Edwardian and Georgian Canadian Poets
Selected Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley


[handwritten: PB Shelley]

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Riverside College Classics







Formerly Professor of English in the University of the South




The Riverside Press, Cambridge

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The Riverside Press

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Printed in the U.S.A.

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To my Father

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     No one can attempt to deal with Shelley in editorial fashion without being conscious at almost every step of the great value of Professor Dowden’s biography of the poet, and of much of the other material mentioned in the Bibliography. I have tried, however, in preparing the Introduction and Notes, to maintain that independence of judgment which should characterize all Shelleyans, and to produce a text suitable indeed for student use, and conforming to classroom requirements, yet based on other than formally pedagogic principles. Literature, it seems, is not getting itself taught in our higher schools as vitally as we would like, despite immense critical apparatus. Is it because we are too judicial? Is it because a poem, like a person, invites affection before it yields confidence?


     MACON, GEORGIA, December, 1906.

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     The Life of Shelley


     Shelley as Poet
























































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[page vii]

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     EVERY life is a symbol as well as a history, — a symbol, perhaps it were truer to say, because it is a history. The life of Shelley as a man, exceptional as it appears, is at one with the genius of Shelley as a poet, — it was impulsive; generously ardent; filled with the scorn of scorn, the love of love; eager and anxious to establish universal justice, freedom, and happiness; but pursuing too characteristically the dehumanized method of importing goodness into men rather than that of winning men into goodness. The course of his life moved from the tense yet dark mood of Paracelsus, exultant in denial and challenge, to the high affirmations of Aprile, —

                    “.  .  . the over-radiant star too mad

                    To drink the life-springs.”

Had he lived, it is hardly possible that he would have failed to become at last

                    “.  .  .  a third

                    And better-tempered spirit, warned by both.”

     On the fourth day of August, 1792, their first child was born to Timothy and Elizabeth Shelley, at Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex. He was called Percy, because that was a favourite name in the Shelley family, ancient in Sussex; and Bysshe because that was the name of his paternal grandfather, a handsome, wealthy, and positive old gentleman, eventually made a baronet, who had been twice married, first to Miss Mary Catherine Michell, a Sussex heiress, who died after eight years of union, at the age of twenty-six; and again to Miss Elizabeth Jane Sidney, [unnumbered page] another heiress, this time of Kent, and a descendant of Sir Philip. It is interesting to note that, according to Medwin, the impetuous Sir Bysshe eloped in each instance, and also that he was usually on bad terms with his son Timothy, one of three children — the others being girls — born in the first family.

     Timothy Shelley was a good-hearted rural Englishman of social importance and limited intelligence. He believed in the things that it was proper and dignified to believe in, and he expected equal conformity from his fellows, perhaps rather more of it from his inferiors. He had attended University College, Oxford, and had got himself duly elected Member of Parliament. He did his duty by the Church, the State, and the family, and was hardly less willing than his father to play Sir Oracle. In October, 1791, he married Miss Elizabeth Pilfold, of Effingham, Surrey, a somewhat unfeminine yet attractive and gracious woman. She became the mother of seven children, — two boys, Percy Bysshe and John, separated in age by fourteen years; and five girls, Elizabeth, Mary, two Hellens — one of whom died very early — and Margaret. Their adventurous and well-favoured brother was adored by the little maidens, who, during his stay at home, “followed my leader” in all sorts of thrilling excursions about house and garden. Quiet old Field Place spelled to these half-quaking explorers a land of mystery and portent, of golden enchantment, — a background for the most moving legends, told fearsomely by Bysshe to his awed companions. He was fond, too, like other imaginative children, of inventing remarkable but shadowy situations in which he had played a leading part, or again, he would detach himself from all, and go brooding about alone in the moonlight, save for a watchful servant in following discreetly at a distance.

     After six secluded years of infancy and boyhood had passed, Bysshe became a pupil of the Rev. Mr. Edwards, of the village of Warnham, hard by. The four succeeding years [page x] he spent chiefly in studying Latin and developing his strength by somewhat irregular exercise. At ten he was entered at Sion House Academy, Isleworth, near Brentford. Here he found himself one of some sixty pupils, ruled by a Dr. Greenlaw, “a vigorous old Scotch divine,” writes Professor Dowden, “choleric and hard-headed, but not unkindly…. With spectacles pushed high above his dark and bushy eyebrows, the dominie would stimulate the laggard construers. Frequent dips into his mull of Scotch snuff helped him to sustain the wear and tear of the class-room.” Shelley’s slight, lithe, graceful figure was at once felt by the hoi polloi to present an irritatingly marked deviation from the norm, and they soon found that this was true also of his manner. His advent, accordingly, provoked roughness, persecution even, the more readily that the fagging system covered a multitude of petty tyrannies. Thomas Medwin, a cousin and biographer of Shelley, who was also a pupil at Sion House, describes him as “a strange and unsocial being.” Preoccupied as he was with his visions and imaginings, he gave only a constrained attention to either his schoolmates or his tasks, yet he advanced steadily in learning, and was transferred at the age of twelve to Eton. Meantime his taste for the eerie as steadily asserted itself: he read avidly the sixpenny dreadfuls, and was particularly charmed with the gothic romances of Mrs. Anne Radcliffe. He was also significantly interested in physical and chemical experiments.

     Shelley must have passed from Sion House with scant regret, for he seems there to have been an all too willing Ishmael, save for a single friend; yet at Eton his situation was hardly improved. Though he found more friends of a sort, he found also more persecutors among both masters and pupils, and he was so often thrashed that he became dully apathetic to the mere bodily pain. Dr. Goodall, the head-master, a man of solid worth, was seconded in the Lower School by Dr. Keate, powerful with book and birch alike. Shelley entered the Fourth Form under Keate’s jurisdiction, [page xi] and resided first with a Mr. Hexton as his tutor and mentor, and thereafter with George Bethell, renowned in the history of Eton for his dulness and his good-nature. But neither Keate’s severity nor Bethell’s absurdity moved Shelley much. He still lived aloof for the most part, from the ordinary associations and requirements of school citizenship. So indifferent was he to the excitements of his five hundred fellows, and so fiercely resentful, not a physical hurt, but of injustice and the spirit of cruelty, that the came to be known as “Mad Shelley,” and was baited time after time for their amusement by a crew of thoughtless tormentors. When pushed to the limit of his patience, says one, his eyes would “flash like a tiger’s, his cheeks grow pale as death, his limbs quiver.” Such boys as he did attract, however, — though few but one Halliday appear to have had an instinctive understanding of him, — loved him for his unswerving honour, his kindness, and his generosity. With Halliday, Shelley took many a pleasant ramble in the fields and woods about Eton, pouring out his young soul in fits and starts of hope and enthusiasm. “He certainly was not happy at Eton,” wrote his friend in later years, “for his was a disposition that needed especial personal superintendence, to watch and cherish and direct all his noble aspirations, and the remarkable tenderness of his heart. He had great moral courage, and feared nothing but what was base and false and low.” From the same source we learn that his lessons “were child’s play to him.” He moved through the formal curriculum with ease, and chose to add to his school work outside the reading of such classical authors as Lucretius and Pliny, with Franklin, Condorcet, and his particularly Godwin — his future father-in-law — in his Political Justice. His fascinated interest in science, too, increased, and he ran not a few risks — both physical and magisterial — in his ardour for experiment. One likes to think of Shelley’s spiritual kinship with Shakespeare’s Ariel, creature of air and fire. Certainly, the young Etonian could have [page xii] found no better image of his own relentless adventurings than the balloons1 of fire he so often gave to the darkness, cleaving the gloom of night and steering their uncertain course into the company of moon and stars. Shelley’s science was a matter of lore and wonder rather than of knowledge and precision. This attitude, already characteristic, was encouraged by the boy’s contact with Dr. Lind, a retired physician living close at hand in Windsor, whose memory Shelley always regarded with a lively gratitude, and who is immortalized in The Revolt of Islam as the friendly hermit, and in Prince Athanase as Zonoras, —


           “An old, old man, with hair of silver white,

         And lips where heavenly smiles would hang and blend

           With his wise words, and eyes whose arrowy light

         Shone like the reflex of a thousand minds.”

     Professor Dowden, in his admirably full and discriminating biography, speaks of two “shining moments” in Shelley’s youth, which were to the boy as moments of revolution. His experiences at Sion House led him to take careful thought concerning individual and popular unhappiness, its causes and conditions, and finally to vow in youthful yet serious fashion that he would never oppress another nor himself submit to tyranny. In the dedication of The Revolt of Islam — originally Loan of Cyntha — to Mary Shelley he writes: —

         “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 schoolroom 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

     1 Shelley was fond, too, of sailing miniature paper boats. Cf. Rosalind and Helen, 11. 181-187.

[page xiii]

         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 will tyrannize

         Without reproach or check.’ I then controlled

      My tears, my heart grew calm, and I was meek and bold.”

If in the first moment Shelley felt his conscience quickened and dedicated to the cause of liberty, so in the second his imagination sought deliverance from the bondage of the merely horrible and sinister, and began instead to seek pure beauty and pursue it. This moment, too, he has fixed for us in his Hymn to Intellectual Beauty:

         “While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped

                 Through many a listening chamber, cave, and ruin,

                 And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing

         Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.

         I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed.

                 I was not heard, I saw them not;

                 When, musing deeply on the lot

             Of life, at that sweet time when winds are wooing

                 All vital things that wake to bring

                 News of birds and blossoming,

         Sudden thy shadow fell on me: —

         I shrieked and clasped my hands in ecstasy!

         “I vowed that I would dedicate my powers

                 To thee and thine; have I not kept the vow?

                 .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .     .

                 They know that never joy illumed my brow

                     Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst free

                     This world from its dark slavery,

         That thou, O awful LOVELINESS,

         Wouldst give whate’er these words cannot express.”

     These passages were conceived by a saner mind and written with a steadier hand than were the rather prolific effusions of Shelley’s earlier youth, productions which began first at Eton to court pen and paper. Several fragmentary poems belong to this time, as also the extravagant romance, Zastrozzi, written probably in collaboration with [page xiv] Harriet Grove. Shelley’s cousin and sweetheart. Indeed, collaboration was something of a habit with the boy, not, it would seem, through any lack of confidence in his own creative powers, — for young Shelley was much less disturbed than his riper self by doubts concerning his own works, — but rather as the co-operative impulse of a spirit willing to share its enthusiasms with kindred spirits. He formed literary partnerships with his sisters Elizabeth and Hellen, with Medwin, and possibly also with Edward Graham, a friend of 1810-1811. Graham may have been associated with the “Victor and Cazire” project, the appearance of a volume of poems that were wild and whirling indeed, but of which all  the copies — save one, since reprinted — were apparently destroyed or suppressed. More probably, however, Elizabeth was the “Cazire” of the partnership. Medwin helped to shape the beginnings of a romantic Nightmare, and a poem about that persevering pilgrim, the Wandering Jew. Apart from their biographical interest hardly one of these works is worth naming.

     Complacent Mr. Timothy Shelley had no manner of doubt that his son — peculiar in some respects though he seemed — would do about as well as at Oxford as he himself had done, and the two travelled up thither amicably to arrange for Bysshe’s entrance upon residence in University College at the beginning of the Michaelmas term of 1810. Mr. Timothy was graciously paternal, and even went so far as to introduce his son to a local printer named Slatter, with the suggestion that this man should indulge the youth “in his printing freaks.” Rooms were secured, money matters adjusted, advice freely given, and the Polonius of Field Place departed in high good-humour with himself and all the world. He would have been interested, perhaps, to know what was passing in Bysshe’s mind as he looked about him at Oxford, deciding what he liked and what he did not like. He liked seclusion, the libraries, the natural beauty of the place; he did not like its sleepiness, its conservatism, [page xv] its orderly academic routine. One is strikingly reminded of Bacon’s indictment of the Cambridge of his day: “In the universities, all things are found opposite to the advancement of the sciences; for the readings and exercises are here so managed that it cannot easily come into any one’s mind to think of things out of the common road….For the studies of men in such places are confined, and pinned down to the writings of certain authors: from which, if any man happens to differ, he is presently represented as a disturber and innovator.” Shelley’s mind — alert, original, though always in certain respects untrained — thought of many things out of the common road. His prime Oxford “innovation,” it is true, was not carefully conceived or tactfully presented. It was a piece of folly for which he paid dear, but it was not dishonourable, nor was it even “dangerous” in any vital sense. Soon after his arrival he made the acquaintance casually of a fellow-freshman, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, a well-born and worldly-wise young man of considerable cultivation, easy opinions, and a half-cynical, half-amused, interest in the people he met and in the problems he heard them discuss and on occasion discussed with them. Ten years later Shelley thus described him, in his Letter to Maria Gisborne:

                                                           “I cannot express

                     His virtues, though I know that they are great,

                     Because he locks, then barricades, the gate

                     Within which they inhabit; — of his wit

                     And wisdom, you’ll cry out when you are bit.

                     He is a pearl within an oyster shell,

                     One of the richest of the deep.”

Hogg was strongly attracted by Shelley’s looks, sincerity, and enthusiasms. The two met night after night in each other’s rooms, and debated questions of literature, science, and history, on Shelley’s side with fervour, on Hogg’s with growing interest in this rara avis, an interest almost wonder. Hogg deeply respected Shelley’s power of imagination and purity of [page xvi] character, though he allowed himself to be entertained by his new friend’s extravagances of manner and statement. He has left us in his Life of Shelley a detailed and picturesque account of the poet as he knew him during their six months’ comradeship at college. He describes Shelley’s figure as “slight and fragile, and yet his bones and joints were large and strong. He was tall, but he stooped so much that he seemed of a low stature. His clothes were expensive, and made according to the most approved mode of the day; but they were tumbled, rumpled, and unbrushed. His gestures were abrupt, and sometimes violent, occasionally even awkward, yet more frequently gentle and graceful….His features, his whole face and particularly his head, were, in fact, unusually small; yet the last appeared of a remarkable bulk, for his hair was long and bushy, and in fits of absence and in the agonies (if I may use the word) of anxious thought, he often rubbed it fiercely with his hands, or passed his fingers quickly through his locks unconsciously, so that it was singularly wild and rough.1 .  .  .  His features were not symmetrical (the mouth, perhaps, excepted), yet was the effect of the whole extremely powerful. They breathed an animation, a fire, an enthusiasm, a vivid and preternatural intelligence, that I never met with in any other countenance. Nor was the moral expression less beautiful than the intellectual; for there was a softness, a delicacy, a gentleness, and especially (though this will surprise many) that air of profound religious veneration that characterizes the best works, and chiefly the frescoes (and into these they infused their whole souls) of the great masters of Florence and of Rome.” Only his voice did Hogg find displeasing, which seemed to him at first “intolerably shrill, harsh and discordant.” Other friends and contemporaries speak also of this defect, but generally agree that it was observable only in moments of high excitement, and that Shelley’s normal tones were winsome enough.

     The two friends not only read and talked together, but

1 Cf. “his scattered hair.” — Alastor, 1.248

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Hogg would incredulously watch Shelley performing his always miraculous chemical experiments, or they would tramp about the countryside — Shelley seemed rather to float — and meet with adventures more or less exciting. Shelley cared little for the studies imposed upon him, and pursued his intellectual investigations with a free mind and in entirely free manner within the privacy of his chambers, reading Plutarch, Plato, Hume, Locke, the Greek tragedies, Shakespeare, and Landor. He continued also to write, publishing at his own expense another Etonian romance, — and failure, — St. Irvyne, or The Rosicrusian; some political verse; and a volume of miscellaneous poetry containing burlesques that pleased undergraduate taste, printed together with some more serious work produced spasmodically. That Shelley could have been willing at this date to publish, though anonymously, his crude and overstrained tale, and to push its fortunes with enthusiasm, attests perhaps better than any other single fact the condition of his critical judgment during the Oxford days. The poet in him must surely have been protestant the while! “I am aware,” he wrote to Stockdale the publisher, after reaction began to be felt, “of the imprudence of publishing a book so ill-digested as St. Irvyne.” Stockdale, for his part, from whatever motive, stirred up trouble for Shelley at home by calling his father’s attention to the unsoundness of his views and attributing this to his continued association with Hogg. Parental — chiefly paternal — intervention followed, only to confirm Shelley in what candour must designate as the heroic of the misunderstood. He vowed excitedly to defend his principles to the last, and to remain loyal to his friend at all hazards. His elders did not treat him with the wisdom born of humour and sympathy; they did not know the way to his heart, and had they known it they would have found that heart at the moment out of tune and harsh. Harriet Grove’s affection was not proof against her alarm at Shelley’s reputed heresies and his own exaggerated declarations of belief and unbelief. [page xviii] She both loved and dreaded the strange youth; prudence prevailed, and in 1811 she married “a clod of earth,” as Shelley described him, a Mr. Helyar. The boy felt the blow keenly, philosophized at length concerning it, and in a letter to Hogg written from Field Place during the Christmas vacation anathematized Intolerance, the cause of all his woes, He now planned that Hogg, should marry Elizabeth, his elder sister, who was affectionately consoling him at home. At least his friend should be happy.

     Most, perhaps all, of this coil had been avoided if the prime actor therein had been less intense in behaviour, and his friends more willing to rely on his personal goodness and root docility. It is far from the mark to allow that Shelley was at any time a deliberate atheist. No man, it is safe to say, has felt more directly and continually than did he the existence of a beneficent Spirit. As an undergraduate, it is true, he was affected in his thought by the dogmas of materialism, but at no time ceased to postulate the being of an ultimate Intelligence and Love. It would be difficult to find in pure literature a more eager hunger and thirst for holiness and the Source of holiness than appears in Shelley’s Adonais, The Cenci, Hellas, The Revolt of Islam, and Prometheus Unbound, not to speak of his just and reverent Essay on Christianity. With what he conceived to be the inherent taint of ecclesiasticism, indeed, he was constantly at war, like Chaucer, Milton, Ruskin, Carlyle, and Browning, in their diverse ways; though, unlike them, he attacked not merely the taint, but also, and with fierce energy, the entire churchly system. In this regard he betrayed unusual zest, as witness the implications of character in cardinal and pope in The Cenci, and the vivid pictures of the Prometheus, when compared with Chaucer’s good-humoured revelations in The Canterbury Tales, and Browning’s half-friendly condemnations of Blougram and his kind. Shelley unfortunately tended to identify always priesthood with tradition, the church with uncompromising [page xix] and persecuting conservatism. There is in his work no “povre Persoun of a toun,” no Innocent XII. He did not habitually see both sides, though in one of his more pensive moods he actually expressed a desire to become himself a minister. “Of the moral doctrines of Christianity I am a more decided disciple than many of its more ostentatious professors. And consider for a moment how much good a good clergyman may do.”1 But for a moment only was this considered. Shelley wished characteristically to dispense for good and all with the “law” idea, and to bring the sorely suffering world out into the light of knowledge, virtue, love, and freedom. He knew what prayer meant; he was deeply moved by awe and wonder in contemplation of the eternal mysteries. In brief, he was not the enemy of religion that he thought he was; he everywhere proclaimed the efficacy of Love in healing and redeeming humanity. In later years Dante and Petrarch, in some respects, modified his aversion to historical Christianity, for through their works he came to feel keenly its spiritual beauty and power. His own religious instinct and attitude as a youth are suggested for us in two stanzas of Wordsworths’s Ode to Duty:

                                     “There are who ask not if thine eye

                                       Be on them; who, in love and truth

                                       Where no misgiving is, rely

                                       Upon the genial sense of youth:

                                       Glad hearts! without reproach or blot,

                                       Who do thy work, and know it not:

                                       Oh! if through confidence misplaced

                           They fail, thy saving arms, dread Power! around them cast.

                                     “Serene will be our days and bright

                                       And happy will our nature be

                                       When love is an unerring light,

                                       And joy its own security.

                                       And they blissful course may hold

                                       Ev’n now, who, not unwisely bold,

   1 From a conversation with Thomas Love Peacock, reported by him.

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                                       Live in the spirit of this creed;

                           Yet seek thy firm support, according to their need.”

     The freshman of University College, however, with a passion for negations and for reform, was in no mood to consider his ways and be wise. He was but too “unwisely bold.” Almost immediately after his return to Oxford, he arranged, with Hogg’s connivance, if not collaboration, for the anonymous publication of little pamphlet entitled The Necessity of Atheism. His motive in doing so was a mixed one, — partly sincere; partly, no doubt, dramatic. The argument, what there is of it, follows the beaten materialistic track, assuming throughout that sense-knowledge is all of knowledge, but the author seems to lament the “deficiency of proof” and to court sympathy and help. Not a few sedate dignitaries, to whom Shelley addressed copies of the pamphlet, with a specific request from “Jeremiah Stukeley” for counsel concerning it, fell into the trap and furnished their correspondent with much-desired controversial openings. Shelley had sent a copy to the Vice-Chancellor and to each of the Masters, and by his own Master he was interrogated and condemned. Upon “contumaciously refusing” either to acknowledge or to disavow the authorship of the paper, he was summarily expelled. From the stern conclave of Master and Fellows he rushed nervously to Hogg with the fateful news; Hogg instantly entered the breach, and drew upon himself a like examination, with a like result. If the judges hoped that submission might finally be made, they were disappointed, and the sentence had to stand. The anger of the authorities rapidly cooled, but that of Shelley and Hogg flamed and mounted. The next day, March 26, 1811, they left Oxford together for London. She who might have become more and more truly Shelley’s Alma Mater had behaved in a moment of natural impatience as his Dura Noverca.

     After visiting friends and skirmishing about London in [page xxi] search of comfortable lodgings, which by some strange irony they found at length in Oxford Road, on Poland Street, — the “Poland,” at least, reminded Shelley of “Thaddeus of Warsaw and of freedom,” — the two young men settled down to their habitual comradeship, until interrupted by the appearance of Shelley’s father, freshly fortified by Paley’s Natural Theology. He had already written to Bysshe, requiring implicit future obedience and a rupture with Hogg as the price of his continued goodwill. He had also adjured Mr. Hogg, Sr., to assist in separating the two. Bysshe smiled mournfully at his father’s blustering theological expostulations, but flared up at the conditions named as ensuring a welcome home. These he deliberately rejected, feeling that to forego liberty of action was to forego all, and that his truth of character, as well as his personal affection for Hogg, demanded the persistence of the friendship. Hogg, however , soon withdrew or was withdrawn to York to read law, and Shelley, who planned to follow him later, and who was at this time half willing to study medicine, found himself for this the first moment in his life concerned about the means to live. His father had cut off all aid, and Bysshe was constrained to accept secret gifts from his devoted sisters, and the more substantial assistance of his uncle, Captain Pilfold, who had a strong liking for the youth. The girls sent their contributions though sixteen-year-old Harriet Westbrook, a close friend in their school life at Mrs. Fenning’s, Clapham. Harriet, being a resident of London, and possessing, therefore, the requisite freedom, bore many messages — both real and personal — between sisters and brother. Her father, John Westbrook, was a former tavern-keeper of some property, and her sister Eliza, a “Dark Lady,” her senior by many years, exercised an almost maternal control of her. Harriet was a winsome lass, exquisitely neat and pretty, and of a cheerfully sentimental disposition. She shared the indignation of the Shelley girls at the ill-treatment accorded their brother, and she found that brother a [page xxii] particularly attractive and interesting young man. Though at first much distressed at the perversity of his views, she rapidly came under the charm of his earnest manner and luminous deep-blue eyes, so rapidly that before many weeks had passed her heart began to whisper a secret. Shelley, for his part, knew nothing, or at least thought nothing, of such a possibility, but took a hearty pleasure in the comings of Harriet and in their conversations. He visited her at home and at school, and wrote frequently concerning matters they discussed. Harriet’s health thereafter began to fail, and Shelley, attributing this to some minor school “persecutions” and the major offence of her father in insisting on her continued stay at school, again broke a lance with Intolerance. Shortly afterward, Harriet’s preceptress discovered one of Shelley’s letters in her possession, warned both her and his families, and even, it is said, suspended Harriet.

     Meanwhile, though the intervention of Captain Pilfold and the Duke of Norfolk, Mr. Timothy Shelley’s political chief, that gentleman became, in a measure, reconciled to his son, endowed him unconditionally with ₤200 a year, and consented to receive him at Field Place. Once again at home, Shelley found constraint even in his mother and Elizabeth, dearly as they loved him. Elizabeth scorned his desire that she should accept Hogg. To the latter Shelley wrote: “I am a perfect hermit, not a being to speak with! I sometimes exchange a word with my mother on the subject of the weather, upon which she is irresistibly eloquent; otherwise, all is deep silence! I wander about this place, walking all over the grounds, with no particular object in view.” He wrote not only to Hogg, but also to the Westbrook sisters and to Miss Elizabeth Hitchener, a keen and nervously intellectual schoolmistress whom he had met at Captain Pilfold’s house in Cuckfield.

     The home of his cousin, Thomas Grove, near Rhayader, Wales, shortly succeeded York as Shelley’s objective point. [page xxiii] In the midst of this beautiful country he dwelt a while, unhappy and distraught, writing copious letters and marking time in a dubious mood. Though the Westbrook ladies were also in Wales at this time, he did not see them, but, upon their return to London, was shocked to receive from Harriet several letters expressing mingled misery and entreaty, — misery at the thought of returning to a school where what she felt to be unbearable persecution awaited her, and entreaty for sympathy and help. Shelley responded warmly, counselling resistance, and even addressed a letter of advice and remonstrate to Mr. Westbrook, a letter which he declined to heed. Harriet wrote once again, appealing to Shelley to save her from fear and tyranny, and the highhearted youth — he was now only nineteen — posted at once to London, saw Harriet, was amazed at her altered appearance, and enlightened only when she falteringly told her love. Shelley doubtless felt as Jules in Browning’s Pippa Passes:

                                                                               “If whoever loves

                                       Must be, in some sort, god or worshipper,

                                       The blessing or the blest one, queen or page,

                                       Why should we always choose the page’s part?

                                       Here is a woman with utter need of me, —

                                       I find myself queen here, it seems!”

In a letter to Hogg he speaks of his course as resembling rather “exerted action” than “inspired passion.” Late in August Bysshe and Harriet fled — a long, slow flight it was — by coach to Edinburgh, where they were married August 28, 1811.

     Both husband and wife — despite financial troubles, for Shelley’s father, deeply incensed against his son, again withdrew his aid — spent a bright honeymoon of five weeks in Edinburgh. Hogg shortly arrived from York, and was domiciled with his friends. Edinburgh in itself did not then attract Shelley, but the three shared one another’s enthusiasms in matters literary, social, and political, even if Harriet [page xxiv] somewhat surprised Shelley and Hogg by persistently reading aloud from sententiously moral books. She was not a cultured woman, but only a bright, eager, undiscriminating schoolgirl, very willing to accept her liege’s opinions, and yet trifle positive in presenting hers. Shelley’s increasing anxiety concerning income was allayed a little by the goodness of Captain Pilfold, who proved himself now, as before, a substantially corporeal guardian angel. From Edinburgh the travellers moved on to York, Bysshe shortly resolving to seek a personal interview with his father. He made a hasty trip into Sussex, as the guest of his uncle, only to be met with Mr. Shelley’s curt refusal of help. A delightful conversation with Miss Hitchener, whose fine mental and spiritual qualities he characteristically overrated, was his only gain. Passing through London, he returned to York to find Eliza Westbrook had come north and had assumed charge of his establishment. Though Shelley was aware of this plan, and had forwarded it, he seems to have been somewhat disconcerted. A strict domestic programme was inaugurated, and was meekly accepted by Harriet, who was a clay in Eliza’s hands; and by Shelley, who could only look on and wonder; and by Hogg, who was not considered at all. Harriet, indeed, was feeling the need of protection form Hogg’s unworthy interest, an interest which shortly cost him the comradeship, though not the continued friendship, of a grieved and troubled Shelley. From York the little company, still numbering three, but with Eliza in the place of Hogg, proceeded to Keswick and settled in Chestnut Cottage, near Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite. Here they stayed for several months, Shelley occupying himself with the beautiful nature aspects and with divers literary enterprises, including a collection of his shorter poems, another of essays, and a political novel, Hubert Cauvin, of which nothing is now known. With the people of Keswick Shelley had little to do, though he met and admired friendly William Calvert, and through him became [page xxv] acquainted with Robert Southey. The older poet — different in temper and theory as the two were — showed the younger much practical kindness, but though Shelley met his early advances with some eagerness, he soon afterward wrote to Miss Hitchener: “I do not think so highly of Southey as I did….I do not mean that he is or can be the great character which once I linked him to; his mind is terribly narrow compared to it….It rends my heart when I think what he might have been!”

