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No, no! go not to Lethe, neither twist
Wolf’s-bane, tight-rooted, for its poisonous wine;
Nor suffer thy pale forehead to be kissed
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 globed 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
Veiled Melancholy has her sovran shrine,
Though seen of none save him whose strenuous
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.

Short Poem Analysis

"Ode on Melancholy" by John Keats is a contemplative and introspective poem that explores the intricate relationship between joy and sorrow, beauty and pain. Through its rich imagery, melancholic tone, and philosophical reflection, the poem delves into the complexity of human emotions and the transient nature of life's experiences.

The poem begins by addressing melancholy directly as a "sister" of joy and pleasure. Keats acknowledges that melancholy has its place and should not be suppressed. He emphasizes the fleeting nature of happiness, suggesting that even in moments of joy, the shadow of melancholy is present.

Keats employs vivid and sensual imagery to convey the interconnectedness of joy and sorrow. The image of a "weeping cloud" and the juxtaposition of "rosy hue" and "sudden gloom" capture the swift shifts in emotion that characterize human experience.

The poem explores the idea of embracing melancholy as a source of insight and depth. Keats suggests that there is a profound beauty in moments of sadness and reflection, leading to a deeper understanding of life's complexities.

The poem's philosophical reflection is evident in lines like "Ay, in the very temple of Delight / Veil'd Melancholy has her sovran shrine." This suggests that even in the midst of pleasure and happiness, there exists an undercurrent of melancholy that adds depth and meaning to our experiences.

"Ode on Melancholy" is a meditation on the delicate balance between joy and sorrow, highlighting the interconnectedness of human emotions. The poem encourages readers to embrace the full spectrum of their feelings and to recognize the profound insights that can emerge from moments of reflection and introspection. Through its lyrical language and philosophical exploration, the poem prompts contemplation on the complexities of the human psyche and the rich tapestry of human experience.

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