Study Guide

Bright Star, would I were stedfast as thou art Time

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Keats's "Bright Star" gives us the perspective of somebody on earth looking up at a single, extremely special star in the heavens. This is the North Star, the one star that stays fixed in its place for all time. All the other stars on the sky are constantly changing positions as time passes: they all rotate around the North Star. And the same goes for life on earth: the waters come and go, the seasons come and go, snow falls, and generations are born and die. But the speaker doesn't want to be like the star way up there in the heavens. He wants to take that same eternal existence of the star and enjoy it on earth, in the company of the woman he loves. He loves the things that won't last forever. But that won't stop him from wanting them to last forever.

Questions About Time

  1. At several points in the poem, Keats draws a connection between eternal existence and motionlessness. Why do you think he made this connection?
  2. Are there any things in the poem that move but are also eternal? If there is more than one such thing, what do they have in common? What are the differences between them?
  3. Does Keats use any special poetic devices to give his readers a sense of long-lasting time? If so, what are they?
  4. Isn't it kind of funny that Keats chose to write about the vast themes of time and eternity in a poetic form that only lets you use fourteen lines? What might have been the advantages of treating these vast subjects in such a small format? What might be the disadvantages?

Chew on This

Everything in the poem that moves but is also eternal has one thing in common: they all follow a cyclical pattern.

At several points in the poem, Keats uses repetition to suggest the passage of time.

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