Saturday, February 2, 2013

Keats - "Staffa"

Feeling a bit Romantic lately - posting has been very light recently, but soon to stop being such, it has been busy round these parts.

"Staffa" is a poem by John Keats about his visit to Fingal's Cave on Staffa, an island in Scotland.  Wordsworth wrote about it as well, though Keats did so with a touch of the Nights

Keats' poem, untitled, has been referred to as "Staffa" or by its first line "Not Aladdin Magian" and was first published after the poet's death:

NOT Aladdin magian
Ever such a work began;
Not the Wizard of the Dee
Ever such a dream could see;
Not St. John, in Patmos' Isle,
In the passion of his toil,
When he saw the churches seven,
Golden aisl'd, built up in heaven,
Gazed at such a rugged wonder.
As I stood its roofing under
Lo! I saw one sleeping there,
On the marble cold and bare.
While the surges washed his feet,
And his garments white did beat.
Drench'd about the sombre rocks;
On his neck his well-grown locks,
Lifted dry above the main,
Were upon the curl again.
"What is this? and what art thou?"
Whisper'd I, and touch'd his brow.
"What art thou? and what is this?"
Whisper'd I, and strove to kiss
The spirit's hand, to wake his eyes.
Up he started in a trice.
"I am Lycidas," said he,
"Fam'd in funeral minstrelsy.
This was architected thus
By the great Oceanus;
Here his mighty waters play
Hollow organs all the day;
Here by turns his dolphins all,
Finny palmers great and small,
Come to pay devotion due -
Each a mouth of pearls must strew.
Many a mortal of these days,
Dares to pass our sacred ways,
Dares to touch audaciously
This cathedral of the sea.
I have been the pontif-priest
Where the waters never rest,
Where a fledgy sea bird choir
Soars for ever; holy fire
I have hid from mortal man;
Proteus is my sacristan.
But the stupid eye of mortal
Hath pass'd beyond the rocky portal;
So for ever will I leave
Such a taint, and soon unweave
All the magic of the place.
'Tis now free to stupid face,
To cutters and to fashion boats,
To cravats and to petticoats.
The great sea shall war it down,
For its fame shall not be blown
At every farthing quadrille dance."
So saying, with a spirit's glance
He dived -

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