Poem of the day

    Ode on Indolence
    by John Keats (1795-1821)

    “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 ach’d 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!

    And once more 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,
          Tho’ 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!

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