     The Duke of Norfolk was again to act as mediator between the Shelleys — father and son — in response to a manly letter from Bysshe requesting his service. The matter was not at once adjusted, but negotiations were opened, and before long the young couple and Miss Westbrook were invited to Greystoke, the Duke’s neighbouring seat. Shortly afterward it was intimated to Shelley an income of ₤2000 annually might become his if he would consent to entail the estate in favour of a possible son or of his brother John. Shelley, who strongly opposed the law of primogeniture and believed that he had no moral right to accept this tentative suggestion, declined it with indignation and without parley. Should he himself inherit the estate — which he thought unlikely, as he anticipated an early death — he purposed to share it with his friends. Before this discussion arose, however, Shelley, by the advice of the Duke, had sent his father a letter so just and kind that a favourable response was induced, and by January, 1812, an annuity of ₤200 was again settled upon him. This, with a similar sum granted by Mr. Westbrook for Harriet’s subsistence, saved the young people from what had become a really acute though temporary poverty.

     It will be recalled that Shelley, while at Eton, was much interested in Godwin’s revolutionary book, Political Justice. His interest had so grown that when he now heard casually of Godwin’s continued physical existence — he had supposed him dead — he eagerly penned a letter overflowing [page xxvi] with respect and admiration, for Shelley the proselyte was no less ardent than Shelley the proselytizer. Godwin found his communication sufficiently interesting to warrant a reply inviting particulars of the writer’s history. These Shelley immediately supplied, and a steady correspondence followed, — Godwin’s letters being friendly and hortative, Shelley’s tractable but animated. In one of these Shelley announced his purpose of going into Ireland, there to aid in Catholic Emancipation, asking and receiving much good advice from Godwin concerning this course. Miss Hitchener was invited to join the party, but declined, and Shelley, with his wife and sister-in-law, left Keswick February 2, 1812, arriving in Dublin, after tiresome delays, ten days later.

     In parlous Ireland Shelley found work at first to his liking. Caring little for Catholic Emancipation in itself, — he owned “no cause,” he wrote to Godwin, “but virtue, no party but the world,” — he nevertheless threw himself eagerly into the service of the politically oppressed. He issued an Address to the Irish People that created some stir, and until dissuaded by Godwin, sought to form a peaceably revolutionary “Association of Philanthropists.” Harriet and he must have greatly enjoyed their methods of distributing the pamphlets he wrote, sometimes throwing them from the window to “likely” persons. On the 28th Shelley spoke with some acceptance at a public meeting, and thereafter met, though with scant satisfaction, several of the leading Irish patriots. He encountered praise, blame, and suspicion, but made himself a manful missionary until personal reaction set in, a reaction due partly to the failure of his efforts to modify the situation in any practical way, and partly to Godwin’s rather chilling criticisms. At length, on April 4, he left Ireland for Holyhead, and after several wandering days, pitched tent at Nantgwillt, North Wales. Here he penned one or two literary studies, and met and liked Thomas Love Peacock, a liberal, cultured, pleasing man and writer, thenceforth Shelley’s friend. But again stakes were up, and the [page xxvii] pilgrims away, first to the Groves’ home, near by, and then to Chepstow, and the Lynmouth, Devon. Amid the entrancing coast scenery they stayed two months, and here they welcomed the advent of Miss Hitchener, whose extraordinary charms, however, slowly lapsed into commonplace in Shelley’s as in Harriet’s thinking. From “soul of my soul” she became, through several transitions, “Brown Demon.” Much reading and writing went on in Lynmouth, and at this time Shelley was busily at work upon his Queen Mab. Here, too, he wrote his birthday sonnet and his blank verse apostrophe to Harriet, and penned his energetic Letter to Lord Ellenborough concerning the prosecution of one Eaton, a poor bookseller, for publishing part of  Paine’s Age of Reason. The Devon coast saw Shelley often engaged in the boyishly serious business of scattering his revolutionary writings to the world at large through the media of bottles, sea-boxes, and fire-balloons. The arrest of his manservant, however, while distributing copies of the Shelleyan Declaration of Rights, decided the swift mind. When Godwin arrived in Lynmouth, September 18, he found his discipline flown.

     During the next year Shelley travelled variously in all parts of the United Kingdom. He settled first at Tan-yr-allt, near Tremadoc, Carnarvonshire, and turned from the reform of humanity to that of nature, earnestly aiding W. Alexander Madocks, M.P., in his attempt to reclaim several thousand acres of land from the sea. While visiting London in order to raise a subscription for this project, he seized the opportunity to visit the home of Godwin, where he met, besides the old philosopher, — who looked, Harriet thought, like Socrates, — the second Mrs. Godwin also, her young son William, and Fanny (Imlay) Godwin, born to Mary Wollstonecraft before she became Godwin’s first wife. Clara Jane Clairmont, daughter of Mrs. Goldwin and her first husband, and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, daughter of Godwin and his first wife — a sufficiently complicated [page xxviii] family, this! — were absent during most of the time of Shelley’s stay in London, and, though both were soon to become closely concerned with the life of the poet, he has left on record no minute of his impressions, if he then saw them. While in London Shelley made other friends also, and sought out Hogg, permitting such renewal as was possible of their old association. Miss Hitchener, her pedestal being lost, took her final leave of Shelley hospitality. “We were entirely deceived in her character as to republicanism,” wrote Harriet to an Irish friend, Mrs. Catherine Nugent, “and in short everything else which she pretended to be.” By November 15 Tremadoc was again in sight, and months of happy domesticity followed, Shelley reading much, continuing Queen Mab, relieving the distresses of the poor about him, and consuming his soul in indignation at the imprisonment of Leigh Hunt for a libel upon the Prince Regent. Late in February, 1813, a burglarious attack was perhaps made upon the poet’s home, and his life seems to have been in some danger. At all events, the incident1 was nervously magnified by Shelley into “atrocious assassination,” and, convinced that some sinister villain was on his track, he left again for Dublin. Thence the young family journeyed to the beautiful Killarney Lakes, and by April were again in London.

     Queen Mab, a long, uneven, unrhymed poem, lyric and heroic, far more representative of the boy Shelley than of the man, was completed in spring, and was printed for restricted distribution. In 1821, its author described it as “a poem….written by me at the age of eighteen — I dare say, in a sufficiently intemperate spirit….I doubt not but that it is perfectly worthless in point of literary composition;

1 In an interesting article in The Century Magazine for October, 1905, A Strange Adventure of Shelley’s, Margaret L. Croft presents evidence that one Robin Pant Evan, a rough Welsh sheep-farmer, deliberately broke into Tan-yr-allt in order to frighten away Shelley, his ire having been aroused at the poet’s humane practice of killing his neighbours’ hopelessly diseased sheep.

[page xxix]

and that, in all that concerns moral and political speculation, as well as in the subtler discriminations of metaphysical and religious doctrine, it is still more crude and immature.” During the same year he wrote to Horace Smith: “If you happen to have brought a copy of Clarke’s edition of Queen Mab for me, I should like very well to see it. — I really hardly know what this poem is about. I am afraid it is rather rough.” The Ianthe in the poem gave her name to Shelley and Harriet’s first child, Ianthe Elizabeth, born the following June. Shelley’s September sonnet, To Ianthe, expresses the growing love he bestowed upon the infant. After her coming a removal was made to Bracknell, in Berkshire, at the suggestion of Mrs. Boinville, a cultured and high-principled woman, and her daughter, Cornelia Turner, whom Shelley had met in London. From Bracknell they went into the Lake country, and thence to Edinburgh again, with Peacock, but by December were back in London, securing a temporary home in Windsor, near Bracknell. Shelley was now feeling keenly the need of additional income, and had lately paid a clandestine visit home. He wrote once again to his father for consideration, urgently, but in vain. Such money as was imperatively necessary to him, therefore, he raised on post-obit bonds.

     The biographers of Shelley agree that shortly after the birth of her first babe a certain insensibility, always latent in Harriet’s temper, began to show itself in peculiar fashion. She lost, almost completely, her interest in books and reading, in intellectual adventures, and even in the domestic responsibilities attaching to her as wife and mother. That Shelley felt deeply this diminution of her customary cheerfulness, this new, strange aloofness of his formerly bright-natured wife, is amply evident from the testimony of his poems and letters. With an aching heart he watched the too rapid course of the chill current of indifference. Sometimes he would turn to the Boinvilles in perplexity and doubt, seeking help for a problem he hardly knew how to voice. [page xxx] In the society of his thoughtful friends he found stimulus for an increasingly dejected spirit, and for the time perhaps succeeded in forgetting Harriet. On her side, no doubt, Harriet also experienced disillusion. She was no longer a fanciful schoolgirl, but a young matron who looked upon her husband’s exceptional views and manners with less partial eyes than before. Now he was reading rapturously with Cornelia Turner in the Italian poets, now debating ardently some religious or political question, now impulsively wandering abroad or losing himself in fantastic abstractions, but she, who had given herself to him for all the time, was not receiving due consideration, and did not feel the necessity of making her gift a progressive one. They were husband and wife, and the wife had no fear of losing the husband. If Shelley hoped to break through this film hardening into a barrier, Eliza’s constant presence, which had become very irksome to him, and Harriet’s 1 carelessness toward Ianthe, made the attempt more and more difficult. Through the advice of her sister and father, too, Harriet was beginning to press for a better social station in life. Was not Shelley a baronet-to-be and heir to a great estate? It was becoming surely apparent that the relation between these two had never been a vital one, but only for a time vitalized. Despite a second marriage ceremony, entered upon March 22 for legal reasons, and despite Shelley’s passive acceptance of duty of patience, Eliza and Harriet, by April, 1814, had taken their departure for a season, and Shelley had written the mournful stanzas printed on page 1. The following month he addressed a poem to Harriet, concluding with appeal: —

                                         “O trust for once no erring guide!

                                               Bid the remorseless feeling flee;

                                           ’T is malice, ’t is revenge, ’t is pride,

                                               ’T is anything but thee;

                                           O deign a nobler pride to prove,

                                           And pity if thou canst not love.”

     1 Harriet’s last letters to Mrs. Nugent, however, contain several very affectionate references to Ianthe.

[page xxxi]

     But Harriet remained away, settling now at Bath, while Shelley walked despairingly the streets of London. He called not infrequently the home of his master, Godwin, whose financial condition was even worse than his own, and whom he was devotedly anxious to relieve. One midsummer day he met — probably then for the first time — Godwin’s daughter Mary,1 seventeen years of age, pale, earnest, and beautiful. Their intellectual sympathy was immediate, and after but a month of acquaintance each knew but to certainly the feeling for the other. As yet no word of disloyalty to Harriet was uttered on either side. Shelley did not at the moment believe that an honourable release was open to him, and Harriet, for her part, was now beginning to regret their division. By July, however, Shelley had come into possession of what he thought unquestionable evidence of his wife’s unfaithfulness to him, evidence which he continued to believe, though it was later modified in some important particulars, until he died. Concerning its actual value it is difficult if not impossible to pronounce, but there can be no doubt of Shelley’s pain and sincerity in relation to it. Neither he nor Mary Godwin hesitated to accept what seemed to them a justifying condition of their present love and, indeed, of their later union. Writing to Southey in 1820, Shelley  declares himself “innocent of ill, either done or intended; the consequences you allude to flowed in no respect from me. If you were my friend, I could tell you a history that would make you open your eyes; but I shall certainly never make the public my familiar confidant.”

     When Shelley, about July 14, suggested to Harriet the desirability of an understood separation, she did not openly oppose him, thinking it probable that his regard for Mary

     1 Harriet’s first reference to Mary, in her correspondence with Mrs. Nugent, has pathetic interest: “There is another daughter of hers, who is now in Scotland. She is very much like her mother, whose picture hangs up in his (Godwin’s) study. She must have been a most lovely woman. Her countenance speaks her a woman who would dare to think and act for herself.”

[page xxxii]

Godwin would shortly cease and that he would return to her. This attitude of compliance gave Shelley a wrong impression; he arranged for her material welfare, and withdrew with a feeling that all would be well, and that Harriet concurred in the course he had resolved to pursue. That he was mistaken in this supposition made Harriet’s loss only the more grievous, but both Shelley and Mary believed that the new union was to prove best not merely for them but for Harriet as well, whose “interests,” as he conceived them, Shelley constantly consulted. On July 28, 1814, Mary Godwin and Percy Bysshe Shelley, accompanied by Clara Jane Clairmont, left London for the Continent, and the next day, at Calais, the poet wrote in his journal: “Suddenly the broad sun rose over France.”

     The tour that followed was a brief one, cut short by lack of funds and by difficulties arising in England. While it lasted, however, Shelley and Mary had opportunity to realize the strength and virtue of their love, in a time of physical and mental stress. Spending but a few days in Paris, they proceeded on foot (Mary riding a donkey) to Charenton. There they replaced their little beast by a sturdy mule, and reaching Troyes bough an open carriage. By these means, after many annoyances, they at length arrived at Neuchâtel, and at Brunnen on Lake Lucerne. En route Shelley had written to Harriet, urging her to meet them in Switzerland, and assuring her of his intention to remain her friend. At Brunnen he began the fragment entitled The Assassins, a romantic tale of some power. After a brief stay here and at Lucerne, the travellers turned homeward, following the Reuss and the Rhine. The beauty of the latter river, form Mayence to Bonn, greatly impressed Shelley and influenced scenic setting of Alastor. Rotterdam was reached September 8, and London once again a week later.

     During the remainder of the year Shelley and Mary suffered seriously from the want of income. Although Godwin indignantly refused to condone Shelley’s course, he [page xxxiii] freely accepted money from his scant purse and even asked for more. There is no unconscious dramatic irony lurking in a passage concerning Godwin in one of Shelley’s early letters to Miss Hitchener: “He remains unchanged. I have no soul-chilling alteration to record of his character.” Harriet, too, was losing patience and troubling both Shelley and the Godwins with increasing demands. ON November 30 she gave birth to a boy, Charles Bysshe, who, with Ianthe, was soon to become the subject of Chancery litigation. Peacock was proving himself and old friend; Fanny Godwin was secretly kind; but for the most part Shelley and Mary were let severely alone save for the companionship of Hogg, who called often, and Jane Clairmont (Claire), who declined to return home. Omnivorous reading solaced the evil time, — Anacreon, Coleridge, Spenser, Byron, Browne of Norwich, Gibbon, Godwin, etc. Claire, alert and olive-hued, often disturbed the household with her fears and doubts concerning the supernatural, and they were not unrelieved to see her depart, in May, 1815, for a stay in Lynmouth. Shelley, for his part, had other fears, and was now moving from spot to spot in London, protecting himself as he might against the vigilance of the bailiffs. The new year brought important changes. Sir Bysshe had passed away on January 6, Mr. Timothy Shelley became a baronet in his stead, and the poet succeeded his father as heir-apparent to the title of a great estate. He went down to Field Place, but was not welcomed. The question of entail again came up, and though Shelley declined to change his attitude, he was willing to sell his reversion. Eventually he planned to dispose of his interest in a small part of the property for an annual income of ₤1000 during the joint survival of his father and himself, but Chancery would not later permit this plan to be realized. Money was advanced to meet his most pressing needs, and it is worthy of note that he immediately settled ₤200 a year upon Harriet, a like sum having been continued by Mr. Westbrook. [page xxxiv]

     Shelley’s health had of late become seriously impaired, and was not improved by the shock consequent upon the death, March 6, of Mary’s first infant, hardly more than a fortnight old, and by the continued alienation of Godwin, whom he was aiding steadily. He bore Godwin’s bitter letters very patiently save for one final outbreak of feeling: “Do not talk forgiveness again to me, for my blood boils in my veins, and my gall rises against all that bears the human form, when I think of what I, their benefactor and ardent lover, have endured of enmity and contempt from you and from all mankind.” A trip of several days’ duration up the Thames to Lechlade, in the company of Mary, Peacock, and Charles Clairmont, Claire’s brother, did much to restore the poet to health and good spirits. On his return to Bishopgate he conceived and that autumn wrote the moving revelatory poem, Alastor, the first of his really sure and vital works, published the following March. Peaceful months followed, of study and composition, whose sunshine was made the brighter by the birth of William, Mary’s second child, January 24, 1816. But Godwin’s attitude, the coldness of others, and the failure of the lawyers satisfactorily to adjust financial matters, — he was again dependent upon his father’s voluntary advances, — led Shelley to heed the invitation of a voice of whose charms he could no longer be insensible. It was Switzerland’s recall of him that he heard and obeyed. Byron, whom he had not yet met, but with whom Claire had become only too well acquainted, was soon to arrive to Geneva, and the infatuated girl, keeping her secret from Shelley and Mary, asked and was permitted to become one of the party. Early in May, 1816, the trio, with little William, started again for Paris. They reached Geneva about the 14th, and shortly afterward Byron appeared. The two poets, though associated as contemporary apostles of revolution, were yet of very different fibres, — Byron, proud, passionate, fitfully purposive, like an alien bird oaring and flapping close to earth; Shelley, keen, [page xxxv] luminous, mild, sun-adventuring, sailing the upper ether of thought and love with tense but tireless wings. Each knew the other for a poet, — Shelley had drawn the two portraits for us in Julian and Maddalo,  — and they spent eager hours together with Polidori, Byron’s young Anglo-Indian physician, cruising about the lake, or exploring its shores. During this time Byron wrote some the best stanzas of his Childe Harold, Shelley conceived his Mont Blanc and Hymn of Intellectual Beauty, and Mary began her famous romance, Frankenstein, inspired by a ghostly conversation between poets and Polidori. The Shelley group had meanwhile secured a cottage near Coligny, and Byron was living at the Villa Diodati. While they circumnavigated the lake, Byron produced his Prisoner of Chillon and Shelley stored up countless memories of joy and beauty. After a visit of high emotion to Chamouni, Shelley and Mary received a rather melancholy letter form Fanny Godwin, and a month later left Geneva for Versailles, Havre, and Portsmouth.

     The year 1816 was a fatal one for several of Shelley’s friends and connections. The death of Sir Bysshe was followed during the autumn by those of Fanny Godwin and Harriet Shelley, each of these women dying by her own hand. Fanny, who had been growing of late more and more dejected, feeling the unkindness of her stepmother and other relatives, and deprived of the immediate counsel of Shelley and Mary, decided she was a useless cumberer of the ground, and took laudanum at Swansea, October 10. She had written only a week earlier an affectionate letter to Mary who with Shelley now staying at Bath, in which all her thoughts unselfishly went out to the welfare of Godwin and the Shelleys. These were her sincere mourners. “Our feelings are less tumultuous than deep,” wrote Godwin to Mary; and she to Shelley, who went to Swansea suffering great anguish of spirit: “If she had lived until this moment, she would have been saved, for my house would [page xxxvi] then have been a proper asylum for her.” Two months later the body of Harriet was found in the Serpentine River, after a disappearance of three weeks. She had, even as a schoolgirl, remotely contemplated such ending, and now, with Shelley gone (though he was at this very time seeking her anxiously, that he might relieve her distresses), with her father and sister angered against her, and with a last friend unwilling longer to forward her happiness, she took the plunge with a despairing calmness. If she had wandered morally, she felt at least as justified as Shelley himself, whose social views were not capable of a uniformly beneficent application t concrete cases. Love, as she understood it, seemed indeed, by harsh evidence, thrown from its eminence. Yet her death was far less the specific outcome of Shelley’s conduct than it was the due result of a fatal flaw in her own character, and though Shelley felt acute and abiding regret, he cannot be said to have experienced remorse. We may briefly compare, in passing, the matrimonial beginnings with Shelley with those of his grandfather, and note the untimely closing of the waters over Shelley’s head as over Harriet’s. We must pass rapidly over the accompanying and dependent events of this season, — the renewal of old friendships, Godwin’s persistent difficulties, the generous literary encouragement of Shelley by Leigh Hunt, the reconciliation of Godwin to the poet, and the formal ceremony of marriage between Shelley and Mary at St. Mildred’s Church, London, December 30.

     The care of his children, Ianthe and Charles Bysshe, had been reluctantly and at her earnest request committed to Harriet by their father, who now sought to gain possession of them. His right to do so was stoutly contested by the Westbrooks, who filed a suit in Chancery to determine the question. They represented that Shelley, as the deserter of Harriet and the author of Queen Mab, was not a proper person to have control of the children’s upbringing and education; while Shelley’s counsel argued that the poet [page xxxvii] was justified in leaving Harriet, and that he had since that time faithfully supplied her needs, while it were intolerable tyranny to wrest his children from him merely on account of intellectual conclusions. After two months of legal conflict the case was decided against both parties, Lord Eldon postponing the final judgment until July 25, 1818, but declining to grant the custody of the children to either Shelley or Mr. Westbrook. At length it was determined to place Ianthe and Charles in the care of Dr. and Mrs. Hume, of Brent End Lodge, Hanwell, persons nominated by Shelley and paid chiefly by him and partly by the interest of a fund previously settled upon the children by Mr. Westbrook. Shelley keenly felt the injustice of the judgment, but preserved a fine attitude throughout the proceedings. During this time he and Mary, with their child William, were for the most part resident at Marlow on the Thames. Before going thither, however, Shelley met Keats, Hazlitt, and also Horace Smith, who became a close friend and sympathizer. At Marlow he spent more than a year of busy authorship, hospitality, and beneficence. As writer, he produced, among other pamphlets and poems, some remonstrant lines to Lord Eldon, Prince Athanase, part of Rosalind and Helen, and Laon and Cythna, — afterward The Revolt of Islam, — a stirring and eloquent prophecy of the triumph of the spirit of love and liberality. “I have attempted,” he wrote to his publisher, “in the progress of my work to speak to the common elementary emotions of the human heart, so that though it is the story of violence and revolution, it is relieved by milder pictures of friendship and love and natural affections.” As host, he entertained Peacock, Godwin, the Hunts, William Baxter, and Horace Smith, besides Claire and the little newcomer, Clara Allegra, daughter of Byron. As friend and helper, the poor of Marlow knew and loved him. On September 2, 1817, after the completion of Frankenstein, a third child was born to Shelley and Mary, whom [page xxxviii] they named Clara Everina. Godwin’s well-known novel, Mandeville, appeared during November, and Shelley corresponded freely with its author as both admiring critic and purse-opener.

     “I think we ought to go to Italy,” wrote restless Shelley to Mary late in 1817, after much discussion both ways and means. Shelley’s failing health, medical advice, Mary’s own inclination, and the desire to help Claire toward an understanding with Byron, all conspired to this end. March 12, 1818, saw the travellers once again — for Shelley now the last time — leaving the cliffs of Dover for Calais. Had the poet known that he was to see his native land no more, his hearth would have gone out to her in a high song of farewell, for despite his passionate desire to compass the reform of many of her laws and institutions, his life and letters at many points affectionately attest the strength of his love for England.

     The four closing years of Shelley’s brief life were the happiest and most productive. Indeed, had these been denied him, his works would hardly have won large place in the memories and affections of men. Animation was his, bright and breathless; power was his, earnest and unmistakable; but time and place were yet to bring their calm and their counsel to his too agitated spirit. What the clear sunny skies of Italy had done for Chaucer and Milton, what they were to reveal to Browning and his lyric love, they were now about to give to Shelley in abundant measure, and thereafter to keep protective watch above his cloverclustered Roman grave.

     The passage of the Alps was safely achieved, and the travellers reached Milan, April 4. Thence Shelley and Mary proceeded to the Lake of Como, but, disappointed by their continued failure to find a suitable abode, they returned to Milan, shortly gathered their little flock together, and pressed on to Pisa and Leghorn, not, however, before Claire had satisfied the demand Byron made from Venice that she [page xxxix] should relinquish to him the control of Allegra. At Leghorn they gladly met Mr. and Mrs. John Gisborne, the latter of whom, a bright, thoughtful woman, was an old friend of Godwin’s, and the mother of Henry Reveley, Gisborne’s stepson. After a few weeks in Leghorn, Shelley transferred his family to the Baths of Lucca, in the beautiful forest country north of Pisa. Here Rosalind and Helen was concluded, and here husband and wife spent memorable hours in the groves and vineyards, within sight of Apennine summits. This life of calm was broken by the growing anxiety of Claire, whom Shelley at length accompanied to Venice to see Byron and Allegra. Claire found her little daughter at the home of the Hoppners, the English consul-general’s family, who received the wayfarers with great hospitality. Shelley alone visited Byron, who heard him with friendly regard, but with little real consideration. He stressed his liking for Shelley, however, and insisted that he bring his family and Claire to live for the time in Byron’s then unoccupied villa — I Cappuccini — at Este, among the Euganean Hills. Shelley accepted the invitation, and wrote to Mary asking her to meet him in Este. Little Clara was taken ill on the road, and after anxious days in the new home, the parents hastened with her to Venice to consult there a noted medico, but had hardly arrived when the child died. A week passed sadly in Venice before they returned to Este to find Claire again, William, and Allegra. Now for some time having brooded his masterpiece, Prometheus Unbound, Shelley fell back upon present surroundings and recent memories, first producing Julian and Maddalo, and, in part at least, Lines Written among the Euganean Hills. The latter poem is poignant and almost incredible lyric beauty; the former has been already touched. By October 12, the poet, with Mary and William, was back in Venice, seeing much of Byron, admiring his genius but despising his excesses. After a brief return to Este and the re-delivery of Allegra to Byron, the hospitable villa was deserted and the faces of the four were [page xl] set southward for Naples. Here, notwithstanding his hope of improvement, a deep dejection, both physical and spiritual, seized upon Shelley, an almost Hamlet-like sense of isolation, from which he did not well recover until the early spring. It was now resolved to visit Rome, where they had spent but a week en route to Naples, and the completion of their first year in Italy was signalized by the entrance of the pilgrims into the Eternal City. They found themselves now somewhat less lonely; acquaintances called; steady reading went on; and interested visits were paid to the Vatican, Villa Borghese, Pantheon, and Capitol. In the remote and solitary moments of his frequent walks about the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, Shelley almost completed his great lyrical drama, Prometheus Unbound, among at once the gentlest and proudest vindications of the human spirit. He felt his inevitable way to the symbolic heart of this noble myth, as imagined and made vital not only by Æschylus and others, but by the high instinct of man he had himself developed. Here Shelley’s prime idea of the self-saving and self-justifying power of Love reaches its surest and most elevated expression.

