Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets, widely regarded as one of the finest lyric and philosophical poets in the English language.
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Famous Percy Bysshe Shelley Poems
To Mary Who Died In This Opinion
Maiden, quench the glare of sorrow
Struggling in thine haggard eye:
Firmness dare to borrow
From the wreck of destiny;
For the ray morn’s bloom revealing
Can never boast so bright an hue
As that which mocks concealing,
And sheds its loveliest light on you.
Yet is the tie departed
Which bound thy lovely soul to bliss?
Has it left thee broken-hearted
In a world so cold as this?
Yet, though, fainting fair one,
Sorrow’s self thy cup has given,
Dream thou’lt meet thy dear one,
Never more to part, in Heaven.
Existence would I barter
For a dream so dear as thine,
And smile to die a martyr
On affection’s bloodless shrine.
Nor would I change for pleasure
That withered hand and ashy cheek,
If my heart enshrined a treasure
Such as forces thine to break.
Death! where is thy victory?
To triumph whilst I die,
To triumph whilst thine ebon wing
Enfolds my shuddering soul?
O Death! where is thy sting?
Not when the tides of murder roll,
When nations groan, that kings may bask in bliss,
Death! canst thou boast a victory such as this–
When in his hour of pomp and power
His blow the mightiest murderer gave,
Mid Nature’s cries the sacrifice
Of millions to glut the grave;
When sunk the Tyrant Desolation’s slave;
Or Freedom’s life-blood streamed upon thy shrine;
Stern Tyrant, couldst thou boast a victory such as mine?
To know in dissolution’s void
That mortals’ baubles sunk decay;
That everything, but Love, destroyed
Must perish with its kindred clay,–
Perish Ambition’s crown,
Perish her sceptred sway:
From Death’s pale front fades Pride’s fastidious frown.
In Death’s damp vault the lurid fires decay,
That Envy lights at heaven-born Virtue’s beam–
That all the cares subside,
Which lurk beneath the tide
Of life’s unquiet stream;–
Yes! this is victory!
And on yon rock, whose dark form glooms the sky,
To stretch these pale limbs, when the soul is fled;
To baffle the lean passions of their prey,
To sleep within the palace of the dead!
Oh! not the King, around whose dazzling throne
His countless courtiers mock the words they say,
Triumphs amid the bud of glory blown,
As I in this cold bed, and faint expiring groan!
Tremble, ye proud, whose grandeur mocks the woe
Which props the column of unnatural state!
You the plainings, faint and low,
From Misery’s tortured soul that flow,
Shall usher to your fate.
Tremble, ye conquerors, at whose fell command
The war-fiend riots o’er a peaceful land!
You Desolation’s gory throng
Shall bear from Victory along
To that mysterious strand.
Thy look of love has power to calm
The stormiest passion of my soul;
Thy gentle words are drops of balm
In life’s too bitter bowl;
No grief is mine, but that alone
These choicest blessings I have known.
Harriet! if all who long to live
In the warm sunshine of thine eye,
That price beyond all pain must give,-
Beneath thy scorn to die;
Then hear thy chosen own too late
His heart most worthy of thy hate.
Be thou, then, one among mankind
Whose heart is harder not for state,
Thou only virtuous, gentle, kind,
Amid a world of hate;
And by a slight endurance seal
A fellow-being’s lasting weal.
For pale with anguish is his cheek,
His breath comes fast, his eyes are dim,
Thy name is struggling ere he speak,
Weak is each trembling limb;
In mercy let him not endure
The misery of a fatal cure.
Oh, trust for once no erring guide!
Bid the remorseless feeling flee;
‘Tis malice, ’tis revenge, ’tis pride,
‘Tis anything but thee;
Oh, deign a nobler pride to prove,
And pity if thou canst not love.
The rose that drinks the fountain dew
In the pleasant air of noon,
Grows pale and blue with altered hue—
In the gaze of the nightly moon;
For the planet of frost, so cold and bright
Makes it wan with her borrowed light.
