Sonnet. Written Upon The Top Of Ben Nevis

John Keats (1795-1821)

Translated by Timothy Adès

Read me a lesson, Muse, and speak it loud
Upon the top of Nevis, blind in mist!
I look into the chasms, and a shroud
Vapourous doth hide them, — just so much I wist
Mankind do know of hell; I look o’erhead,
And there is sullen mist, — even so much
Mankind can tell of heaven; mist is spread
Before the earth, beneath me, — even such,
Even so vague is man’s sight of himself!
Here are the craggy stones beneath my feet,–
Thus much I know that, a poor witless elf,
I tread on them, — that all my eye doth meet
Is mist and crag, not only on this height,
But in the world of thought and mental might!

Let’s see whether he needed the letter E.

I ask for words, Parnassian! – said out loud
on Scotia’s topmost summit, blind in mist!
I look into its chasms, which a shroud
of vapour bars from sight; so much I wist
mankind doth know of Tartarus; and this,
upwards, is dismal mist – and that’s how much
mankind can know of paradisal bliss;
downwards, mist rolls across this world: just such,
so indistinct, is man’s own mirror-study.
On craggy rocks aloft my right foot stands —
This much I know, that, poor unwitting noddy,
I am on rocks, — and what my sight commands
Is mist and crag, not only on this hill,
But in our world of brains and thoughts and skill.

Translation: Copyright © Timothy Adès

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