“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.
Published by Christine
Christine Swint’s poems have appeared in Calyx, Birmingham Poetry Review, Slant, a Journal of Poetry, Tampa Review, Heron Tree, Ekphrasis, and others. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best New Poets, and she has won first place prizes from the Georgia Poetry Society and Agnes Scott College. Her first collection, Swimming This, was published in 2015 by FutureCycle Press. She teaches first-year composition at a metro-Atlanta university and writes about poetry, art, hiking, and yoga at Balanced on the Edge, https://balancedonedge.blog
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One thought on “Lines from Keats’s Lamia”
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.