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Ode to a Nightingale

by John Keats

  

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,

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  But being too happy in thine happiness,

 

    That thou, light-wingèd Dryad of the trees,

 

          In some melodious plot

 

  Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

 

    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

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O for a draught of vintage! that hath been

 

  Cool'd a long age in the deep-delvèd earth,

 

Tasting of Flora and the country-green,

 

  Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!

 

O for a beaker full of the warm South!

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  Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

 

    With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

 

          And purple-stainèd mouth;

 

  That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

 

    And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

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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 grey hairs,

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  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 to-morrow.

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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,

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  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.

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I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,

 

  Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,

 

But, in embalmèd darkness, guess each sweet

 

  Wherewith the seasonable month endows

 

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

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  White hawthorn, and the 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.

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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 musèd rhyme,

 

  To take into the air my quiet breath;

 

Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

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  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.

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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

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

 

    She stood in tears amid the alien corn;

 

          The same that ofttimes hath

 

  Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam

 

    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

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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 famed to do, deceiving elf.

 

Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades

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  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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John Keats; 31 October 1795 23 February 1821) was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death. During his life, his poems were not generally well received by critics; however, after his death, his reputation grew to the extent that by the end of the 19th century he had become one of the most beloved of all English poets. He has had a significant influence on a diverse range of later poets and writers: Jorge Luis Borges, for instance, stated that his first encounter with Keats was the most significant literary experience of his life. The poetry of Keats is characterized by sensual imagery, most notably in the series of odes. Today his poems and letters are some of the most popular and analyzed in English literature.


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