Study Guide

Bright Star! Would I Were as Steadfast as Thou Art

by John Keats

Bright Star! Would I Were as Steadfast as Thou Art Summary


Lines 1-4:
In the opening lines, the poet establishes the image of the star that is the central focus of the poem. The star is said to be eternal ("patient"), unchanging ("sleepless"), and beyond the speaker's immediate grasp ("aloft"). Furthermore, the star is described as watching over earth, rather than being watched by someone. As a result, the star nearly pushes the speaker's presence out of the octave— the poem's first eight lines: the word "I" is mentioned only in the first line. This is indicative of a change that occurred in Keats's work as his career progressed. His earlier poems are more concerned with self-consciousness and personal matters but his later work, such as "Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art," include a more harmonious acceptance of nature for what it is, beyond the self s interpretation of it.

Lines 5-8:
The second part of the octave describes what the star watches. Here, two symbols emerge, both suggesting the idea of pureness. The first is the "moving waters" the star watches over. The waters here take on a spiritual significance, their "ablution" suggesting religious purification, "a priestlike task" that is performed on the "human shores." The second symbol is contained in the image of snow: "the new soft-fallen mask" that covers "the mountains and the moors." By introducing these images, the speaker seems to identify with those things that can, in some sense, make humans pure or...

(The entire section is 558 words.)