Ode on Keats’s “Ode on Indolence”

Study of Torso, Nicholas Roerich


Who else’s praises could, like Grecian ink,
Drip precious on the page in metered form?
Whose lofty dreams of indolence fail to sink
Beneath the bleak insomnia of the morn?
Thou, poet, trappest not the heart in verse,
Nor leavest thou the reader in thy wake;
Emotions freest thou in rhymèd hordes,
And quenchest readers’ five-fold sensory thirst
With imagery of clouds upon daybreak,
And tapestries of woven metaphors.


If indolence may inspiration beat,
In temporary outcome of their spat,
The victor’s ode is much the loser’s feat,
Thy Poesy’s gift. Twice thou sayest that
Thou longest to celestial wings unfold,
To catch thy flighty aims personified
As figures on an urn, revolving sure
As half of Earth hides sunless in the cold.
Their voluntary night will soon subside!
And then may sloth abandon its allure.


Allusions to the timeless art of Greece
Cannot but be reflected in a work
That earns perpetuation, like the Fleece
Within the cave where waiting dragon lurked
Until immortalized in Jason’s myth.
It pains me, though, to read thy pleasured guilt
At shooing Love, Ambition, and thy muse
Away, when at the age of twenty-six,
Thy life—save naught but poems of your worldviews—
Didst crumble like a windblown pile of silt.