200 years ago: Keats’s 22nd birthday

On 31 October 1817, Keats writes a letter to Jane Reynolds (‘I send you a few lines from my fourth Book with the desire of helping away for you five Minutes of the day’).

O Sorrow
Why dost borrow
The natural hue of health from vermeil lips?
To give maiden blushes
To the white rose bushes?
Or is it thy dewy hand the daisy tips?

O Sorrow
Why dost borrow
The lustrous passion from a falcon’s eye?
To give the glow-worm light?
Or, on a moonless night
To tinge, on syren shores, the salt sea-spry?

O Sorrow
Why dost borrow
The mellow ditties from a mourning tongue?
To give at evening pale
Unto the nightingale
That thou mayst listen the cold dews among?

O Sorrow,
Why dost borrow
Heart’s lightness from the merriment of May?
A Lover would not tread
A Cowslip on the head,
Though he should dance from eve till peep of day—
Nor any drooping flower
Held sacred for thy bower
Wherever he may sport himself and play.

To Sorrow
I bade good-morrow
And thought to leave her far away behind;
But cheerly, cheerly
She loves me dearly;
She is so constant to me and so kind:
I would deceive her
And so leave her,
But ah! she is so constant and so kind!

John Keats: ‘Song of the Indian Maid’ (Endymion Book IV lines 146-181), which he copied in a letter to Jane Reynolds 31 October 1817. [de Sélincourt 125-6]

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