

Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan!

Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air,

Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown

O'er the abandon'd Earth, now leave it bare

Even to the joyous stars which smile on its despair!


He is made one with Nature: there is heard

His voice in all her music, from the moan

Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird;

He is a presence to be felt and known

In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,

Spreading itself where'er that Power may move

Which has withdrawn his being to its own;

Which wields the world with never-wearied love,

Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.


He is a portion of the loveliness

Which once he made more lovely: he doth bear

His part, while the one Spirit's plastic stress

Sweeps through the dull dense world, compelling there

All new successions to the forms they wear;

Torturing th' unwilling dross that checks its flight

To its own likeness, as each mass may bear;

And bursting in its beauty and its might

From trees and beasts and men into the Heaven's light.


The splendours of the firmament of time

May be eclips'd, but are extinguish'd not;

Like stars to their appointed height they climb,

And death is a low mist which cannot blot

The brightness it may veil. When lofty thought

Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair,

And love and life contend in it for what

Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there

And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air.


The inheritors of unfulfill'd renown

Rose from their thrones, built beyond mortal thought,

Far in the Unapparent. Chatterton

Rose pale, his solemn agony had not

Yet faded from him; Sidney, as he fought

And as he fell and as he liv'd and lov'd

Sublimely mild, a Spirit without spot,

Arose; and Lucan, by his death approv'd:

Oblivion as they rose shrank like a thing reprov'd.


And many more, whose names on Earth are dark,

But whose transmitted effluence cannot die

So long as fire outlives the parent spark,

Rose, rob'd in dazzling immortality.

"Thou art become as one of us," they cry,

"It was for thee yon kingless sphere has long

Swung blind in unascended majesty,

Silent alone amid a Heaven of Song.

Assume thy winged throne, thou Vesper of our throng!"


Who mourns for Adonais? Oh, come forth,

Fond wretch! and know thyself and him aright.

Clasp with thy panting soul the pendulous Earth;

As from a centre, dart thy spirit's light

Beyond all worlds, until its spacious might

Satiate the void circumference: then shrink

Even to a point within our day and night;

And keep thy heart light lest it make thee sink

When hope has kindled hope, and lur'd thee to the brink.


Or go to Rome, which is the sepulchre,

Oh, not of him, but of our joy: 'tis nought

That ages, empires and religions there

Lie buried in the ravage they have wrought;

For such as he can lend-they borrow not

Glory from those who made the world their prey;

And he is gather'd to the kings of thought

Who wag'd contention with their time's decay,

And of the past are all that cannot pass away.


Go thou to Rome-at once the Paradise,

The grave, the city, and the wilderness;

And where its wrecks like shatter'd mountains rise,

And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress

The bones of Desolation's nakedness

Pass, till the spirit of the spot shall lead

Thy footsteps to a slope of green access

Where, like an infant's smile, over the dead

A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread;


And gray walls moulder round, on which dull Time

Feeds, like slow fire upon a hoary brand;

And one keen pyramid with wedge sublime,

Pavilioning the dust of him who plann'd

This refuge for his memory, doth stand

Like flame transform'd to marble; and beneath,

A field is spread, on which a newer band

Have pitch'd in Heaven's smile their camp of death,

Welcoming him we lose with scarce extinguish'd breath.


Here pause: these graves are all too young as yet

To have outgrown the sorrow which consign'd

Its charge to each; and if the seal is set,

Here, on one fountain of a mourning mind,

Break it not thou! too surely shalt thou find

Thine own well full, if thou returnest home,

Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind

Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb.

What Adonais is, why fear we to become?


The One remains, the many change and pass;

Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;

Life, like a dome of many-colour'd glass,

Stains the white radiance of Eternity,

Until Death tramples it to fragments.-Die,

If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!

Follow where all is fled!-Rome's azure sky,

Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak

The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.


Why linger, why turn back, why shrink, my Heart?

Thy hopes are gone before: from all things here

They have departed; thou shouldst now depart!

A light is pass'd from the revolving year,

And man, and woman; and what still is dear

Attracts to crush, repels to make thee wither.

The soft sky smiles, the low wind whispers near:

'Tis Adonais calls! oh, hasten thither,

No more let Life divide what Death can join together.


That Light whose smile kindles the Universe,

That Beauty in which all things work and move,

That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse

Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love

Which through the web of being blindly wove

By man and beast and earth and air and sea,

Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of

The fire for which all thirst; now beams on me,

Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality.


The breath whose might I have invok'd in song

Descends on me; my spirit's bark is driven,

Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng

Whose sails were never to the tempest given;

The massy earth and sphered skies are riven!

I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar;

Whilst, burning through the inmost veil of Heaven,

The soul of Adonais, like a star,

Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are.

1873. William Bell Scott (age 62). "Keat's Grave".