Lines from Keats’s Lamia

“It was no dream; or say a dream it was,
Real are the dreams of Gods, and smoothly pass
Their pleasures in a long immortal dream.”

Three lines from Lamia, by John Keats, July-August, 1819.

After I read this passage I decided to copy it down. I need to let the thoughts about the gods’ dreams settle in me for a few days. Maybe it’s just another reason to wish I were immortal. But maybe I can be a god if I dream the right dream.

The speaker is describing a scene in which the beautiful, sad serpent Lamia has lifted the cloak of invisibility from a nymph who has beguiled the god Hermes. Now Hermes can see his love, and she is not a dream.

Painting of a lamia by John William Waterhouse, c. 1900.

One thought on “Lines from Keats’s Lamia

  1. Andrew says:

    Hermes’ beguilement indicates the god’s desire. By using the word dream, however, Keats indicates the desire is more than the sort produced by an animal desire. It is a wonderful gift to consider what pleasures gods may enjoy in their dreams.


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