A Song of Opposites

May 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Welcome joy, and welcome sorrow,
  Lethe’s weed and Hermes’ feather;
Come to-day, and come to-morrow,
  I do love you both together!
  I love to mark sad faces in fair weather;
And hear a merry laugh amid the thunder;
  Fair and foul I love together.
Meadows sweet where flames are under,
And a giggle at a wonder;
Visage sage at pantomime;
Funeral, and steeple-chime;
Infant playing with a skull;
Morning fair, and shipwreck’d hull;
Nightshade with the woodbine kissing;
Serpents in red roses hissing;
Cleopatra regal-dress’d
With the aspic at her breast;
Dancing music, music sad,
Both together, sane and mad;
Muses bright and muses pale;
Sombre Saturn, Momus hale;–
Laugh and sigh, and laugh again;
Oh the sweetness of the pain!
Muses bright, and muses pale,
Bare your faces of the veil;
Let me see; and let me write
Of the day, and of the night–
Both together: –let me slake
All my thirst for sweet heart-ache!
Let my bower be of yew,
Interwreath’d with myrtles new;
Pines and lime-trees full in bloom,
And my couch a low grass-tomb.

– John Keats

I was disappointed to discover that line 17 does not actually read “With the aspic of her breast” like I thought. Still, this little-known ode to opposites must be one of Keats’ most magical offerings.

Another list song, another hale Momus:

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