Rachel Blau DuPlessis reads “Ode on Melancholy” by John Keats
In this installment, Rachel Blau DuPlessis reads “Ode on Melancholy” by John Keats. DuPlessis is known as a feminist critic and scholar with a special interest in modern and contemporary poetry, and as a poet and essayist. Blue Studios: Poetry and Its Cultural Work, a book of essays, was published by University of Alabama Press in 2006; in the same year, Alabama also reprinted DuPlessis’s classic work The Pink Guitar. Her recent books of poetry are Drafts 1- 38, Toll (Wesleyan University Press, 2001) and DRAFTS. Drafts 39-57, Pledge with Draft, Unnumbered: Précis (Salt Publishing, 2004). A poem from this book appears in Best American Poetry 2004. A new collection, Torques: Drafts 58-76, is due from Salt Publishing in 2007.
John Keats, “Ode on Melancholy”
NO, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kist
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 globèd 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.