If by dull rhymes our English must be chain’d

March 30, 2006 at 10:37 pm 2 comments

John Keats

Listen

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.

Entry filed under: English, John Keats. Tags: .

I think continually of those who were truly great A refusal to mourn the Death, by Fire, of a child in London

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. J. Alfred Prufrock  |  March 31, 2006 at 1:19 am

    Well … I have a special weakness for Keats, but if you would look for the agonised search for just the right music in the words, what about Dylan Thomas?

    J.A.P.

    Reply
  • 2. Dan  |  August 25, 2006 at 9:39 am

    Hi

    I was wondering if you could advise me when the turn (volta) is located in this poem. I have read it over and over and I cannot establish where it is. Im a first year poetry student (I have only been doing this for three weeks!) If you could please offer me any suggestions it would be much appreciated.

    Thanking you in advance

    Reply

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