Verse > Anthologies > Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. > The Oxford Book of English Verse
Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900.
John Keats. 1795–1821
623. Song of the Indian Maid
          O SORROW! 
          Why dost borrow 
  The natural hue of health, from vermeil lips?— 
          To give maiden blushes 
          To the white rose bushes?         5
  Or is it thy dewy hand the daisy tips? 
          O Sorrow! 
          Why dost borrow 
  The lustrous passion from a falcon-eye?— 
          To give the glow-worm light?  10
          Or, on a moonless night, 
  To tinge, on siren shores, the salt sea-spry? 
          O Sorrow! 
          Why dost borrow 
  The mellow ditties from a mourning tongue?—  15
          To give at evening pale 
          Unto the nightingale, 
  That thou mayst listen the cold dews among? 
          O Sorrow! 
          Why dost borrow  20
  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  25
          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;  30
          But cheerly, cheerly, 
          She loves me dearly; 
  She is so constant to me, and so kind: 
          I would deceive her 
          And so leave her,  35
  But ah! she is so constant and so kind. 
Beneath my palm-trees, by the river side, 
I sat a-weeping: in the whole world wide 
There was no one to ask me why I wept,— 
        And so I kept  40
Brimming the water-lily cups with tears 
        Cold as my fears. 
Beneath my palm-trees, by the river side, 
I sat a-weeping: what enamour'd bride, 
Cheated by shadowy wooer from the clouds,  45
        But hides and shrouds 
Beneath dark palm-trees by a river side? 
And as I sat, over the light blue hills 
There came a noise of revellers: the rills 
Into the wide stream came of purple hue—  50
        'Twas Bacchus and his crew! 
The earnest trumpet spake, and silver thrills 
From kissing cymbals made a merry din— 
        'Twas Bacchus and his kin! 
Like to a moving vintage down they came,  55
Crown'd with green leaves, and faces all on flame; 
All madly dancing through the pleasant valley, 
        To scare thee, Melancholy! 
O then, O then, thou wast a simple name! 
And I forgot thee, as the berried holly  60
By shepherds is forgotten, when in June 
Tall chestnuts keep away the sun and moon:— 
        I rush'd into the folly! 
Within his car, aloft, young Bacchus stood, 
Trifling his ivy-dart, in dancing mood,  65
        With sidelong laughing; 
And little rills of crimson wine imbrued 
His plump white arms and shoulders, enough white 
        For Venus' pearly bite; 
And near him rode Silenus on his ass,  70
Pelted with flowers as he on did pass 
        Tipsily quaffing. 
'Whence came ye, merry Damsels! whence came ye, 
So many, and so many, and such glee? 
Why have ye left your bowers desolate,  75
        Your lutes, and gentler fate?'— 
'We follow Bacchus! Bacchus on the wing, 
Bacchus, young Bacchus! good or ill betide, 
We dance before him thorough kingdoms wide:—  80
Come hither, lady fair, and joinèd be 
        To our wild minstrelsy!' 
'Whence came ye, jolly Satyrs! whence came ye, 
So many, and so many, and such glee? 
Why have ye left your forest haunts, why left  85
        Your nuts in oak-tree cleft?'— 
'For wine, for wine we left our kernel tree; 
For wine we left our heath, and yellow brooms, 
        And cold mushrooms; 
For wine we follow Bacchus through the earth;  90
Great god of breathless cups and chirping mirth! 
Come hither, lady fair, and joinèd be 
        To our mad minstrelsy!' 
Over wide streams and mountains great we went, 
And, save when Bacchus kept his ivy tent,  95
Onward the tiger and the leopard pants, 
        With Asian elephants: 
Onward these myriads—with song and dance, 
With zebras striped, and sleek Arabians' prance, 
Web-footed alligators, crocodiles, 100
Bearing upon their scaly backs, in files, 
Plump infant laughers mimicking the coil 
Of seamen, and stout galley-rowers' toil: 
With toying oars and silken sails they glide, 
        Nor care for wind and tide. 105
Mounted on panthers' furs and lions' manes, 
From rear to van they scour about the plains; 
A three days' journey in a moment done; 
And always, at the rising of the sun, 
About the wilds they hunt with spear and horn, 110
        On spleenful unicorn. 
I saw Osirian Egypt kneel adown 
        Before the vine-wreath crown! 
I saw parch'd Abyssinia rouse and sing 
        To the silver cymbals' ring! 115
I saw the whelming vintage hotly pierce 
        Old Tartary the fierce! 
The kings of Ind their jewel-sceptres vail, 
And from their treasures scatter pearlèd hail; 
Great Brahma from his mystic heaven groans, 120
        And all his priesthood moans, 
Before young Bacchus' eye-wink turning pale. 
Into these regions came I, following him, 
Sick-hearted, weary—so I took a whim 
To stray away into these forests drear, 125
        Alone, without a peer: 
And I have told thee all thou mayest hear. 
        Young Stranger! 
        I've been a ranger 
In search of pleasure throughout every clime; 130
        Alas! 'tis not for me! 
        Bewitch'd I sure must be, 
To lose in grieving all my maiden prime. 
        Come then, Sorrow, 
        Sweetest Sorrow! 135
Like an own babe I nurse thee on my breast: 
        I thought to leave thee, 
        And deceive thee, 
But now of all the world I love thee best. 
        There is not one, 140
        No, no, not one 
But thee to comfort a poor lonely maid; 
        Thou art her mother, 
        And her brother, 
Her playmate, and her wooer in the shade. 145
GLOSS:  sea-spry] sea-spray.
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