Ode to a Nightingale
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
Don’t bite your lip, John—you can stop bleeding now—
My senses, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
But you are no poison...
Or some dull opiate to the drains
Your long glass finally fully empty—
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
piled high with daydreams of riper purples.
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
For what could you and I do with joy unpainted? (o cruel thought, fledgling)
But being too happy in thine happiness
-Too true, the same tingled turn, in the stumbling and the dazzled daze—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
As always a distant, but a constant echo...
Thy voice hath stained the tomb of Time,
its cruelty equal its ecstasy
-thou lark of broken glass—
What torment, for a girl who fluttered at your merest eyelash.
Could it be your own violets forget you?
Your grave was heaven-scented, but silent—
green to be sure, Rome’s dizzying August;
hot, the ambrosia perhaps too thick....
But who is he that I can hold him, even in memory
untinged by the cheek itself?
To think how you arrived at your Elysium,
only to choke on the balm they gave you
all too soon
My lovely haunting,
beauty might just as easily as poison
swallow up and drown the whole of illness.
But when from blinded slumber we arise
sticky-mouthed and groggy into daylight—
why can we never stay among our own?— ever craving
melodious erasure of the sun,
of the earth, of everything but dreaming....
Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
If you’d asked nothing of your life, no love, no greatness,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
Might it have felt a little more like twittering,
But on the viewless wings or human strides? of Poesy....
Alas—you were made for the breeze you drift on now.
I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
I don’t know how
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
I can feel them growing over me
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
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.
...Do I wake—or sleep?