     A long reaction and an anticipation of evil to come led the poet to long again for at least a brief visit to England, “out of pure weakness of heart.” The temperamental barometer proved true. On June 7 William, the most fondly cherished of the children, passed away. The English burying-ground, hard-by the Porta San Paolo, received the little body, and Shelley and Mary were left desolate indeed. The mother’s melancholy, in truth, became so intense that Shelley decided upon Leghorn and Mrs. Gisborne as the place and person most suited to her at the moment, and rented, accordingly, the Villa Valsovano there. He himself had urged his doubtful steps through many a gloom, and felt for the thrice-bereaved mother no less than he felt with her. “We must all weep on these occasions,” wrote Leigh Hunt to Mary, “and it is better for the kindly fountains within us that we [page xli] should. May you weep quietly, but not long; and may the calmest and most affectionate spirit that comes out of the contemplation of great things, and the love of all, lay his most blessed hand upon you.” When Mary would be much alone Shelley read and though as rapidly and eagerly as ever, adventuring through Dante, Boccaccio, and Calderon, and praising the Spanish dramatist with discriminating enthusiasm. Now, too, he finished his own deeply stirring drama, The Cenci, conceived more than a year before, after reading an old MS. at Leghorn and viewing Guido’s supposed portrait of Beatrice in the Colonna Palace at Rome. This production, touched as it is with weaknesses of phrasing and of dramatic “business,” — the dramatist sometimes hinders the poet, — is yet comparable, as a study in the spirit of hate and villainy, only with Shakespeare’s Richard III and Browning’s Guido; while Cordelia, Pompilia, and Beatrice form the triad of great women in English poetry. The fifth act is by far the most powerful, not only because it contains the “tremendous end,” but because Shelley raises here a nigh unfettered wing in soul-criticism and dramatic range.

     In Florence, where the autumn of 1819 found them settled, Shelley spent many days visiting the great galleries of painting and statuary, though with increasing physical unrest. On November 12 a last child was born to him, christened Percy Florence, who survived both his father and his mother, and inherited due baronetcy. The prevailing discontent in England, with which Shelley deeply sympathized, occasioned at this time the writing of his Songs and Poems for the Men of England, and his Masque of Anarchy, — poems of peaceful poise but revolutionary impulse, — and a thoughtful treatise, A Philosophical View of Reform. A translation of Euripides’ The Cyclops, the creation of the Prometheus, and the breathing of the subtly lyric incantation to the spirit of the West Wind, all belong to this great creative year. It is interesting to note the loyal [page xlii] human interest Shelley took during this winter in his friend Reveley’s projected steamship, an interest that did not hesitate to provide ill-to-be-spared money for the advancement of what was almost a foredoomed failure. The extreme cold of early January 1820, drove him at length to Pisa, where most of his time was thenceforth to be spent. A small group of friends cheered Shelley and Mary here, during the few intervals not give over to study and composition, — friends not unwelcome, since the Gisbornes and Henry Reveley were now leaving for England. Though the poet’s health was responding favourably to the change of climate, Godwin’s monotonous embarrassments and demands preyed upon his spirits, and he was obliged to protect Mary from full knowledge of her father’s rapacity. There were other sources of perplexity and even anger that greatly disturbed the Shelleys at this time, — a grossly unfair attack upon the poet in the Quarterly Review, and a scandal spread abroad by a vicious servant which it took some time to check and refute. With the advent of midsummer the heat grew so intense that a move was made to the proffered home of the absent Gisbornes, Casa Ricci, in Leghorn, where — following the Pisan lyric, The Cloud — the Ode to a Skylark was written. Probably the music of the Spenserian Alexandrines, for he had long loved the Faerie Queene, rang in Shelley’s ears as he penned this exulting yet regretful cry. Among the other poems of 1820 are the Letter to Maria Gisborne, The Sensitive Plant, The Witch of Atlas, Hymn to Mercury, Ode to Liberty, and Ode to Naples. By August, the heat was unbearable, and another change was made to the Baths of San Giuliano di Pisa. Shelley’s interest in European political conditions was acute, and he watched with keen solicitude the course of the revolutions in Spain and Naples, greatly regretting the eventual success of the Austrians in restoring the false Neapolitan king. During the early months of 1821 he sought and found social reinforcement of his views. The [page xliii] Gisbornes were back, though a lively misunderstanding prevented an early renewal of old ties; and Thomas Medwin, the poet’s cousin and former schoolmate, had found his not too welcome way to Pisa. Over against these was the finer intelligence and exalted spirit of the Greek patriot, Alexander Mavrocordato, to whom Shelley’s prophetic drama, Hellas, was afterward dedicated; the finesse of Francesco Pacchiani, a Pisan academician; the good-natured vapidity of Count Taaffe; the skilful improvisations of the famous Sgricci; and the pathetic durance of the Contessina Emilia Viviani, beloved alike by Shelley, Mary, and Claire. Condemned, with her sister, to the strict seclusion of a convent life by a jealous stepmother and an indifferent father, Emilia was in evil case, and this, with her exquisite loveliness, so wrought upon Shelley’s imagination that he sought continuallyn to deliver her from the Intolerance he had so often scourged of old. He became her “caro fratello” and Mary her “dearest sister.” The profound though passing influence exerted upon Shelley by her character and situation is apparent in his Epipsychidion. “It is,” he wrote to Gisborne, after many months, “an idealized history of my feelings. I think one is always in love with something or other; the error — and I confess it is not easy for spirits cased in flesh and blood to avoid it — consists in seeking in a mortal image the likeness of what is, perhaps, eternal.” The “isle under Ionian skies,” and idea which had so strong a hold upon Shelley’s fancy,1 as upon the youthful Browning’s,2 here achieves its right poetic value. Emilia married at last a Signor Biondi, and lived but a brief and checkered life. It was fitting though almost accidental

     1 Cf. letter of August, 1821, to Mary: “My greatest content would be utterly to desert all human society. I would retire with you and our child to a solitary island in the sea and build a boat, and shut upon my retreat the floodgates of the world.” Cf. also Prometheus, IV, iv, 200,201.

     2 Cf. Pippa Passes, ii, 314-327.

[page xliv]

that at this time Shelley should put into critical form his own noble theory of poetry, published after his death.

     Soon after the departure of Claire, who was now engaged in tutoring certain young Florentines, there arrived in Pisa friends of Medwin, Lieutenant Edward Elliker Williams and his wife Jane. The Shelleys, both husband and wife, were much pleased with the newcomers, who in their turn attached themselves with sympathy and understanding to their fellow-exiles. With Williams and Reveley the poet would sail the Arno in a light Arthurian shallop that on one exciting occasion suddenly overset, nearly ending Shelley, the non-swimmer, then and there. Notwithstanding this mishap his love for nautical excursions grew into a passion, nearly every day found him on the water, and May 4, he even undertook a venturesome excursion with Reveley from the mouth of the Arno to Leghorn. In San Giuliano the case was not different, and it was there, indeed, that the
Boat on the Serchio
was born. Here also was produced the last of Shelley’s completed major poems, Adonais, written in memory of John Keats.

     Upon hearing of Keats’s illness and of his arrival in Italy, Shelley had urged him to accept the invitation to Pisa he had previously extended, but poor Keats was already struggling with death, and yielded himself at Rome, February 23, 1821. Shelley received the news some weeks later, probably a letter from England, and began almost immediately to brood his elegy. He had not known Keats well, had variously estimated his work, and had scarcely sympathized with his consuming passion for his art. Indeed, he had written Keats an earnest word concerning his own freedom from “system and mannerism,” instancing the Prometheus and The Cenci. Over-regularity he had sought to avoid. “I wish those who excel me in genius would pursue the same plan.” And Keats had good-humouredly replied: “An artist must serve Mammon; he must have ‘self-concentration’ — selfishness, perhaps. You, I am sure, will forgive [page xlv] me for sincerely remarking that you might curb your magnanimity, and be more of an artist, and load every rift of your subject with ore.” Shelley did not much admire Endymion, but he though Hyperion “grand poetry,” The product of “transcendent genius.” He sincerely respected Keats, though he failed to understand him, and it is matter for large regret that the two poets, because of the sensitiveness of the one and the too lately aroused concern of the other, did not find a closer union — a communion — possible. The poem itself, written in Spenserians, is a pure elegy unequalled in our language. It sounds the deeps of death, for Keats, for Shelley, for all “the inheritors of unfulfilled renown.” It was first printed at Pisa, with the types of Didot. “I am especially curious,” wrote Shelley to his English publisher, Ollier, “to hear the fate of Adonais. I confess I should be surprised if that poem were born to an immortality of oblivion.”

     After a flying visit to Florence, house-hunting on behalf of Horace Smith, who was defending against calumnies consequent upon the pirated republication of Queen Mab, and who failed, eventually, to reach Italy, Shelley journeyed to Ravenna early in August, 1821, to become the guest of Byron at Guiccioli Palace. He found his fellow-poet less extravagant than before in conduct, if not in criticism of all things. Had he known of Byron’s perfidy in failing to suppress — indeed actually using — reports against Shelley’s honour, — a perfidy completed when he engaged yet failed to deliver to Mrs. Hoppner an important letter written to her by Mary, — it is doubtful whether he would have consented to meet Byron again. As it was, he found life in Ravenna none too pleasant, and though he was captivated with the fifth canto of Don Juan, as Byron read it, and felt his own inability to rival the facility of such art, yet both Byron’s personality and his vey genius oppressed Shelley, and he left Ravenna for Pisa August 17. Before long, however, Byron and his companion had decided to [page xlvi] come also to Pisa, taking the Lanfranchi Palace on the Lung’ Arno. Byron had suggested to Shelley at Ravenna that they and Leigh Hunt should unite in founding a periodical, to contain representative future work from each of them. Shelley now took up the plan with enthusiasm, so far at least as it concerned Hunt, and, learning of his friend’s serious illness in England, wrote proposing his departure for Italy. Hunt reached Leghorn early in July, 1822, but the affectionate welcome with which Shelley greeted him was to be both the beginning and the end of the renewed comradeship for which each was hungering.

     But a few miles up to coast from Pisa lies the Gulf of Spezia, whither Shelley and Mary, with Claire, who had rejoined them, travelled in September, 1821, seeking a nest for time to come. They explored the enchanting shores with delight, and returned happy in the assurance that they had found their summer haven for the succeeding year. Shortly afterward they left the Baths, and re-established themselves in Pisa proper, at the Tre Palazzi di Chiesa, opposite the Lanfranchi Palace and Byron, inviting the Williams family to occupy the lower floor. The Shelleys — free for the moment from the cares of authorship, now that Hellas and Mary’s Valperga were concluded — read freely, discussed high matters with Byron and the Williamses, or beguiled the time with Medwin and Taaffe. Shelley himself walked and rode and sailed not a little, or Byron would mischievously invite him to a formal dinner, for the sake of watching his unease, or would read his Cain to a hearer even more appreciative, perhaps, than its creator. Byron placed great value upon Shelley’s critical opinions, asserting that “he, alone, in this age of humbug, dares stemt he current, as he did to-day the flooded Arno in his skiff, although I could not observe made any progress.” These words are quoted form the original Recollections of Edward John Trelawny, a Cornishman, and friend of Medwin and Williams, who though still young, had led a wild and varied career. He [page xlvii] arrived in Pisa, at Williams’s instance, January 14, 1822, hoping to secure Williams and other recruits for a summer cruise on the Mediterranean. He was a man of fine physique, dark, tall, and strong, “a kind of half-Arab Englishman,” as Mary described hem, whose frank manner and adventurous disposition soon won him the regard of the little colony on the Lung’ Arno. His Records of Shelley, Byron and the Author are, though somewhat inaccurate, peculiarly interesting and readable. Shelley found him a valorous figure, a ready-to-hand symbol of knight-errantry, and drew a poetic picture of him in Fragments of an Unfinished Drama. Williams and Shelley, with Byron’s party, soon formed a league with Trelawny for the ensuing descent upon Spezia, and he was commissioned to order a little schooner from Captain Daniel Roberts, and old friend then staying at Genoa. Early in February Shelley and Williams left for Spezia to secure houses, but returned to announce that only one good residence was to be had, and that this was “to serve for all.” The “all,” however, became limited by Byron’s defection. During the softly beautiful days of the Tuscan spring Shelley wrote his three lyrics to Jane Williams, originally intended only for the private reading of her husband and herself. He was also at work on the fragmentary drama, Charles the First.

     It was fortunate for the Shelleys that Byron decided against going to Spezia. Not Byron’s posing humours, to which Shelley was accustomed, but his steady cruelty toward Claire, despite all intervention, slowly wore out Shelley’s friendship, and it was therefore with relief on all grounds that he accepted Byron’s decision. Claire’s anxiety for Allegra, who soon thereafter died in an unhealthful convent, caused her such suffering that Shelley and Mary resolved to take her with them. On April 26 Trelawny escorted Mary and Claire to Spezia, followed the next day by Shelley and the Williamses. By May 1 the party were settled in Casa Magni, a picturesque but not too comfortable villa on the [page xlviii] Bay of Lerici, near the fishing-hamlet of San Terenzo. Claire, apprised at length of Allegra’s death, returned for a time to Florence, and Trelawny proceeded to Genoa, there to lend a hand in Captain Roberts’s boat-building. This now included not only Shelley’s craft, but a yacht, the Bolivar, for Byron.

     On May 12 the long-expected boat arrived, built from the somewhat eccentric plans of Williams, but so swift and graceful that Ariel became her named during the original partnership. Charles Vivian, a young sailor-lad, one of the crew that brought her was retained, and made a quietly efficient helper to the too pleased and energetic Williams and the book-preoccupied Shelley, who, delegated to steer, used oftener than not to put the helm the wrong way. Trelawny and Roberts touched Spezia, June 13, with Byron’s yacht, and Trelawny went on to Leghorn three days later. Whether on land or sea, Shelley was almost constantly reading or musing, though at times his mood was as quick and merry as a child’s at play. The Triumph of Life, begun at Pisa, and continued at Casa Magni, is the last fine fragment of his poetic work. The poem is touched with a deeper and truer philosophy of old, the fruit of maturing experience , and leads us to feel that, if time had been his, he would have become at once more human and catholic, less impatient for the renovation of life, more penetrating in its interpretation.

     In many of Shelley’s most haunting songs there is heard the echoing whisper of early death. Never of a really robust constitution, and subject during his last years to spams of acute pain, he insensibly allowed his youthfully pensive anticipations to take on a more settled habit. When boating with Byron during the summer of 1816 and threatened with accidental death, he felt in the prospect, he wrote to Peacock, “a mixture of sensations, among which terror entered, though but subordinately.” Trelawny tells us that Shelley remained [page xlix] inert at the bottom of adeep pool in the Arno during the progress of the only swimming lessons he seems to have taken, and had to be hastily rescued. “When he recovered his breath, he said: ‘I always find the bottom of the well, and they say Truth lies there. In another minute I should have found it, and you would have found an empty shell.’” And at Casa Magni, oaring the boat one day into the deep water, with Jane Williams and her babes as passengers, he sat silent a while, at last looking up and exclaiming: “Now let us together solve the great mystery!” Williams writes of what, perhaps, was the strangest portent of all, the vision that came to Shelley in May of a child like Allegra rising from the sea, to smile at him and clap her hands in joy.

     Early in June “Claire returned to Casa Magni, and assisted in nursing Mary, who became for a week more seriously ill. Though attended by Shelley with unrelaxing devotion, she improved but slowly. By July Hunt’s announced departure from Genoa for Leghorn determined Shelley and Williams to sail for the same port, that they might there welcome him to Italy, and see his family safely housed in the lower floor of the Lanfranchi Palace at Pisa. With vague fears Mary saw her husband embark, and “cried bitterly when he went away.” 1 The voyage was pleasant and speedy, but disappointment awaited the voyagers. Although Hunt arrived and greeted with affectionate warmth, Byron, as it happened, was sulking at a slight put upon him the Italian authorities, and was resolved to quit the literary enterprise and the country at once. It was imperative that Shelley should appeal to Byron on behalf of Hunt’s necessity and good faith, which he did with so much force and reason that a satisfactory programme was at last arranged. By July 7 all was settled, and the poet, turning to Mrs. Hunt, as the three friends strolled about Pisa, exclaimed: “If I die tomorrow, I have lived to be older than my father; I am ninety years of age.”

1 From a letter to Mrs. Gisborne.

[page l]

     Prophetic words! Farewells were exchanged, Hunt put into Shelley’s hands a copy of Keats’s last volume, and the evening shadows of the Leghorn road swallowed up the form of his friend. On the morrow, July 8, 1822, both the port authorities and the friends of Williams and Shelley at Leghorn were disturbed by signs of tempest. Captain Roberts, in particular, sought to detain them for another day. But dissuasion was of no avail. Both were anxious to return to Casa Magni, and shortly after noon, with the lad Vivian, they set sail, watched anxiously by the glasses of Roberts and Trelawny.  A few hours later a thunderstorm broke into harbour. Trelawny was stationed on board the anchored Bolivar, whence he did not retire until dark. Roberts saw the last of the Ariel from the lighthouse tower. It was speck some miles out at sea, but his glass descried the occupants taking in the topsail.

     Not for several days did the sea relinquish its dead, casting up Shelley’s body near Via Reggio, and Williams’s about three miles distant, in Tuscan territory. The end had come, and Shelley’s life of light and song, —

     “.       .       .       its pinions disarrayed of might,

       Drooped; o’er it closed the echoes far away

Of the great voice which did its flight sustain,

       As waves which lately paved his watery way

       Hiss round a drowner’s head in their tempestuous play.”

Some weeks passed before Vivian’s body was found.

     The anxiety of the women at Casa Magni soon deepened into alarm, and, on the Friday following the fatal Monday, drove them into Pisa. They saw Byron first, and then Roberts and Trelawny at Leghorn. None could comfort them. After anguished conversations they were persuaded to return to Lerici, accompanied by Trelawny. The bodies, much mutilated, were found July 17 and 18. In one of Shelley’s pockets was a volume of Sophocles, in the other the borrowed copy of Keats, turned back at The Eve of St. [page li] Agnes. The stringency of the Italian quarantine law made it necessary to secure permission to cremate the bodies — already officially buried in quicklime on the shore — in order to preserve the ashes for later interment. On August 15, Trelawny, Hunt, and Byron gathered on the beach; the funeral pyre for Williams’s body was made ready, and was lit by Trelawny. “The materials being dry and resinous the pine-wood burnt furiously, and drove use back. It was hot enough before, there was no breath of air, and the loose sand scorched our feet. As soon as the flames became clear, and allowed us to approach, we threw frankincense and slat into the furnace, and poured a flask of wine and oil over the body. The Greek oration was omitted, for we had lost our Hellenic bard.” The next day, at Via Reggio, Shelley’s remains were similarly treated, before a group of curious native spectators. The story is realistically told by Trelawny. “What surprised us all,” he concludes, “was that the heart remained entire. In snatching this relic from the fiery furnace, my hand was severely burnt; and had any one seen me do the act I should have been put into quarantine.”

     The final burial of  the poet’s ashes took place, by Mary’s desire, in the Protestant cemetery at Rome, in a tomb built by Trelawny within a recess of the old Roman wall. this was covered with solid stone, bearing an inscription in Latin written by Leigh Hunt, with a passage added by Trelawny from The Tempest, well loved by Shelley: —





                                                   “Nothing of him that doth fade

                                                     But doth suffer a sea-change

                                                     Into something rich and strange.”

In the companion tomb lies Trelawny, whose graves is inscribed in Shelley’s lines, The Epitaph. Not far away [page lii] are the graves of John Keats and Joseph Severn, and that of John Addington Symonds, lover and biographer of Shelley. ‘And all about grow every sorte of flower,’ — violets and daisies, roses and clover, and over all the tall, dark cypresses wave solemn boughs.


     There is nothing more difficult to define than Poetry, because there is nothing more Protean. The statements are as various as the creators and the critics, and it is well that it is so, for particularity and insistent dicta are foreign to the spirit of literature. Literature is large and catholic; it is in its essence a mystery, incapable of precise scientific analysis; it is an unquenchable spiritual impulse and adventure realized in words; it is an interpretation of the dream of life; and with its instinct humanity is inalienably endowed. “You cannot escape Literature,” declared Sidney Lanier. “For how can you think yourself out of thought? How can you run away from your own feet?”

     Yet there are at least three qualities that may seem to determine the literary artist, the poet. He must, first, seek pure truth with a devoted and single-minded enthusiasm, whatever the cost. He must cherish every hint, every gleam. He must catch the rhythms of the noisy life about him as those of the sea and the forest. He must be at heart a man of social sympathy, yet of a lonely habit. Certainly, he will belong the more truly to the world of men because he does not belong to them. He must be for mankind —

                                         ‘The only speaker of essential truth,

                                          Opposed to relative, comparative

                                          And temporal truths.’

“Poets,” said Shelley, “are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” And again, “A poem is the very image of life

     1 The attempt has been made to touch the biographical sketch with criticism. The present treatment aims to derive general critical principles from the particulars already give.

[page liii]

expressed in its eternal truth.” The place of the poet is high but hard. It is his, to experience with fortitude “the baptism in salt water,” to suffer nobly in life and even at times in are for his power’s sake. If slowly and with struggle, yet he still spells out his word. Shelley’s solitary figure of Alastor was not, we think, unhappy, though his war was holden to hear “the eternal note of sadness.”

     The poet must have, also, fine sensibility to the beauty that lurks in language. This is the plastic material with which he works, — positively, in words; negatively, in silences. His diction must be sure, representing life and representing him. He must be keenly aware of the dignity of the dignity of words, their music, colours, individualities, and kinships. His poems must not be word-prisons, but word-homes. And to this regard for works — indeed, as conditioning and justifying such regard — he must, last, add an impelling insight into the root rightness of things. Art, with its hunger for truth and its passion for beauty, feeds also and always upon good, upon the law love and virtue. A fine-grained æsthete must the artist be; but he must be, before and beyond that, a man. One in any field who delights to picture the unholy for its own sake, who is preoccupied rather than with the struggle that makes for character — such an one is not less dead to beauty than to good. It is quite true that he professed moralizer has no place in pure literature, for he is a briefholder, a special pleader, and does not see and show impartially. “A poet would do ill,” thought Shelley, “to embody his own conceptions of right and wrong, which are usually those of place and time, in his poetical creations, which participate in neither.” Yet it is also true that life is seen by the poet as a unit, and art, like life, is of moral significance. Every great artist is implicitly devoted to the idea of good, is sincerely on the better side. All sure literary masterpieces are marked by unmistakable signs of love for [page liv] that which is holy, whatever plot or method may appear. No genius, however erratic, therefore, has been radically vicious. Though the light he lives in may sometimes blind him, it will not blast him. Extraordinary sincerity is demanded in art, whole-hearted allegiance to one’s ideal and inspiration, and lifelong perseverance in the attempt to realize these. “Poetry redeems from decay the visitations of the divinity of man.”

     Notwithstanding the varying emphases of the great poets, — variations often more apparent than real, — it will be found that their lives and their works satisfy these conditions. It is easy to distinguish Shelley’s poetry from Wordsworth’s, or from Shakespeare’s, an yet it would sometimes be a good deal less easy were it not for the single fact of style, — the characteristic clothing, or rather the special way in which each man’s work wears its clothing. Even so, there are brief passages in Alastor that Wordsworth might have uttered, and lyric touches in Prometheus that would not readily be wrested as spurious from one of Shakespeare’s romantic comedies. The truth is, the Poetry, too, is one, and that, as Shelley himself so finely phrases it, “poetical abstractions are beautiful and new, not because the portions of which they are composed had no previous existence in the mind of man or in nature, but because the whole produced by their combination has some intelligible and beautiful analogy with those sources of emotion and thought, and with the contemporary condition of them: one great poet is a masterpiece of nature which another not only ought to study but must study. He might as wisely and as easily determine that his mind should no longer be the mirror of all that is lovely in the visible universe, as exclude from his contemplation the beautiful which exists in the writings of a great contemporary.  .  .  .  A poet is the combined product of such internal powers and as modify the nature of others; and of such external influences as excite and sustain these powers; he is not one, but both. Every man’s mind [page lv] is, in this respect, modified by all the objects of nature and art; by every word and every suggestion which he ever admitted to act upon his consciousness; it is the mirror upon which all forms are reflected,  and in which they compose one form. Poets, not otherwise than philosophers, painters, sculptors, and musicians, are, in one sense, the creators, and, in another, the creations, of their age. From this subjection the loftiest do not escape.” 1

     Shelley, for his part, saturated himself as a youth in the plays of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson, and other Elizabethans; in the Faire Queene of Spenser (whose influence on succeeding English poets, particularly Milton and Keats, has justly won for him the title of “the poets’ poet”); in Homer and the Greek tragedies; in Theocritus, Moschus, and Bion; in Horace, Ovid, Virgil, and Lucreitius; in Tasso, Ariosto, and lesser Italians; in Milton’s austere epic and his minor works; and in the poems of Scott, Moore, Southey, Wordsworth, and Coleridge. Goethe, too, he read. In later years he praised much Calderon and Dante, and read Byron with the added interest their frequent contact aroused. This is but a partial catalogue of the poetry he eagerly absorbed — the prose was correspondingly considerable — and which more and more discovered to him his powers and opportunities, as his own works did for Browning on a later day. He was stirred and moved, also, by the great Biblical poems and dramas, — the book of Job especially.

     The living persons who most influenced Shelley have been already mentioned and described in the sketch of his life, and there also it was shown how deeply his imagination was affected by the elemental forces of nature. Forces, — because, Titanic or delicate as the object might be, Mont Blanc or a skylark, Shelley seems chiefly concerned with its incentive, the spirit that gives it being and direction. He sees nature neither as vast painted scenery against which as against a background man plays his part, nor yet as the

1 From the Preface to Prometheus Unbound.

[page lvi]

unreal projection of human thought and fancy. Responsive as he is to every sensuous impression, and eager to trace the course of human diversity in the symbolic aspects of nature, he yet characteristically regards all natural phenomena as vital in themselves and for themselves, understanding man no less that understood by him, honouring their own dignity as members of the spiritual economy of the universe, and calmer and truer in their movement toward destiny than the mortals who live among them in alternating fits of love and cruelty, of fear and hope. Into their spiritual brotherhood the illumined may gain access, but only on terms of purity and unselfishness. What they reveal to such is revealed for the large sake of all, not for little, local gain of a wandering human. Nature and man are tending toward the high estate of perfect love, and each will be the better for the other’s understanding friendship. Prometheus, the ideal of Man, and Asia, transfigured Nature, will at length become united into one being, that Light of which the poet sings in Adonais

           “.       .       .       whose smiles kindles the Universe,

             That Beauty in which all things work and move,

             That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse

             Of birth can quench not, the sustaining Love

             Which, through the web of being blindly wove

             By man and beast and earth and air and sea,

             Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of

             The fire for which all thirst.”

     It will thus be seen that Shelley is at one with the romantic temper of his age in ascribing to nature a spiritual quality and significance, and in regarding man’s life as symbolic and progressive; but he goes beyond Romanticism — Wordsworthian Romanticism at least — in his idea of the vigorously dynamic life of nature, an idea he holds in common with modern physicists, save that with him in nature is almost everywhere apotheosized. Wordsworth, though he informed nature with intense spiritual meaning, yet saw it in familiar images and rather still habitudes. Even at its highest, [page lvii] nature in his work is somewhat domesticized, at least localized, in tinge, and is often comparatively hushed and stationary. Where it moves and energizes it does so slowly, and within limits. In brief, its tone is the tone of the phenomenal tenanted in time by the Eternal, rather than that of a rushing mighty wind. To Wordsworth nature is the garment of the Eternal; to Shelley, its movement. Shelley makes his pictures less pictures than actional prophecies. Arethusa leaps down the rocks, the Night swiftly walks over the western wave, the skylark pants forth a flood of rapture, the West Wind is a wild spirit moving everywhere, and “Follow! Follow!” cry the echoing Voices to Panthea and Asia in the Prometheus. The very mythological largeness of many of his nature-conceptions — Greek in body but intensely modern and fervent in spirit — gives them power that stirs and draws even usually unemotional readers. His poetry illustrates one of his own cardinal doctrines as critic, it “compels us to feel that which we perceive, and to imagine that which we know.”

