Ode on Melancholy

Keats, John

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela
  • Date of entry: May-07-2001


Keats urges his reader not to respond to melancholy by committing suicide. He says to avoid poisons like Wolf's-bane, nightshade, and yew berries. Instead, when most depressed, "glut thy sorrow" on the beauty of a rose or the rainbow of salt and sea. Likewise, if your mistress is angry with you, look into her eyes and feast on their ephemeral beauty.

Contrast is the key to pleasure. Melancholy is not the moment for death, but an opportunity for a fine experience. It is the fine balance between pain and pleasure that is ideal. The final stanza rephrases this idea. Beauty is always ephemeral; joy is always about to leave, but these are man's highest moments.


Keats does not tell his readers to avoid pain or to try and cheer themselves up. He urges them to balance their pain with tremendous pleasure and relish the contrast.


First published: 1820

Primary Source

Poetical Works


Oxford Univ. Press

Place Published

New York




H. W. Garrod