Last Sonnet by J. Keats

 John Keats (Romantic Poet)

Last Sonnet

Bright star, would I were steadfast as thou art! –
Not in lone splendour hung aloft the night,
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like Nature’s patient sleepless Eremite,
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth’s human shores,
Or gazing on the new soft fallen mask
Of snow upon the mountains and the moors –
No -yet still steadfast, still unchangeable,
Pillowed upon my fair love’s ripening breast,
To feel for ever its soft fall and swell,
Awake for ever in a sweet unrest,
Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath,
And so live ever -or else swoon to death.

1. What do you understand from the first reading?

Check this video and take notes

Another piece of help:

Answer the following questions  (pair work)

  1. Based on the poem as a whole, would you say that the speaker is friendly towards Nature or is he enemies with it? Or is he somewhere in between? If he’s somewhere in between, what would be a better way of explaining the speaker’s relationship with Nature?
  2. Based on the poem as a whole, what would you say is the speaker’s attitude towards humanity?
  3. In some editions of this poem, depending on which manuscript the editors look at, the words “swell” and “fall” in line 11 appear in the opposite order from the way they appear in the version of the poem we quote on Shmoop. (For an example of this, check out this version of the poem, which reproduces the text as it appeared when the poem was first printed in 1848, 27 years after Keats’s death.) What difference do you think each way of ordering the words makes? If you were editing an edition of Keats’s poems, which version would you choose and why?
  4. In the text of the poem we’re using (the Oxford World’s Classics version edited by Elizabeth Cook), the poem ends with a dash: “—”. This follows the punctuation of one of Keats’s own manuscript versions of the poem. Other modern editors prefer to add a period at the end. Is there a different mood created by the two forms of punctuation? If so, what is it? If you were the editor, would you have followed Keats’s manuscript punctuation, or would you have modernized it? Why?
  5. This sonneo known as “Bright Star”. Which title do you prefer and why?


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