     For Shelley is nearly always a coursing poet. There is sun in his work, and wind and storm. An “enemy of society,” he was yet an anxious lover and reformer of mankind. Against occasional laws he rebelled, considering only the laws of the spirit to be binding and immutable. He was always a Platonist in temper, and early became one also by conviction. All that man needs, he thought, is freedom to think and to act. Granted relief from fear and tyranny, he cannot fail to come out into the light of love. His instinct will lead him if he will but trust it, for it is not blind, but is made purposeful by the Power, the Spirit, that helps all things finally to realize themselves in love. Man has been shamefully abused, drugged, made mad, by oppression, selfishness, and dread. Let him become himself —

“Man, one harmonious soul of many a soul,

   Whose nature is its own divine control,

Where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea; [page lviii]

   Familiar acts are beautiful trough love;

   Labour, and pain, and grief, in life’s green grove

Sport like tame beasts, none knew how gentle they could be!

“His will, with all mean passions, bad delights,

   And selfish cares, its trembling satellites,

A spirit ill to guide, but mighty to obey,

   Is a tempest-wingéd ship, whose helm

   Love rules through waves which dare not overwhelm,

Forcing life’s wildest shores to own its sovereign sway.

.       .       .       .       .       .       .       .      .       .       .       .

“The lighting is his slave; heaven’s utmost deep

   Gives up her stars, and like a flock of sheep

The pass before his eye, are numbered, and roll on!

   The tempest is his steed, he strides the air;

   And the abyss shouts from her depth laid bare:

‘Heaven, hast thou secrets? Man unveils me; I have none.’”

     In order to clear  man’s way for him Shelley discovers not only his internal foes, but also the external enemies which encourage these, — King and Priest. Against political and ecclesiastical tyrants he lifts up a burning voice, in his Ode to Liberty, Revolt of Islam, Prometheus, and The Cenci. Here he is ta one with the most ardent spirits of the modern revolutionary era, though in point of patience 1 he had much to learn. It seemed to Shelley that personal prosperity and content meant nearly always a selfish blindness to the large woes of others; it seemed to him that the world at large was in the grip of baneful and intolerable custom; the men were smugly and fatuously wearing shackles that not only hampered their movements bur corroded their very souls; and that all that was necessary to their deliverance was acceptance of the spirit of love in place of the dictates of

     1 In matters intimately affecting himself, however, Shelley sometimes showed extraordinary long-suffering. Note the mildness of the following rebuke in a letter to James Ollier, his publisher: “Mr. Gisborne has sent me a copy of the Prometheus, which is certainly most beautifully printed. It is to be regretted that the errors of the press are so numerous, and in many respects so destructive of the sense of a species of poetry which, I fear, even without this disadvantage, very few will understand or like.”

[page lix]

what they called law,1 a willingness to see and assume mankind’s heritage of freedom of soul, and a determination no longer to submit to the whims and wilfulnesses of self-constituted exploiters. In brief, Shelley was a thorough-going Radical in thought, in teaching, and in deed, though a many-sided one. He was wholesomely earnest in his desire for the world’s betterment, yet he was, in his personal relations, sometimes strangely unsensitive in his very sensitiveness. He was hardly willing that men should encounter and overthrow tyranny with its own weapons, and yet he was deeply impatient of their long hesitation to be free. If Wordsworth was a priest of Liberty, and Byron its soldier, Shelley rather was its young prophet, who brooded, and promised, and exhorted, and lamented, in turn.

     Too often his poetry struck the note of grief at the listlessness and insufficiency of human life. It is interesting to note with what unrest he time after time contrasts life with death, the waking consciousness with sleep. Indeed, there are few of the romantic poets who are not moved to noble utterance of these twin themes. In Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, and Byron, such references recur again and again. For the sleep-experience, it seems to the poet, provides him a way of escape from the weaknesses and wrongs of mortality, rescues him from his own and his fellows’ littleness, gives his imagination the right and the power to assert his mastery and go on its unchecked adventure. So, too, as in sleep he dies to the world of fact, from sleep he rises with enlarged horizon, with cleared and refreshed spirit.

“Every morning we are born: every night we die.”

     1 In his Essay on Christianity, Shelley writes: “This, and no other, is justice: — to consider, under all the circumstances of a particular case, how the greatest quantity and purest quality of happiness will ensue from any action; [this] is to be just, and there is no other justice. The distinction between justice and mercy was first imagined in the courts of tyranny. Mankind receive every relaxation of their tyranny as a circumstance of grace and favour.”

[page lx]

     If sleep can so serve him, how, he asks himself, shall not death also serve him, only more greatly? For death, it seems, much gather into itself all the meanings and benedictions of sleep. Shelley touches these ideas with a more delicate and lingering sympathy than does any other. We find their rising and falling music in Queen Mab, the opening chorus in Hellas, Mutability, To Night, Adonais, Stanzas written in Dejection, and in these lettered words concerning the English burying-place at Rome: “To see the sun shining on its bright grass, fresh, when we first visited it, with the autumnal dews, and hear the whispering of the wind among the leaves of the trees which have overgrown the tomb of Cestius, and the soil which is stirring in the sun-warm earth, and to mark the tombs, mostly of women and young people, who were buried there, one might, if one were to die, desire the sleep they seem to sleep. Such is the human mind, and so it peoples with its wishes vacancy and oblivion.” The figures under which Shelley broods upon the thoughts of sleep and death are among the gentlest and truest in the whole range of his shining imagery.

     A rising and falling music, it was said, — tinged often with melancholy. But this melancholy is not to be confounded with pessimism. It is the melancholy of art and artists, a principle that has persisted in Teutonic literatures especially, from the time of the Saxon sagas to our own day. Its roots, perhaps, are three: recognition of the incompleteness of human life; inability to express a though or truth with the sheer first power of that thought or truth; and failure to secure more than a very slight share of the responsive sympathy of men and women. The poet is baffled at every turn by these “Thus far’s,” — even though he fight the better for them, — the limitation of life, the limitation of language, the limitation of love. Shelley felt them all acutely. Himself hindered by himself, he looked forward the more eagerly to the emancipation of mankind; in his later days deeply doubtful — save in brief moments — [page lxi] of the poetic power he yet felt constrained to exert; hungry always for words and looks of understanding; he has left us his testimony touching each of these common sorrows. Of the imperfections of life he wrote: —

                         “Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,

                           Stains the white radiance of Eternity,

                           Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die

                           If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!

Of the struggle of expression: —

                                                                   “Woe is me!

                           The wingéd words on which my soul would pierce

                           Into the height of love’s rare Universe

                           Are chains of lead around its flight of fire.”

And again: “The most glorious poetry that has ever been communicated to the world is probably a feeble shadow of the original conceptions of the poet.” And of the inadequacy of human love:—

                                  “O Love! who bewailest

                                 The frailty of all things here,

                                    Why choose you the frailest

                                 For your cradle, your home and your bier?”

     Shelley’s own though of himself as poet and reformer is set forth in the following extract from a letter of December 11, 1817, to Godwin, concerning Laon and Cythna, or The Revolt of Islam: “I felt that it was in many respects a genuine picture of my own mind. I felt that the sentiments were true, not assumed. And in this have I long believed that my power consists — in sympathy, and that part of the imagination which relates to sympathy and contemplation. I am formed, if for anything not in common with the herd of mankind, to apprehend minute and remote distinctions of feeling, whether relative to external nature or the living beings which surround us, and to communicate the conceptions which result from considering either the moral or the material universe as a whole. Of course I [page lxii] believe these faculties, which perhaps comprehend all that is sublime in man, to exist very imperfectly in my own mind. . . . I cannot but be conscious, in much of what I write, of an absence of that tranquility which is the attribute and accompaniment of power. . . . If I live, or if I see any trust in coming years, doubt not that I shall do something, whatever it may be, which a serious and earnest estimate of my powers will suggest to me, and which will be in every respect accommodated to their utmost limits.” Godwin need not have doubted, for Shelley was not born to pass away until he had uttered his masterpiece, — both a revelation and a prophecy. Alastor, too, Julian and Maddalo, and Adonais, have peculiar value as presenting self-delineations of the poet’s mind, while in the exquisite song of the Fourth Spirit in Prometheus we get something of the instinct and joy of the creative faculty that upbore him in those great moments for which he paid in the pain and sorrow of gray intervals: —

                               “On a poet’s lip I slept

                                 Dreaming like a love-adept

                                 In the sound his breathing kept:

                                 Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses,

                                 But feeds on the aërial kisses

                                 Of shapes that haunt thought’s wildernesses.

                                 He will watch from dawn to gloom

                                 The lake-reflected sun illume

                                 The yellow bees in the ivy-bloom,

                                 Nor heed nor see what things they be;

                                 But from these create he can

                                 Forms more real than living man,

                                 Nurslings of immortality.”

     It remains to speak of Shelley’s distinctive style, which is, of course, one always in point of word-lore, musical keenness, vivified sensibility, acceleration, yet is separable into the lyric manner, the dramatic, the satiric, and the polemic. In the lyric Shelley is most surely himself, striking through to the secret of his feeling with quick penetration, [page lxiii] and singing out his emotion exultantly, as in The Cloud; or mournfully, as in Stanzas written in Dejection; or both, as in Epipsychidion; yet in all with an astonishing anticipativeness. It is a singing at its happiest like the shrill delight of his own skylark, or the careless rapture of Browning’s thrush, bird-like in both its trilling echoes and its swift-flung ritornelles; in its quiet caressing of a single note, as dædal” or multitudinous,” and in the flooding harmonies of its finale. And here it should be said that Shelley’s endings are among his greatest poetic victories over the clogs of expression, whether in the lyric-built drama, Prometheus, with which he could not rest content until he had added a fourth act of hope and gladness; or in the magnificently sustained pæn of Eternity with which Adonais breaks off its music; or in the lingering promise-refrains of the Ode to the West Wind and the apostrophes to Jane. Yet this is not true of all of his work, some of which, in its sheer lyric abandon, is over-careless of the oracle that “truth in art is the unity of a thing with itself.” In the sonnet form, particularly, Shelley is less successful, possibly because his repugnance to even a literary law that did not immediately commend itself to his art sense may have disturbed his pen’s ease and power. Certainly, he was careless here of the canons, and seems to have had scant appreciation of the self-justifying genius of this difficult but finely subtle form. Even so, one cannot but be grateful that Shelley needed no salvation from the vice of fastidiousness. It is possible to fail in art, as Browning writes, “only to succeed in highest art.”

     Something of the same unease in technique appears in the dramas, Hellas, Prometheus, and The Cenci, of which only the last-named is, in the traditional sense, a contribution drama power. I have used of the Prometheus the term “lyric-built,” for Shelley’s utterance is always essentially lyrical, and so indeed is his point of view. By this is meant that he is chiefly interested in reproducing [page lxiv] his own emotions in song, — emotions touching past deaths and persecutions, present pleasures and sorrows, and ideal aspirations toward a World-Cause he too often felt as silent and remote. He wrote — in its highest sense — personal poetry. His characteristic work is never horizontal: when exultant it shoots upward; when dejected it plunges downward. It has no merely craftsmanlike propriety. Of the craft of the dramatist, indeed, he knew little either by experience or by reflection, though his critical vision showed him the meaning of the dramatic idea so plainly that his statement of it in the preface to The Cenci is among the best we have. “The highest moral purpose aimed at in the highest species of the drama,” he writes, “is the teaching the human heart, through its sympathies and antipathies, the knowledge of itself; in proportion to the possession of which knowledge every human being is wise, just, sincere, tolerant, and kind.” And again: “In a dramatic composition the imagery and the passion should interpenetrate one another, the former being reserved for the full development and illustration of the latter. Imagination is as the immortal God which should assume flesh for the redemption of mortal passion. It is true that the most remote and the most familiar imagery may alike be fit for dramatic purposes when employed in the illustration of strong feeling, which raises what is low, and levels to the apprehension that which is lofty, casting over all the shadow of its own greatness.” The Cenci itself, though an actable play by virtue of its many sharply striking and challenging antitheses between the incarnated spirits of good and evil, its fidelity to the prime structural conditions of drama, is yet rather modern than critically orthodox in its literary tendencies. The last act, it is true, equals in nobility of diction the nobility of its passion; emphasizes the art value of reserve; is finely selective; and not once, it seems, falls into the tiresome mire of Commonplace, a success only partially achieved in the acts preceding. [page lxv] In these powerful as they are, Shelley strangely strikes a few notes of undeniable flatness, his novitiate in drama, perhaps, in the less inspirational moments, intimidating him. The play as whole tends, like Hellas and the Prometheus, toward closet drama. Though The Cenci is more immediately forceful than Browning’s plays in general, yet the Prometheus is even farther away from the stage and stagecraft than Hardy’s Dynasts, one of the most extreme instances in modern English drama of the closet play. In any case, the direction of the dramatic spirit of to-day is toward mind-enactment. We are beginning to suspect play-house plausibility, and to feel that personal Forests of Arden are better for us than any staged presentation can possibly be. The normal man, no doubt, even in a cultured community, will find in a carefully staged performance value for both his conscience and his fancy; yet, as the progress of the race is steadily away form the objective to the subjective (precisely as Shakespeare’s progress was from the frankly concrete figures of the early comedies to Hamlet and The Tempest, neither of which plays can achieve on the stage a success commensurate with its spiritual power), it is natural that closet drama is becoming more and more persistent, and that we should have come to feel as well as to admit that the theatre is only an incident — however important — in the development of the drama, and that a play is not great first of all because it is actable. Shelley, for his part, felt this very keenly. “With the exception of Fazio,1 wrote Peacock, “I do not remember his having been pleased with any performance at an English theatre.” In his Defence of Poetry he discusses at some length the history of the dramatic idea and the weakness of the modern stage. His own plays, give their appropriate background, will not fail of their social and spiritual appeal.

     Of his satiric and polemic verse but little need be said. Though keen and animated, it does not convince, because

1 By Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868).

[page lxvi]

neither Shelley’s human experience nor his theory of life was quite extensive and catholic enough to enable him easily to see humour in folly, or love in hate. When he derides we do not feel that he is quite true to himself, and when he argues in verse we would rather hear him “tell.” He would have produced less of this sort of work had he come more fully in spirit of his follower Browning, as expressed in Paracelsus’ dying words: —

                     “In my own heart love had not been made wise

                       To trace love’s faint beginnings in mankind,

                       To know even hate is but a mask of love’s,

                       To see good in evil, and a hope

                       In ill-success; to sympathize, be proud

                       Of their half-reasons, faint aspirings, dim

                       Struggles for truth, their poorest fallacies,

                       Their prejudice and fears and cares and doubts;

                       All with a touch of nobleness, despite

                       Their error, upward tending all though weak,

                       Like plants in mines which never saw the sun,

                       But dream of him, and guess where he may be,

                       And do their best to climb and get to him.”

Shelley’s theory of evil, admirably hopeful though it is, seeks to abolish its reality rather than to impress that reality into the service of good. He caught foregleam visions of Paracelsus’ final truth,1 but visions not long enough or intense enough to hearten his thought of life into a steadier and saner regard. Swellfoot the Tyrant is not a poem that adds to Shelley’s fame, and even in the youthful and not ineffective Queen Mab the poet in him uneasily constrained to precipitate the worser part of the human’s ire into footnotes. When he foregoes the ungrateful business denunciation, and begins to sound the high and pure notes of the race and time to be, it is then that both he and his readers most surely find their way.

     Shelley stumbled sometimes in physical gait, yet his habitual movement was a quick floating or gliding. It is

1 See Prometheus, I, 303-305; III, iv, 381-383.

[page lxvii]

so in his life and in his poetry. Where he stumbles and is checked, he recovers for a longer adventure. A man of penetrative intention and restless imagining, less anxious to lead than to love, he reveals himself in spirit-winged words as one of the most intimate and powerful among the stimulators of the soul, the builders of “that great poem,” to use his words, “which all poets, like the co-operating thoughts of one great mind, have built up since the beginning of the world.

[page lxviii]


     THE most important Shelley bibliographies are those of H. Buxton Forman — An Essay in Bibliography — and John P. Anderson — the Bibliography appended to Sharp’s Life of Shelley. Mention may also be made of Frederick S. Ellis’s An Alphabetical Table of Contents to Shelley’s Poetical Works, adapted to the editions of Forman and Rossetti; and of C.D. Locock’s An Examination of the Shelley MSS. in the Bodleian Library. The Shelley Society’s Papers and Publications are invaluable.

     Magazine articles on Shelley and his works will be found listed in Poole’s Index to Periodical Literature. The American Library Association’s An Index to General Literature should also be consulted.

     The following list comprises a carefully selected number of Lives, Critical Essays, Editions, and Poems concerning Shelley.


EDWARD DOWDEN: The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

         Two vols. Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.

              Same. Abridged. Kegan Paul, Trench & Co.


WILLIAM SHARP: Shelley. Walter Scott.

EDWARD JOHN TRELAWNY: Records of Shelley, Byron and the Author. Pickering & Chatto.


THOMAS MEDWIN: Life of Shelley.

W.M. ROSETTI: Life of Shelley. Shelley Society.

THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK: Memoirs of Percy Bysshe Shelley.

H.S. SALT: Shelley, A Biographical Study.

MRS. JULIAN MARSHALL: Life and Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley. Two vols.  


LEIGH HUNT: Autobiography.

ALFRED WEBB: Harriet Shelley and Catherine Nugent. The Nation, vol. xlviii.


ROBERT BROWNING: An Essay on Shelley.

LESLIE STEPHEN: Hours in the Library, vol. iii.

MATTHEW ARNOLD: Essays in Criticism.

DAVID MASSON: Wordsworth, Shelley and Keats.

EDWARD DOWDEN: Studies in Literature.

R.H. HUTTON: Literary Essays. Macmillan.

GEORGE EDWARD WOODBERRY: Makers of Literature. The Torch.

WALTER BAGEHOT: Literary Studies.

PAUL BOURGET: Études et Portraits.

ANDREW LANG: Letters to Dead Authors.

W.M. ROSSETTI: Lives of Famous Poets.


Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley in Verse and Prose. Edited by Harry Buxton Forman. Eight vols.  

       Reeves & Turner.

Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Edited, with a Memoir, by Mrs. Shelley. Two vols.  

       Houghton, Mifflin.

Complete Poetical Works of Shelley. Edited, with Memoir and Notes, by George Edward  

       Woodberry. Four vols. Houghton, Mifflin.

Poetical Works of Shelley. Edited, with Memoir and Notes, by W.M. Rossetti. Three vols.

Poems of Shelley. Edited by Edward Dowden. (Globe edition) Macmillan.

Poems of Shelley. Edited by George E. Woodberry. (Cambridge edition) Houghton, Mifflin.

[page lxx]

Adonais. Edited by W.M. Rossetti. Clarendon Press.

Adonais and Alastor. Edited by Charles G.D. Roberts. Silver, Burdett.

Prometheus Unbound. Edited by Vida D. Scudder. Heath.

Select Poems of Shelley. Edited by W.J. Alexander. Ginn.

Essays and Letters by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Edited by Ernest Rhys. Walter Scott.

Poems of Shelley. Selected and Arranged by Stopford A. Brooke. Macmillan.

With Shelley in Italy. Selected Poems and Letters. Edited by Anna D. McMahan. McClurg.


ROBERT BROWNING: Memorabilia; Pauline (beginning, “I ne’er had ventured e’en to hope  

          for this”).

LEIGH HUNT: Sonnet to Shelley.

WILLIAM WATSON: To Edward Dowden, on his Life of Shelley; Shelley’s Centenary; Shelley  

          and Harriet.

ANDREW LANG: San Terenzo; Lines on the Inaugural Meeting of the Shelley Society.


PAUL BOURGET: Sur un Volume de Shelley.

D.G. ROSSETTI: Percy Bysshe Shelley.

W.M. ROSSETTI: Shelley’s Heart.

J.B. TABB: Shelley. A Sonnet.

GEORGE E. WOODBERRY: Shelley, A Sonnet; Shelley’s House.        


OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES: After a Lecture on Shelley.

[page lxxi]

[blank page]




        AWAY! the moor is dark beneath the moon,

    Rapid clouds have drunk the last pale beam of even:

        Away! the gathering winds will call the darkness soon,

    And profoundest midnight shroud the serene lights of heaven.

    Pause not! the time is past! Every voice cries,

           Away!                                                                                                                                    5

    Tempt not with one last tear thy friend’s ungentle mood:

Thy lover’s eye, so glazed and cold, dares not entreat thy stay:

Duty and dereliction guide thee back to solitude.

        Away, away! to thy sad and silent home;

    Pour bitter tears on its desolated hearth;                                                                                    10

        Watch the dim shades as like ghosts they go and come,

    And complicate strange webs of melancholy mirth.

    The leaves of wasted autumn woods shall float around thine head,

    The blooms of dewy Spring shall gleam beneath thy feet:

But thy soul or this world must fade in the frost that binds the dead,                                           15

Ere the midnight’s frown and morning’s smile, ere thou and peace, may meet. [unnumbered page]

        The cloud shadows of midnight possess their own repose,

    For the weary winds are silent, or the moon is in the deep;

        Some respite to its turbulence unresting ocean knows;

    Whatever moves, or toils, or grieves, hath its appointed sleep.                                                 20

    Thou in the grave shalt rest — yet, till the phantoms flee

    Which that house and heath and garden made dear to thee erewhile,

Thy remembrance, and repentance, and deep musings, are not free

From the music of two voices, and the light of one sweet smile.



    O, there are spirits in the air,

        And genii of the evening breeze,

    And gentle ghosts, with eyes as fair

        As starbeams among twilight trees: —

Such lovely ministers to meet                                                                                                          5

Oft hast thou turned from men thy lonely feet.

    With mountain winds, and babbling springs,

        And moonlight seas, that are the voice

    Of these inexplicable things,

        Thou didst hold commune, and rejoice                                                                                  10

When they did answer thee; but they

Cast like a worthless boon, thy love away. [page 2]

    And thou hast sought in starry eyes

        Beams that were never meant for thine,

    Another’s wealth; — tame sacrifice                                                                                          15

        To a fond faith! Still dost thou pine?

Still dost thou hope that greeting hands,

Voice, looks, or lips, may answer thy demands?

    Ah! wherefore didst thou build thine hope

        On the false earth’s inconstancy?                                                                                          20

    Did thine own mind afford no scope

        Of love, or moving thougts to thee?

That natural scenes or human smiles

Could steal the power to wind thee in their wiles.

    Yes, all the faithless smiles are fled                                                                                           25

        Whose falsehood left thee broken-hearted;

    The glory of the moon is dead;

        Night’s ghost and dreams have now departed:

Thine own soul still is true to thee,

But changed to a foul fiend through misery.                                                                                  30

    This fiend, whose ghastly presence ever

        Beside thee like thy shadow hangs,

    Dream not to chase; — the mad endeavour

        Would scourge thee to severer pangs.

Be as thou art. Thy settled fate,                                                                                                      35

Dark as it is, all change would aggravate.



POET of Nature, thou hast wept to know

    That things depart which never may return;

Childhood and youth, friendship, and love’s first glow,

    Have fled like sweet dreams, leaving thee to mourn. [page 3]

These common woes I feel. One loss is mine,                                                                                 5

    Which thou too feel’st, yet I alone deplore:

Thou wert as a lone star, whose light did shine

    On some frail bark in winter’s midnight roar:

Thou hast like to a rock-built refuge stood

Above the blind and battling multitude;                                                                                        10

In honoured poverty thy voice did weave

    Songs consecrate to truth and liberty; —

Deserting these, thou leavest me to grieve,

    Thus having been, that thou shouldst cease to be.




THE wind has swept from the wide atmosphere

    Each vapour that obscured the sunset’s ray;

And pallid evening twines its beaming hair

    In duskier braids around the languid eyes of day.

Silence and twilight, unbeloved of men,                                                                                          5

Creep hand in hand from you obscurest glen.

They breathe their spells towards the departing day,

    Encompassing the earth, air, stars, and sea;

Light, sound, and motion own the potent sway,

    Responding to the charm with its own mystery.                                                                        10

The winds are still, or the dry church tower grass

Knows not their gentle motions as they pass.

Thou too, aërial Pile, whose pinnacles

    Point from one shrine like pyramids of fire,

Obey’st in silence their sweet solemn spells,                                                                                 15

    Clothing in hues of heaven thy dim and distant spire, [page 4]

Around whose lessening and invisible height

Gather among the stars the clouds of night.

The dead are sleeping in their sepulchres;

    And, mouldering as they sleep, a thrilling sound,                                                                      20

Half sense, half thought, among the darkness stirs,

    Breathed from their wormy beds all living things around;

And, mingling with the still nigh and mute sky,

Its awful hush is felt inaudibly.

Thus solemnized and softened, death is mild                                                                                25

    And terrorless as this serenest night:

Here could I hope, like some inquiring child

    Sporting on graves, that death did hide from human sight

Sweet secrets, or beside its breathless sleep

That loveliest dreams and perpetual watch did keep.                                                                    30

    September, 1815.


THE cold earth slept below,

    Above the cold sky shone;

        And all around,

        With a chilling sound,

From caves of ice and fields of snow                                                                                               5

The breath of night like death did flow

    Beneath the sinking moon.

The wintry hedge was black,

    The green grass was not seen,

        The birds did rest                                                                                                                   10

        On the bare thorn’s breast, [page 5]

Whose roots beside the pathway track,

Had bound their folds o’er many a crack

    Which the frost had made between.

Thine eyes glowed in the glare                                                                                                      15

    Of the moon’s dying light;

        As a fen-fire’s beam

        On a sluggish stream

Gleams dimly — so the moon shone there,

And it yellowed the strings of thy raven hair,

    That shook in the wind of night.                                                                                                21

The moon made thy lips pale, belovéd;

    The wind made thy bosom chill;

        The night did shed

        On thy dear head                                                                                                                    25

Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie

Where the bitter breath of the naked sky

    Might visit thee at will.

November, 1815.


  THERE late was One, within whose subtle being,

  As light and wind within some delicate cloud

  That fades amid the blue noon’s burning sky,

  Genius and death contended. None may know

  The sweetness of the joy which made his breath                                                                           5

  Fail, like the trances of the summer air,

  When, with the Lady of his love, who then

  First knew the unreserve of mingled being,

  He walked along the pathway of a field,

  Which to the east a hoar wood shadowed o’er,                                                                           10

  But to the west was open to the sky. [page 6]

  There now the sun had sunk, but lines of gold

  Hung on the ashen clouds, and on the points

  Of the far level grass and nodding flowers,

  And the old dandelion’s hoary beard,                                                                                          15

  And, mingled with the shades of twilight, lay

  On the brown massy woods — and in the east

  The broad and burning moon lingeringly rose

  Between the black trunks of the crowded trees,

  While the faint stars were gathering overhead.                                                                            20

“Is it not strange, Isabel,” said the youth,                                                                                      

“I never saw the sun? We will walk here

  To-morrow; thou shalt look on it with me.”

  That night the youth and lady mingled lay

  In love and sleep — but when the morning came                                                                        25

  The lady found her lover dead and cold.