Such is my heart—roses are fair,
And that at best a withered blossom;
But thy false care did idly wear
Its withered leaves in a faithless bosom;
And fed with love, like air and dew,
To Constantia, Singing
Thus to be lost and thus to sink and die,
Perchance were death indeed!—Constantia, turn!
In thy dark eyes a power like light doth lie,
Even though the sounds which were thy voice, which burn
Between thy lips, are laid to sleep;
Within thy breath, and on thy hair, like odour, it is yet,
And from thy touch like fire doth leap.
Even while I write, my burning cheeks are wet.
Alas, that the torn heart can bleed, but not forget!
A breathless awe, like the swift change
Unseen, but felt in youthful slumbers,
Wild, sweet, but uncommunicably strange,
Thou breathest now in fast ascending numbers.
The cope of heaven seems rent and cloven
By the enchantment of thy strain,
And on my shoulders wings are woven,
To follow its sublime career
Beyond the mighty moons that wane
Upon the verge of Nature’s utmost sphere,
Till the world’s shadowy walls are past and disappear.
Her voice is hovering o’er my soul—it lingers
O’ershadowing it with soft and lulling wings,
The blood and life within those snowy fingers
Teach witchcraft to the instrumental strings.
My brain is wild, my breath comes quick–
The blood is listening in my frame,
And thronging shadows, fast and thick,
Fall on my overflowing eyes;
My heart is quivering like a flame;
As morning dew, that in the sunbeam dies,
I am dissolved in these consuming ecstasies.
I have no life, Constantia, now, but thee,
Whilst, like the world-surrounding air, thy song
Flows on, and fills all things with melody.–
Now is thy voice a tempest swift and strong,
On which, like one in trance upborne,
Secure o’er rocks and waves I sweep,
Rejoicing like a cloud of morn.
Now ’tis the breath of summer night,
Which when the starry waters sleep,
Round western isles, with incense-blossoms bright,
Lingering, suspends my soul in its voluptuous flight.
The Sepulchre Of Memory
And where is truth? On tombs? for such to thee
Has been my heart—and thy dead memory
Has lain from childhood, many a changeful year,
Unchangingly preserved and buried there.
To Emilia Viviani
Madonna, wherefore hast thou sent to me
Sweet-basil and mignonette?
Embleming love and health, which never yet
In the same wreath might be.
Alas, and they are wet!
Is it with thy kisses or thy tears?
For never rain or dew
Such fragrance drew
From plant or flower—the very doubt endears
My sadness ever new,
The sighs I breathe, the tears I shed for thee.
Send the stars light, but send not love to me,
In whom love ever made
Health like a heap of embers soon to fade–
Summer was dead and Autumn was expiring,
And infant Winter laughed upon the land
All cloudlessly and cold;–when I, desiring
More in this world than any understand,
Wept o’er the beauty, which, like sea retiring,
Had left the earth bare as the wave-worn sand
Of my lorn heart, and o’er the grass and flowers
Pale for the falsehood of the flattering Hours.
Summer was dead, but I yet lived to weep
The instability of all but weeping;
And on the Earth lulled in her winter sleep
I woke, and envied her as she was sleeping.
Too happy Earth! over thy face shall creep
The wakening vernal airs, until thou, leaping
From unremembered dreams, shalt … see
No death divide thy immortality.
I loved–oh, no, I mean not one of ye,
Or any earthly one, though ye are dear
As human heart to human heart may be;–
I loved, I know not what–but this low sphere
And all that it contains, contains not thee,
Thou, whom, seen nowhere, I feel everywhere.
From Heaven and Earth, and all that in them are,
Veiled art thou, like a … star.
By Heaven and Earth, from all whose shapes thou flowest,
Neither to be contained, delayed, nor hidden;
Making divine the loftiest and the lowest,
When for a moment thou art not forbidden
To live within the life which thou bestowest;
And leaving noblest things vacant and chidden,
Cold as a corpse after the spirit’s flight
Blank as the sun after the birth of night.
