If by dull rhymes our English must be chain’d
If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,
And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness;
Let us find out, if we must be constrain'd,
Sandals more interwoven and complete
To fit the naked foot of poesy;
Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
Of every chord, and see what may be gain'd
By ear industrious, and attention meet:
Misers of sound and syllable, no less
Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
She will be bound with garlands of her own.
Precision, in poetry, is everything. This is what makes Keats so special – it's not that he has the finest voice in all of English poetry, it's that he has the finest ear. "Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress / of every chord, and see what may be gain'd / By ear industrious, and attention meet" is as good a manifesto for the kind of exquisitely lyrical poetry that Keats writes as any. You have only to listen to the flow of this poem, the way every phrase in it sounds exactly right, to recognise why Keats is as spectacular a poet as he is.