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John Keats's 'Ode to a Nightingale' contains the line "Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,".

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards

In this passage, it seems that 'pards' means 'pardners' (i.e., 'partners'). But if so, this is inconsistent with the assertion given by Merriam-Webster that the first use of 'pard' as a short form of 'pardner' is in the year 1850, because Keats died in 1821. So, what is the meaning of 'pards' in this poem?

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2 Answers 2

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Pard is short for leopard, a creature with which Bacchus (Dionysus) is sometimes associated. It's simple allusory detail, there only for rhyme, without any other significance within the greater context; Keats means that he needs no wine, just simple poetry, to understand the beauty of the Nightingale.

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Beyond Heartspring’s answer, I just wanted to add that “Leopard” is actually derived from a compound word, so etymologically, it wasn’t originally a shortening.

See Latin pardus.

(This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t viewed as a shortening by Keats’ time.)

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  • It's a wiki, so you're welcome to edit and correct my answer. Up to you, I guess. Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 19:14
  • @Heartspring: I phrased it this way because I see it as an alternative perspective rather than a correction.
    – herisson
    Commented Nov 19, 2023 at 19:15

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