In winds, and trees, and streams, and all things common,
In music and the sweet unconscious tone
Of animals, and voices which are human,
Meant to express some feelings of their own;
In the soft motions and rare smile of woman,
In flowers and leaves, and in the grass fresh-shown,
Or dying in the autumn, I the most
Adore thee present or lament thee lost.
And thus I went lamenting, when I saw
A plant upon the river’s margin lie
Like one who loved beyond his nature’s law,
And in despair had cast him down to die;
Its leaves, which had outlived the frost, the thaw
Had blighted; like a heart which hatred’s eye
Can blast not, but which pity kills; the dew
Lay on its spotted leaves like tears too true.
The Heavens had wept upon it, but the Earth
Had crushed it on her maternal breast
I bore it to my chamber, and I planted
It in a vase full of the lightest mould;
The winter beams which out of Heaven slanted
Fell through the window-panes, disrobed of cold,
Upon its leaves and flowers; the stars which panted
In evening for the Day, whose car has rolled
Over the horizon’s wave, with looks of light
Smiled on it from the threshold of the night.
The mitigated influences of air
And light revived the plant, and from it grew
Strong leaves and tendrils, and its flowers fair,
Full as a cup with the vine’s burning dew,
O’erflowed with golden colours; an atmosphere
Of vital warmth enfolded it anew,
And every impulse sent to every part
The unbeheld pulsations of its heart.
Well might the plant grow beautiful and strong,
Even if the air and sun had smiled not on it;
For one wept o’er it all the winter long
Tears pure as Heaven’s rain, which fell upon it
Hour after hour; for sounds of softest song
Mixed with the stringed melodies that won it
To leave the gentle lips on which it slept,
Had loosed the heart of him who sat and wept.
Had loosed his heart, and shook the leaves and flowers 75
On which he wept, the while the savage storm
Waked by the darkest of December’s hours
Was raving round the chamber hushed and warm;
The birds were shivering in their leafless bowers,
The fish were frozen in the pools, the form
Of every summer plant was dead
The Woodman And The Nightingale
A woodman whose rough heart was out of tune
(I think such hearts yet never came to good)
Hated to hear, under the stars or moon,
One nightingale in an interfluous wood
Satiate the hungry dark with melody;–
And as a vale is watered by a flood,
Or as the moonlight fills the open sky
Struggling with darkness—as a tuberose
Peoples some Indian dell with scents which lie
Like clouds above the flower from which they rose,
The singing of that happy nightingale
In this sweet forest, from the golden close
Of evening till the star of dawn may fail,
Was interfused upon the silentness;
The folded roses and the violets pale
Heard her within their slumbers, the abyss
Of heaven with all its planets; the dull ear
Of the night-cradled earth; the loneliness
Of the circumfluous waters,—every sphere
And every flower and beam and cloud and wave,
And every wind of the mute atmosphere,
And every beast stretched in its rugged cave,
And every bird lulled on its mossy bough,
And every silver moth fresh from the grave
Which is its cradle—ever from below
Aspiring like one who loves too fair, too far,
To be consumed within the purest glow
Of one serene and unapproached star,
As if it were a lamp of earthly light,
Unconscious, as some human lovers are,
Itself how low, how high beyond all height
The heaven where it would perish!—and every form
That worshipped in the temple of the night
Was awed into delight, and by the charm
Girt as with an interminable zone,
Whilst that sweet bird, whose music was a storm
Of sound, shook forth the dull oblivion
Out of their dreams; harmony became love
In every soul but one.
And so this man returned with axe and saw
At evening close from killing the tall treen,
The soul of whom by Nature’s gentle law
Was each a wood-nymph, and kept ever green
The pavement and the roof of the wild copse,
Chequering the sunlight of the blue serene
With jagged leaves,—and from the forest tops
Singing the winds to sleep—or weeping oft
Fast showers of aereal water-drops
Into their mother’s bosom, sweet and soft,
Nature’s pure tears which have no bitterness;–
Around the cradles of the birds aloft
They spread themselves into the loveliness
Of fan-like leaves, and over pallid flowers
Hang like moist clouds:—or, where high branches kiss,
Make a green space among the silent bowers,
Like a vast fane in a metropolis,
Surrounded by the columns and the towers
All overwrought with branch-like traceries
In which there is religion—and the mute
Persuasion of unkindled melodies,
Odours and gleams and murmurs, which the lute
Of the blind pilot-spirit of the blast
Stirs as it sails, now grave and now acute,
Wakening the leaves and waves, ere it has passed
To such brief unison as on the brain
One tone, which never can recur, has cast,
One accent never to return again.