  Let none believe that God in mercy gave

  That stroke. The lady died not, nor grew wild,

  But year by year lived on — in truth I think

  Her gentleness and patience and sad smiles,                                                                               30

  And that she did not die, but lived to tend

  Her agéd father, were a kind of madness,

  If madness ’t is to be unlike the world.

  For but to see her were to read the tale

  Woven by some subtlest bard, to make hard hearts

  Dissolve away in wisdom-working grief; —                                                                               36

  Her eyelashes were worn away with tears,

  Her lips and cheeks were like things dead — so pale;

  Her hands were thin, and through their wandering veins

  And weak articulations might be seen                                                                                         40

  Day’s ruddy light. The tomb of thy dead self

  Which one vexed ghost inhabits night and day,

  Is all, lost child, that now remains of thee! [page 7]

“Inheritor of more than earth can give,

  Passionless calm, and silence unreproved,                                                                                  45

  Whether the dead find, oh, not sleep! but rest,

  And are the uncomplaining things they seem,

  Or live, or drop in the deep sea of Love;

  Oh, that like thine, mine epitaph were — Peace!”

  This was the only moan she ever made.                                                                                      50



THE awful shadow of some unseen Power

     Floats though unseen among us; visiting

     This various world with as inconstant wing

As summer winds that creep from flower to flower.

Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,                                                            5

         It visits with inconstant glance

         Each human heart and countenance;

     Like hues and harmonies of evening,

         Like clouds in starlight widely spread,

         Like memory of music fled,                                                                                                  10

Like aught that for its grace may be

Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.

Spirit of BEAUTY, that dost consecrate

     With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon

     Of human thought or form, where art thou gone?                                                                    15

Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,

This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?

         Ask why the sunlight not for ever

         Weaves rainbows o’er you mountain river;

     Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown;

         Why fear and dream and death and birth                                                                              21

         Cast on the daylight of this earth [page 8]

Such gloom; why man has such a scope

For love and hate, despondency and hope.

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever                                                                              25

     To sage or poet these responses give;

     Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,

Remain the records of their vain endeavour:

Frail spells, whose uttered charm might not avail to sever,

         From all we hear and all we see,                                                                                           30

         Doubt, chance, and mutability.

     Thy light alone, like mist o’er mountains driven,

         Or music by the night wind sent

         Through strings of some still instrument,

Or moonlight on a midnight stream,                                                                                              35

Gives grace and truth to life’s unquiet dream.

Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds, depart

     And come, for some uncertain moments lent.

     Man were immortal and omnipotent,

Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,                                                                                  40

Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.

         Thou messenger of sympathies

         That wax and wane in lovers’ eyes;

     Thou, that to human thought art nourishment,

         Like darkness to a dying flame;                                                                                            45

         Depart not as thy shadow came!

Depart not, lest the grave should be,

Like life and fear, a dark reality!

While yet a boy, I sought for ghosts, and sped

     Through many a listening chamber, cave, and ruin,

     And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing [page 9]                                                        51

Hopes of high talk with the departed dead;

I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed.

         I was not heard, I saw them not;

         When, musing deeply on the lot                                                                                           55

     Of life, at the sweet time when winds are wooing

         All vital things that wake to bring

         News of birds and blossoming,

Sudden thy shadow fell on me:
I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy!                                                                                60

I vowed that I would dedicate my powers

     To thee and thine: have I not kept the vow?

     With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now

I call the phantoms of a thousand hours

Each from his voiceless grave: they have in visioned bowers                                                       65

         Of studious zeal or love’s delight

         Outwatched with me the envious night:

     They know that never joy illumed my brow,

         Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst free

         This world from its dark slavery,                                                                                          70

That thou, O awful LOVELINESS,

Wouldst give whate’er these words cannot express!

The day becomes more solemn and serene

     When noon is past: there is a harmony

     In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,                                                                                             75

Which through the summer is not heard or seen,

As if it could not be, as if it had not been!

          Thus let thy power, which like the truth

          Of nature on my passive youth

     Descended, to my onward life supply [page 10]                                                                      80

          Its calm, to one who worships thee,

          And every form containing thee,

     Whom, SPIRIT fair, thy spells did bind

     To fear himself, and love all mankind.





THE everlasting universe of things

Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,

Now dark — now glittering — now reflecting gloom —

Now lending splendour, where from secret springs

The source of human thought its tribute brings                                                                               5

Of waters, — with a sound but half its own,

Such a feeble brook will oft assume

In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,

Where the waterfalls around it leap for ever,

Where woods and winds contend, and vast river                                                                           10

Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.


Thus thou, Ravine of Arve — dark, deep Ravine —

Thou many-coloured, many voicéd vale,

Over whose pines and crags and caverns sail

Fast cloud-shadows and sunbeams; awful scene                                                                           15

Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down

From the ice-gulfs that gird his secret throne,

Bursting through these dark mountains like the flame

Of lightning through the tempest; — thou dost lie,

Thy giant brood of pines around thee clinging,                                                                             20

Children of elder time, in whose devotion [page 11]

The chainless winds still come and ever came

To drink their odours, and their mighty swinging

To hear — an old and solemn harmony:

Thine earthly rainbows stretched across the sweep                                                                       25

Of the ethereal waterfall, whose veil

Robes some unsculptured image; the strange sleep

Which, when the voices of the desert fail,

Wraps all in its own deep eternity;

Thy caverns echoing to the Arve’s commotion                                                                             30

A loud, lone sound, no other sound can tame;

Thou art the path of that unresting sound,

Dizzy Ravine! and when I gaze on thee,

I seem as in a trance sublime and strange                                                                                      35

To muse on my own separate fantasy,

My own, my human mind, which passively

Now renders and receives fast influencings,

Holding an unremitting interchange

With the clear universe of things around;                                                                                      40

One legion of wild thoughts, whose wandering wings

Now float above thy darkness, and now rest

Where that or thou art no unbidden guest,

In the still cave of the witch Poesy,

Seeking among the shadows that pass by,                                                                                     45

Ghosts of all things that are, some shade of thee,

Some phantom, some faint image; till the breast

From which they fled recalls them, thou art there!


Some say that gleams of a remoter world

Visit the soul in sleep, — that death is slumber,                                                                            50

And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber

Of those who wake and live. I look on high;

Has some unknown omnipotence unfurled [page 12]

The vale of life and death? Or do I lie

In dream, and does the mightier world of sleep                                                                             55

Spread far around and inaccessibly

Its circles? for the very spirit fails,

Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep

That vanishes among the viewless gales!

Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,                                                                                        60

Mont Blanc appears, — still, snowy, and serene —

Its subject mountains their unearthly forms

Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between

Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,

Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread                                                                                 65

And wind among the accumulated steeps;

A desert peopled by the storms alone,

Save when the eagle brings some hunter’s bone,

And the wolf tracks her there — how hideously

Its shapes are heaped around! rude, bare, and high,                                                                      70

Ghastly, and scarred, and riven. — Is this the scene

Where the old Earthquake-dæmon taught her young

Ruin? Were these their toys? or did a sea

Of fire envelope once this silent snow?

None can reply — all seems eternal now.                                                                                      75

The wilderness has a mysterious tongue

Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,

So solemn, so serene, that man may be,

But for such faith, with nature reconciled;

Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal                                                                                 80

Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood

By all, but which the wise, and great, and good

Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.


The fields, the lakes, the forests, and the streams,

Ocean, and all the living things that dwell [page 13]                                                                    85

Within the dædal earth; lighting and rain,

Earthquake, and fiery flood, and hurricane,

The torpor of the year when feeble dreams

Visit the hidden buds, or dreamless sleep

Holds every future leaf and flower, — the bound                                                                         90

With which form that detested trance they leap;

The works and ways of man, their death and birth,

And that of him, and all that his may be;

All things that move and breathe with toil and sound

Are born and die, revolve, subside, and swell.                                                                              95

Power dwells apart in its tranquility,

Remote, serene, and inaccessible:

And this, the naked countenance of earth,

On which I gaze, even these primeval mountains,

Teach the adverting mind. The glaciers creep,                                                                            100

Like snakes that watch their prey, from their far fountains,

Slow-rolling on; there, many a precipice

Frost and the Sun in scorn mortal power

Have piled — dome, pyramid, and pinnacle,

A city of death, distinct with many a tower                                                                                 105

And wall impregnable of beaming ice.

Yet not a city, but a flood of ruin

Is there, that from the boundaries of the sky

Rolls its perpetual stream; vast pines are strewing

Its destined path, or in the mangled soil                                                                                      110

Branchless and shattered stand; the rocks, drawn down

From yon the remotest waste, have overthrown

The limits of the dead and living world,

Never to be reclaimed. The dwelling-place

Of insects, beasts, and birds, becomes its spoil;                                                                          115

Their food and their retreat for ever gone,

So much of life and joy is lost. The race [page 14]

Of man flies far in dread; his work and dwelling

Vanish, like smoke before the tempest’s stream,

And their place is not known. Below, vast caves                                                                        120

Shine in the rushing torrents’ restless gleam,

Which, from the secret chasms in tumult welling,

Meet in Vale, and one majestic River,

The breath and blood of distant lands, for ever

Rolls its loud waters to the ocean waves,                                                                                    125

Breathes its swift vapours to the circling air.


Mont Blanc yet gleams on high: — the power is there,

The still and solemn power, of many sights

And many sounds, and much of life and death.

In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,                                                                              130

In the lone glare of day, the snows descend

Upon the mountain; none beholds them there,

Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,

Or the star-beams dart through them: — Winds contend

Silently there, and heap the snow, with breath                                                                            135

Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home

The voiceless lightning in these solitudes

Keeps innocently, and like vapour broods

Over the snow. The secret strength of things

Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome                                                                        140

Of heaven is a law, inhabits thee!

And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,

If to the human mind’s imaginings

Silence and solitude were vacancy?

   June 23, 1816. [page 15]


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;                                                                                                  5

    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                                                                                         10

    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,                                                                                              15

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                                                                            21

    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 —                                                                                 25

    The blood listening in my frame,

And thronging shadows, fast and thick, [page 16]

    Fall on my overflowing eyes;

My heart is quivering like a flame;

    As morning dew, that in the sunbeam dies,                                                                               30

    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,                                                                            35

On which, like one in trance upborne,

    Secure o’er rocks and waves I sweep,

Rejoicing like a cloud of morn;

    Now ’t is the breath of summer night,

Which, when the starry waters sleep                                                                                              40

    Round western isles with incense-blossoms bright,

    Lingering, suspends my soul in its voluptuous flight.



I MET a traveller from an antique land

    Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone

Stand in a desert. Near them, on the sand,

    Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,

And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,                                                                               5

Tell that its sculptor well those passions read

    Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,

The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed;

And on the pedestal these words appear:

    ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:                                                                                  10

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’

    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,

    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

        1817. [page 17]


THAT time is dead for ever, child,

Drowned, frozen, dead for ever!

        We look on the past,

        And stare aghast

At the spectres wailing, pale, and ghast,                                                                                          5

Of hopes which thou and I beguiled

        To death on life’s dark river.

The stream we gazed on then, rolled by;

Its waves are unreturning;

        But we yet stand                                                                                                                     10

        In a lone land,

Like tombs to mark the memory

Of hopes and fears which fade and fly

        In the light of life’s dim morning.

November 15, 1817.


HONEY from silkworms who can gather,

        Or silk from the yellow bee?

The grass may grow in winter weather

        As soon as hate in me.

Hate men who cant, and men who pray,                                                                                          5

        And men who rail like thee;

An equal passion to repay, —

        They are not coy like me.

Or seek some slave of power and gold,

        To be thy dear heart’s mate; [page 18]                                                                                  10

Thy love will move that bigot cold,

        Sooner than me thy hate.

A passion like the one I prove

        Cannot divided be;

I hate thy want of truth and love —                                                                                               15

        How should I then hate thee?

December, 1817.


LISTEN, listen Mary mine,

To the whisper of the Apennine;

It bursts on the roof like the thunder’s roar,

Or like the sea on a northern shore,

Heard in its raging ebb and flow                                                                                                      5

By the captives pent in the cave below.

The Apennine in the light of day

Is a mighty mountain dim and gray,

Which between the earth and sky doth lay;

But when night comes, a chaos dread                                                                                            10

On the dim starlight then is spread,

And the Apennine walks abroad with the storm.

    May 4, 1818.


THE odour from the flower is gone

    Which like thy kisses breathed on me;

The colour from the flower is flown

    Which glowed of thee and only thee!

A shrivelled, lifeless, vacant form,                                                                                                  5

    It lies on my abandoned breast, [page 19]

And mocks the heart which yet is warm,

    With cold and silent rest.

I weep, — my tears revive it not!

    I sigh, — it breathes no more on me;                                                                                         10

Its mute and uncomplaining lot

    Is such as mine should be.



MANY a green isle needs must be

In the deep wide sea of misery,

Or the mariner, worn and wan,

Never thus could voyage on

Day and night, and night and day,                                                                                                   5

Drifting on his dreary way,

With the solid darkness black

Closing round his vessel’s track;

Whilst above, the sunless sky,

Big with clouds, hangs heavily;                                                                                                     10

And behind, the tempest fleet

Hurries on with lightning feet,

Riving sail, and cord, and plank,

Till the ship has almost drank

Death from the o’er-brimming deep,                                                                                             15

And sinks down, down, like that sleep

When the dreamer seems to be

Weltering through eternity;

And the dim low line before

Of a dark and distant shore                                                                                                            20

Still recedes, as ever still

Longing with divided will, [page 20]

But no power to seek or shun,

He is ever drifted on

O’er the unreposing wave                                                                                                              25

To the haven of the grave.

What if there no friends will greet;

What if there no heart will meet

His with love’s impatient beat;

Wander wheresoe’er he may,                                                                                                         30

Can he dream before that day

To find refuge from distress

In friendship’s smile, in love’s caress?

Then ’t will wreak him little woe

Whether such there be or no:                                                                                                         35

Senseless is the breast, and cold,

Which relenting love would fold;

Bloodless are the veins and chill

Which the pulse of pain did fill;

Every little living nerve                                                                                                                 40

That from bitter words did swerve

Round the tortured lips and brow,

Are like sapless leaflets now

Frozen upon December’s bough.

On the beach of a northern sea                                                                                                       45

Which tempests shake eternally,

As once the wretch there lay to sleep,

Lies a solitary heap,

One white skull and seven dry bones,

On the margin of the stones,                                                                                                          50

Where a few gray rushes stand,

Boundaries of the sea and land:

Nor is heard one voice of wail

But the seamews, as they sail

O’er the billows of the gale; [page 21]                                                                                          55

Or the whirlwind up and down

Howling, like a slaughtered town,

When a king in glory rides

Through the pomp of fratricides:

Those unburied bones around                                                                                                        60

There is many a mournful sound;

There is no lament for him,

Like a sunless vapour, dim,

Who once clothed with life and thought

What now moves nor murmurs not.                                                                                               65

Ay, many flowering islands lie

In the waters of wide Agony:

To such a one this morn was led

My bark, by soft winds piloted.

’Mid the mountains Euganean,                                                                                                      70

I stood listening to the pæan

With which the legioned rooks did hail

The sun’s uprise majestical;

Gathering round with wings all hoar,

Through the dewy mist they soar                                                                                                   75

Like gray shades, till the eastern heaven

Bursts, and then, as clouds of even,

Flecked with fire and azure, lie

In the unfathomable sky,

So their plumes of purple grain,                                                                                                     80

Starred with drops of golden rain,

Gleam above the sunlight woods,

As in the silent multitudes

On the morning’s fitful gale

Through the broken mist they sail,                                                                                                85

And the vapours cloven and gleaming

Follow down the dark steep streaming,

Till all is bright, and clear, and still,

Round the solitary hill. [page 22]

Beneath is spread like a green sea                                                                                                  90

The waveless plain of Lombardy,

Bounded by the vaporous air,

Islanded by cities fair.

Underneath day’s azure eyes,

Ocean’s nursling, Venice lies, —                                                                                                  95

A peopled labyrinth of walls,

Amphitrite’s destined halls,

Which her hoary sire now paves

With his blue and beaming waves.

Lo! the sun upsprings behind,                                                                                                      100

Broad, red, radiant, half-reclined

On the level quivering line

Of the waters crystalline;

And before that chasm of light,

As within a furnace bright,                                                                                                           105

Column, tower, and dome, and spire,

Shine like obelisks of fire,

Pointing with inconstant motion

From the altar of dark ocean

To the sapphire-tinted skies;                                                                                                        110

As the flames of sacrifice

From the marble shrines did rise,

As to pierce the dome of gold

Where Apollo spoke of old.

Sun-girt City! thou hast been                                                                                                       115

Ocean’s child, and then his queen;

Now is come a darker day,

And thou soon must be his prey,

If the power that raised thee here

Hallow so thy watery bier.                                                                                                           120

A less drear ruin then than now,

With thy conquest-branded brow [page 23]

Stooping to the slave of slaves

From thy throne, among the waves

Wilt thou be, when the seamew                                                                                                   125

 Flies, as once before it flew,

O’er thine isles depopulate,

And all is in its ancient state,

Save where many a palace-gate

With green sea-flowers overgrown                                                                                              130

Like a rock of ocean’s own,

Topples o’er the abandoned sea

As the tides change sullenly.

The fisher on his watery way,

Wandering at the close of day,                                                                                                     135

Will spread his sail and seize his oar,

Till he passes the gloomy shore,

Lest the dead should, from their sleep

Bursting o’er the starlight deep,

Lead a rapid masque of death                                                                                                      140

O’er the waters of his path.

Those who alone thy towers behold

Quivering through aërial gold,

As I now behold them here,

Would imagine not they were                                                                                                      145

Sepulchres, where human forms,

Like pollution-nourished worms,

To the corpse of greatness cling,

Murdered and now mouldering:

But if Freedom should awake                                                                                                      150

In her omnipotence, and shake

From the Celtic Anarch’s hold

All the keys of dungeons cold,

Where a hundred cities lie

Chained like thee, ingloriously, [page 24]                                                                                   155

Thou and all thy sister band

Might adorn this sunny land,

Twining memories of old time

With new virtues more sublime;

If not, perish thou and they;                                                                                                         160

Clouds which stain truth’s rising day

By her sun consumed away,

Earth can spare ye; while like flowers,

In the waste of years and hours,

From your dust new nations spring                                                                                              165

With more kindly blossoming.

Perish! let there only be

Floating o’er thy hearthless sea,

As the garment of thy sky

Clothes the world immortally,                                                                                                     170

One remembrance, more sublime

Than the tattered pall of Time,

Which scarce hides thy visage wan:

That a tempest-cleaving swan

Of the songs of Albion,                                                                                                                175

Driven from his ancestral streams

By the might of evil dreams,

Found a nest in thee; and ocean

Welcomed him with such emotion

That its joy grew his, and sprung                                                                                                 180

From his lips like music flung

O’er a mighty thunder-fit,

Chastening terror: what though yet

Poesy’s unfailing river,

Which through Albion winds for ever,                                                                                        185

Lashing with melodious wave

Many a sacred poet’s grave,

Mourn its latest nursling fled! [page 25]

What though thou with all thy dead

Scarce can for this fame repay                                                                                                     190

Aught thine own, — oh, rather say,

Though thy sins and slaveries foul

Overcloud a sunlike soul!

As the ghost of Homer clings

Round Scamander’s wasting springs                                                                                           195

As divinest Shakespeare’s might

Fills Avon and the world with light,

Like omniscient power, which he

Imaged ’mid mortality;

As the love from Petrarch’s urn                                                                                                   200

Yet amid yon hills doth burn,

A quenchless lamp, by which the heart

Sees things unearthly; so thou art,

Mighty spirit: so shall be

The city that did refuge thee.                                                                                                       205

Lo, the sun floats up the sky,

Like thought-wingéd Liberty,

Till the universal light

Seems to level plain and height;

From the sea a mist has spread,                                                                                                   210

And the beams of morn lie dead

On the towers of Venice now,

Like its glory long ago.

By the skirts of that gray cloud

Many-doméd Padua proud                                                                                                           215

Stands, a peopled solitude,

’Mid the harvest heaps his grain

In the garner of his foe,

And the milk-white oxen slow                                                                                                     220

With the purple vintage strain, [page 26]

Heaped upon the creaking wain,

That the brutal Celt may swill

Drunken sleep with savage will;

And the sickle to the sword                                                                                                          225

Lies unchanged, though many a lord,

Like a weed whose shade is poison,

Overgrows this region’s foison,

Sheaves of whom are ripe to come

To destruction’s harvest-home:                                                                                                    230

Men must reap the things they sow,

Force from force must ever flow,

Or worse; but ’t is bitter woe

That love or reason cannot change

The despot’s rage, the slave’s revenge.                                                                                       235

Padua, thou within those walls

Those mute guests at festivals,

Son and Mother, Death and Sin,

Played at dice for Ezzelin,

Till Death cried, “I win, I win!”                                                                                                   240

And Sin cursed to lose the wager,

But Death promised, to assuage her,

That he would petition for

Her to be made Vice-Emperor,

When he destined years o’er,                                                                                                       245

Over all between the Po

And the eastern Alpine snow,

Under the mighty Austrian.

Sin smiled so as Sin only can,

And, since that time, ay, long before,                                                                                          250

Both have ruled from shore to shore,

That incestuous pair, who follow

Tyrants as the sun the swallow,

As Repentance follows Crime,

And as changes follow Time. [page 27]                                                                                      255

In thine halls the lamp of learning,

Padua, now no more is burning;

Like a meteor, whose wild way

Is lost over the grave of day,

It gleams betrayed and to betray:                                                                                                 260

Once remotest nations came

To adore that sacred flame,

When it lit not many a hearth

On this cold and gloomy earth;

Now new fires from antique light                                                                                                265

Spring beneath the wide world’s might;

But their spark lies dead in thee,

Trampled out by tyranny.

As the Norway woodman quells,

In the depth of piny dells,                                                                                                            270

One light flame among the brakes,

While the boundless forest shakes,

And its mighty trunks are torn

By the fire thus lowly born —

The spark beneath his feet is dead,                                                                                              275

He starts to see the flames it fed

Howling through the darkened sky

With myriad tongues victoriously,

And sinks down in fear: so thou,

O tyranny! beholdest now                                                                                                            280

Light around thee, and thou hearest

The loud flames ascend, and fearest:

Grovel on the earth; ay, hide

In the dust thy purple pride!

Noon descends around me now:                                                                                                  285

’T is the noon of autumn’s glow,

When a soft and purple mist

Like a vaporous amethyst, [page 28]

Or an air-dissolvéd star

Mingling light and fragrance, far                                                                                                 290

From the curved horizon’s profound,

Fills the overflowing sky;

And the plains that silent lie

Underneath. The leaves unsodden                                                                                               295

Where the infant frost has trodden

With his morning-wingéd feet,

Whose bright print is gleaming yet;

And the red and golden vines,

Piercing with their trellised lines                                                                                                 300

The rough, dark-skirted wilderness;

The dun and bladed grass no less,

Pointing from this hoary tower

In the windless air, the flower

Glimmering at my feet; the line                                                                                                   305

Of the olive-sandalled Apennine

In the south dimly islanded;

And the Alps, whose snows are spread

High between the clouds and sun;

And of living things each one;                                                                                                     310

And my spirit, which so long

Darkened this swift stream of song,

Interpenetrated lie

By the glory of the sky:

Be it love, light, and harmony,                                                                                                     315

Odour, or the soul of all

Which from heaven like dew doth fall,

Or the mind which feeds this verse

Peopling the lone universe.

Noon descends, and after noon                                                                                                    320

Autumn’s evenings meets me soon, [page 29]

Leading the infantine moon,

And that one star, which to her

Almost seems to minister

Half the crimson light she brings                                                                                                 325

From the sunset’s radiant springs:

And the soft dreams of the morn

(Which like wingéd winds had borne,

To that silent isle, which lies

’Mid remembered agonies,                                                                                                          330

The frail bark of this lone being),

Pass, to other sufferers fleeing,

And its ancient pilot Pain,

Sits beside the helm again.

Other flowering isles must be                                                                                                      335

In the sea of life and agony:

Other spirits float and flee

O’er that gulf: even now, perhaps,

On some rock the wild wave wraps,

With folded wings they waiting sit                                                                                              340

For my bark, to pilot it

To some calm and blooming cove,

Where for me, and those I love,

May a windless bower be built,

Far from passion, pain, and guilt,                                                                                                345

In a dell ’mid lawny hills,

Which the wild sea-murmur fills,

And soft sunshine, and the sound

Of old forests echoing round,

And the light and smell divine                                                                                                     350

Of all flowers that breathe and shine.

We may live happy there

That the spirits of the air,

Envying us, may even entice [page 30]

To our healing paradise                                                                                                                355

The polluting multitude:

But their rage would be subdued

By that clime divine and calm,

And the winds whose wings rain balm

On the uplifted soul, and leaves                                                                                                   360

Under the which the bright sea heaves;

While each breathless interval

In their whisperings musical

The inspiréd soul supplies

With its own deep melodies,                                                                                                        365

And the love which heals all strife,

Circling, like the breath of life,

All things in that sweet abode

With its own mild brotherhood.

They, not it, would change; and soon                                                                                          370

Every sprite beneath the moon

Would repent its envy vain,

And the earth grow young again.

    October, 1818.



    THE sun is warm, the sky is clear,

        The waves are dancing fast and bright,

    Blue isles and snowy mountains wear

        The purple’s noon’s transparent might;

        The breath of the moist earth is light,                                                                                      5

    Around its unexpanded buds;

        Like many a voice of one delight,

    The winds, the birds, the ocean-floods,

The City’s voice itself is soft like Solitude’s. [page 31]

    I see the Deep’s untrampled floor                                                                                              10

        With green and purple seaweeds strown;

    I see the waves upon the shore,

        Like light dissolved in star-showers, thrown;

        I sit upon the sands alone,

    The lighting of the noontide ocean                                                                                            15

        Is flashing round me, and a tone

    Arises from its measured motion,

How sweet! did any heart now share in my emotion.

    Alas! I have nor hope nor health,

        Nor peace within nor calm around,                                                                                        20

    Nor that content surpassing wealth

        The sage in meditation found,

        And walked with inward glory crowned, —

    Nor fame, nor power, nor love, nor leisure.

        Others I see whom these surround;                                                                                        25

    Smiling they live, and call life pleasure;

To me that cup has been dealt in another measure.

    Yet now despair itself is mild,

        Even as the winds and waters are;

    I could lie down like a tired child,                                                                                             30

        And weep away the life of care

        Which I have borne, and yet must bear,

    Till death like sleep might steal on me,

        And I might feel in the warm air

    My cheek grow cold, and hear the sea                                                                                       35

Breathe o’er my dying brain its last monotony.

    Some might lament that I were cold,

        As I when this sweet day is gone,

    Which my lost heart, too soon grown old,

        Insults with this untimely moan; [page 32]                                                                           40

        They might lament —for I am one

    Whom men love not — and yet regret,

        Unlike this day, which, when the sun

    Shall on its stainless glory set,                                                                                                   44

Will linger, though enjoyed, like joy in memory yet.

    December, 1818.


I ARISE from dreams of thee

In the first sweet sleep of night,

When the winds are breathing low,

And the stars are shining bright.

I arise from dreams of thee,                                                                                                             5

And a spirit in my feet

Has led me — who knows how? —

To thy chamber-window, sweet!

The wandering airs they faint

On the dark, the silent stream;                                                                                                       10

The champak odours fail

Like sweet thoughts in a dream;

The nightingale’s complaint,

It dies upon her heart,

As I must die on thin                                                                                                                      15

O belovéd as thou art!

O lift me from the grass!

I die, I faint, I fail!

Let thy love in kisses rain

On my lips and eyelids pale.                                                                                                          20

My cheek is cold and white, alas!

