John Keats Questions and Answers

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Explain these lines of the poem "I Stood tip-toe upon a little hill": I stood tip-toe upon a little hill The air was cooling, and so very still, That the sweet buds which with a modest pride Pull droopingly, in slanting curve aside,  Their scantly leaved and finely tapering stems,  Had not yet lost those starry diadems   Caught from the early sobbing of the morn.  The clouds were pure and white as Flocks new shorn,  And fresh from the clear Brook; sweetly they slept On the blue fields of heaven and then there crept A little noiseless noise among the leaves,  Born of the very sigh that silence heaves:  For not the faintest motion could be seen Of all the shades that slanted o'er the green.   

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Keats often looked to nature for poetic inspiration. These first lines of this poem illustrate his fascination with natural imagery and how it inspires and energizes his poetic mind. In the first line, he is standing on a hill on his toes so that he can look at the landscape from the highest point possible. Nature was a calming, meditative, and transcendent place for Keats. In the second line, the still air suggests a calm atmosphere. The buds are "modest" because they almost appear shy, still in the process of opening. They droop away from the plant and since they are still opening, they have the crown (diadem) shape. They still have dew on them ("sobbing of the morn") and therefore, it must be close to morning. This image of buds opening, still with dew, early in the morning, creates images of freshness, newness, and purity. 

The clouds are as white as freshly shorn sheep. They "sleep" and/or drift gracefully in the sky ("blue fields of heaven"). The "noiseless noise" is the wind drifting through the leaves. The wind is noiseless on its own; it needs the leaves to rustle in order to make noise. The wind is born of (comes from) the sky (heaven). These associations with heaven give a spiritual notion to these movements, sights, and sounds in nature. Later in the poem, Keats will invoke mythological characters, continuing with this conflation of the natural with the spiritual. Although he hears the wind through the trees, the leaves move imperceptibly. He hears the "noiseless noise" but can not see the "faintest motion" that causes the sound. 

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