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Keats’s Odes

John Keats


Ode on Indolence

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Ode on Indolence

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Ode on Indolence

Ode on Indolence

Ode on Indolence


In the first stanza, Keats’s speaker describes a vision he had one morning of three strange figures wearing white robes and “placid sandals.” The figures passed by in profile, and the speaker describes their passing by comparing them to figures carved into the side of a marble urn, or vase. When the last figure passed by, the first figure reappeared, just as would happen if one turned a vase carved with figures before one’s eyes.

In the second stanza, the speaker addresses the figures directly, asking them how it was that he did not recognize them and how they managed to sneak up on him. He suspects them of trying to “steal away, and leave without a task” his “idle days,” and goes on to describe how he passed the morning before their arrival: by lazily enjoying the summer day in a sort of sublime numbness. He asks the figures why they did not disappear and leave him to this indolent nothingness.

In the third stanza, the figures pass by for a third time. The speaker feels a powerful urge to rise up and follow them, because he now recognizes them: the first is a “fair maid,” Love; the second is pale-cheeked Ambition; and the third, whom the speaker seems to love despite himself, is the unmeek maiden, the demon Poesy, or poetry. When the figures disappear in the fourth stanza, the speaker again aches to follow them, but he says that the urge is folly: Love is fleeting, Ambition is mortal, and Poesy has nothing to offer that compares with an indolent summer day untroubled by “busy common-sense.”

In the fifth stanza, the speaker laments again the figures’ third passing, describing his morning before their arrival, when his soul seemed a green lawn sprinkled with flowers, shadows, and sunbeams. There were clouds in the sky but no rain fell, and the open window let in the warmth of the day and the music of birdsong. The speaker tells the figures they were right to leave, for they had failed to rouse him. In the sixth stanza, he bids them adieu and asserts again that Love, Ambition, and Poesy are not enough to make him raise his head from its pillow in the grass. He bids them farewell and tells them he has an ample supply of visions; then he orders them to vanish and never return.


Like all the other odes but “To Autumn” and “Ode to Psyche,” “Ode on Indolence” is written in ten-line stanzas, in a relatively precise iambic pentameter. Like the others (again, with the exception of “Ode to Psyche”), its stanzas are composed of two parts: an opening four-line sequence of alternating rhymed lines (ABAB), and a six-line sequence with a variable rhyme scheme (in stanzas one through four, CDECDE; in stanza five, CDEDCE; in stanza six, CDECED).


Chronologically, the “Ode on Indolence” was probably the second ode. It was composed in the spring of 1819, after “Ode on Melancholy” and a few months before “To Autumn.” However, when the odes are grouped together as a sequence, “Indolence” is often placed first in the group—an arrangement that makes sense, considering that “Indolence” raises the glimmerings of themes explored more fully in the other five poems, and seems to portray the speaker’s first struggle with the problems and ideas of the other odes. The story of “Indolence” is extraordinarily simple—a young man spends a drowsy summer morning lazing about, until he is startled by a vision of Love, Ambition, and Poesy proceeding by him. He feels stirrings of desire to follow the figures, but decides in the end that the temptations of his indolent morning outweigh the temptations of love, ambition, and poetry.

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No real analysis on this page

by cliffordh, February 07, 2014

This is just something i want to point out. This is more summary than analysis explaining the literal meaning of words is not analysis. Themes and underlying meanings being discussed is analysis


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by Shehanaz, April 21, 2014

Ans. “Here are sweet peas, on tip-toe for a flight
With wings of gentle flush o’er delicate white,
And taper finger catching at all things
To bind them all with tiny rings;”
Keats’s attitude towards nature developed as he grew up. In the early poems, it was a temper of merely sensuous delight, an unanalyzed pleasure in the beauty of nature. “He had away”, says Stopford Brooke, “of fluttering... Read more


20 out of 31 people found this helpful

Discuss Keats as a poet of sensuousness.

by anon_2223165149, April 12, 2015

Answer: The poetry of Keats is characterized by 'sensuous' uses of language. The sensuousness of Keats is a striking characteristic of his entire poetry All his poems including his great odes contain rich sensuous appeal. The odes, which represent the highest poetic achievement of Keats, are replete with sensuous pictures.....Read More at


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