Keats' Poems By John Keats Lamia

    What wreath for Lamia? What for Lycius?
  What for the sage, old Apollonius?
  Upon her aching forehead be there hung
  The leaves of willow and of adder's tongue;
  And for the youth, quick, let us strip for him
  The thyrsus, that his watching eyes may swim
  Into forgetfulness; and, for the sage,
  Let spear-grass and the spiteful thistle wage
  War on his temples. Do not all charms fly
  At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
  There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
  We know her woof, her texture; she is given
  In the dull catalogue of common things.
  Philosophy will clip an Angel's wings,
  Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
  Empty the haunted air, and gnomed mine —
  Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
  The tender-person'd Lamia melt into a shade.

    By her glad Lycius sitting, in chief place,
  Scarce saw in all the room another face,
  Till, checking his love trance, a cup he took
  Full brimm'd, and opposite sent forth a look
  'Cross the broad table, to beseech a glance
  From his old teacher's wrinkled countenance,
  And pledge him. The bald-head philosopher
  Had fix'd his eye, without a twinkle or stir
  Full on the alarmed beauty of the bride,
  Brow-beating her fair form, and troubling her sweet pride.
  Lycius then press'd her hand, with devout touch,
  As pale it lay upon the rosy couch:
  'Twas icy, and the cold ran through his veins;
  Then sudden it grew hot, and all the pains
  Of an unnatural heat shot to his heart.
  "Lamia, what means this? Wherefore dost thou start?
  Know'st thou that man?" Poor Lamia answer'd not.
  He gaz'd into her eyes, and not a jot
  Own'd they the lovelorn piteous appeal:
  More, more he gaz'd: his human senses reel:
  Some hungry spell that loveliness absorbs;
  There was no recognition in those orbs.
  "Lamia!" he cried — and no soft-toned reply.
  The many heard, and the loud revelry
  Grew hush; the stately music no more breathes;
  The myrtle sicken'd in a thousand wreaths.
  By faint degrees, voice, lute, and pleasure ceased;
  A deadly silence step by step increased,
  Until it seem'd a horrid presence there,
  And not a man but felt the terror in his hair.
  "Lamia!" he shriek'd; and nothing but the shriek
  With its sad echo did the silence break.
  "Begone, foul dream!" he cried, gazing again
  In the bride's face, where now no azure vein
  Wander'd on fair-spaced temples; no soft bloom
  Misted the cheek; no passion to illume
  The deep-recessed vision: — all was blight;
  Lamia, no longer fair, there sat a deadly white.
  "Shut, shut those juggling eyes, thou ruthless man!
  Turn them aside, wretch! or the righteous ban
  Of all the Gods, whose dreadful images
  Here represent their shadowy presences,
  May pierce them on the sudden with the thorn
  Of painful blindness; leaving thee forlorn,
  In trembling dotage to the feeblest fright
  Of conscience, for their long offended might,
  For all thine impious proud-heart sophistries,
  Unlawful magic, and enticing lies.
  Corinthians! look upon that gray-beard wretch!
  Mark how, possess'd, his lashless eyelids stretch
  Around his demon eyes! Corinthians, see!
  My sweet bride withers at their potency."
  "Fool!" said the sophist, in an under-tone
  Gruff with contempt; which a death-nighing moan
  From Lycius answer'd, as heart-struck and lost,
  He sank supine beside the aching ghost.
  "Fool! Fool!" repeated he, while his eyes still
  Relented not, nor mov'd; "from every ill
  Of life have I preserv'd thee to this day,
  And shall I see thee made a serpent's prey?"
  Then Lamia breath'd death breath; the sophist's eye,
  Like a sharp spear, went through her utterly,
  Keen, cruel, perceant, stinging: she, as well
  As her weak hand could any meaning tell,
  Motion'd him to be silent; vainly so,
  He look'd and look'd again a level — No!
  "A Serpent!" echoed he; no sooner said,
  Than with a frightful scream she vanished:
  And Lycius' arms were empty of delight,
  As were his limbs of life, from that same night.
  On the high couch he lay! — his friends came round —
  Supported him — no pulse, or breath they found,
  And, in its marriage robe, the heavy body wound.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

In "La Belle Dame sans Merci," what does the beautiful woman do to the knight?