My heart beats loud and fast, [page 33]

O! press it close to thine again,

Where it will break at last.



THE fountains mingle with the river,

    And the rivers with the ocean;

The winds of heaven mix for ever

    With a sweet emotion;

Nothing in the world is single;                                                                                                         5

    All things by a law divine

In one another’s being mingle:

    Why not I with thine?

See the mountains kiss high heaven,

    And the waves clasp one another;                                                                                              10

No sister flower would be forgiven

    If it disdained its brother;

And the sunlight clasps the earth,

    And the moonbeams kiss the sea:

What are all these kissings worth,                                                                                                  15

    If thou kiss not me?



MEN of England, wherefore plough

For the lords who lay ye low?

Wherefore weave with toil and care

The rich robes your tyrants wear?

Wherefore feed, and clothe, and save,                                                                                             5

From the cradle to the grave, [page 34]

Those ungrateful drones who would

Drain your sweat — nay, drink your blood?

Wherefore, Bees of England, forge

Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,                                                                                             10

That these stingless drones may spoil

The forced produce of your toil?

Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,

Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm?

Or what is it ye buy so dear                                                                                                           15

With your pain and with your fear?

The seed ye sow, another reaps;

The wealth ye find, another keeps;

The robes ye weave, another wears;

The arms ye forge, another bears.                                                                                                  20

Sow seed, —but let no tyrant reap;

Find wealth, — let no impostor heap;

Weave robes, — let not the idle wear;

Forge arms, — in your defence to bear.

Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells;                                                                                         25

In halls ye deck, another dwells.

Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see

The steel ye tempered glance on ye.

With plough and spade, and hoe and loom,

Trace your grave, and build your tomb,                                                                                         30

And weave your winding-sheet, till fair

England be your sepulchre!

    1819. [page 35]


AN old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king, —

    Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow

Through public scorn, — mud from a muddy spring;

    Rulers who neither see, nor feel, nor know,

But leech-like to their fainting country cling,                                                                                  5

    Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow;

A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field;

    An army, which liberticide and prey

Make as a two-edged sword to all who wield;

    Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay;

Religion Christless, Godless, — a book sealed;                                                                            11

A Senate, — time’s worst statute unrepealed, —

    Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may

    Bust, to illuminate our tempestuous day.




O WILD West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,

Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,

Pestilence-stricken multitudes; O thou,                                                                                           5

Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingéd seeds, where they lie cold and low,

Each like a corpse within its grave, until

Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow [page 36]

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill                                                                                  10

(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)

With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;

Destroyer and preserver; hear, O hear!


Thou on whose stream, ’mid the steep sky’s commotion,                                                             15

Loose clouds like earth’s decaying leaves are shed,

Shook from the tangled boughs of heaven and ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning; there are spread

On the blue surface of thine airy surge,

Like the bright hair uplifted from the head                                                                                    20

Of some fierce Mænad, even from the dim verge

Of the horizon to the zenith’s height

The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night

Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre,                                                                                            25

Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, form whose solid atmosphere

Black rain, and fire, and hail, will burst; O hear!


Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams

The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,                                                                                          30

Lulled by the coil of his crystálline streams, [page 37]

Beside a pumice isle of Baiæ’s bay,

And saw in sleep old palaces and towers

Quivering within the wave’s intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss, and flowers                                                                                35

So sweet the sense faints picturing them! Thou

For whose path the Atlantic’s level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below

The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear

The sapless foliage of the ocean, know                                                                                         40

Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,

And tremble and despoil themselves; O hear!


If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;

If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;

A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share                                                                               45

The impulse of thy strength, only less free

Than thou, O uncontrollable! if even

I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over heaven,

As then, when to outstrip thy skyey speed                                                                                     50

Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.

O! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!

I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed                                                                          55

One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. [page 38]


Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:

What if my leaves are falling like its own!

The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,                                                                                    60

Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce,

My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth;

And, by the incantation of this verse,                                                                                            65

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

Be through my lips to unawakened earth

The trumpet of prophecy! O Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?                                                                                  70

   1819. [page 39]



Audisne hæe, Amphiaræ, sub terram abdite?


     THE Greek tragic writers, in selecting as their subject any portion of their national history or mythology, employed in their treatment of it a certain arbitrary discretion. They by no means conceived themselves bound to adhere to the common interpretation, or to imitate in story, as in the title, their rivals and predecessors. Such a system would have amounted to a resignation of those claims to preference over their competitors which incited the composition. The Agamemnomnian story was exhibited on the Athenian theatre with as many variations as dramas.

     I have presumed to employ a similar license. The Prometheus Unbound of Æschylus supposed the reconciliation of Jupiter with his victim as the price of the disclosure of the danger threatened to his empire by the consummation of his marriage with Thetis. Thetis, according to this view of the subject, was given in marriage to Peleus, and Prometheus, by the permission of Jupiter, delivered from his captivity by Hercules. Had I framed my story on this model, I should have done no more than have attempted to restore the lost drama of Æschylus; an ambition which, if my preference to this mode of treating the subject had incited me to cherish, the recollection of the high comparison such attempt would challenge might well abate. But, in truth, I was averse from a catastrophe so feeble as that of reconciling the Champion with the Oppressor of mankind. The moral interest of the fable, which is so powerfully sustained by the sufferings and endurance of Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as unsaying his high language and quailing before his successful and perfidious adversary. The only imaginary being resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan: and Prometheus is, in my judgement, a more poetical [unnumbered page] character than Satan, because, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt form the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandizement, which, in Hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest. The character of Satan engenders in the mind a pernicious casuistry which leads us to weigh his faults with his wrongs, and to excuse the former because the latter exceed all measure. In the minds of those who consider that magnificent fiction with a religious feeling, it engenders something worse. But Prometheus is, as it were, the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and the truest motives to the best and noblest ends.

     This poem was chiefly written upon the mountainous ruins of Caracalla, among the flowery glades, and thickets of odoriferous blossoming trees, which are extended in ever-winding labyrinths upon its immense platforms and dizzy arches suspended in the air. The bright blue sky of Rome, and the effect of the vigorous awakening of spring in that divinest climate, and the new life with which it drenches the spirits event to intoxication, were the inspiration of this drama.

     The imagery which I have employed will be found, in many instances, to have been drawn from the operations of the human mind, or from those external actions by which they are expressed. This is unusual in modern poetry, although Dante and Shakespeare are full of instances of the same kind: Dante indeed more than any other poet, and with greater success. But the Greek poets, as writers to whom no resource of awakening the sympathy of their contemporaries was unknown, were in the habitual use of this power; and it is the study of their works (since a higher merit would probably be denied me) to which I am willing that my readers should impute this singularity.

     One word is due in candour to the degree in which the study of contemporary writings may have tinged my composition; for such has been a topic of censure with regard to poems far more popular, and indeed more deservedly popular, than mine. It is impossible that any one who inhabits the same age with such writers as those who stand in the foremost ranks of our own, can conscientiously assure himself that his language and tone of thought may not have been modified by the study of the productions of those extraordinary intellects. It is true, that, not the [page 41] spirit of their genius, but the forms in which it has manifested itself, are due less to the peculiarities of their own minds than to the peculiarity of the moral and intellectual condition of the minds among which they have been produced. Thus a number of writers possess the form, whilst they want the spirit of those whom, it is alleged, they imitate; because the former is the endowment of the age in which they live, and the latter must be the uncommunicated lightning of their own mind.

     The peculiar style of intense and comprehensive imagery which distinguishes the modern literature of England, has not been, as a general power, the product of the imitation of any particular writer. The mass of capabilities remains at every period materially the same; the circumstances which awaken it to action perpetually change. If England were divided into forty republics, each equal in population and extent to Athens, there is no reason to suppose but that, under institutions not more perfect than those of Athens, each would produce philosophers and poets equal to those who (if we except Shakespeare) have never been surpassed. We owe the great writers of the golden age of our literature to that fervid awakening of the public mind which shook to dust the oldest and most oppressive form of the Christian religion. We owe Milton to the progress and the development of the same spirit: the sacred Milton was, let it ever be remembered, a republican, and a bold inquirer into morals and religion. The great writers of our own age, we have reason to suppose, the companions and forerunners of some unimagined change in our social condition, or the opinions is now restoring, or is about to be restored.

     As to imitation, poetry is a mimetic art. It creates, but it creates by combination and representation. Poetical abstractions are beautiful and new, not because the portions of which they are composed had no previous existence in the mind of man or in nature, but because the whole produced by their combination has some intelligible and beautiful analogy with those sources of emotion and thought, and with the contemporary condition of them: one great poet is a masterpiece of nature which another not only ought to study but must study. He might as wisely and as easily determine that his mind should no longer be the mirror of all that is lovely in the visible universe, as exclude from [page 42] his contemplation the beautiful which exists in the writings of a great contemporary. The pretence of doing it would be a presumption in any but the greatest; the effect, even in him, would be strained, unnatural, and ineffectual. A poet is the combined product of such internal powers as modify the nature of others; and of such external influences as excite and sustain these powers: he is not one, but both. Every man’s mind is, in this respect, modified by all the objects of nature and art; by every word and every suggestion which he ever admitted to act upon his consciousness; it is the mirror upon which all forms are reflected, and in which they compose form. Poets, not otherwise philosophers, painters, sculptors, and musicians, are, in one sense the creators, and, in another, the creations, of their age. From this subjection the loftiest do not escape. There is a similarity between Homer and Hesiod, between Æschylus and Euripides, between Virgil and Horace, between Dante and Petrarch, between Shakespeare and Fletcher, between Dryden and Pope; each has a generic resemblance under which their specific distinctions are arranged. If this similarity be the result of imitation, I am willing to confess that I have imitated.

     Let this opportunity be conceded to me of acknowledging that I have, what a Scotch philosopher characteristically terms, “a passion for reforming the world”: what passion incited him to write and publish his book, he omits to explain. For my part, I had rather be damned with Plato and Lord Bacon than go to heaven with Paley and Malthus. But it is a mistake to suppose that I dedicate my poetical compositions solely to the direct enforcement of reform, or that I consider them in any degree as containing a reasoned system on the theory of human life. Didactic poetry is my abhorrence; nothing can be equally well expressed in prose that is not tedious and supererogatory in verse. My purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarize the highly refined imagination of the more select classes of poetical readers with beautiful idealisms of moral excellence; aware that until the mind can love, and admire, and trust, and hope, and endure, reasoned principles of moral conduct are seeds cast upon the highway of life, which the unconscious passenger tramples into dust, although they would bear the harvest of his happiness. Should I live to accomplish what I purpose, that is, produce a systematical history of what appear to me to be the genuine elements of human society, let not the advocates of injustice and [page 43] superstition flatter themselves that I should take Æschylus rather than Plato as my model.

     The having spoken with myself with unaffected freedom will need little apology with the candid; and let the uncandid consider that they injure me less than their own hearts and minds by misrepresentation. Whatever talents a person may possess to amuse and instruct others, be they ever so inconsiderable, he is yet bound to exert them: if his attempt be ineffectual, let the punishment of an unaccomplished purpose have sufficient; let none trouble themselves to heap the dust of oblivion upon his efforts; the pile they raise will betray his grave, which might otherwise have been unknown.






    ASIA, PANTHEA, IONE, } Oceanides













SCENE, A Ravine of Icy Rocks in the Indian Caucasus.

     PROMETHEUS discovered bound to the Precipice.

     PANTHEA and IONE are seated at his feet. Time, Night.

     During the Scene, Morning slowly breaks.


Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits

But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds

Which thou and I alone of living things

Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth

Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou                                                                            5

Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,

And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts, [page 44]

With fear and self-contempt and barren hope:

Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate,

Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,                                                                           10

O’er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.

Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,

And moments aye divided by keen pangs

Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,

Scorn, and despair, — these are mine empire,                                                                               15

More glorious far than that which thou surveyest

From thine unenvied throne, O mighty God!

Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame

Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not here

Nailed to this wall of eagle-baffling mountain,                                                                             20

Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured; without herb,

Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.

Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.

I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?                                                                                 25

I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,

Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,

Heaven’s ever-changing Shadow, spread below,

Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?

Ah me! alas, pain ever, for ever!                                                                                                    30

The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears

Of their moon-freezing crystals; the bright chains

Eat with their burning cold into my bones.

Heaven’s wingéd hound, polluting from thy lips

His beak in poison not his own, tears up                                                                                       35

My heart; and shapeless sights come wandering by,

The ghastly people of the realm of dream,

Mocking me: and the Earthquake-fiends are charged

To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds [page 45]

When the rocks split and close again behind;                                                                                40

While from their loud abysses howling throng

The genii of the storm, urging the rage

Of whirlwind, and afflict me with keen hail.

And yet to me welcome is day and night,

Whether one breaks the hoar frost of the morn,                                                                             45

Or, starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs

The leaden-coloured east; for then they lead

The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom —

As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim —

Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood                                                                                50

From these pale feet, which then might trample thee

If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.

Disdain! Ah no! I pity thee. What ruin

Will hunt thee undefended through the wide Heaven!

How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror,                                                                        55

Gape like a hell within! I speak in grief,

Not exultation, for I hate no more,

As then ere misery made me wise. The curse

Once breathed on thee I would recall. Ye Mountains,

Whose many-voicéd Echoes, through the mist                                                                              60

Of cataracts, flung the thunder of that spell!

Ye icy Springs, stagnant with wrinkling frost,

Which vibrated to hear me, and then crept

Shuddering through India! Thou serenest Air,                                                                              64

Through which the Sun walks burning without beams’

And the swift Whirlwinds, who on poiséd wings

Hung mute and moveless o’er yon hushed abyss,

As thunder, louder than your own, made rock

The orbéd world! If then my words had power,

Though I am changed so that aught evil wish                                                                                70

Is dead within; although no memory be

Of what is hate, let them not lose it now!

What was that curse? for ye all heard me speak. [page 46]

FIRST VOICE: from the Mountains

Thrice three hundred thousand years

    O’er the Earthquake’s couch we stood:                                                                                     75

Oft, as men convulsed with fears,

    We trembled in our multitude.

SECOND VOICE: from the Springs

 Thunderbolts had parched our water,

    We had been stained with bitter blood,

And had run mute, ’mid shrieks of slaughter,                                                                                80

    Through a city and a solitude.

THIRD VOICE: from the Air

I had clothed, since Earth uprose,

    Its wastes in colours not their own;

And oft had my serene repose

    Been cloven by many a rending groan.                                                                                      85

FOURTH VOICE: from the Whirlwinds

We had soared beneath these mountains

    Unresting ages; nor had thunder,

Nor yon volcano’s flaming fountains,

    Nor any power above or under

    Ever made us mute with wonder.                                                                                               90


But never bowed our snowy crest

As at the voice of thine unrest.


Never such a sound before

To the Indian waves we bore.

A pilot asleep on the howling sea                                                                                                  95

Leaped up from the deck in agony, [page 47]

And heard, and cried, “Ah, woe is me!”

And died as mad as the wild waves be.


By such dread words from Earth and Heaven

My still realm was never riven:                                                                                                   100

When its wound was closed, there stood

Darkness o’er the day like blood.


And we shrank back: for dreams of ruin

To frozen caves our flight pursuing

Made us keep silence — thus — and thus —                                                                              105

Though silence is a hell to us.


The tongueless Caverns of the craggy hills

Cried, “Misery!” then; the hollow Heaven replied,

“Misery!” and the Ocean’s purple waves,

Climbing the land, howled to the lashing winds,                                                                         110

And the pale nations heard it, “Misery!”


I hear a sound of voices: not the voice

Which I gave forth. Mother, thy sons and thou

Scorn him without whose all-enduring will

Beneath the fierce omnipotence of Jove,                                                                                     115

Both they and thou had vanished, like thin mist

Unrolled on the morning wind. Know ye not me,

The Titan? he who made his agony

The barrier to your else all-conquering Foe?

O rock-embosomed lawns, and snow-fed streams,                                                                      120

Now seen athwart frore vapours, deep below,

Through whose o’ershadowing woods I wandered once [page 48]

With Asia, drinking life from her loved eyes;

Why scorns the spirit which inform ye, now                                                                                      125

To commune with me? me alone, who checked,

As one who checks a fiend-drawn charioteer,

The falsehood and the force of him who reigns

Supreme, and with the groans of pining slaves

Fills your dim glens and liquid wildernesses.

Why answer ye not, still, Brethren?                                                                                             130


They dare not.


Who dares? for I would hear that curse again.

Ha! what an awful whisper rises up!

’T is scarce like sound: it tingles through the frame

As lightning tingles, hovering ere its strike.

Speak, Spirit! From thine inorganic voice,                                                                                  135

I only know that thou art moving near

And love. How cursed I him?


How canst thou hear

Who knowest not the language of the dead?


Thor art a living spirit; speak as they!


I dare not speak like life, lest Heaven’s fell King                                                                        140

Should hear, and link me to some wheel of pain

More torturing than the one whereon I roll.

Subtle thou art and good; and though the Gods

Hear not this voice, yet thou art more than God,

Being wise and kind: earnestly hearken now! [page 49]                                                             145


Obscurely through my brain, like shadows dim,

Sweep awful thoughts, rapid and thick. I feel

Faint, like one mingled in entwining love;

Yet ’t is not pleasure.


                                      No, thou canst not hear:

Thou art immortal, and this tongue is known                                                                              150

Only to those who die.


                                      And what art thou,

O melancholy Voice?


                                   I am the Earth,

Thy mother; she within whose stony veins,

To the last fibre of the loftiest tree

Whose thin leaves trembled in the frozen air,                                                                              155

Joy ran, as blood within a living frame,

When thou didst from her bosom, like a cloud

Of glory, arise, a spirit keen joy!

And at thy voice her pining sons uplifted

Their prostrate brows from the polluting dust,                                                                            160

And our almighty Tyrant with fierce dread

Grew pale, until his thunder chained thee here.

Then, see those million worlds which burn and roll

Around us: their inhabitants beheld

My spheréd light wane in wide Heaven; the sea                                                                          165

Was lifted by strange tempest, and new fire

From earthquake-rifted mountains of bright snow

Shook its portentous hair beneath Heaven’s frown;

Lightning and Inundation vexed the plains; [page 50]

Blue thistles bloomed in cities; foodless toads                                                                            170

Within voluptuous chambers panting crawled:

When Plague had fallen on man, and beast, and worm,

And Famine; and black blight on herb and tree;

And in the corn, and vines, and meadow-grass,

Teemed ineradicable poisonous weeds                                                                                        175

Draining their growth, for my wan breast was dry

With grief; and the thin air, my breath, was stained

With the contagion of a mother’s hate

Breathed on her child’s destroyer; ay, I heard

Thy curse, the which, if thou rememberest not                                                                            180

Yet my innumerable seas and streams,

Mountains, and caves, and winds, and yon wide air,

And the inarticulate people of the dead,

Preserve, a treasured spell. We meditate

In secret joy and hope those dreadful words,                                                                               185

But dare not speak them.


                                          Venerable mother!

All else who live and suffer take from thee

Some comfort; flowers, and fruits, and happy sounds,

And love, though fleeting; these may not be mine.

But mine own words, I pray, deny me not!                                                                                  190


They shall be told. Ere Babylon was dust,

The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,

Met his own image walking in the garden.

That apparition, sole of men, he saw.

For know, there are two worlds of life and death:                                                                       195

One, that which thou beholdest; but the other

Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit

The shadows of all forms that think and live, [page 51]

Till death unite them and they part no more;

Dreams and the light imaginings of men,                                                                                    200

And all that faith creates or love desires,

Terrible, strange, sublime, and beauteous shapes.

There thou art, and dost hang, a writhing shade,

Mid whirlwind-peopled mountains; all the Gods

Are there, and all the powers of nameless worlds,                                                                      205

Vast, sceptred phantoms; heroes, men, and beasts;

And Demogorgon, a tremendous gloom;

And he, the supreme Tyrant, on his throne

Of burning gold. Son, one of these shall utter

The curse which all remember. Call at will                                                                                 210

Thine own ghost, or the ghost of Jupiter,

Hades or Typhon, or what mightier Gods

From all-prolific Evil, since thy ruin

Have sprung, and trampled on my prostrate sons.

Ask, and they must reply: so the revenge                                                                                    215

Of the Supreme may sweep through vacant shades,

As rainy wind through the abandoned gate

Of a fallen palace.


                              Mother, let not aught

Of that which may be evil, pass again

My lips, or those of aught resembling me.                                                                                   220

Phantasm of Jupiter, arise, appear!


My wings are folded o’er mine ears:

    My wings are crosséd o’er mine eyes:

Yet through their silver shade appears,

    And through their lulling plumes arise,                                                                                   225

A Shape, a throng of sounds.

    May it be no ill to thee [page 52]

    O thou of many wounds!

Near whom, for our sweet sister’s sake,

Ever thus we watch and wake.                                                                                                     230


    The sound is of whirlwind underground,

        Earthquake, and fire, and mountains cloven;

    The shape is awful like the sound,

        Clothed in dark purple, star-inwoven.

    A sceptre of pale gold,                                                                                                             235

        To stay steps proud, o’er the slow cloud,

    His veinéd hand doth hold.

Cruel he looks, but calm and strong,

Like one who does, not suffers wrong.


Why have the secret powers of this strange world

Driven me, a frail and empty phantom, hither                                                                             241

On direst storms? What unaccustomed sounds

Are hovering on my lips, unlike the voice

With which our pallid race hold ghastly talk

In darkness? And, proud sufferer, who art thou?                                                                         245


Tremendous Image! as thou art must be

He whom thou shadowest forth. I am his foe,

The Titan. Speak the words which I would hear,

Although no thought inform thine empty voice!


Listen! and thou your echoes must be mute,                                                                                250

Gray mountains, and old woods, and haunted springs,

Prophetic caves, and isle-surrounding streams,

Rejoice to hear what yet ye cannot speak! [page 53]


A spirit seizes me and speaks within:

It tears me as fire tears a thunder-cloud.                                                                                      255


See how he lifts his mighty looks! the Heaven

Darkens above!


                              He speaks! O shelter me!


I see the curse on gestures proud and cold,

And looks of firm defiance, and calm hate,

And such despair as mocks itself with smiles,                                                                             260

Written as on a scroll: yet speak! O speak!


    Fiend, I defy thee! with a calm, fixed mind,

        All that thou canst inflict I bid thee do;

    Foul Tyrant both of Gods and Humankind,

        One only being shalt thou not subdue.                                                                                 265

    Rain then thy plagues upon me here,

    Ghastly disease, and frenzying fear;

    And let alternate frost and fire

    Eat into me, and be thine ire

Lightning, and cutting hail, and legioned forms                                                                          270

Of furies, driving by upon the wounding storms!

    Ay, do thy worst! Thou art omnipotent.

        O’er all things but thyself I gave thee power,

    And by my own will. Be thy swift mischiefs sent

        To blast mankind, from yon ethereal tower.                                                                        275

    Let thy malignant spirit move [page 54]

    In darkness over those I love:

    On me and mine imprecate

    The utmost torture of thy hate;

And thus devote to sleepless agony,                                                                                            280

This undeclining head while thou must reign on high.

    But thou, who art the God and Lord: O thou,

        Who fillest with thy soul this world of woe,

    To whom all things of Earth and Heaven do bow

        In fear and worship: all-prevailing foe, —                                                                           285

    I curse thee! Let a sufferer’s curse

    Clasp thee, his torturer, like remorse;

    Till thine Infinity shall be

    A robe of envenomed agony;

And thine Omnipotence a crown of pain,                                                                                    290

To cling like burning gold round thy dissolving brain!

    Heap on thy soul, by virtue of this Curse,

        Ill deeds; then be thou damned, beholding good;

    Both infinite as in the universe,

        And thou, and thy self-torturing solitude!                                                                            295

    An awful image of calm power

    Though now thou sittest, let the hour

    Come, when thou must appear to be

    That which thou art internally.

And after many a false and fruitless crime                                                                                  300

Scorn track thy lagging fall through boundless space and time!


Were these my words, O Parent?


They were thine.

[page 55]


It doth repent me; words are quick and vain;

Grief for a while is blind, and so was mine.

I wish no living thing to suffer pain.                                                                                            305


Misery, Oh misery to me,

That Jove at length should vanquish thee!

Wail, howl aloud, Land and Sea,

The Earth’s rent heart shall answer ye.

Howl, Spirits of the living and the dead,                                                                                     310

Your refuge, your defence, lies fallen and vanquishéd!


Lies fallen and vanquishéd!


Fallen and vanquishéd!


Fear not: ’t is but some passing spasm:

    The Titan is unvanquished still.                                                                                               315

But see, where through the azure chasm

    Of yon forked and snowy hill,

Trampling the slant winds on high

    With golden-sandalled feet, that glow

Under plume of purple dye,                                                                                                         320

Like rose-ensanguined ivory,

    A Shape comes now,

Stretching on high from his right hand

A serpent-cinctured wand.


’T is a Jove’s world-wandering herald, Mercury. [page 56]                                                       325


And who are those with hydra tresses

    And iron wings that climb the wind,

Whom the frowning God represses,

    Like vapours streaming up behind,

Changing loud, and endless crowd —                                                                                         330


    These are Jove’s tempest-walking hounds,

Whom he gluts with groans and blood,

When charioted on sulphurous cloud

    He bursts Heaven’s bounds.


Are they now led from the thin dead,                                                                                          335

On new pangs to be fed?


The Titan loos as ever, firm, not proud.


Ha! I scent life!


Let me but look into his eyes!


The hope of torturing him smells like a heap                                                                              340

Of corpses, to a death-bird after battle.


Darest thou delay, O Herald! Take cheer, Hounds

Of Hell: What if the Son of Maia soon [page 57]

Should make us food and sport — who can please long

The Omnipotent?


                              Back to your towers of iron,                                                                          345

And gnash, beside the streams of fire and wail,

Your foodless teeth! Geryon, arise! and Gorgon,

Chimæra, and thou Sphinx, subtlest of fiends,

Who ministered to Thebes Heaven’s poisoned wine,

Unnatural love, and more unnatural hate:                                                                                    350

These shall perform your task.


                                                Oh, mercy! mercy!

We die with our desire: drive us not back!


Crouch then in silence!

                                        Awful Sufferer!

To thee unwilling, most unwillingly

I come, by the Great Father’s will driven down,                                                                         355

To execute a doom of new revenge.

Alas! I pity thee, and hate myself

That I can do no more: aye from thy sight

Returning, for a season, Heaven seems Hell,

So thy worn form pursues me night and day,                                                                              360

Smiling reproach. Wise art thou, firm and good,

But vainly wouldst stand forth alone in strife

Against the Omnipotent; as yon clear lamps

That measure and divide the weary years

From which there is no refuge, long have taught,                                                                        365

And long must teach. Even now thy Torturer arms

With the strange might of unimagined pains

The powers who scheme slow agonies in Hell, [page 58]

And my commission is to lead them here,

Or what more subtle, foul, or savage fiends                                                                                370

People the abyss, and leave them to their task.

Be it not so! There is a secret known

To thee, and to none else of living things,

Which may transfer the sceptre of wide Heaven,

The fear of which perplexes the Supreme:                                                                                  375

Clothe it in words, and bid it clasp his throne

In intercession; bend thy soul in prayer,

And, like a suppliant in some gorgeous fane,

Let the will kneel within thy haughty heart:

For benefits and meek submission tame                                                                                      380

The fiercest and the mightiest.


                                                     Evil minds

Change good to their own nature. I gave all

He has; and in return he chains me here

Years, ages, night and day: whether the Sun

Split my parched skin, or in the moony night                                                                              385

The crystal-wingéd snow cling round my hair:

Whilst my belovéd race is trampled down

By his thought-executing ministers.

