Updated: Mar 30, 2022
The sonnet, “Bright Star” which was written in 1818 by John Keats while he was in his death bed, addressing his fiancée Fanny Browne was published in 1838 by Plymouth and Devonport
Weekly Journal. This poem which has the Shakespearean sonnet’s style elucidates his infinite love towards his Lady-love. His desire for an undying love between them is deliberately expressed through his title “The Bright Star” which represents The Star Polaris (aka Pole Star is known for its stillness in the sky where all the other stars have its movements and so, this star is also used as a guide to finding direction) and its characteristics of permanence.
Bright star, would I were stedfast 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 priest like 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 stedfast, still unchangeable,
Pillow'd 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.
The poet begins the poem with his admiration towards the Bright Star. He wishes to have the
stillness, durability, and unchanging qualities of it. His wish intends to remain unaffected by the natural mortality of human beings towards his love life. Though he asks for the qualities of the Pole Star, he stays selective by neglecting its loneliness. He personifies the star and describes how it stays high in the sky overlooking the earth all alone with its eyes wide open like a hermit with patience and watching over the natural shifts that happen in the earth i.e. climatic changes “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".
Keats doesn’t want to be like it as mentioned above yet, he admires its unchanging quality and its stagnancy; and wishes that he has it to remain still and immortal lying on his lady love’s soothing breasts feeling its comfy softness forever. He says, “Awake forever in a sweet unrest, Still, still to hear her tender-taken breath, And so live ever—or else swoon to death.” i.e. if this bliss of listening to her tender breath is to be disturbed, well then he believes that living a moment out of it is cruel than to die.
Publication date: 2004-Topic: Sonnets, English, Sonnets, English-Publisher: Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books