Friday, May 21, 2010

Bright Star (Keats)

I have had a very unsettled life, and as a result I crave a sense of permanence as perhaps few other people do. And yet, as I grow older and become increasingly aware of my own mortality, I ponder the contrast between my wish and the impermanent nature of life, of which change is the only true constant. Thus, this famous sonnet by John Keats has a special appeal to me. One of the greatest of English poets, he lived only to age 25 and succumbed to the ravages of tuberculosis.

Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art--
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors--
No--yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever--or else swoon to death.

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