Keats' Poems and Letters

Hadst Thou Liv'd In Days of Old

Hadst thou liv'd in days of old,

O what wonders had been told

Of thy lively countenance,

And thy humid eyes that dance

In the midst of their own brightness;

In the very fane of lightness.

Over which thine eyebrows, leaning,

Picture out each lovely meaning:

In a dainty bend they lie,

Like two streaks across the sky,

Or the feathers from a crow,

Fallen on a bed of snow.

Of thy dark hair that extends

Into many graceful bends:

As the leaves of Hellebore

Turn to whence they sprung before.

And behind each ample curl

Peeps the richness of a pearl.

Downward too flows many a tress

With a glossy waviness;

Full, and round like globes that rise

From the censer to the skies

Through sunny air. Add too, the sweetness

Of thy honied voice; the neatness

Of thine ankle lightly turn'd:

With those beauties, scarce discrn'd,

Kept with such sweet privacy,

That they seldom meet the eye

Of the little loves that fly

Round about with eager pry.

Saving when, with freshening lave,

Thou dipp'st them in the taintless wave;

Like twin water lillies, born

In the coolness of the morn.

O, if thou hadst breathed then,

Now the Muses had been ten.

Couldst thou wish for lineage higher

Than twin sister of Thalia?

At least for ever, evermore,

Will I call the Graces four.

Hadst thou liv'd when chivalry

Lifted up her lance on high,

Tell me what thou wouldst have been?

Ah! I see the silver sheen

Of thy broidered, floating vest

Cov'ring half thine ivory breast;

Which, O heavens! I should see,

But that cruel destiny

Has placed a golden cuirass there;

Keeping secret what is fair.

Like sunbeams in a cloudlet nested

Thy locks in knightly casque are rested:

O'er which bend four milky plumes

Like the gentle lilly's blooms

Springing from a costly vase.

See with what a stately pace

Comes thine alabaster steed;

Servant of heroic deed!

O'er his loins, his trappings glow

Like the northern lights on snow.

Mount his back! thy sword unsheath!

Sign of the enchanter's death;

Bane of every wicked spell;

Silencer of dragon's yell.

Alas! thou this wilt never do:

Thou art an enchantress too,

And wilt surely never spill

Blood of those whose eyes can kill.