Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

Ode on Indolence

They toil not, neither do they spin.


  • One morn before me were three figures seen,
  • With bowed necks, and joined hands, side-faced;
  • And one behind the other stepped serene,
  • In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;
  • They passed, like figures on a marble urn,
  • When shifted round to see the other side;
  • They came again; as when the urn once more
  • Is shifted round, the first seen shades return;
  • And they were strange to me, as may betide
  • With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.


  • How is it, shadows, that I knew ye not?
  • How came ye muffled in so hush a masque?
  • Was it a silent deep-disguised plot
  • To steal away, and leave without a task
  • My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour;
  • The blissful cloud of summer-indolence
  • Benumbed my eyes; my pulse grew less and less;
  • Pain had no sting, and pleasure’s wreath no flower,
  • O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense
  • Unhaunted quite of all but—nothingness?


  • A third time passed they by, and, passing, turned
  • Each one the face a moment whiles to me;
  • Then faded, and to follow them I burned
  • And ached for wings, because I knew the three;
  • The first was a fair maid, and Love her name;
  • The second was Ambition, pale of cheek,
  • And ever watchful with fatigued eye;
  • The last, whom I love more, the more of blame
  • Is heaped upon her, maiden most unmeek,—
  • I knew to be my demon Poesy.


  • They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings:
  • O folly! What is Love? and where is it?
  • And for that poor Ambition! it springs
  • From a man’s little heart’s short fever-fit;
  • For Poesy!—no,—she has not a joy,—
  • At least for me,—so sweet as drowsy noons,
  • And evenings steeped in honeyed indolence;
  • O, for an age so sheltered from annoy,
  • That I may never know how change the moons,
  • Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!


  • And once more came they by. Alas, wherefore?
  • My sleep had been embroidered with dim dreams;
  • My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o’er
  • With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams:
  • The morn was clouded, but no shower fell,
  • Though in her lids hung the sweet tears of May;
  • The open casement pressed a new-leaved vine,
  • Let in the budding warmth and throstle’s lay;
  • O Shadows! ’twas a time to bid farewell!
  • Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.


  • So, ye three Ghosts, adieu! Ye cannot raise
  • My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass;
  • For I would not be dieted with praise,
  • A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce!
  • Fade softly from my eyes, and be once more
  • In masque-like figures on the dreamy urn;
  • Farewell! I yet have visions for the night,
  • And for the day faint visions there is store;
  • Vanish, ye Phantoms! from my idle sprite,
  • Into the clouds, and never more return!

× Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. “Ode on Indolence.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank. Edition 3.26 , University of Victoria, 12 July 2023.

Chicago Style: Note

John Keats, “Ode on Indolence,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.26 , last modified 12th July 2023.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Keats, John. “Ode on Indolence.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.26 , last modified 12th July 2023.