The world is full of Woodmen who expel
Love’s gentle Dryads from the haunts of life,
And vex the nightingales in every dell.
Dark Spirit of the Desart Rude
Dark Spirit of the desart rude
That o’er this awful solitude,
Each tangled and untrodden wood,
Each dark and silent glen below,
Where sunlight’s gleamings never glow,
Whilst jetty, musical and still,
In darkness speeds the mountain rill;
That o’er yon broken peaks sublime,
Wild shapes that mock the scythe of time,
And the pure Ellan’s foamy course,
Wavest thy wand of magic force;
Art thou yon sooty and fearful fowl
That flaps its wing o’er the leafless oak
That o’er the dismal scene doth scowl
And mocketh music with its croak?
I’ve sought thee where day’s beams decay
On the peak of the lonely hill,
I’ve sought thee where they melt away
By the wave of the pebbly rill;
I’ve strained to catch thy murky form
Bestride the rapid and gloomy storm;
Thy red and sullen eyeball’s glare
Has shot, in a dream, thro’ the midnight air
But never did thy shape express
Such an emphatic gloominess.
And where art thou, O thing of gloom? …
On Nature’s unreviving tomb
Where sapless, blasted and alone
She mourns her blooming centuries gone!-
From the fresh sod the Violets peep,
The buds have burst their frozen sleep,
Whilst every green and peopled tree
Is alive with Earth’s sweet melody.
But thou alone art here,
Thou desolate Oak, whose scathed head
For ages has never trembled,
Whose giant trunk dead lichens bind
Moaningly sighing in the wind,
With huge loose rocks beneath thee spread,
Thou, Thou alone art here!
Remote from every living thing,
Tree, shrub or grass or flower,
Thou seemest of this spot the King
And with a regal power
Suck like that race all sap away
And yet upon the spoil decay.
To The Lord Chancellor
Thy country’s curse is on thee, darkest crest
Of that foul, knotted, many-headed worm
Which rends our Mother’s bosom—Priestly Pest!
Masked Resurrection of a buried Form!
Thy country’s curse is on thee! Justice sold,
Truth trampled, Nature’s landmarks overthrown,
And heaps of fraud-accumulated gold,
Plead, loud as thunder, at Destruction’s throne.
And whilst that sure slow Angel which aye stands
Watching the beck of Mutability
Delays to execute her high commands,
And, though a nation weeps, spares thine and thee,
Oh, let a father’s curse be on thy soul,
And let a daughter’s hope be on thy tomb;
Be both, on thy gray head, a leaden cowl
To weigh thee down to thine approaching doom.
I curse thee by a parent’s outraged love,
By hopes long cherished and too lately lost,
By gentle feelings thou couldst never prove,
By griefs which thy stern nature never crossed;
By those infantine smiles of happy light,
Which were a fire within a stranger’s hearth,
Quenched even when kindled, in untimely night
Hiding the promise of a lovely birth:
By those unpractised accents of young speech,
Which he who is a father thought to frame
To gentlest lore, such as the wisest teach–
THOU strike the lyre of mind!–oh, grief and shame!
By all the happy see in children’s growth–
That undeveloped flower of budding years–
Sweetness and sadness interwoven both,
Source of the sweetest hopes and saddest fears–
By all the days, under an hireling’s care,
Of dull constraint and bitter heaviness,–
O wretched ye if ever any were,–
Sadder than orphans, yet not fatherless!
