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Recitation of Ode to a Nightingale

May 4, 2019

As part of a month-long celebration of Keats' miracle year in poetry, The Chained Muse is proud to present an original recitation of the Ode to a Nightingale by poet Daniel Leach.

 Follow our Keats-related posts throughout the month of May here.



                                ODE TO A NIGHTINGALE



                    My heart aches and a drowsy numbness pains

                        My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

                    Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

                        One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

                     ‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

                         But being too happy in thine happiness,--

                            That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,

                                  In some melodious plot

                          Of  beechen green, and shadows numberless,

                              Singest of summer in full-throated ease.



                       O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been

                           Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,

                       Tasting of Flora and the country green,

                            Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!

                        O for a beaker full of the warm South,

                            Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

                                With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

                                      And purple-stained mouth;

                             That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

                                 And with thee fade into the forest dim:



                         Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

                              What thou among the leaves hast never known,

                         The weariness, the fever, and the fret

                                Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;

                            Where palsy shakes a few sad, last gray hairs,

                                Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;

                                     Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

                                           And leaden-eyed despairs,

                                 Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

                                      Or new Love pine at them beyond tomorrow.



                             Away! away! for I will fly to thee,

                                 Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,

                             But on the viewless wings of Poesy,

                                 Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:

                             Already with thee! tender is the night,

                                And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,

                                    Cluster’d around by all her starry Fays;

                                          But here there is no light,

                                 Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown

                                    Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.



                              I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,

                                  Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,

                              But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet

                                  Wherewith the seasonable month endows

                              The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;

                                  White hawthorn, and pastoral eglantine;

                                       Fast fading violets cover’d up in leaves;

                                              and mid-May’s eldest child,

                                   The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,

                                        The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.



                               Darkling I listen; and, for many a time

                                   I have been half in love with easeful Death,

                               Call’d him soft names in many a mused rhyme,

                                   To take into the air my quiet breath;

                               Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

                                   To cease upon the midnight with no pain,

                                       While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad

                                             In such an ecstasy!

                                    Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—

                                       To thy high requiem become a sod.



                                Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!

                                     No hungry generations tread thee down;

                                  The voice I hear this passing night was heard

                                     In ancient days by emperor and clown:

                                  Perhaps the self-same song that found a path

                                     Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,

                                         She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

                                                The same that oft-times hath

                                     Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam

                                         Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.



                                  Forlorn! the very word is like a bell

                                      To toll me back from thee to my sole self!

                                  Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well

                                      As she is fam’d to do, deceiving elf.

                                  Adieu! Adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades

                                      Past the near meadows, over the still stream,

                                         Up the hill-side; and now ‘tis buried deep

                                                 In the next valley-glades:

                                      Was it a vision, or a waking dream?

                                           Fled is that music:--Do I wake or sleep?

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