Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology

Mapping Keats’s Progress
A Critical Chronology

There is a joy in footing slow across a silent plain

  • There is a charm in footing slow across a silent plain,
  • Where patriot battle has been fought, when glory had the gain;
  • There is a pleasure on the heath where Druids old have been,
  • Where mantles grey have rustled by and swept the nettles green:
  • There is a joy in every spot made known by times of old,
  • New to the feet, although each tale a hundred times be told:
  • There is a deeper joy than all, more solemn in the heart,
  • More parching to the tongue than all, of more divine a smart,
  • When weary steps forget themselves upon a pleasant turf,
  • Upon hot sand, or flinty road, or sea-shore iron scurf,
  • Toward the castle or the cot, where long ago was born
  • One who was great through mortal days, and died of fame unshorn
  • Light heather-bells may tremble then, but they are far away;
  • Wood-lark may sing from sandy fern, — the sun may hear his lay;
  • Runnels may kiss the grass on shelves and shallows clear,
  • But their low voices are not heard, though come on travels drear;
  • Blood-red the sun may set behind black mountain peaks;
  • Blue tides may sluice and drench their time inaves and weedy creeks;
  • Eagles may seem to sleep wing-wide upon the air;
  • Ring-doves may fly convuls’d across to some high-cedar’d lair;
  • But the forgotten eye is still fast wedded to the ground —
  • As palmer’s, that with weariness, mid-desert shrine hath found
  • At such a time the soul’s a child, in childhood is the brain;
  • Forgotten is the worldly heart — alone, it beats in vain. —
  • Aye, if a madman could have leave to pass a healthful day,
  • To tell his forehead’s swoon and faint when first began decay,
  • He might make tremble many a one whose spirit had gone forth
  • To find a bard’s low cradle place about the silent north.
  • Scanty the hour and few the steps beyond the bourn of care,
  • Beyond the sweet and bitter world, — beyond it unaware!
  • Scanty the hour and few the steps, because a longer stay
  • Would bar return, and make a man forget his mortal way
  • O horrible! to lose the sight of well remember’d face,
  • Of brother’s eyes, of sister’s brow — constant to every place;
  • Filling the air, as on we move, with portraiture intense;
  • More warm than those heroic tints that pain a painter’s sense,
  • When shapes of old come striding by, and visages of old,
  • Locks shining black, hair scanty grey, and passions manifold.
  • No, no, that horror cannot be, for at the cable’s length
  • Man feels the gentle anchor pull and gladdens in its strength —
  • One hour, half-idiot, he stands by mossy waterfall,
  • But in the very next he reads his soul’s memorial: —
  • He reads it on the mountain’s height, where chance he may sit down
  • Upon rough marble diadem — that hill’s eternal crown.
  • Yet be his anchor e’er so fast, room is there for a prayer
  • That man may never lose his mind on mountains black and bare;
  • That he may stray league after league some great birthplace to find
  • And keep his vision clear from speck, his inward sight unblind.

🗙 Cite this page:

MLA Style: Works Cited

Keats, John. “There is a joy in footing slow across a silent plain.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, by G. Kim Blank. Edition 3.3 , University of Victoria, 5 September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_there_is_a_joy_in_footing.html.

Chicago Style: Note

John Keats, “There is a joy in footing slow across a silent plain,” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_there_is_a_joy_in_footing.html.

Chicago Style: Bibliography

Keats, John. “There is a joy in footing slow across a silent plain.” Mapping Keats’s Progress: A Critical Chronology, Edition 3.3 , last modified 5th September 2020. https://johnkeats.uvic.ca/poem_there_is_a_joy_in_footing.html.