20 July 2006 | Vol. 6, No. 2

Ode on Melancholy


No, no, go not to Lethe, neither twist

  Wolfs-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.

About the author:

1795-1821. John Keats, orphaned at 14, was an apprentice and subsequently licensed apothecary, but he pursued his passion for poetry. "To Solitude" was his first published poem, appearing in The Examiner on May 5, 1816. His third book, Lamia, Isabella, The Eve of St. Agnes, and Other Poems, includes his Miltonic blank-verse epic, "Hyperion," as well as his deservedly famous odes, "Ode on a Grecian Urn," "Ode to Melancholy," and "Ode to a Nightingale." This third book received great praise and includes poetry considered among the finest in the English language. Keats was only twenty-four years old.

Learn more about John Keats at Wikipedia.

For further reading:

See the complete list of work by John Keats at 42opus. Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 6, No. 2, where "Ode on Melancholy" ran on July 20, 2006. List other work with these same labels: poetry, classic.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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