To Hope by John Keats

WHEN by my solitary hearth I sit,
And hateful thoughts enwrap my soul in gloom;
When no fair dreams before my “mind’s eye” flit,
And the bare heath of life presents no bloom;
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Whene’er I wander, at the fall of night,
Where woven boughs shut out the moon’s bright ray,
Should sad Despondency my musings fright,
And frown, to drive fair Cheerfulness away,
Peep with the moonbeams through the leafy roof,
And keep that fiend Despondence far aloof!

Should Disappointment, parent of Despair,
Strive for her son to seize my careless heart;
When, like a cloud, he sits upon the air,
Preparing on his spell-bound prey to dart:
Chase him away, sweet Hope, with visage bright,
And fright him as the morning frightens night!

Whene’er the fate of those I hold most dear
Tells to my fearful breast a tale of sorrow,
O bright-eyed Hope, my morbidfancy cheer;
Let me awhile thy sweetest comforts borrow:
Thy heaven-born radiance around me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

Should e’er unhappy love my bosom pain,
From cruel parents, or relentless fair;
O let me think it is not quite in vain
To sigh out sonnets to the midnight air!
Sweet Hope, ethereal balm upon me shed,
And wave thy silver pinions o’er my head!

In the long vista of the years to roll,
Let me not see our country’s honour fade:
O let me see our land retain her soul,
Her pride, her freedom; and not freedom’s shade.
From thy bright eyes unusual brightness shed—
Beneath thy pinions canopy my head!

Let me not see the patriot’s high bequest,
Great Liberty! how great in plain attire!
With the base purple of a court oppress’d,
Bowing her head, and ready to expire:
But let me see thee stoop from heaven on wings
That fill the skies with silver glitterings!

And as, in sparkling majesty, a star
Gilds the bright summit of some gloomy cloud;
Brightening the half veil’d face of heaven afar:
So, when dark thoughts my boding spirit shroud,
Sweet Hope, celestial influence round me shed,
Waving thy silver pinions o’er my head!

I just read this poem for the first time a few weeks ago. At first, I was struck by the first part of the poem, especially the first stanza. It was very moving.

Katniss Hunger Games

The second time through, I thought about Keats’s reflections on his country. I read a comment online asking why teen fiction is so dystopian. The comment basically asked, “Why can’t these books be about nice things?”

The answer is simple. For people my age and younger, there is a sense that the “American age” (as Jimmy Porter once called it) is passing away. It’s inevitable. My medieval history professor said that we ask the wrong question when we ask why the Roman empire fell. This question assumes that empires are the natural order of things. Another question we can ask is, “Why did the Roman Empire last as long as it did?”

Tris

I think that young people are sensing that the world we know will not exist in perpetuity. This is part of the appeal of series like Divergent and The Hunger Games. They allow young people to imagine an America after America.

History teaches me that this is only a matter of time. And yet, like Keats, I hope it is not in my time.

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2 Responses to To Hope by John Keats

  1. Beautiful poem… And it is our time, slowly change is happening before our eyes…

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