By the false cant which on their innocent lips
Must hang like poison on an opening bloom,
By the dark creeds which cover with eclipse
Their pathway from the cradle to the tomb–
By thy most impious Hell, and all its terror;
By all the grief, the madness, and the guilt
Of thine impostures, which must be their error–
That sand on which thy crumbling power is built–
By thy complicity with lust and hate–
Thy thirst for tears—thy hunger after gold–
The ready frauds which ever on thee wait–
The servile arts in which thou hast grown old–
By thy most killing sneer, and by thy smile–
By all the arts and snares of thy black den,
And—for thou canst outweep the crocodile–
By thy false tears—those millstones braining men–
By all the hate which checks a father’s love–
By all the scorn which kills a fathe’s care–
By those most impious hands which dared remove
Nature’s high bounds–by thee–and by despair–
Yes, the despair which bids a father groan,
And cry, ‘My children are no longer mine–
The blood within those veins may be mine own,
But–Tyrant–their polluted souls are thine;— 60
I curse thee–though I hate thee not.–O slave!
If thou couldst quench the earth-consuming Hell
Of which thou art a daemon, on thy grave
This curse should be a blessing. Fare thee well!
To Mary Shelley
THE world is dreary,
And I’m weary
Of wandering on without thee, Mary;
A joy was erewhile
In thy voice and thy smile,
And ’tis gone, when I should be gone too, Mary.
The Spectral Horseman
What was the shriek that struck Fancy’s ear
As it sate on the ruins of time that is past?
Hark! it floats on the fitful blast of the wind,
And breathes to the pale moon a funeral sigh.
It is the Benshie’s moan on the storm,
Or a shivering fiend that thirsting for sin,
Seeks murder and guilt when virtue sleeps,
Winged with the power of some ruthless king,
And sweeps o’er the breast of the prostrate plain.
It was not a fiend from the regions of Hell
That poured its low moan on the stillness of night:
It was not a ghost of the guilty dead,
Nor a yelling vampire reeking with gore;
But aye at the close of seven years’ end,
That voice is mixed with the swell of the storm,
And aye at the close of seven years’ end,
A shapeless shadow that sleeps on the hill
Awakens and floats on the mist of the heath.
It is not the shade of a murdered man,
Who has rushed uncalled to the throne of his God,
And howls in the pause of the eddying storm.
This voice is low, cold, hollow, and chill,
‘Tis not heard by the ear, but is felt in the soul.
‘Tis more frightful far than the death-daemon’s scream,
Or the laughter of fiends when they howl o’er the corpse
Of a man who has sold his soul to Hell.
It tells the approach of a mystic form,
A white courser bears the shadowy sprite;
More thin they are than the mists of the mountain,
When the clear moonlight sleeps on the waveless lake.
More pale HIS cheek than the snows of Nithona,
When winter rides on the northern blast,
And howls in the midst of the leafless wood.
Yet when the fierce swell of the tempest is raving,
And the whirlwinds howl in the caves of Inisfallen,
Still secure mid the wildest war of the sky,
The phantom courser scours the waste,
And his rider howls in the thunder’s roar.
O’er him the fierce bolts of avenging Heaven
Pause, as in fear, to strike his head.
The meteors of midnight recoil from his figure,
Yet the ‘wildered peasant, that oft passes by,
With wonder beholds the blue flash through his form:
And his voice, though faint as the sighs of the dead,
The startled passenger shudders to hear,
More distinct than the thunder’s wildest roar.
Then does the dragon, who, chained in the caverns
To eternity, curses the champion of Erin,
Moan and yell loud at the lone hour of midnight,
And twine his vast wreaths round the forms of the daemons;
Then in agony roll his death-swimming eyeballs,
Though ‘wildered by death, yet never to die!
Then he shakes from his skeleton folds the nightmares,
Who, shrieking in agony, seek the couch
Of some fevered wretch who courts sleep in vain;
Then the tombless ghosts of the guilty dead
In horror pause on the fitful gale.
They float on the swell of the eddying tempest,
And scared seek the caves of gigantic…
Where their thin forms pour unearthly sounds
On the blast that sweets the breast of the lake,
And mingles its swell with the moonlight air.