Such is the Tyrant’s recompense. ’T is just:

He who is evil can receive no good;                                                                                            390

And for a world bestowed, or a friend lost,

He can feel hate, fear, shame; not gratitude:

He but requites me for his own misdeed.

Kindness to such is keen reproach, which breaks

With bitter stings the light sleep of Revenge.                                                                              395

Submission, thou dost know I cannot try:

For what submission but that fatal word,

The death-seal of mankind’s captivity,

Like the Sicilian’s hair-suspended sword, [page 59]

Which trembles o’er his crown, would he accept,                                                                       400

Or could I yield? Which yet I will not yield.

Let others flatter Crime, where it sits throned

In brief Omnipotence: secure are they:

For Justice, when triumphant, will weep down

Pity, not punishment, on her own wrongs,                                                                                   405

Too much avenged by those who err. I wait,

Enduring thus, the retributive hour

Which since we spake is even nearer now.

But hark, the hell-hounds clamour. Fear delay!

Behold! Heaven lowers under thy Father’s frown.                                                                      410


Oh, that we might be spared: I to inflict,

And thou to suffer! Once more answer me:

Thou knowest not the period of Jove’s power?


I know but this, that it must come.



Thou canst not count thy years to come of pain?                                                                         415


They last while Jove must reign; nor more, nor less

Do I desire or fear.


                                  Yet pause, and plunge

Into eternity, where recorded time,

Even all that we imagine, age on age,

Seems but a point, and the reluctant mind                                                                                   420

Flags wearily in its unending flight, [page 60]

Till it sink, dizzy, blind, lost, shelterless;

Perchance it has not numbered the slow years

Which thou must spend in torture, unreprieved?                                                                         424


Perchance no though can count then, yet they pass.


If thou mightst dwell among the Gods the while

Lapped in voluptuous joy?


                                              I would not quit

This bleak ravine, these unrepentant pains.


Alas! I wonder at, yet pity thee.


Pity the self-despising slaves of Heaven,                                                                                     430

Not me, within whose mind sits peace serene,

As light in the sun, throned. How vain is talk!

Call up the fiends!


                                O sister, look! White fire

Has cloven to the roots yon huge snow-loaded cedar;

How fearfully God’s thunder howls behind!                                                                               435


I must obey his words and thine: alas!

Most heavily remorse bangs at my heart!


See where the child of Heaven, with wingéd feet,

Runs down the slanted sunlight of the dawn. [page 61]


Dear sister, close thy plumes over thine eyes,                                                                             440

Lest thou behold and die. They come, they come,

Blackening the birth of day with countless wings,

And hollow underneath, like death.




Immortal Titan!


                                                                                                    Champion of Heaven’s slaves!


He whom some dreadful voice invokes is here;                                                                          445

Prometheus, the chained Titan. Horrible forms,

What and who are ye? Never yet there came

Phantasms so foul through monster-teeming Hell

From the all-miscreative brain of Jove;

Whilst I behold such execrable shapes,                                                                                       450

Methinks I grow like I contemplate,

And laugh and stare in loathsome sympathy.


We are the ministers of pain, and fear,

And disappointment, and mistrust, and hate,

And clinging crime; and lean dogs pursue                                                                                   455

Through wood and lake some struck and sobbing fawn,

We track all things that weep, and bleed, and live,

When the great King betrays them to our will. [page 62]


O many fearful natures in one name,

I know ye; and these lakes and echoes know                                                                               460

The darkness and the clangour of your winds.

But why more hideous than your loathéd selves

Gather ye up in legions from the deep?


We knew not that: Sisters, rejoice, rejoice!


Can aught exult in its deformity?                                                                                                 465


The beauty of delight makes lovers glad,

Gazing on one another: so are we.

As from the rose which the pale priestess kneels

To gather for her festal crown of flowers

The aërial crimson falls, flushing her cheek,                                                                               470

So from our victim’s destined agony

The shade which is our form invests us round;

Else we are shapeless as our mother Night.


I laugh your power, and his who sent you here,

To lowest scorn. Pour forth the cup of pain!                                                                               475


Thou thinkest we will rend thee bone from bone,

And nerve from nerve, working like fire within?


Pain is my element, as hate is thine.

Ye rend me now: I care not. [page 63]


                                                Dost imagine

We will but laugh into thy lidless eyes?                                                                                      480


I weigh not what ye do, but what ye suffer,

Being evil. Cruel was the power which called

You, or aught else so wretched, into light.


Thou think’st we will live through thee, one by one,

Like animal life, and, though we can obscure not                                                                       485

The soul which burns within, that we will dwell

Beside it, like a vain loud multitude

Vexing the self-content of wisest men:

That we will be dread thought beneath thy brain,

And foul desire round thine astonished heart,                                                                             490

And blood within thy labyrinthine veins

Crawling like agony?


                                  Why, ye are thus now;

Yet am I king over myself, and rule

The torturing and conflicting throngs within,

As Jove rules you when Hell grows mutinous.                                                                            495


From the ends of the earth, from the ends of the earth,

Where the night has its grave and the morning its birth,

                        Come, come, come!

O ye who shake hills with the scream of your mirth,

When cities sink howling in ruin; and ye [page 64]                                                                    500

Who with wingless footsteps trample the sea,

And close upon Shipwreck and Famine’s track,

Sit chattering with joy on the foodless wreck;

                       Come, come, come!

            Leave the bed, low, cold, and red,                                                                                   505

            Strewed beneath a nation dead;

            Leave the hatred, as in ashes

                Fire is left for future burning:

            It will burst in bloodier flashes

                When ye stir it, soon returning:                                                                                    510

            Leave the self-contempt implanted

            In young spirits, sense-enchanted,

                Misery’s yet unkindled fuel:

            Leave Hell’s secrets half unchanted

                To the maniac dreamer; cruel                                                                                      515

            More than ye can be with hate,

                Is he with fear.

                       Come, come, come!

We are steaming up from Hell’s wide gate

    And we burthen the blasts of the atmosphere,

    But vainly we toil till ye come here.                                                                                        521


Sister, I hear thunder of new wings.


These solid mountains quiver the sound,

Even as the tremulous air: their shadows make                                                                           524

The space within my plumes more black than night.


          Your call was as a wingéd car,

          Driven on whirlwinds fast and far;

          It rapt us from red gulfs of war. [page 65]


          From wide cities, famine wasted;


          Groans half heard, and blood untasted;                                                                              530


          Kingly conclaves, stern and cold,

          Where blood with gold is bought and sold;


          From the furnace, white and hot,

          In which —


                                Speak not: whisper not:

          I know all that ye would tell,                                                                                             535

          But to speak might break the spell

          Which must bend the Invincible,

              The stern of thought;

          He yet defies the deepest power of Hell.


Tear the veil!


                   It is torn.


                                    The pale stars of the morn                                                                        540

Shine on a misery, dire to be borne.

Dost thou faint, mighty Titan? We laugh thee to scorn.

Dost thou boast the clear knowledge thou waken’dst with for man? [page 66]

Then was kindled within him a thirst which outran

Those perishing waters; a thirst of fierce fever,                                                                           545

Hope, love, doubt, desire, which consume him for ever.

            One came forth of gentle worth,

            Smiling on the sanguine earth;

            His words outlived him, like swift poison

                Withering up truth, peace, and pity.                                                                             550

            Look! where round the wide horizon

                Many a million-peopled city

            Vomits smoke in the bright air;

            Mark that outcry of despair!

            ’T is his mild and gentle ghost                                                                                         555

                Wailing for the faith he kindled:

            Look again! the flames almost

                To a glow-worm’s lamp have dwindled:

            The survivors round the embers

                Gather in dread.                                                                                                            560

                            Joy, joy, joy!

Past ages crowd on thee, but each one remembers;

And the future is dark, and the present is spread

Like a pillow of thorns for thy slumberless head.


                Drops of bloody agony flow                                                                                        565

                From his white and quivering brow.

                Grant a little respite now:

                See! a disenchanted nation

                Springs like day from desolation;

                To Truth its state is dedicate,                                                                                       570

                And Freedom leads it forth, her mate;

                A legioned band of linkéd brothers,

                Whom Love calls children — [page 67]


                                                      ’T is another’s:

                See how kindred murder kin!

                ’T is the vintage-time for death and sin.                                                                      575

                Blood, like new wine, bubbles within:

                    Till Despair smothers

The struggling world, which slaves and tyrants win.

                        [All the FURIES vanish, except one.


Hark, sister! what a low yet dreadful groan

Quite unsuppressed is tearing up the heart                                                                                  580

Of the good Titan, as storms tear the deep,

And beasts hear the sea moan in inland caves.

Darest thou observe how the fiends torture him?


Alas! I looked forth twice, but will no more.


What didst thou see?


                                      A woful sight: a youth                                                                            585

With patient looks, nailed to a crucifix.


What next?


                   The heaven around, the earth below,

Was peopled with thick shapes of human death,

All horrible, and wrought by human hands;

And some appeared the work of human hearts,                                                                           590

For men were slowly like by frowns and smiles; [page 68]

And other sights too foul to speak and live

Were wandering by. Let us not tempt worse fear

By looking forth: those groans are grief enough.


Behold and emblem: those who do endure                                                                                  595

Deep wrongs for man, and scorn and chains, but heap

Thousandfold torment on themselves and him.


Remit the anguish of that lighted stare;

Close those wan lips; let that thorn-wounded brow

Stream not with blood; it mingles with thy tears!                                                                        600

Fix, fix those tortured orbs in peace and death,

So thy sick throes shake not that crucifix,

So those pale fingers play not with thy gore.

Oh horrible! Thy name I will not speak,

It hath become a curse. I see, I see                                                                                               605

The wise, the mild, the lofty, and the just,

Whom thy slaves hate for being like to thee,

Some hunted by foul lies from their heart’s home, —

An early-chosen, late-lamented home, —

As hooded ounces cling to the driven hind;                                                                                 610

Some linked to corpses in unwholesome cells;

Some — Hear I not the multitude laugh loud? —

Impaled in lingering fire: and mighty realms

Float by my feet, like sea-uprooted isles,

Whose sons are kneaded down in common blood                                                                       615

By the red light of their own burning homes.


Blood thou canst see, and fire; and canst hear groans:

Worse things, unheard, unseen, remain behind. [page 69]




              In each human heart terror survives

The ruin it has gorged: the loftiest fear                                                                                        620

All that they would disdain to think were true:

Hypocrisy and custom make their minds

The fanes of many a worship, now outworn.

They dare not devise good for man’s estate,

And yet they know not that they do not dare.                                                                              625

The good want power, but to weep barren tears.

The powerful goodness want: worse need for them.

The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom;

And all best things are thus confused to ill.

Many are strong and rich, and would be just,                                                                              630

But I live among their suffering fellow-men

As if none-felt: they know not what they do.


Thy words are like a cloud of wingéd snakes;

And yet I pity those they torture not.


Thou pitiest them? I speak no more!                                                                                            635



                                                        Ah woe!

Ah, woe! Alas! pain, pain ever, for ever!

I close my tearless eyes, but see more clear

Thy works within my woe-illumined mind,

Thou subtle Tyrant! Peace is in the grave:

The grave hides all things beautiful and good.                                                                            640

I am a God and cannot find it there, [page 70]

Nor would I seek it: for, though dread revenge,

This is defeat, fierce King! not victory.

The sights with which thou torturest gird my soul

With new endurance, till the hour arrives                                                                                    645

When they shall be no types of things which are.


Alas! what sawest thou?


                                        There are two woes:

To speak, and to behold; thou spare me one.

Names are there, Nature’s sacred watchwords, they

Were borne aloft in bright emblazonry;                                                                                       650

The nations thronged around, and cried aloud,

As with one voice, Truth, liberty, and love!

Suddenly fierce confusion fell from heaven

Among them: there was strife, deceit, and fear:

Tyrants rushed in, and did divide the spoil.                                                                                 655

This was the shadow of the truth I saw.


I felt my torture, son, with such mixed joy

As pain and virtue give. To cheer thy state,

I bid ascend those subtle and fair spirits,                                                                                     659

Whose bones are the dim caves of human thought,

And who inhabit, as birds wing the wind,

Its world-surrounding ether: they behold

Beyond that twilight realm, as in a glass,

The future: may they speak comfort to thee!


Look, sister, where a troop of spirits gather,                                                                                665

Like flocks of clouds in spring’s delightful weather,

Thronging in the blue air! [page 71]


                                            And see! more come,

Like fountain-vapours when the winds are dumb,

That climb up the ravine in scattered lines.

And hark! is it the music of the pines?                                                                                        670

Is it the lake? Is it the waterfall?


’T is something sadder, sweeter far than all.


             From unremembered ages we

             Gentle guides and guardians be

             Of heaven-oppressed mortality!                                                                                      675

             And we breathe, and sicken not,

             The atmosphere of human thought:

             Be it dim, and dank, and gray,

             Like a storm-extinguished day,

             Travelled o’er by dying gleams:                                                                                     680

                 Be it bright as all between

             Cloudless skies and windless streams,

                 Silent liquid, and serene.

             As the birds within the wind,

                 As the fish within the wave,                                                                                        685

             As the thoughts of man’s own mind

                 Float through all above the grave:

             We make there our liquid lair,

             Voyaging cloudlike and unpent

             Through the boundless element.                                                                                     690

             Thence we bear the prophecy

             Which begins and ends in thee!


More yet come, one by one: the air around them

Looks radiant as the air around a star. [page 72]


On a battle-trumpet’s blast                                                                                                           695

I fled hither, fast, fast, fast,

’Mid the darkness upward cast.

From the dust of creeds outworn,

From the tyrant’s banner torn,

Gathering round me, onward borne,                                                                                            700

There was mingled many a cry —

Freedom! Hope! Death! Victory!

Till they faded through the sky;

And one sound, above, around,

One sound, beneath, around, above,                                                                                            705

Was moving; ’t was the soul of love:

’T was the hope, the prophecy,

Which begins and ends in thee.


A rainbow’s arch stood on the sea,

Which rocked beneath, immovably;                                                                                            710

And the triumphant storm did flee,

Like a conqueror, swift and proud,

Between, with many a captive cloud,

A shapeless, dark and rapid crowd,

Each by lightning riven in half.                                                                                                    715

I heard the thunder hoarsely laugh:

Mighty fleets were strewn like chaff

And spread beneath a hell of death

O’er the white waters. I alit

On a great ship lightning-split,                                                                                                     720

And speeded hither on the sigh

Of one who gave an enemy

His plank, then plunged aside to die. [page 73]


I sate beside a sage’s bed,

And the lamp was burning red                                                                                                     725

Near the book where he had fed,

When a Dream with plumes of flame

To his pillow hovering came,

And I knew it was the same

Which had kindled long ago                                                                                                        730

Pity, eloquence, and woe;

And the world awhile below

Wore the shade its lustre made.

It has borne me here as fleet

As Desire’s lightning feet:                                                                                                           735

I must ride it back ere morrow,

Or the sage will wake in sorrow.


On a poet’s lips I slept,

Dreaming like a love-adept

In the sound his breathing kept;                                                                                                   740

Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses,

But feeds on the aërial kisses

Of shapes that haunt thought’s wildernesses.

He will watch from dawn to gloom

The lake-reflected sun illume                                                                                                       745

The yellow bees in the ivy-bloom,

Nor heed nor see, what things they be;

But from these create he can

Forms more real than living man,

Nurslings of immortality!                                                                                                            750

One of these awakened me,

And I sped to succour thee. [page 74]


Behold’st thou not two shapes from the east and west

Come, as two doves to one belovéd nest,

Twin nurslings of the all-sustaining air,                                                                                      755

On swift still wings glide down the atmosphere?

And hark! their sweet, sad voices! ’t is despair

Mingled with love and then dissolved in sound.


Canst thou speak, sister? all my words are drowned.


Their beauty gives me voice. See how they float                                                                        760

On their sustaining wings of skyey grain,

Orange and azure deepening into gold!

Their soft smiles light the air like a star’s fire.


Hast thou beheld the form of Love?


                                                As over wide dominions

I sped, like some swift cloud that wings the wide air’s wildernesses,                                         765

That planet-crested shape swept by on lightning-braided pinions,

Scattering the liquid joy of life from his ambrosial tresses:

His footsteps paved the world with light; but as I passed ’t was fading,

And hollow ruin yawned behind: great sages bound in madness,

And headless patriots, and pale youths who perished, unupbraiding, [page 75]                         770

Gleamed in the night. I wandered o’er, till thou, O King of sadness,

Turned by thy smile the worst I saw to recollected gladness.


Ah, sister! Desolation is a delicate thing:

It walks not on the earth, it floats not on the air,

But treads with silent footstep, and fans with silent wing                                                           775

The tender hopes which in their hearts the best and gentlest bear;

Who, soothed to false repose by the fanning plumes above,

And the music-stirring motion of its soft and busy feet,

Dream visions of aërial joy, and call the monster Love,

And wake, and find the shadow Pain, as he whom now we greet.                                              780


         Though Ruin now Love’s shadow be,

         Following him, destroyingly,

             On Death’s white and wingéd steed,

         Which the fleetest cannot flee,

             Trampling down both flower and weed,                                                                         785

         Man and best, and foul and fair,

         Like a tempest through the air;

         Thou shalt quell this horseman grim,

         Woundless though in heart or limb.


         Spirits! how know ye this shall be? [page 76]                                                                    790


             In the atmosphere we breathe,

         As buds grow red when the snow-storms flee,

             From the spring gathering up beneath,

         Whose mild winds shake the elder-brake,

         And the wandering herdsmen know                                                                                   795

         That the white-thorn soon will blow:

         Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Peace,

         When they struggle to increase,

             Art to us as soft winds be

             To shepherd-boys, the prophecy                                                                                     800

         Which begins and ends in thee.


Where are the spirits fled?


                                              Only a sense

Remains of them, like the omnipotence

Of music, when the inspired voice and lute

Languish, ere yet the responses are mute,                                                                                    805

Which through the deep and labyrinthine soul,

Like echoes through long caverns, wind and roll.


How fair these air-born shapes! and yet I feel

Most vain all hope but love; and thou art far,

Asia! who, when my being overflowed,                                                                                      810

Wert like a golden chalice to bright wine

Which else had sunk into the thirsty dust.

All things are still: alas! how heavily

This quiet morning weighs upon my heart;

Though I should dream I could even sleep with grief [page 77]                                                 815

If slumber were denied not. I would fain

Be what it is my destiny to be,

The saviour and the strength of suffering man,

Or sink into the original gulf of things:

There is no agony, and no solace left;                                                                                          820

Earth can console, Heaven can torment no more.


Hast thou forgotten one who watches thee

The cold dark night, and never sleeps but when

The shadow of thy spirit falls on her?


I said all hope was vain but love: thou lovest.                                                                             825


Deeply in truth; but the eastern star looks white,

And Asia waits in that far Indian vale,

The scene of her sad exile; rugged once

And desolate and frozen, like this ravine;

But now invested with fair flowers and herbs,                                                                            830

And haunted by sweet airs and sounds, which flow

Among the woods and waters, from the ether

Of her transforming presence, which would fade

If it were mingled not with thine. Farewell!


SCENE I. — Morning. A lovely vale in the Indian Caucasus. ASIA, alone.


From all the blasts of heaven thou hast descended:

Yes, like a spirit, like a thought which makes [page 78]

Unwonted tears throng to the horny eyes,

And beatings haunt the desolated heart,

Which should have learnt repose: thou hast descended

Cradled in tempests; thou dost wake, O Spring!                                                                              6

O child of many winds! As suddenly

Thou comest as the memory of a dream,

Which now is sad because it hath been sweet;

Like genius, or like joy which riseth up                                                                                         10

As from the earth, clothing with golden clouds

The desert of our life.

This is the season, this is the day, the hour;

At sunrise thou shouldst come, sweet sister mine,

Too long desired, too long delaying, come!                                                                                  15

How like death-worms the wingless moments crawl!

The point of one white star is quivering still

Deep in the orange light of widening morn

Beyond the purple mountains: through a chasm

Of wind-divided mist the darker lake                                                                                            20

Reflects it; now it wanes: it gleams again

As the waves fade, and as the burning threads

Of woven cloud unravel in pale air:

’T is lost! and through yon peaks of cloudlike snow

The roseate sunlight quivers: hear I not                                                                                         25

The Æolian music of her sea-green plumes

Winnowing the crimson dawn?                                                                          [PANTHEA enters.

                                                   I feel, I see

Those eyes which burn through smiles that fade in tears,

Like stars half-quenched in mists of silver dew.

Belovéd and most beautiful, who wearest                                                                                     30

The shadow of that soul by which I live,

How late thou art! the spheréd sun had climbed

The sea; my heart was sick with hope, before

The printless air felt thy belated plumes. [page 79]


Pardon, great Sister! but my wings were faint                                                                               35

With the delight of a remembered dream,

As are the noontide plumes of summer winds

Satiate with sweet flowers. I was wont to sleep

Peacefully, and awake refreshed and calm,

Before the sacred Titan’s fall, and thy                                                                                           40

Unhappy love, had made, through use and pity,

Both love and woe familiar to my heart

As they had grown to thine: erewhile I slept

Under the glaucous caverns of old Ocean

Within dim bowers of green and purple moss,                                                                              45

Our young Ione’s soft and milky arms

Locked then, as now, behind my dark, moist hair,

While my shut eyes and cheek were pressed within

The folded depth of her life-breathing bosom:

Bus not as now, since I am made the wind                                                                                    50

Which fails beneath the music that I bear

Of thy most wordless converse; since dissolved

Into the sense with which love talks, my rest

Was troubled and yet sweet; my waking hours

Too full of care and pain.


                                            Lift up thine eyes,                                                                              55

And let me read thy dream.


                                             As I have said,

With our sea-sister at his feet I slept.

The mountain mists, condensing at our voice

Under the moon, had spread their snowy flakes,

From the keen ice shielding our linkéd sleep.                                                                                60

Then two dreams came. One, I remember not. [page 80]

But in the other his pale wound-worn limbs

Fell from Prometheus, and the azure night

Grew radiant with the glory of that form

Which lives unchanged within, and his voice fell                                                                         65

Like music which makes giddy the dim brain,

Faint with intoxication of keen joy:

“Sister of her whose footsteps pave the world

With loveliness — more fair than aught but her,

Whose shadow thou art — lift thine eyes on me!”                                                                        70

I lifted them: the overpowering light

Of that immortal shape was shadowed o’er

By love; which, from his soft and flowing limbs,

And passion-parted lips, and keen, faint eyes,

Steamed forth like vaporous fire; and atmosphere                                                                        75

Which wrapt me in its all-dissolving power,

As the warm ether of the morning sun

Wraps ere it drinks some cloud of wandering dew.

I saw not, heard not, moved not, only felt

His presence flow and mingle through my blood                                                                          80

Till it became his life, and his grew mine,

And I was thus absorbed, until it past,

And like the vapours when the sun sinks down,

Gathering again in drops upon the pines,

And tremulous as they, in the deep night                                                                                       85

My being was condensed; and as the rays

Of thought were slowly gathered, I could hear

His voice, whose accents lingered ere they died

Like footsteps of weak melody: thy name

Among the many sounds alone I heard                                                                                          90

Of what might be articulate; though still

I listened through the night when sound was none.

Ione wakened then, and said to me:

“Canst thou divine what troubles me to-night?

I always knew what I desired before, [page 81]                                                                            95

Nor ever found delight to wish in vain.

But now I cannot tell thee what I seek;

I know not; something sweet, since it is sweet

Even to desire; it is thy sport, false sister;

Thou hast discovered some enchantment old,                                                                             100

Whose spells have stolen my spirit as I slept

And mingled it with thine: for when just now

We kissed, I felt within thy parted lips

The sweet air that sustained me, and the warmth

Of the life-blood, for loss of which I faint,                                                                                  105

Quivered between our intertwining arms.”

I answered not, for the eastern star grew pale,

But fled to thee.


                        Thou speakest, but thy words

Are as the air; I feel them not. Oh, lift

Thine eyes, that I may read his written soul!                                                                               110


I lift them, though they droop beneath the load

Of that they would express: what canst thou see

But thine own fairest shadow imaged there?


Thine eyes are like the deep, blue, boundless heaven

Contracted to two circles underneath                                                                                           115

Their long, fine lashes; dark, far, measureless,

Orb, within orb, and line through line inwoven.


Why lookest thou as if a spirit past? [page 82]


There is a change: beyond their inmost depth

I see a shade, a shape: ’t is He, arrayed                                                                                       120

In the soft light of his own smiles, which spread

Like radiance from the cloud-surrounded moon.

Prometheus, it is thine! Depart not yet!

Say not those smiles that we shall meet again

Within that bright pavilion which their beams                                                                            125

Shall build on the waste world? The dream is told.

What shape is that between us? Its rude hair

Roughens the wind that lifts it, its regard

Is wild and quick, yet ’t is a thing of air,

For through its gray robe gleams the golden dew                                                                        130

Whose stars the noon has quenched not.


Follow! Follow!


It is mine other dream.


                                                                          It disappears.


It passes now into my mind. Methought

As we sate here, the flower-enfolding buds

Burst on yon lightning-blasted almond-tree,                                                                               135

When swift from the white Seythian wilderness

A wind swept forth wrinkling the earth with frost:

I looked, and all the blossoms were blown down;

But on each leaf was stamped, as the blue bells

Of Hyacinth tell Apollo’s written grief,                                                                                       140

O, FOLLOW, FOLLOW! [page 83]


                                      As you speak, your words

Fill, pause by pause, my own forgotten sleep

With shapes. Methought among the lawns together

We wandered, underneath the young gray dawn,

And multitudes of dense white fleecy clouds                                                                              145

Were wandering in thick flocks along the mountains,

Shepherded by the slow, unwilling wind;

And the white dew on the new-bladed grass,

Just piercing the dark earth, hung silently;

And there was more which I remember not:                                                                                150

But on the shadows of the morning clouds,

Athwart the purple mountain slope, was written

FOLLOW, O, FOLLOW! as they vanished by;

And on each herb, from which Heaven’s dew had fallen,

The like was stamped, as with a withering fire;                                                                           155

A wind arose among the pines: it shook

The clinging music from their boughs, and then

Low, sweet, faint sounds, like the farewell of ghosts,


And then I said: “Panthea, look on me!”                                                                                     160

But in the depth of those belovéd eyes

Still I saw, FOLLOW, FOLLOW!


                                                                                       Follow, follow!


The crags, this clear spring morning, mock our voices,

As they were spirit-tongued. [page 84]


                                               It is some being                                                                             164

Around the crags. What fine clear sounds! O, list!

ECHOES (unseen)

Echoes we: listen!

    We cannot stay:

As dew-stars glisten

    Then fade away —

        Child of Ocean!                                                                                                                    170


Hark! Spirits speak. The liquid responses

Of their aërial tongues yet sound.


                                                                                            I hear.


               O, follow, follow,

                   As our voice recedeth

               Through the caverns hollow,                                                                                         175

                   Where the forest spreadeth;

                            (More distant.)

                          O, follow, follow!

                   Through the caverns hollow,

               As the song floats thou pursue,

               Where the wild bee never flew,                                                                                    180

               Through the noontide darkness deep,

               By the odour-breathing sleep

               Of faint night-flowers, and the waves

               At the fountain-lighted caves,

               While our music, wild and sweet,                                                                                 185

               Mocks thy gently falling feet,

                           Child of Ocean! [page 85]


Shall we pursue the sound? It grows more faint

And distant.


                                                           List! The strain floats nearer now.


