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

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

Text of the Poem 9

"swoon..."   (Text of the Poem)

The verb “to swoon” means to faint or to sink into a state of rest. The emotionally charged and dramatic connotations that accompany the word “swoon” highlight Keats’s involvement in Romanticism, a literary movement from the 18th century that emphasized emotion, individualism, and man’s relationship to nature.

"Still, still..."   (Text of the Poem)

The repetition of “still” here takes on two meanings of the word. As an adjective, “still” can mean not moving or making a sound. As an adverb, it can also refer to time spent doing an activity, even now. In the repetition, the speaker says that he lies still in order to continue to hear her breath. In a sense, his only way to combat the progression of time is to make his body as motionless as possible. Notice the subtle irony that underlies this statement: the speaker must become motionless to make the moment last longer; he must mimic death in order to gain the feeling of everlasting life.

"sweet unrest..."   (Text of the Poem)

The phrase “sweet unrest” is an oxymoron, or a figure of speech in which contradictory terms are placed in conjunction for emphasis. Sweet means pleasing to the senses; unrest, disharmony or strife. This oxymoron underscores the speaker’s internal struggle: the moment is sweet but his knowledge that it will eventually end causes him unrest. The moment is perfect and it makes it bittersweet.

"ripening..."   (Text of the Poem)

The verb “to ripen” signifies a fruit maturing to its full potential or sweetness. Ripeness represents the moment a fruit has the most robust flavor as well as the moment before the fruit rots and becomes completely inedible. Ripening suggests change over time, the process of developing. Notice how this characteristic of his lover’s breast contrasts the everlasting, fixed nature that he longs for. This word choice reveals the underlying paradox of his desire: he both recognizes that time will inevitably move on and desires for the moment to never change.

"Pillowed..."   (Text of the Poem)

The verb “pillowed” means to provide with a pillow, or to be cushioned with a pillow. The speaker uses this word to communicate to the reader that he is lying on his lover’s chest while she sleeps.

"ablution..."   (Text of the Poem)

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..."   (Text of the Poem)

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.

"lone..."   (Text of the Poem)

The first distinction the speaker draws between himself and the star is its loneliness. While the speaker wants to be “steadfast,” he does not want to be “lone,” an adjective signifying that one has no fellows or companions.

"steadfast..."   (Text of the Poem)

The adjective “steadfast” means unchanging, firmly fixed and immovable. With this opening line, the speaker tells his audience, the bright star, that he longs to be as unchanging as it is.