Ode on Indolence: Stanza 2 - Summary

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How is it, Shadows! that I knew ye not?
How came ye muffled in so hush a mask?
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?


      Lines. 11—15. How is it.....idle days. The poet addresses the three shadowy or vague figures. He asks them why he failed to recognize them as his three cherished passions Love, Ambition and poetry. He could always recognize them as such in the past. But when they appeared before him now, he failed to do so. He thinks that it was probably due to the reason that they were wrapped in the mask of silence. Hence he asks them why they came in disguise concealing their identity by their perfect silence. The poet seems to understand its reason. He thinks that they had made a secret plan to come in disguise so that they might disappear silently without disturbing his lethargic mood. He seems to believe that the three figures knew that he was in a lazy indolent mood, having not the least desire to do anything to realize his passions. Hence they had planned to appear and then to go away silently in order to let him indulge in his lethargic mood to his heart’s content.

      Lines 15—20. Ripe was.....nothingness. The poet then gives a description of the background of nature which has induced indolence in him and which was in perfect agreement with his physical and mental languor. The atmosphere of the warm summer morning which had. induced him to fall into a lethargic mood was soft and tender. It seemed that the atmosphere itself was in a tranquil stupor. It has its effect on the poet who was seized with a pleasing physical indolence, which acted on his senses; The poet then compares his lethargy to a patch of cloud. Just as a patch of cloud covering the sun makes the day-light dull and dim, so also physical indolence paralyzed his senses making his eyes dull and dim. Not only the eyes, but the other organs of his body water also dulled. The circulation of blood became slower making the beats of his pulse feebler. Physical lethargy had its effect on the mind too. It became so inert that it did not respond to the feeling of pain. In other words, he could not feel the sharpness of pain. What was true about pain, was also true about pleasure. It had no attraction left in it for him. As a garland without any flowers has no beauty, so also pleasure or joy had no charm for him. The poet did not want to be disturbed in the happy enjoyment of his physical and mental lassitude by the appearance and reappearance of the three figures. So he asks them why they did not disappear once for all, but appeared a second time before him. Had they not reappeared, it would have been better. In that case, he would not have been roused even temporarily from his lethargic mood. Their reappearance produced a curiosity in him. He became eager to identify them. At the same time they brought back many memories to his mind. This disturbed him in the enjoyment of his happy stupor, which he did not at all like. He wanted his mind and soul to be sunk in total blankness. Hence he tells the figures that it would really have been a very good thing for him, had they vanished for ever after appearing once.

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