(ii) Poet: John Keats (1795 - 1821)
(iii) Date of Composition: 1819 and revised in 1820
(iv) Collection: Joseph Severn's Copy of "The Poetical Works of William Shakespeare"
(v) Poetic Genre: Shakespearean Sonnet
(vi) Setting: The time is night. North Star hints that the speaker is somewhere far from home, may be at sea.
(vii) Speaker: John Keats
(viii) Addressee: Bright Star and Fanny Brawne
The star observes that the waters of the earth are engaged in a "priestlike task" of ablution. There is movement, aliveness and spiritually on the earth. The meaning of "ablution" here is of ritual cleansing. Thus it matches up pretty well with the idea of "priestlike" quality of the waters' task. "Earth's human shores" means that human activity has stretched all over the globe; the shores of a continent of land are the edges of human life. In short, the speaker knows that he is subsequent to change and needs something to return to his pure state.
These lines describe snow as being a mask that hides the ugliness of the mountains and moors. The star is gazing on the "masque of snow". "Masque" here is just an old-fashioned, slightly way of spelling "mask". However, this mask is not a real mask, but instead a metaphorical mask. Literally speaking, the star is gazing on a layer of "new" and "soft" snow falling upon "the mountains and the moors". "Moor" is a barren, lonely, uninhabited place. And so are mountains, usually . Thus beauty (the snow) is found in diverse places on earth. In short, we get a chilly feeling from these lines.
(ii) Meter Check: Iambic pentameter
(iii) Alliteration: "the mountains and the moors", "still steadfast, still unchangeable", "soft fall and swell", still, still to hear her tender-taken breath", "so live ever ---or else".
(iv) Symbols: Bright Star (eternity, isolation), Eremite (isolation), pillow (comfort), ripening breast (growth, warmth)
(v) Personification: The Star (it is watching and gazing) and waters (they are engaged in the task of ablution)
(vi) Tone: Sad and depressed
(vii) Imagery: Bright Star, moving waters, earth's human shores, mask of snow upon the mountains and the moors, love's ripening breast.
(viii) Themes: Love, death, time, loneliness, change and transformation, man and the natural world, art and experience.