Bear witness, Erin! when thine injured isle
Sees summer on its verdant pastures smile,
Its cornfields waving in the winds that sweep
The billowy surface of thy circling deep!
Thou tree whose shadow o’er the Atlantic gave
Peace, wealth and beauty, to its friendly wave, its blossoms fade,
And blighted are the leaves that cast its shade;
Whilst the cold hand gathers its scanty fruit,
Whose chillness struck a canker to its root.
I could stand
Upon thy shores, O Erin, and could count
The billows that, in their unceasing swell,
Dash on thy beach, and every wave might seem
An instrument in Time the giant’s grasp,
To burst the barriers of Eternity.
Proceed, thou giant, conquering and to conquer;
March on thy lonely way! The nations fall
Beneath thy noiseless footstep; pyramids
That for millenniums have defied the blast,
And laughed at lightnings, thou dost crush to nought.
Yon monarch, in his solitary pomp,
Is but the fungus of a winter day
That thy light footstep presses into dust.
Thou art a conqueror, Time; all things give way
Before thee but the ‘fixed and virtuous will’;
The sacred sympathy of soul which was
When thou wert not, which shall be when thou perishest.
The Rude Wind Is Singing
The rude wind is singing
The dirge of the music dead;
The cold worms are clinging
Where kisses were lately fed.
The Retrospect: Cwm Elan, 1812
A scene, which ‘wildered fancy viewed
In the soul’s coldest solitude,
With that same scene when peaceful love
Flings rapture’s colour o’er the grove,
When mountain, meadow, wood and stream
With unalloying glory gleam,
And to the spirit’s ear and eye
Are unison and harmony.
The moonlight was my dearer day;
Then would I wander far away,
And, lingering on the wild brook’s shore
To hear its unremitting roar,
Would lose in the ideal flow
All sense of overwhelming woe;
Or at the noiseless noon of night
Would climb some heathy mountain’s height,
And listen to the mystic sound
That stole in fitful gasps around.
I joyed to see the streaks of day
Above the purple peaks decay,
And watch the latest line of light
Just mingling with the shades of night;
For day with me was time of woe
When even tears refused to flow;
Then would I stretch my languid frame
Beneath the wild woods’ gloomiest shade,
And try to quench the ceaseless flame
That on my withered vitals preyed;
Would close mine eyes and dream I were
On some remote and friendless plain,
And long to leave existence there,
If with it I might leave the pain
That with a finger cold and lean
Wrote madness on my withering mien.
It was not unrequited love
That bade my ‘wildered spirit rove;
‘Twas not the pride disdaining life,
That with this mortal world at strife
Would yield to the soul’s inward sense,
Then groan in human impotence,
And weep because it is not given
To taste on Earth the peace of Heaven.
‘Twas not that in the narrow sphere
Where Nature fixed my wayward fate
There was no friend or kindred dear
Formed to become that spirit’s mate,
Which, searching on tired pinion, found
Barren and cold repulse around;
Oh, no! yet each one sorrow gave
New graces to the narrow grave.
For broken vows had early quelled
The stainless spirit’s vestal flame;
Yes! whilst the faithful bosom swelled,
Then the envenomed arrow came,
And Apathy’s unaltering eye
Beamed coldness on the misery;
And early I had learned to scorn
The chains of clay that bound a soul
Panting to seize the wings of morn,
And where its vital fires were born
To soar, and spur the cold control
Which the vile slaves of earthly night
Would twine around its struggling flight.
Oh, many were the friends whom fame
Had linked with the unmeaning name,
Whose magic marked among mankind
The casket of my unknown mind,
Which hidden from the vulgar glare
Imbibed no fleeting radiance there.
My darksome spirit sought–it found
A friendless solitude around.
For who that might undaunted stand,
The saviour of a sinking land,
Would crawl, its ruthless tyrant’s slave,
And fatten upon Freedom’s grave,
Though doomed with her to perish, where
The captive clasps abhorred despair.
