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Allusion in Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art

The North Star: Though Keats does not specifically name the North Star, the Pole Star, or Polaris—all names for the same star—it is likely that the titular “Bright Star!” is an allusion to the North Star. Keats praises the star for being “still steadfast, still unchangeable”; these are attributes of the North Star. With its apparently fixed position in the heavens, the North Star has been a navigational touchstone for sailor and travellers for millennia.

Christian Hermeticism: One of the central metaphors of the poem draws on the traditions of Christian Hermeticism. When the speaker refers to the star as a “sleepless Eremite,” he envisions the star as a lone hermit, isolated high in the heavens in a search for wisdom.

Allusion Examples in Bright Star! Would I Were Steadfast as Thou Art:

Bright Star!

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"ablution..."   (Bright Star!)

According to the Bible, God sent a flood to cleanse the earth of all its sinful people. The Great Flood is featured in the story of Noah’s Arc. Keats’s speaker draws on this story when he says that the water cleanses the shores of the earth.

"ablution..."   (Bright Star!)

The noun “ablution” means the act of washing oneself. It can refer to the ceremonial act of washing parts of the body, such as a the Christian tradition of baptism, which symbolizes rebirth and commitment to god. Read together with the adjective “priestlike” in the preceding line, the waters become aligned with religious purposes.

"Eremite..."   (Bright Star!)

The noun “Eremite” is a Christian term for a hermit or recluse. Eremites live away from humanity because they believe a secluded prayer-focused life will bring about clarity that frees them from the sins of humanity. Here, the speaker compares the star’s “sleepless,” ever-open eyes to those of an Eremite. This metaphor further emphasizes the isolation and estrangement from humanity of the star.

"Bright star!..."   (Bright Star!)

Critics speculate that by “bright star,” the speaker is talking about Polaris, or the North Star. This star is famous for appearing to hold still in the sky while all the other stars and constellations move around it. It has been commonly used as a navigation tool for ships and travelers because of its brightness and unmoving nature.

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