Stay, ruby breasted warbler, stay was written by John Keats
in 1814 at the request of Caroline and Ann Mathew, two sisters who
were the subjects of a number of his early poems, including "To Some
Ladies," and "On Receiving a Curious Shell, and a Copy of Verses, from
the Same Ladies." It was written to the tune of a popular song of the period,
called "Julia to the Wood Robin." Keats was never fully comfortable interacting
with women, especially this early in his life (he was eighteen). Caroline and
Ann were cousins of his friend George Mathew, and he had by this point developed a
sort of casual, big-brother flirtation with them, having quickly discovered
that he could please them to no end by making up new words to their favorite
songs on the spur of the moment.
The original lyrics
are as follows:
Julia to the Wood Robin
Stay, sweet Enchaunter of the grove
Leave not so soon thy native tree;
O warble still those notes of love,
While my fond heart responds to thee.
Rest thy soft bosom on the spray
Till chilly Autumn frowns serene;
Then charm me with thy parting lay,
And I will answer with a tear.
But soon as Spring, enwreath'd with flow'rs,
Comes dancing o'er the new drest Plain,
Return and cheer thy natal bow'rs,
My Robin, with those notes again.
Here, then, is Keats' version:
Stay, ruby breasted warbler, stay,
And let me see thy sparkling eye;
Oh brush not yet the pearl strung spray,
Nor bow thy pretty head to fly.
Stay while I tell thee, fluttering thing,
That thou of love an emblem art;
Yes! patient plume thy little wing,
Whilst I my thoughts to thee impart.
When summer nights the dews bestow,
And summer suns enrich the day,
Thy notes the blossoms charm to blow,
Each opes delighted as thy lay.
So when in youth the eye's dark glance
Speaks pleasure from its circle bright,
The tones of love our joys enhance,
And make superiour each delight.
And when bleak storms resistless rove,
And ev'ry rural bliss destroy,
Nought comforts then the leafless grove
But thy soft note--its only joy.
E'en so the words of love beguile,
When pleasure's tree no longer bears,
And draw a soft endearing smile,
Amid the gloom of grief and tears.