Bright Star, would I were stedfast as thou art
How we cite our quotes:
Bright Star, would I were stedfast as thou art— (line 1)
Because this is the first line of the poem, it is extremely important in terms of setting up the major themes in what will follow. In this line, we hear a man addressing a star, the North Star, and saying how he wants to be like it. Now, there are many ways one could think of wanting to be like a star. One person, for example, might think, "Gee, I really wish I could send out light that would travel millions of light-years through space." Another might say, "Wow, I really would love to be a giant ball of flaming gas." But does Keats's speaker want to be a star for these reasons? No: he wants to be "stedfast" as the star is. This shows us the premium he places on loyalty.
And watching, with eternal lids apart,
Like nature's patient, sleepless Eremite (lines 3-4)
The images of loyalty are still in the forefront as the speaker's description continues. Now, it becomes clear that it is loyalty to something. How do we know this? Because the speaker tells us that the star is "watching" something. Also, the word "patient" in the simile of the "Eremite" might call to mind the patience of someone who cares for others. The only thing is, we still don't know what the star is watching, or who or what (if anything) it is caring for.
The moving waters at their priestlike task
Of pure ablution round earth's human shores (lines 5-6)
Now we get an answer to those questions, but these answers only raise more questions. What the steadfast star seems to be spending its loyal attention on is watching the waters of the earth flow around it and purify its "human shores." So…what are the "moving waters" loyal to? Are they loyal to the humans or are they loyal to the shores, to the earth itself? It kind of sounds like they are washing away the generations of humanity, doesn't it? So, that means the star has loyalty for the waters, and the waters have loyalty for the earth and its barren shores…but nobody seems to have much care for humanity. Once the description of what the star does has come to this point, do we really expect Keats's speaker to feel loyalty towards the star?