Ode on Indolence: Stanza 4 - Summary

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They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings:
O folly! What is Love? and where is it?
And for that poor Ambition! it springs
From a man’s little heart’s short fever-fit;
For Poesy!—no,—she has not a joy,—
At least for me,—so sweet as drowsy noons,
And evenings steep’d in honey’d indolence;
O, for an age so shelter’d from annoy,
That I may never know how change the moons,
Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!


      They faded.....common sense. With the recognition of the three figures, there sprang in the poet’s heart a desire to follow them. As they had disappeared, he ached to have wings so that he could catch them up. A moment later this desire was overcome by his mood of lassitude. The appearance of the three figures representing his three most cherished passions had shaken him out of his indolence. This, however, was a thing of a moment only. No sooner did the figures vanish, than he sank into his honied stupor and the desire in him aroused bade farewell to him It was then that he realized his folly of following them or devoting himself to them again as he had done in the past.

      His mood now takes a philosophical turn and he begins to argue about love, ambition and poetry like a man totally detached from the mundane existence. He says that love is merely a thing of fancy. It cannot be found anywhere in this world in the so-called passion of love of men and women. Here we should bear in mind that he himself had once experienced this passion in his infatuation for Fanny Brawne. But so great had been his dejection and disappointment that he began to disregard totally the force and existence of love. So was his view about ambition. Like love, this passion, too, had no strength left in it to appeal to him. In his lethargic mood, he calls ambition poor and wretched. He says that it rises from the feverish activity of man’s heart and mind. He considers it mean because it urges men to selfish activity. Perhaps, while pronouncing this judgment, he has in his mind what Shakespeare says in his Henry VIII 'Beware of Ambition. By that sin fell the angels.' Hence he, too, probably wanted to keep himself away from it lest it might bring about his fall also. Then he turns to Poetry, but before expressing his opinion, he pauses a little because he hesitates to say anything against the passion which he once cherished most. Nevertheless he overcomes his hesitation and says that poetry has lost its power to give him any happiness. While uttering these words, he has in his mind the biting criticism of his adversaries about his early poetry. He believes that the pleasure given by his inactive body and inert mind is much more delicious than that offered by poetry. The sweetness of his lethargy is sunk in pleasant stupor. He says that "warm noons produce physical and mental dullness. Evenings, too, are thoroughly imbued, is sweet lethargy. The poet, therefore, thinks of passing the rest of his life in such noons and evenings steeped in delightful dullness of his senses. In such a physical and mental state, he will remain quite withdrawn from the weariness, the fever, and the fret of life and world. He longs to give up himself to the stupor of his senses that he may not have the slightest idea of the passing of time and the noise of people actively engaged in worldly affairs. In other words, he wishes to be so seized with stupor that thoughts about his own life and those about the world may never occur to him.

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