Sunday, July 10, 2011

Ode to Psyche ~ Keats

O Goddess! hear these tuneless numbers, wrung 
By sweet enforcement and remembrance dear,
 And pardon that thy secrets should be sung
Even into thine own soft-conched ear: 

Surely I dreamt today, or did I see
The winged Psyche with awakened eyes? 
I wandered in a forest thoughtlessly,
 And, on the sudden, fainting with surprise,
 Saw two fair creatures, couched side by side 
In deepest grass, beneath the whisp'ring roof
Of leaves and trembled blossoms, where there ran
A brooklet, scarce espied:

Psyché ranimée par le baiser de l'Amour, 1757,  Antonio CANOVA - Possagno, Venise, 1822© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert
'Mid hushed, cool-rooted flowers, fragrant-eyed,
Blue, silver-white, and budded Tyrian,

They lay calm-breathing on the bedded grass;

Their arms embraced, and their pinions too;
Their lips touched not, but had not bade adieu,

As if disjoined by soft-handed slumber,

And ready still past kisses to outnumber

At tender eye-dawn of aurorean love:

The winged boy I knew;

But who wast thou, O happy, happy dove? 

His Psyche true!

O latest born and loveliest vision far

Of all Olympus' faded hierarchy!

Fairer than Phoebe's sapphire-regioned star,

Or Vesper, amorous glow-worm of the sky;
Fairer than these, though temple thou hast none,

Nor altar heaped with flowers;

Nor virgin-choir to make delicious moan

Upon the midnight hours;

No voice, no lute, no pipe, no incense sweet

From chain-swung censer teeming;

No shrine, no grove, no oracle, no heat

Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.

Cupid and Psyche, 1808, oil on canvas, Benjamin West, On Auction at Christies at Present
O brightest! though too late for antique vows,

Too, too late for the fond believing lyre,

When holy were the haunted forest boughs,

Holy the air, the water, and the fire;

Yet even in these days so far retired

From happy pieties, thy lucent fans,

Fluttering among the faint Olympians,

I see, and sing, by my own eyes inspired.

So let me be thy choir, and make a moan

Upon the midnight hours;

Thy voice, thy lute, thy pipe, thy incense sweet

From swinged censer teeming;

Thy shrine, thy grove, thy oracle, thy heat

Of pale-mouthed prophet dreaming.

Yes, I will be thy priest, and build a fane

In some untrodden region of my mind,

Where branched thoughts, new grown with pleasant pain,

Instead of pines shall murmur in the wind:

Far, far around shall those dark-clustered trees

Fledge the wild-ridged mountains steep by steep;

And there by zephyrs, streams, and birds, and bees,

The moss-lain dryads shall be lulled to sleep;

And in the midst of this wide quietness

A rosy sanctuary will I dress
The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, 1744, Francois Boucher

With the wreathed trellis of a working brain,

With buds, and bells, and stars without a name,

With all the gardener Fancy e'er could feign,

Who breeding flowers, will never breed the same:

And there shall be for thee all soft delight

That shadowy thought can win,

A bright torch, and a casement ope at night,

To let the warm Love in!


What interested Keats particularly in the myth was the fact that Psyche, a mortal, achieved immortality through love.

Sculpture - Antonio CANOVA - Possagno, 1757 - Venise, 1822
Psyché ranimée par le baiser de l'Amour
© Musée du Louvre/P. Philibert

Painting - Benjamin West, Cupid and Psyche, 1808

Painting - Francois Boucher, The Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, 1744

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