3

I am trying to understand the meaning to the following excerpt from John Keats's Lamia (full poem here):

"Leave thee alone! Look back! Ah, Goddess, see
Whether my eyes can ever turn from thee!
For pity do not this sad heart belie—

  • What is meant by "Leave thee alone" here?
  • Does the last verse mean: do not deceive my sad heart?
2
  • Are you asking from an English grammar perspective or are you looking for how the lines are to be interpreted in context of the poem?
    – cmw
    Commented Jul 9 at 17:33
  • Thanks for your comment. Yes, it is the interpretation and meaning that I am interested in.
    – balteo
    Commented Jul 9 at 17:41

1 Answer 1

2

This is Lycius’s reply to Lamia, who said, some dozen lines previously:

                                “Ah, Lycius bright,
And will you leave me on the hills alone?
Lycius, look back! and be some pity shown.”

His “Leave thee alone!” thus echoes her question “will you leave me on the hills alone?” and his “Look back!” echoes her “Lycius, look back!”. These are exclamations of protest or incredulity—there is an implied, “How can you imagine it were possible for me to do the first, or not to do the second?”

The third line quoted in the question is an anastrophe, an inversion of the usual word order for poetic reasons. The usual order would be, “do not belie this sad heart.” “Belie” here means “contradict, misrepresent”, not “deceive”, and “this heart” means Lycius, by synecdoche.

Keats uses anastrophe a lot, but so do many poets when under the constraints of rhythm and rhyme. The table below includes a few of those we’ve seen so far in Lamia:

Anastrophe Usual order
empty left his golden throne left his golden throne empty
to bathe was wont was wont to bathe
with all its pearls complete complete with all its pearls
on his pinions lay lay on his pinions
by my power is her beauty veil’d her beauty is veil’d by my power
pale grew her immortality her immortality grew pale
a dream it was it was a dream
his eyes he bent he bent his eyes
towards her stept stept towards her
1
  • Thanks a lot Gareth for your answer. I did not know of the anastrophe. Only of the hyperbaton. I assume they are very similar figures of speech.
    – balteo
    Commented Jul 10 at 9:15

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.