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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

Song of the Indian Maid

John Keats (1795–1821)

From ‘Endymion


Why dost borrow

The natural hue of health, from vermeil lips?

To give maiden blushes

To the white rose bushes?

Or is it thy dewy hand the daisy tips?

‘O Sorrow,

Why dost borrow

The lustrous passion from a falcon-eye?—

To give the glow-worm light?

Or, on a moonless night,

To tinge, on siren shores, the salt sea-spray?

‘O Sorrow,

Why dost borrow

The mellow ditties from a mourning tongue?—

To give at evening pale

Unto the nightingale,

That thou mayst listen the cold dews among?

‘O Sorrow,

Why dost borrow

Heart’s lightness from the merriment of May?—

A lover would not tread

A cowslip on the head,

Though he should dance from eve till peep of day—

Nor any drooping flower,

Held sacred for thy bower,

Wherever he may sport himself and play.

‘To Sorrow,

I bade good-morrow,

And thought to leave her far away behind;

But cheerily, cheerily,

She loves me dearly;

She is so constant to me, and so kind:

I would deceive her

And so leave her,

But ah! she is so constant and so kind.

‘Beneath my palm trees, by the river side,

I sat a-weeping: in the whole world wide

There was no one to ask me why I wept,—

And so I kept

Brimming the water-lily cups with tears

Cold as my fears.

‘Beneath my palm trees, by the river side,

I sat a-weeping: what enamour’d bride,

Cheated by shadowy wooer from the clouds

But hides and shrouds

Beneath dark palm trees by a river side?

‘And as I sat, over the light blue hills

There came a noise of revellers: the rills

Into the wide stream came of purple hue—

’Twas Bacchus and his crew!

The earnest trumpet spake, and silver thrills

From kissing cymbals made a merry din—

’Twas Bacchus and his kin!

Like to a moving vintage down they came,

Crown’d with green leaves, and faces all on flame;

All madly dancing through the pleasant valley,

To scare thee, Melancholy!

O then, O then, thou wast a simple name!

And I forgot thee, as the berried holly

By shepherds is forgotten, when, in June,

Tall chestnuts keep away the sun and moon:—

I rush’d into the folly!

‘Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus stood,

Trifling his ivy-dart, in dancing mood,

With sidelong laughing;

And little rills of crimson wine imbru’d

His plump white arms, and shoulders, enough white

For Venus’ pearly bite;

And near him rode Silenus on his ass,

Pelted with flowers as he on did pass

Tipsily quaffing.

‘Whence came ye, merry Damsels! whence came ye!

So many, and so many, and such glee?

Why have ye left your bowers desolate,

Your lutes, and gentler fate?’—

‘We follow Bacchus! Bacchus on the wing,

A conquering!

Bacchus, young Bacchus! good or ill betide,

We dance before him thorough kingdoms wide:—

Come hither, lady fair, and joinèd be

To our wild minstrelsy!’

‘Whence came ye, jolly Satyrs! whence came ye!

So many, and so many, and such glee?

Why have ye left your forest haunts, why left

Your nuts in oak-tree cleft?’—

‘For wine, for wine we left our kernel tree;

For wine we left our heath, and yellow brooms,

And cold mushrooms;

For wine we follow Bacchus through the earth;

Great God of breathless cups and chirping mirth!—

Come hither, lady fair, and joinèd be

To our mad minstrelsy!’

‘Over wide streams and mountains great we went,

And, save when Bacchus kept his ivy tent,

Onward the tiger and the leopard pants,

With Asian elephants:

Onward these myriads—with song and dance,

With zebras striped, and sleek Arabians’ prance,

Web-footed alligators, crocodiles,

Bearing upon their scaly backs, in files,

Plump infant laughters mimicking the coil

Of seamen, and stout galley-rower’s toil:

With toying oars and silken sails they glide,

Nor care for wind and tide.

‘Mounted on panthers’ furs and lions’ manes,

From rear to van they scour about the plains;

A three days’ journey in a moment done:

And always, at the rising of the sun,

About the wilds they hunt with spear and horn,

On spleenful unicorn.

‘I saw Osirian Egypt kneel adown

Before the vine-wreath crown!

I saw parch’d Abyssinia rouse and sing

To the silver cymbals’ ring!

I saw the whelming vintage hotly pierce

Old Tartary the fierce!

The kings of Inde their jewel-sceptres veil,

And from their treasures scatter pearlèd hail;

Great Brahma from his mystic heaven groans,

And all his priesthood moans,

Before young Bacchus’ eye-wink turning pale.—

Into these regions came I following him,

Sick-hearted, weary—so I took a whim

To stray away into these forests drear

Alone, without a peer:

And I have told thee all thou mayest hear.

‘Young stranger!

I’ve been a ranger

In search of pleasure throughout every clime:

Alas! ’tis not for me!

Bewitch’d I sure must be,

To lose in grieving all my maiden prime.

‘Come then, Sorrow!

Sweetest Sorrow!

Like an own babe I nurse thee on my breast:

I thought to leave thee

And deceive thee,

But now of all the world I love thee best.

‘There is not one,

No, no, not one

But thee to comfort a poor lonely maid;

Thou art her mother,

And her brother,

Her playmate, and her wooer in the shade.’