Verse > John Keats > Poetical Works
John Keats (1795–1821).  The Poetical Works of John Keats.  1884.
10. Woman! when I behold thee flippant, vain
        * * * * * * *
WOMAN! when I behold thee flippant, vain,
  Inconstant, childish, proud, and full of fancies;
  Without that modest softening that enhances
The downcast eye, repentant of the pain
That its mild light creates to heal again:        5
  E’en then, elate, my spirit leaps, and prances,
  E’en then my soul with exultation dances
For that to love, so long, I’ve dormant lain:
But when I see thee meek, and kind, and tender,
  Heavens! how desperately do I adore        10
Thy winning graces;—to be thy defender
  I hotly burn—to be a Calidore—
A very Red Cross Knight—a stout Leander—
  Might I be loved by thee like these of yore.
Light feet, dark violet eyes, and parted hair;        15
  Soft dimpled hands, white neck, and creamy breast,
  Are things on which the dazzled senses rest
Till the fond, fixed eyes, forget they stare.
From such fine pictures, heavens! I cannot dare
  To turn my admiration, though unpossess’d        20
  They be of what is worthy,—though not drest
In lovely modesty, and virtues rare.
Yet these I leave as thoughtless as a lark;
  These lures I straight forget—e’en ere I dine,
Or thrice my palate moisten: but when I mark        25
  Such charms with mild intelligences shine,
My ear is open like a greedy shark,
  To catch the tunings of a voice divine.
Ah! who can e’er forget so fair a being?
  Who can forget her half retiring sweets?        30
  God! she is like a milk-white lamb that bleats
For man’s protection. Surely the All-seeing,
Who joys to see us with his gifts agreeing,
  Will never give him pinions, who intreats
  Such innocence to ruin,—who vilely cheats        35
A dove-like bosom. In truth there is no freeing
One’s thoughts from such a beauty; when I hear
  A lay that once I saw her hand awake,
Her form seems floating palpable, and near;
  Had I e’er seen her from an arbour take        40
A dewy flower, oft would that hand appear,
  And o’er my eyes the trembling moisture shake.
See Notes.


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