Bright Star, Would I Were Stedfast as Thou Art - Analysis

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Bright star, would I were stedfast as thou art—
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priest like task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft-fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors,
No—yet still stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd upon my fair love's ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever—or else swoon to death.

Critical Analysis

      Keats wrote out this sonnet in a book, Shakespeare's Poems, which he gave to his friend Severn on his journey to Italy. From the fact that his health failed badly soon after, and that we do not know, later on, it has been thought that this is the last of his poetic compositions. It shows once more the vague yearnings that were ever in his breast for beauty, and, failing that realization, for a dreamy Elysian happiness, divorced from intellectual thought. Keats was not a great poet of human love; he had not the years or the experience to deal expertly with man’s passion for woman’. The love shown in Isabella is the rather unmanly and languorous lovesickness of the Middle Ages, and the love in The Eve of St. Agnes, while more manly, is still founded on literature rather than on life. This sonnet shows a boy’s desire to pillow his head on fair rounded breasts, and is evidence that Keats was still a boy and immature, although in rich poetic expression he is an artist.

      Keats says: “Bright star, I wish that I were as constant as you are, not hanging in the sky in lonely splendor and watching with ever-open eyes like a patient and watchful hermit how the moving seas like priests perform the work of purification around the shores of the earth. Nor should I be gazing at a layer of freshly fallen snow on the mountains or the moors. No, but ever constant and unchanging I should rest my head on my loved one’s well-developed breast, feeling forever its gentle rise and fall and always awakening to a sweet but restless feeling, just to hear the sound of her gentle breathing. So let me live forever, or else faint away and cause to live”.

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