Summary and Analysis of Ode on Indolence | John Keats

Text of the Poem | Ode on Indolence


One morn before me were three figures seen,

With bowèd necks, and joinèd hands, side-faced;

And one behind the other stepp’d serene,

In placid sandals, and in white robes graced;

They pass’d, like figures on a marble urn,

When shifted round to see the other side;

They came again; as when the urn once more

Is shifted round, the first seen shades return;

And they were strange to me, as may betide

With vases, to one deep in Phidian lore.


How is it, Shadows! that I knew ye not?

How came ye muffled in so hush a mask?

Was it a silent deep-disguisèd plot

To steal away, and leave without a task

My idle days? Ripe was the drowsy hour;

The blissful cloud of summer-indolence

Benumb’d my eyes; my pulse grew less and less;

Pain had no sting, and pleasure’s wreath no flower:

O, why did ye not melt, and leave my sense

Unhaunted quite of all but—nothingness?


A third time pass’d they by, and, passing, turn’d

Each one the face a moment whiles to me;

Then faded, and to follow them I burn’d

And ached for wings, because I knew the three;

The first was a fair Maid, and Love her name;

The second was Ambition, pale of cheek,

And ever watchful with fatiguèd eye;

The last, whom I love more, the more of blame

Is heap’d upon her, maiden most unmeek,—

I knew to be my demon Poesy.


They faded, and, forsooth! I wanted wings:

O folly! What is Love? and where is it?

And for that poor Ambition! it springs

From a man’s little heart’s short fever-fit;

For Poesy!—no,—she has not a joy,—

At least for me,—so sweet as drowsy noons,

And evenings steep’d in honey’d indolence;

O, for an age so shelter’d from annoy,

That I may never know how change the moons,

Or hear the voice of busy common-sense!


And once more came they by:—alas! wherefore?

My sleep had been embroider’d with dim dreams;

My soul had been a lawn besprinkled o’er

With flowers, and stirring shades, and baffled beams:

The morn was clouded, but no shower fell,

Tho’ in her lids hung the sweet tears of May;

The open casement press’d a new-leaved vine,

Let in the budding warmth and throstle’s lay;

O Shadows! ’twas a time to bid farewell!

Upon your skirts had fallen no tears of mine.


So, ye three Ghosts, adieu! Ye cannot raise

My head cool-bedded in the flowery grass;

For I would not be dieted with praise,

A pet-lamb in a sentimental farce!

Fade softly from my eyes, and be once more

In masque-like figures on the dreamy urn;

Farewell! I yet have visions for the night,

And for the day faint visions there is store;

Vanish, ye Phantoms! from my idle spright,

Into the clouds, and never more return!



In this article, you will learn about introduction and summary of Ode to Psyche, meaning of the title, Greek references in the poem, structure and rhyme scheme of the poem, major themes in the poem, and different literary devices used in Ode to Psyche.

John Keats Ode on Indolence:

John Keats wrote Ode on indolence in six stanzas in May 1819. This Ode was published after many years of his death in 1848, explaining a speaker’s morning vision. The Ode on indolence is about three figures drawn pictures on a spinning Urn named Love, Poetry, and Ambition.

Form of Ode on Indolence:

Like other Ode of Keats, Ode on indolence has stanzas composed of ten lines in the iambic pentameter. Just like Ode to the psyche, Ode on indolence is also composed of two types of sequences of lines in each stanza. The first four lines contain the rhyme scheme of ABAB, and the other six lines are of different metrical schemes.

Summary of Ode on Indolence:

One morning three figures appeared before the speaker moving one after the other with joint hands without creating any noise. Their bowed head in white gowns and side-faced position made them serious-looking personalities. They were still like drawings on a spinning urn; when you spin that urn, those pictures will appear again and again.

Speaker feels like a person who is new to sculpting and sketching as those figures were mysterious to him. Speaker finds himself in a difficult position and asks questions about how they appear suddenly and how he could not recognize them? It was like a conspiracy for him when they occur; he was not fully conscious. It was due to laziness in summer that slowed down his pulse and numbed his eyes. He was in a condition above pain and pleasure, no hurt can affect him, and no good news can grow flowers of happiness.

The speaker creates suspense by addressing those figures and asks why they don’t leave him alone in this condition. Now speaker neither sleeps peacefully nor works with concentration because those figures’ thoughts filled his mind about themselves. When those figures pass in front of Keats, they stayed for a while and turned their faces towards him. Speaker recognizes them and wishes to have wings so that he can fly towards them. The first figure was Love, the second of Ambition with a bewildered face appeared, and the third was Poetry. Speaker shared his thoughts that he likes poetry. However, poetry has to face massive criticism but robust like the devil.

When he was thinking about them, the figures suddenly disappeared, and the speaker again wishes to have feathers to reach them. Then he humiliates his thoughts of getting them by saying love always betrayed us, ambition is not permanent, it suddenly came to disappear like it never came. Speaker is in love with laziness, and according to him, chasing those figures will be foolishness. He then orders them to disappear and never come back.

Critical Analysis of Ode on Indolence:

Nature Gives Satisfaction:

The poem describes how beautiful is the company of nature. When you do nothing but still found pleasure is the benefit to sit quietly outside and observe. Nature talks to us in many ways, and one of them is to sit numbly and found the correct answers. So even if you can’t find the solutions to your problems, you will find pleasure. The poem also describes how our ambitions and our mind’s peace disappear towards poetry when we run after love. So why don’t we forget worldly benefits for a while and sit to find what’s essential?

Love, Ambition, and Poetry in Ode on Indolence:

Love, ambition, and poetry are the reasons we live, but these are the reasons for our all troubles. If we don’t care about Love, have any ambition or dream, and forget about poetry, how peaceful our lives can become. In Ode on Indolence, the speaker denies chasing these three figures because he avoided his life problems. Speaker conveys the idea that all he wanted was peace, so whenever someone needs peace, they should sit in nature’s company and forget about it.

The Beauty of Doing Nothing: Idleness in the Ode


When we read the poem, we learn that Keats was running from his life’s difficulties, which is why he prefers to stay idle. There was no solution to his problems because his major problem was death, and the second one was lack of money. We cannot run away from the end, so why don’t we enjoy nature and live peacefully without getting into trouble. Ode on indolence is about staying idle and to find the natural beauty to remain alive instead of chasing dreams, love and emotions.