The Chimney Sweeper
The Little Boy Lost
The Little Boy Found
The Sick Rose
To A Mouse
He tells her to relax. He didn’t mean to break into her nest. But then the speaker starts thinking more about it—the mouse is, after all, pretty justified in being freaked out. Mice should be scared of humans. We set traps for them, we set cats after them, and we plow up their winter nests. The speaker apologizes on behalf of all humankind. He says that the mouse might steal little bits of food from human farms, but who cares? That one little mouse doesn’t eat much. And now her little winter house is all in a ruin. He imagines the mouse planning ahead carefully for the winter—she worked so hard to make her nice little nest, and then, BOOM. The plow goes right over it.
But hey, says the speaker—that’s life. Whether you’re a mouse or a man, your plans—however well-laid—often get messed up. And after all, the mouse has it easy, compared to a human. Mice live in the present moment, while humans look to the past with the regret and to the future with fear. Lucky mouse.
To A Louse
Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey
Composed upon Westminster Bridge
The World Is Too Much With Us
We should be able to appreciate beautiful events like the moon shining over the ocean and the blowing of strong winds, but it’s like we’re on a different wavelength from Nature. We’re kind of like, “Eh.”
The speaker would rather be a pagan who worships an outdated religion so that when he gazes out on the ocean (as he’s doing now), he might feel less sad. If he were a pagan, he’d see wild mythological gods like Proteus, who can take many shapes, and Triton, who looks like a mer-man.
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud
Yes, the daffodils danced, and so did the waves of the lake. But the daffodils danced better. The speaker’s loneliness was replaced by joy, but he didn’t even realize what a gift he has received until later. Now, whenever he’s feeling kind of blah, he just thinks of the daffodils, and his heart is happily dancing.
The Rine of the Ancient Mariner
Pretty soon the sailors lose their wind, and it gets really hot. They run out of water, and everyone blames the Mariner. The ship seems to be haunted by a bad spirit, and weird stuff starts appearing, like slimy creatures that walk on the ocean. The Mariner’s crewmates decide to hang the dead albatross around his neck to remind him of his error.
Everyone is literally dying of thirst. The Mariner sees another ship’s sail at a distance. He wants to yell out, but his mouth is too dry, so he sucks some of his own blood to moisten his lips. He’s like, “A ship! We’re saved.” Sadly, the ship is a ghost ship piloted by two spirits, Death and Life-in-Death, who have to be the last people you’d want to meet on a journey. Everyone on the Mariner’s ship dies.
The wedding guest realizes, “Ah! You’re a ghost!” But the Mariner says, “Well, actually, I was the only one who didn’t die.” He continues his story: he’s on a boat with a lot of dead bodies, surrounded by an ocean full of slimy things. Worse, these slimy things are nasty water snakes. But the Mariner escapes his curse by unconsciously blessing the hideous snakes, and the albatross drops off his neck into the ocean.
The Mariner falls into a sweet sleep, and it finally rains when he wakes up. A storm strikes up in the distance, and all the dead sailors rise like zombies to pilot the ship. The sailors don’t actually come back to life. Instead, angels fill their bodies, and another supernatural spirit under the ocean seems to push the boat. The Mariner faints and hears two voices talking about how he killed the albatross and still has more penance to do. These two mysterious voices explain how the ship is moving.
After a speedy journey, the ship ends up back in port again. The Mariner sees angels standing next to the bodies of all his crewmates. Then a rescue boat shows up to take him back to shore. The Mariner is happy that a guy called “the hermit” is on the rescue boat. The hermit is in a good mood. All of a sudden there’s a loud noise, and the Mariner’s ship sinks. The hermit’s boat picks up the Mariner.
When they get on shore, the Mariner is desperate to tell his story to the hermit. He feels a terrible pain until the story had been told.
In fact, the Mariner says that he still has the same painful need to tell his story, which is why he stopped the Wedding Guest on this occasion. Wrapping up, the Mariner tells the Wedding Guest that he needs to learn how to say his prayers and love other people and things. Then the Mariner leaves, and the Wedding Guest no longer wants to enter the wedding. He goes home and wakes up the next day, as the famous last lines go, “a sadder and a wiser man.”
She Walks in Beauty
When We Two Parted
Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
On the pedestal near the face, the traveler reads an inscription in which the ruler Ozymandias tells anyone who might happen to pass by, basically, “Look around and see how awesome I am!” But there is no other evidence of his awesomeness in the vicinity of his giant, broken statue. There is just a lot of sand, as far as the eye can see. The traveler ends his story.
Ode to the West Wind
The speaker wishes that the wind could affect him the way it does leaves and clouds and waves. Because it can’t, he asks the wind to play him like an instrument, bringing out his sadness in its own musical lament. Maybe the wind can even help him to send his ideas all over the world; even if they’re not powerful in their own right, his ideas might inspire others. The sad music that the wind will play on him will become a prophecy. The West Wind of autumn brings on a cold, barren period of winter, but isn’t winter always followed by a spring?
When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be
Well, as it turns out, the speaker is pretty sure that it is. See, he doesn’t want just any old fame. He wants Fame. Capital letters and neon lights. (Okay – so they didn’t have neon lights in the early 19th century, but you get our point.) He doesn’t want just any old love, either. He wants that soul-stripping, earth-shaking, sky-tumbling once-in-a-lifetime sort of rapture. To sum it all up, he wants to be the star of pretty much every romantic movie ever.
Here’s the problem: the speaker is also pretty sure that his life will end long before he’ll be able to achieve any of these goals. That’s why his description of his desires is so tinged with desperation – chances are, his life will be over far, far too quickly.
Ode on a Grecian Urn
Imagined melodies are lovelier than those heard by human ears. Therefore the poet urges the musician pictured on the urn to play on. His song can never end nor the trees ever shed their leaves. The lover on the urn can never win a kiss from his beloved, but his beloved can never lose her beauty. Happy are the trees on the urn, for they can never lose their leaves. Happy is the musician forever playing songs forever new. The lovers on the urn enjoy a love forever warm, forever panting, and forever young, far better than actual love, which eventually brings frustration and dissatisfaction.
Who are the people coming to perform a sacrifice? To what altar does the priest lead a garlanded heifer? What town do they come from? That town will forever remain silent and deserted.
Fair urn, Keats says, adorned with figures of men and maidens, trees and grass, you bring our speculations to a point at which thought leads nowhere, like meditation on eternity. After our generation is gone, you will still be here, a friend to man, telling him that beauty is truth and truth is beauty — that is all he knows on earth and all he needs to know.