Keats, an early 19th century British poet, writes in his 1819 poem “Ode on Indolence” as a discourse on human laziness versus human glories. Ultimately, the subject of the poet yield himself to summer day’s laziness rather than ambition, love, or even Poetry. In the first stanza, One morning has a vision of three figures. Their heads are down, their hands are joined They walked behind each other In sandals and white robes. They reappear each time they pass, as if on a turning vase.

In the second stanza, Keats asks how it is that he didn’t recognize them at first and whether they had a dark plot to sneak up on him. He wonders if they have come to take his life and purpose in life. He describes his summer laziness and how it made him idle and careless and rather numb. He asks the figures why they won’t melt away and leave him to his indolence.

The figures come a third time and as they pass this time they turn, each, to look at him and he feels a burning to follow then and wishes he had wings to follow. He longs for this because he has recognized them. The first maiden he identifies as Love, the second as Ambition, and the third as the one he loves most, the dominant, demanding spirit of Posey, or Poetry. Interestingly, he describes the maiden of poetry as a demon

The maidens fade from his view, and he again wishes he could follow. He longs so bad that the aching for wings is again used. He recognizes the error and stupidity of this desire, and states that love is fickle and unobtainable, ambition is short lived, and poetry is not joyful compared to the laziness of his days of laziness. He tells how lovely it is not to have to worry about the passing days or even of using common sense

In the fifth stanza Keats tells of the third time they passed by and how he had been enjoying a deep sleep and his soul was like a flowered laden lawn. The day was cloudy, but without rain. He tells the visitors it is time to leave, and it will be no sorrow for him for them to leave

The final stanza host Keats bidding the spirits farewell, while his head is pillowed in the grass. He tells them to fade softly from his eyes, and return to the non-descript images on the side of a vase. He bids them farewell happily, looking forward to the dreams he will have the rest of the day and night. Knowing love, ambition, or poetry are not enough to rouse him, he bids them goodbye and asks them to leave him evermore to his lazy indolence.


One morn before me were three figures seen,

I With bowed necks, and joined hands, side-faced;

And one behind the other stepp’d serene,

In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;

They pass’d, like figures on a marble urn,

When shifted round to see the other side;

They came again; as when the urn once more

Is shifted round, the first seen shades return;

And they were strange to me, as may betide

With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.


How is it, Shadows! that I knew ye not?

How came ye muffled in so hush a masque?

Was it a silent deep-disguised plot

To steal away, and leave without a task

My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour;

The blissful cloud of summer-indolence

Benumb’d my eyes; my pulse grew less and less;

Pain had no sting, and pleasure’s wreath no flower:

O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense

Unhaunted quite of all but—nothingness?


A third time pass’d they by, and, passing, turn’d

Each one the face a moment whiles to me;

Then faded, and to follow them I burn’d

And ached for wings, because I knew the three;

The first was a fair maid, and Love her name;

The second was Ambition, pale of cheek,

And ever watchful with fatigued eye;

The last, whom I love more, the more of blame

Is heap’d upon her, maiden most unmeek,—

I knew to be my demon Poesy.


They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings:

O folly! What is Love! and where is it?

And for that poor Ambition—it springs

From a man’s little heart’s short fever-fit;

For Poesy!—no,—she has not a joy,—

At least for me,—so sweet as drowsy noons,

And evenings steep’d in honied indolence;

O, for an age so shelter’d from annoy,

That I may never know how change the moons,

Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!


A third time came they by: – alas! wherefore?
      My sleep had been embroider’d with dim dreams;
My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o’er
      With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams:
The morn was clouded, but no shower fell,
      Though in her lids hung the sweet tears of May;
              The open casement press’d a new-leaved vine,
      Let in the budding warmth and throstle’s lay;
O shadows!   ’twas a time to bid farewell!
              Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.


So, ye three Ghosts, adieu! Ye cannot raise

My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass;

For I would not be dieted with praise,

A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce!

Fade sofdy from my eyes, and be once more

In masque-like figures on the dreamy urn;

Farewell! I yet have visions for the night,

And for the day faint visions there is store;

Vanish, ye Phantoms! from my idle spright,

Into the clouds, and never more return!

In the first stanza, One morning has a vision of three figures. Their heads are down, their hands are joined They walked behind each other In sandals and white robes. They reappear each time they pass, as if on a turning vase.







In the second stanza, Keats asks how it is that he didn’t recognize them at first and whether they had a dark plot to sneak up on him.

He wonders if they have come to take his life and purpose in life. He describes his summer laziness and how it made him idle and careless and rather numb. He asks the figures why they won’t melt away and leave him to his indolence.




The figures come a third time and as they pass this time they turn, each, to look at him and he feels a burning to follow then and wishes he had wings to follow. He longs for this because he has recognized them. The first maiden he identifies as Love, the second as Ambition, and the third as the one he loves most, the dominant, demanding spirit of Poetry. Interestingly, he describes the maiden of poetry as a demon



The maidens fade from his view, and he again wishes he could follow. He longs so bad that the aching for wings is again used. He recognizes the error and stupidity of this desire, and states that love is fickle and unobtainable, ambition is short lived, and poetry is not joyful compared to the laziness of his days of laziness. He tells how lovely it is not to have to worry about the passing days or even of using common sense



In the fifth stanza Keats tells of the third time they passed by and how he had been enjoying a deep sleep and his soul was like a flowered laden lawn. The day was cloudy, but without rain. He tells the visitors it is time to leave, and it will be no sorrow for him for them to leave






The final stanza host Keats bidding the spirits farewell, while his head is pillowed in the grass. He tells them to fade softly from his eyes, and return to the non-descript images on the side of a vase. He bids them farewell happily, looking forward to the dreams he will have the rest of the day and night. Knowing love, ambition, or poetry are not enough to rouse him, he bids them goodbye and asks them to leave him evermore to his lazy indolence.

 

© L. A. Braman 2003-2018

This file for reference use only.

 

Copyright © 2004-2018 Lindsay Ann  

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