They could not share the bosom’s feeling,
Which, passion’s every throb revealing,
Dared force on the world’s notice cold
Thoughts of unprofitable mould,
Who bask in Custom’s fickle ray,
Fit sunshine of such wintry day!
They could not in a twilight walk
Weave an impassioned web of talk,
Till mysteries the spirits press
In wild yet tender awfulness,
Then feel within our narrow sphere
How little yet how great we are!
But they might shine in courtly glare,
Attract the rabble’s cheapest stare,
And might command where’er they move
A thing that bears the name of love;
They might be learned, witty, gay,
Foremost in fashion’s gilt array,
On Fame’s emblazoned pages shine,
Be princes’ friends, but never mine!
Ye jagged peaks that frown sublime,
Mocking the blunted scythe of Time,
Whence I would watch its lustre pale
Steal from the moon o’er yonder vale
Thou rock, whose bosom black and vast,
Bared to the stream’s unceasing flow,
Ever its giant shade doth cast
On the tumultuous surge below:
Woods, to whose depths retires to die
The wounded Echo’s melody,
And whither this lone spirit bent
The footstep of a wild intent:
Meadows! whose green and spangled breast
These fevered limbs have often pressed,
Until the watchful fiend Despair
Slept in the soothing coolness there!
Have not your varied beauties seen
The sunken eye, the withering mien,
Sad traces of the unuttered pain
That froze my heart and burned my brain.
How changed since Nature’s summer form
Had last the power my grief to charm,
Since last ye soothed my spirit’s sadness,
Strange chaos of a mingled madness!
Changed!–not the loathsome worm that fed
In the dark mansions of the dead,
Now soaring through the fields of air,
And gathering purest nectar there,
A butterfly, whose million hues
The dazzled eye of wonder views,
Long lingering on a work so strange,
Has undergone so bright a change.
How do I feel my happiness?
I cannot tell, but they may guess
Whose every gloomy feeling gone,
Friendship and passion feel alone;
Who see mortality’s dull clouds
Before affection’s murmur fly,
Whilst the mild glances of her eye
Pierce the thin veil of flesh that shrouds
The spirit’s inmost sanctuary.
O thou! whose virtues latest known,
First in this heart yet claim’st a throne;
Whose downy sceptre still shall share
The gentle sway with virtue there;
Thou fair in form, and pure in mind,
Whose ardent friendship rivets fast
The flowery band our fates that bind,
Which incorruptible shall last
When duty’s hard and cold control
Has thawed around the burning soul,–
The gloomiest retrospects that bind
With crowns of thorn the bleeding mind,
The prospects of most doubtful hue
That rise on Fancy’s shuddering view,–
Are gilt by the reviving ray
Which thou hast flung upon my day.
from Laon and Cythna; or The Revolution of the Golden City
To Mary — —
So now my summer task is ended, Mary,
And I return to thee, mine own heart’s home;
As to his Queen some victor Knight of Faëry,
Earning bright spoils for her inchanted dome;
Nor thou disdain, that ere my fame become
A star among the stars of mortal night,
If it indeed may cleave its natal gloom,
Its doubtful promise thus I would unite
With thy beloved name, thou Child of love and light.
The toil which stole from thee so many an hour
Is ended,—and the fruit is at thy feet!
No longer where the woods to frame a bower
With interlaced branches mix and meet,
Or where with sound like many voices sweet,
Water-falls leap among wild islands green,
Which framed for my lone boat a lone retreat
Of moss-grown trees and weeds, shall I be seen:
But beside thee, where still my heart has ever been.
Thoughts of great deeds were mine, dear Friend, when first
The clouds which wrap this world from youth did pass.
I do remember well the hour which burst
My spirit’s sleep: a fresh May-dawn it was,
When I walked forth upon the glittering grass,
And wept, I knew not why; until there rose
From the near school-room, voices, that, alas!
Were but one echo from a world of woes—
The harsh and grating strife of tyrants and of foes.
