The Keats-Shelley Blog

24 November 2019

Keats-Shelley Prize Songbird Poem of the Week 8 - The Nightingale by John Keble

A nightingale flies with an Oxford Movement

The Nightingale

From The Christian Year: First Sunday after Epiphany.

They shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.  Isaiah xliv. 4.

Lessons sweet of spring returning,
   Welcome to the thoughtful heart!
May I call ye sense or learning,
   Instinct pure, or Heaven-taught art?
Be your title what it may,
Sweet this lengthening April day,
While with you the soul is free,
Ranging wild o’er hill and lea.

Soft as Memnon’s harp at morning,
   To the inward ear devout,
Touched by light, with heavenly warning
   Your transporting chords ring out.
Every leaf in every nook,
Every wave in every brook,
Chanting with a solemn voice,
Minds us of our better choice.

Needs no show of mountain hoary,
   Winding shore or deepening glen,
Where the landscape in its glory
   Teaches truth to wandering men:
Give true hearts but earth and sky,
And some flowers to bloom and die,
Homely scenes and simple views
Lowly thoughts may best infuse.

See the soft green willow springing
   Where the waters gently pass,
Every way her free arms flinging
   O’er the moist and reedy grass.
Long ere winter blasts are fled,
See her tipped with vernal red,
And her kindly flower displayed
Ere her leaf can cast a shade.

Though the rudest hand assail her,
   Patiently she droops awhile,
But when showers and breezes hail her,
   Wears again her willing smile.
Thus I learn Contentment’s power
From the slighted willow bower,
Ready to give thanks and live
On the least that Heaven may give.

If, the quiet brooklet leaving,
   Up the stony vale I wind,
Haply half in fancy grieving
   For the shades I leave behind,
By the dusty wayside drear,
Nightingales with joyous cheer
Sing, my sadness to reprove,
Gladlier than in cultured grove.

Where the thickest boughs are twining
   Of the greenest darkest tree,
There they plunge, the light declining—
   All may hear, but none may see.
Fearless of the passing hoof,
Hardly will they fleet aloof;
So they live in modest ways,
Trust entire, and ceaseless praise.

John Keble

Details of 2020's Keats-Shelley Prize click here.

Details of 2020's Young Romantics Prize click here.