And then I clasped my hands and looked around—
—But none was near to mock my streaming eyes,
Which poured their warm drops on the sunny ground—
So without shame, I spake:—’I will be wise,
And just, and free, and mild, if in me lies
Such power, for I grow weary to behold
The selfish and the strong still tyrannise
Without reproach or check.’ I then controuled
My tears, my heart grew calm, and I was meek and bold.
And from that hour did I with earnest thought
Heap knowledge from forbidden mines of lore,
Yet nothing that my tyrants knew or taught
I cared to learn, but from that secret store
Wrought linked armour for my soul, before
It might walk forth to war among mankind;
Thus power and hope were strengthened more and more
Within me, till there came upon my mind
A sense of loneliness, a thirst with which I pined.
Alas, that love should be a blight and snare
To those who seek all sympathies in one!—
Such once I sought in vain; then black despair,
The shadow of a starless night, was thrown
Over the world in which I moved alone:—
Yet never found I one not false to me,
Hard hearts, and cold, like weights of icy stone
Which crushed and withered mine, that could not be
Aught but a lifeless clog, until revived by thee.
Thou Friend, whose presence on my wintry heart
Fell, like bright Spring upon some herbless plain;
How beautiful and calm and free thou wert
In thy young wisdom, when the mortal chain
Of Custom thou didst burst and rend in twain,
And walked as free as light the clouds among,
Which many an envious slave then breathed in vain
From his dim dungeon, and my spirit sprung
To meet thee from the woes which had begirt it long.
No more alone through the world’s wilderness,
Although I trod the paths of high intent,
I journeyed now: no more companionless,
Where solitude is like despair, I went.—
There is the wisdom of a stern content
When Poverty can blight the just and good,
When Infamy dares mock the innocent,
And cherished friends turn with the multitude
To trample: this was ours, and we unshaken stood!
Now has descended a serener hour,
And with inconstant fortune, friends return;
Though suffering leaves the knowledge and the power
Which says:—Let scorn be not repaid with scorn.
And from thy side two gentle babes are born
To fill our home with smiles, and thus are we
Most fortunate beneath life’s beaming morn;
And these delights, and thou, have been to me
The parents of the Song I consecrate to thee.
Is it, that now my inexperienced fingers
But strike the prelude of a loftier strain?
Or, must the lyre on which my spirit lingers
Soon pause in silence, ne’er to sound again,
Though it might shake the Anarch Custom’s reign,
And charm the minds of men to Truth’s own sway
Holier than was Amphion’s? I would fain
Reply in hope—but I am worn away,
And Death and Love are yet contending for their prey.
And what art thou? I know, but dare not speak:
Time may interpret to his silent years.
Yet in the paleness of thy thoughtful cheek,
And in the light thine ample forehead wears,
And in thy sweetest smiles, and in thy tears,
And in thy gentle speech, a prophecy
Is whispered, to subdue my fondest fears:
And through thine eyes, even in thy soul I see
A lamp of vestal fire burning internally.
They say that thou wert lovely from thy birth,
Of glorious parents, thou aspiring Child.
I wonder not—for One then left this earth
Whose life was like a setting planet mild
Which clothed thee in the radiance undefiled
Of its departing glory; still her fame
Shines on thee, through the tempests dark and wild
Which shake these latter days; and thou canst claim
The shelter, from thy Sire, of an immortal name.
One voice came forth from many a mighty spirit,
Which was the echo of three thousand years;
And the tumultuous world stood mute to hear it,
As some lone man who in a desart hears
The music of his home:—unwonted fears
Fell on the pale oppressors of our race,
And Faith, and Custom, and low-thoughted cares,
Like thunder-stricken dragons, for a space
Left the torn human heart, their food and dwelling-place.
Truth’s deathless voice pauses among mankind!
If there must be no response to my cry—
If men must rise and stamp with fury blind
On his pure name who loves them,—thou and I,
Sweet Friend! can look from our tranquillity
Like lamps into the world’s tempestuous night,—
Two tranquil stars, while clouds are passing by
Which wrap them from the foundering seaman’s sight,
That burn from year to year with unextinguished light.