                                                      In the world unknown                                                        190

                                                          Sleeps a voice unspoken;

                                                      By thy step alone

                                                         Can its rest be broken;

                                                                 Child of Ocean!


How the notes sink upon the ebbing wind!                                                                                  195


                           O, follow, follow!

                   Through the caverns hollow,

               As the song floats thou pursue,

               By the woodland noontide dew,

               By the forests, lakes, and fountains                                                                              200

               Through the many-folded mountains;

               Where the Earth reposed from spasms,

               On the day when He and Thou

               Parted, to commingle now;                                                                                           205

                           Child of Ocean!


Come, sweet Panthea, link thy hand in mine,

And follow, ere the voices fade away. [page 86]

SCENE II. — A Forest, intermingled with Rocks and Caverns. ASIA and PANTHEA pass into it. Two young Fauns are sitting on a Rock, listening.


The path through which that lovely twain  

    Have past, by cedar, pine, and yew,                                                                                         210

    And each dark tree that ever grew,

    Is curtained out from heaven’s wide blue;

Nor sun, nor moon, nor wind, nor rain,

        Can pierce its interwoven bowers,

    Nor aught, save where the cloud of dew,                                                                                 215

Drifted along the earth-creeping breeze,

Between the trunks of the hoar trees,

        Hangs each a pearl in the pale flowers

    Of the green laurel, blown anew;

And bends, and then fades silently,                                                                                             220

One frail and fair anemone:

Or when some star of many a one

That climbs and wanders through steep night,

Has found the cleft through which alone

Beams fall from high those depths upon,                                                                                     225

Ere it is borne away, away,

By the swift heavens that cannot stay,

It scatters drops of golden light,

Like lines of rain that ne’er unite:

And the gloom divine is all around;                                                                                             230

And underneath is the messy ground.


There the voluptuous nightingales,

    Are awake through all the broad noonday.

When one with bliss or sadness fails,

        And through the windless ivy-boughs,                                                                                235

Sick with sweet love, droops dying away [page 87]

On its mate’s music-panting bosom;

Another, from the swinging blossom,

        Watching to catch the languid close

    Of the last strain, then lifts on high                                                                                          240

    The wings of the weak melody,

Till some new strain of feeling bear

    The song, and all the woods are mute;

When there is heard through the dim air

The rush of wings, and rising there                                                                                              245

    Like many a lake-surrounded flute,

Sounds overflow the listener’s brain

So sweet, that joy is almost pain.


There those enchanted eddies play

    Of echoes, music-tongued, which draw,                                                                                  250

    By Demogorgon’s mighty law,

    With melting rapture, or sweet awe,

All spirits on that secret way;

    As inland boats are driven to Ocean

Down streams made strong with mountain-thaw;                                                                       255

        And first there comes a gentle sound

        To those in talk or slumber bound,

    And wakes the destined soft emotion,

Attracts, impels them: those who saw

    Say from the breathing earth behind                                                                                        260

    There steams a plume-uplifting wind

Which drives them on their path, while they

    Believe their own swift wings and feet

The sweet desires within obey:

And so they float upon their way,                                                                                                265

Until, still sweet, but loud and strong,

The storm of sound is driven along,

    Sucked up and hurrying: as they fleet

    Behind, its gathering billows meet [page 88]

And to fatal mountain bear                                                                                                          270

Like clouds amid the yielding air.


Canst thou imagine where those spirits live

Which make such delicate music in the woods?

We haunt within the least frequented caves

And closest coverts, and we know these wilds,                                                                           275

Yet never meet them, though we hear them oft:

Where may they hide themselves?


                                                          ’T is hard to tell:

I have heard those more skilled in spirits say,

The bubbles, which the enchantment of the sun

Sucks from the pale faint water-flowers that pave                                                                       280

The oozy bottom of clear lakes and pools,

Are the pavilions where such dwell and float

Under the green and golden atmosphere

Which noontide kindles through the woven leaves;

And when these burst, and the thin fiery air,                                                                               285

The which they breathed within those lucent domes,

Ascends to flow like meteors through the night,

They ride on them, and rein their headlong speed,

And bow their burning crests, and glide in fire

Under the waters of the earth again.                                                                                            290


If such live thus, have others other lives,

Under pink blossoms or within the bells

Of meadow flowers, or folded violets deep,

Or on their dying odours, when they die,

Or in the sunlight of spheréd dew? [page 89]                                                                              295


Ay, many more which we may well divine.

But should we stay to speak, noontide would come,

And thwart Silenus find his goats undrawn,

And grudge to sing those wise and lovely songs

Of fate, and chance, and God, and Chaos old,                                                                             300

And Love, and the chained Titan’s woful doom,

And how he shall be loosed, and make the earth

One brotherhood: delightful strains which cheer

Our solitary twilights, and which charm

To silence the unenvying nightingales.                                                                                        305

SCENE III. —A Pinnacle of Rock among Mountains.



Hither the sound has borne us — to the realm

Of Demogorgon, and the mighty portal,

Like a volcano’s meteor-breathing chasm,

Whence the oracular vapour is hurled up

Which lonely men drink wandering in their youth,                                                                     310

And call truth, virtue, love, genius, or joy,

That maddening wine of life, whose dregs they drain

To deep intoxication; and uplift,

Like Mænads who cry loud, Evoe! Evoe!

The voice which is contagion to the world.                                                                                 315


Fit throne for such a Power! Magnificent!

How glorious art thou, Earth! And if thou be

The shadow of some spirit lovelier still,

Though evil stain its work, and it should be

Like its creation, weak yet beautiful,                                                                                           320

I could fall down and worship that and thee.

Even now my heat adoreth. Wonderful! [page 90]

Look, sister, ere the vapour dim thy brain:

Beneath is a wide plain of billowy mist,

As a lake, paving in the morning sky,                                                                                          325

With azure waves which burst in silver light,

Some Indian vale. Behold it, rolling on

Under the curdling winds, and islanding

The peak whereon we stand, midway, around,

Encinctured by the dark and blooming forests,                                                                           330

Dim twilight lawns, and stream-illumined caves,

And wind-enchanted shapes of wandering mist;

And far on high the keen sky-cleaving mountains

From icy spires of sunlike radiance fling

The dawn, as lifted Ocean’s dazzling spray,                                                                                335

From some Atlantic islet scattered up,

Spangles the wind with lamp-like water drops.

The vale is girdled with their walls, a howl

Of cataracts from their thaw-cloven ravines

Satiates the listening wind, continuous, vast,                                                                              340

Awful as silence. Hark! the rushing snow!

The sun-awakened avalanche! whose mass,

Thrice sifted by the storm, had gathered there

Flake their flake, in heaven-defying minds                                                                                  344

As thought by thought is piled, till some great truth

Is loosened, and the nations echo round,

Shaken to their roots, as do the mountains now.


Look how the gusty sea of mist is breaking

In crimson foam, even at our feet! it rises

As Ocean at the enchantment of the moon                                                                                  350

Round the foodless men wrecked on some oozy isle.


The fragments of the cloud are scattered up;

The winds that lifts them disentwines my hair; [page 91]

Its billows now sweep o’er mine eyes; my brain

Grows dizzy; I see thin shapes within the mist.                                                                           355


A countenance with beckoning smiles: there burns

An azure fire within its golden locks!

Another and another: hark! they speak!


             To the deep, to the deep,

                            Down, down!                                                                                                    360

             Through the shade of sleep,

             Through the cloudy strife

             Of Death and Life;

             Through the veil and the bar

             Of things which seem and are,                                                                                        365

          Even to the steps of the remotest throne,

                            Down, down!

             While the sound whirls around,

                            Down, down!

             As the fawn draws the hound,                                                                                         370

             As the lightning the vapour

             As a weak moth the taper;

             Death, despair; love, sorrow;

             Time, both; to-day, to-morrow;

         As steel obeys the spirit of the stone;                                                                                  375

                             Down, down!

             Through the gray, void abysm,

                            Down, down!

             Where the air is no prism,

             And the moon and stars are not,                                                                                      380

             And the cavern-crags wear not [page 92]

             The radiance of Heaven

             Nor the gloom to Earth given,

             Where there is one pervading, one alone, —

                               Down, down!

             We have bound thee, we guide thee;                                                                              395

                            Down, down!

             With the bright form beside thee;

             Resist not the weakness!

             Such strength is in meekness

             That the Eternal, the Immortal,                                                                                       400

             Must unloose through life’s portal

         The snake-like Doom coiled underneath his throne

                            By that alone.



What veiléd form sits on that ebon throne?


The veil has fallen.


                                I see a mighty darkness [page 93]                                                               405

Filling the seat of power, and rays of gloom

Dart round, as light from the meridian sun,

Ungazed upon and shapeless; neither limb,

Nor form, nor outline; yet we feel it is

A living Spirit.


                              Ask what thou wouldst know.                                                                        410


What canst thou tell?


All things thou dar’st demand.


Who made the living world?




                                                          Who made all

That it contains? thought, passion, reason, will,



God: Almighty God.


Who made that sense which, when the winds of spring

In rarest visitation, or the voice                                                                                                    416

Of one belovéd heard in youth alone,

Fills the faint eyes with falling tears which dim [page 94]

The radiant looks of unbewailing flowers,

And leaves this peopled earth a solitude                                                                                      420

When it returns no more?


                                                                                 Merciful God.


And who made terror, madness, crime, remorse,

Which from the links of the great chain of things,

To every thought within the mind of man

Sway and drag heavily, and each one reels                                                                                  425

Under the load towards the pit of death;

Abandoned hope, and love that turns to hate;

And self-contempt, bitterer to drink than blood;

Pain, whose unheeded and familiar speech

Is howling, and keen shrieks, day after day;                                                                                430

And Hell, of the sharp fear of Hell?


                                                                                                      He reigns.


Utter his name: a world pining in pain

Asks but his name: curses shall drag him down.


He reigns.


                                                    I feel, I know it: who?


                                                                                                      He reigns.                               434


Who reigns? There was the Heaven and Earth at first, [page 95]

And Light and Love; then Saturn, from whose throne

Time fell, an envious shadow: such the state

Of the earth’s primal spirits beneath his sway,

As the calm joy of flowers and living leaves

Before the wind or sun has withered them                                                                                   440

And semivital worms; but he refused

The birthright of their being, knowledge, power,

The skill which wields the elements, the thought

Which pierces this dim universe like light,

Self-empire, and the majesty of love;                                                                                          445

For thirst of which they fainted. Then Prometheus

Gave wisdom, which is strength, to Jupiter,

And with this law alone, “Let man be free,”

Clothed him with the dominion of wide Heaven.

To know nor faith, nor love, nor law, to be                                                                                 450

Omnipotent but friendless, is to reign;

And Jove now reigned; for on the race of man

First famine, and then toil, and then disease,

Strife, wounds, and ghastly death unseen before,

Fell; and the unseasonable seasons drove,                                                                                   455

With alternating shafts of frost and fire,

Their shelterless, pale tribes to mountain caves:

And mad disquietudes, and shadows idle

Of unreal good, which levied mutual war,                                                                                   460

So ruining the lair wherein they raged.

Prometheus saw, and waked the legioned hopes

Which sleep within folded Elysian flowers,

Nepenthe, Moly, Amaranth, fadeless blooms,

That they might hide with thin and rainbow wings                                                                     465

The shape of Death; and Love he sent to bind

The disunited tendrils of that vine

Which bears the wine of life, the human heart:

And he tamed fire, which, like some beast of prey, [page 96]

Most terrible, but lovely, played beneath                                                                                     470

The frown of man; and tortured to his will

Iron and gold, the slaves and signs of power,

And gems and poisons, and all subtlest forms

Hidden beneath the mountains and the waves.

He gave man speech, and speech created thought,                                                                      475

Which is the measure of the universe;

And Science struck the thrones of earth and heaven,

Which shook, but fell not; and the harmonious mind

Poured itself forth in all-prophetic song;

And music lifted up the listening spirit                                                                                        480

Until it walked, exempt from mortal care,

Godlike, o’er the clear billows of sweet sound;

And human hands first mimicked and then mocked,

With moulded limbs more lovely than its own,

The human form, till marble grew divine,                                                                                   485

And mothers, gazing, drank the love men see

Reflected in their race, behold, and perish.

He told the hidden power of herbs and springs,

And Disease drank and slept. Death grew like sleep.

He taught the implicated orbits woven                                                                                        490

Of the wide-wandering stars; and how the sun

Changes his lair, and by what secret spell

The pale moon is transformed, when her broad eye

Gazes not on the interlunar sea.

He taught to rule, as life directs the limbs,                                                                                  495

The tempest-wingéd chariots of the Ocean,

And the Celt knew the Indian. Cities then

Were built, and through their snow-like columns flowed

The warm winds, and the azure ether shone,

And the blue sea and shadowy hills were seen.                                                                           500

Such, the alleviations of his state,

Prometheus gave to man, for which he hangs [page 97]

Withering in destined pain: but who rains down

Evil, the immedicable plague, which, while

Man looks on his creation like a God                                                                                          505

And sees that it is glorious, drives him on,

The wreck of his own will, the scorn of earth,

The outcast, the abandoned, the alone?

Not Jove: while yet his frown shook heaven, ay, when

His adversary from adamantine chains                                                                                        510

Cursed him, he trembled like a slave. Declare

Who is his master? Is he too a slave?


All spirits are enslaved which serve things evil:

Thou knowest if Jupiter be such or no.


Whom calledst thou God?


                                              I spoke but as ye speak,

For Jove is the supreme of living things.                                                                                     516


Who is master of the slave?


                                              If the abysm

Could vomit forth his secrets…. But a voice

Is wanting, the deep truth is imageless;

For what would it avail to bid thee gaze                                                                                      520

On the revolving world? what to bid speak

Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance, and Change? To these

All things are subject but eternal Love. [page 98]


So much I asked before, and my heart gave

The response thou hast given; and of such truths                                                                        525

Each to itself must be the oracle.

One more demand; and do thou answer me

As my own soul would answer, did it know

That which I ask. Prometheus shall arise

Henceforth the sun of this rejoicing world:                                                                                 530

When shall the destined hour arrive?



The rocks are cloven, and through the purple nigh

I see cars drawn by rainbow-wingéd steeds

Which trample the dim winds: in each there stands

A wild-eyed charioteer urging their flight.                                                                                  535

Some look behind, as fiends pursue them there,

And yet I see no shape, but the keen stars:

Others, with burning eyes, lean forth, and drink

With eager lips the wind of their own speed,

As if the ting they loved fled on before,                                                                                      540

And now, even now, they clasped it. Their bright locks

Stream like a comet’s flashing hair: they all

Sweep onward.


                             These are the immortal Hours,

Of whom thou didst demand. One waits for thee.


A spirit with a dreadful countenance                                                                                           545

Checks its dark chariot by the craggy gulf.

Unlike thy brethren, ghastly charioteer,

Who art thou? Whither wouldst thou bear me? Speak! [page 99]


I am the shadow of a destiny

More dread than is my aspect: ere yon planet                                                                              550

Has set, the darkness which ascends with me

Shall wrap in lasting night Heaven’s kingless throne.


What meanest thou?


                                    That terrible shadow floats

Up from its throne, as may the lurid smoke

Lo! it ascends the car; the coursers fly

Terrified: watch its path among the stars

Blackening the night!


                                      Thus I am answered: strange!


See, near the verge, another chariot stays;

An ivory shell inlaid with crimson fire,                                                                                       560

Which comes and goes within its sculptured rim

Of delicate strange tracery; the young spirit

That guides it has the dove-like eyes of hope;

How its soft smiles attract the soul! as light

Lures wingéd insects through the lampless air.                                                                           565


My coursers are fed with the lightning,

    They drink of the whirlwind’s stream,

And when the red morning is bright’ning,

    They bathe in the fresh sunbeam;

    They have the strength for their swiftness I deem,                                                                  570

Then ascend with me, daughter of Ocean. [page 100]

I desire: and their speed makes night kindle;

    I fear: they outstrip the typhoon;

Ere the cloud piled on Atlas can dwindle

    We encircle the earth and the moon:                                                                                        575

    We shall rest from long labours at noon:

Then ascend with me, daughter of Ocean.

SCENE V. — The Car pauses within a Cloud on the Top of a snowy Mountain. ASIA, PANTHEA, and the SPIRIT OF THE HOUR.


On the brink of the night and the morning

    My coursers are wont to respire;

But the Earth has just whispered a warning                                                                                 580

    That their flight must be swifter than fire:

    They shall drink the hot speed of desire!


Thou breathest on their nostrils, but my breath

Would give them swifter speed.


                                                                                    Alas! it could not.


O Spirit! pause, and tell whence is the light                                                                                585

Which fills the cloud? The sun is yet unrisen.


The sun will rise not until noon. Apollo

Is held in heaven by wonder; and the light

Which fills this vapour, as the aërial hue

Of fountain-gazing roses fills the water,                                                                                      590

Flows from thy mighty sister. [page 101]


                                                                     Yes, I feel —


What is it with thee, sister? Thou art pale.


How thou art changed! I dare not look on thee;

I feel but see thee not. I scarce endure

The radiance of thy beauty. Some good change                                                                          595

Is working in the elements, which suffer

Thy presence thus unveiled. The Nereids tell

That on the day when the clear hyaline

Was cloven at thy uprise, and thou didst stand

Within a veinéd shell, which floated on                                                                                       600

Over the calm floor of the crystal sea,

Among the Ægean isles, and by the shores

Which bear thy name; love, like the atmosphere

Of the sun’s fire filling the living world,

Burst from thee, and illumined earth and heaven                                                                        605

And the deep ocean and the sunless caves,

And all that dwells within them; till grief cast

Eclipse upon the soul from which it came.

Such art thou now; nor is it I alone,

Thy sister, thy companion, thine own chosen one,                                                                      610

But the whole world which seeks thy sympathy.

Hearest thou not sounds i’ the air which speak the love

Of all articulate beings? Feelest thou not

The inanimate winds enamoured of thee? List!



Thy words are sweeter than aught else but his                                                                            615

Whose echoes they are: yet all love is sweet,

Given or returned. Common as light is love,

And its familiar voice wearies not ever. [page 102]

Like the wide heaven, the all-sustaining air,

It makes the reptile equal to the God:                                                                                          620

They who inspire it most are fortunate,

As I am now; but those who feel it most

Are happier still, after long sufferings,

As I shall soon become.


                                                                            List! Spirits speak.

VOICE in the air, singing.

Life of Life! thy lips enkindle                                                                                                      625

    With their love the breath between them;

And thy smiles before they dwindle

    Make the cold air fire; then screen them

In those looks, where whoso gazes

Faints, entangled in their mazes.                                                                                                  630

Child of Light! thy limbs are burning

    Through the vest which seems to hide them;

As the radiant lines of morning

    Through the clouds ere they divide them;

And this atmosphere divinest                                                                                                       635

Shrouds thee wheresoe’er thou shinest.

Fair are others; none beholds thee,

    But thy voice sounds low and tender

Like the fairest; for it folds thee

    From the sight, that liquid splendour,                                                                                      640

And all feel, yet see thee never,

As I feel now, lost for ever!

Lamp of Earth! where'er thou movest

    Its dim shapes are clad with brightness, [page 103]

And the souls of whom thou lovest                                                                                              645

    Walk upon the winds with lightness,

Till they fail, as I am failing,

Dizzy, lost, yet unbewailing!



    My soul is an enchanted boat,

    Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float                                                                                   650

Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;

    And thine doth like an angel sit

    Beside the helm conducting it,

Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.

    It seems to float for ever, for ever,                                                                                           655

    Upon that many-winding river,

    Between mountains, woods, abysses,

    A paradise of wildernesses!

Till, like one in slumber bound,

Borne to the ocean, I float down, around,                                                                                    660

Into a sea profound, of ever-spreading sound.

    Meanwhile thy spirit lifts its pinions

    In music’s most serene dominions;

Catching the winds that fan that happy heaven.

    And we sail on, away, afar,                                                                                                      665

    Without a course, without a star,

But by the instinct of sweet music driven;

    Till through Elysian garden-islets

    By thee, most beautiful of pilots,

    Where never mortal pinnace glided,                                                                                        670

    The boat of my desire is guided:

Realms where the air we breathe is love,

Which in the winds and on the waves doth move,

Harmonizing this earth with what we feel above. [page 104]

    We have passed Age’s icy caves,                                                                                            675

    And Manhood’s dark and tossing waves,

And Youth’s smooth ocean, smiling to betray:

    Beyond the glassy gulfs we flee

    Of shadow-peopled Infancy,

Through Death and Birth, to a diviner day:                                                                                 680

    A paradise of vaulted bowers

    List by downward-gazing flowers,

    And watery paths that wind between

    Wilderness calm and green,

Peopled by shapes too bright to see,                                                                                            685

And rest, having beheld; somewhat like thee;

Which walk upon the sea, and chaunt melodiously!


SCENE I. — Heaven. JUPITER on his Throne; THETIS and the other Deities assembled.


Ye congregated powers of heaven, who share

The glory and the strength of him ye serve,

Rejoice! henceforth I am omnipotent.

All else had been subdued to me; alone

The soul of man, like unextinguished fire,                                                                                      5

Yet burns towards heaven with fierce reproach, and doubt,

And lamentation, and reluctant prayer,

Hurling up insurrection, which might make

Our antique empire insecure, though built

One eldest faith, and hell’s coeval, fear;                                                                                        10

And though my curses through the pendulous air,

Like snow on herbless peaks, fall flake by flake,

And cling to it; though under my wrath’s night [page 105]

It climb the crags of life, step after step,

Which wound it, as ice wounds unsandalled feet,                                                                         15

It yet remains supreme o’er misery,

Aspiring, unrepressed, yet soon to fall:

Even now have I begotten a strange wonder,

That fatal child, the terror of the earth,

Who waits but till the destined hour arrive,                                                                                   20

Bearing from Demogorgon’s vacant throne

The dreadful might of ever-living limbs

Which clothed that awful spirit unbeheld,

To redescend, and trample out the spark.

Pour forth heaven’s wine, Idæan Ganymede,                                                                                25

And let it fill the dædal cups like fire,

And from the flower-inwoven soil divine

Ye all-triumphant harmonies arise,

As dew from earth under the twilight stars:

Drink! Be the nectar circling through your veins                                                                          30

The soul of joy, ye ever-living Gods,

Till exultation burst in one wide voice

Like music from Elysian winds.

                                                     And thou

Ascend beside me, veiléd in the light

Of the desire which makes thee one with me,                                                                               35

Thetis, bright image of eternity!

When thou didst cry, “Insufferable might!

God! spare me! I sustain not the quick flames,

The penetrating presence; all my being,

Like him whom the Numidian seps did thaw                                                                                40

Into a dew with poison, is dissolved,

Sinking through its foundations:” even then

Two mighty spirits, mingling, made a third

Mightier than either, which, unbodied now,

Between us floats, felt, although unbeheld, [page 106]                                                                45

Waiting the incarnation, which ascends,

(Hear ye the thunder of the fiery wheels

Griding the winds?) from Demogorgon’s throne.

Victory! victory! Feel’st thou not, O world,

The earthquake of his chariot thundering up                                                                                 50


                                                                           [The Car of the HOUR arrives. DEMOGORGON

                                                                                  descends, and moves towards the Throne of


Awful shape, what art thou? Speak!


Eternity. Demand no direr name!

Descend, and follow me down the abyss!

I am thy child, as thou wert Saturn’s child;

Mightier than thee: and we must dwell together                                                                            55

Henceforth in darkness. Lift thy lightnings not!

The tyranny of heaven none may retain,

Or reassume, or hold, succeeding thee:

Yet, if thou wilt, as ’t is the destiny

Of trodden worms to writhe till they are dead,                                                                              60

Put forth thy might!


                                  Detested prodigy!

Even thus beneath the deep Titanian prisons

I trample thee! Thou lingerest?

                                                   Mercy! mercy!

No pity, no release, no respite! Oh,

That thou wouldest make mine enemy my judge,                                                                         65

Even where he hangs, seared by my long revenge,

On Caucasus! he would not doom me thus.

Gentle, and just, and dreadless, is he not

The monarch of the world? What then art thou?

No refuge! no appeal! [page 107]

                                       Sink with me then,                                                                                  70

We two will sink on the wide waves of ruin,

Even as a vulture and snake outspent

Drop, twisted in inextricable fight,

Into a shoreless sea. Let hell unlock

Its mounded oceans of tempestuous fire,                                                                                       75

And whelm on them into the bottomless void

This desolated world, and thee, and me,

The conqueror and the conquered, and the wreck

Of that for which they combated!

                                                        Ai! Ai!

The elements obey me not. I sink                                                                                                  80

Dizzily down, ever, for ever, down.

And, like a cloud, mine enemy above

Darkens my fall with victory! Ai! Ai!

SCENE II. — The Mouth of a great River in the Island Atlantis. OCEAN is discovered reclining near the Shore; APOLLO stands beside him.


He fell, thou sayest, beneath his conqueror’s frown?


Ay, when the strife was ended which made dim                                                                          85

The orb I rule, and shook the solid stars,

The terrors of his eye illumined heaven

With sanguine light, through the thick ragged skirts

Of the victorious darkness, as he fell:

Like the last glare of day’s red agony,                                                                                           90

Which, from a rent among the fiery clouds,

Burns far along the tempest-wrinkled deep.


He sunk to the abyss? to the dark void? [page 108]


An eagle so caught in some bursting cloud

On Caucasus, his thunder-baffled wings                                                                                       95

Entangled in the whirlwind, and his eyes

Which gazed on the undazzling sun, now blinded

By the white lightning, while the ponderous hail

Beats on his struggling form, which sinks at length

Prone, and the aërial ice clings over it.                                                                                        100


Henceforth the fields of Heaven-reflecting sea

Which are my real, will heave, unstained with blood,

Beneath the uplifting winds, like plains of corn

Swayed by the summer air; my streams will flow

Round many-peopled continents, and round                                                                               105

Fortunate isles; and from their glassy thrones

Blue Proteus and his humid nymphs shall mark

The shadow of fair ships, as mortals see

The floating bark of the light-laden moon

With that white star, its sightless pilot’s crest,                                                                             110

Borne down the rapid sunset’s ebbing sea;

Tracking their path no more by blood and groans,

And desolation, and the mingled voice

Of slavery and command; but by the light

Of wave-reflected flowers, and floating odours,                                                                         115

And music soft, and mild, free, gentle voices,

That sweetest music, such as spirits love.


And is all gaze not on the deeds which make

My mind obscure with sorrow, as eclipse

Darkens the sphere I guide; but list, I hear                                                                                  120

The small, clear, silver lute of the young Spirit

That sits i’ the morning star. [page 109]


                                                 Thou must away;

Thy steeds will pause at even, till when farewell:

The loud deep calls me home even now to feed it

With azure calm of the emerald urns                                                                                           125

Which stand for ever full beside my throne.

Behold the Nereids under the green sea,

Their wavering limbs borne on the wind-like stream,

Their white arms lifted o’er their streaming hair

With garlands pied and starry sea-flower crowns,                                                                       130

Hastening to grace their mighty sister’s joy.

                                                                                                               [A sound of waves is heard.

It is the unpastured sea hungering for calm.

Peace, monster; I come now. Farewell.




HERCULES unbinds PROMETHEUS, who descends.


Most glorious among spirits! thus doth strength

To wisdom, courage, and long-suffering love,                                                                            135

And thee, who art the form they animate,

Minister like a slave.


                                   Thy gentle words

Are sweeter than my freedom long desired

And long delayed.

                                 Asia, thou light of my life,

Shadow of beauty unbeheld; and ye, [page 110]                                                                         140

Fair sister nymphs, who made long years of pain

Sweet to remember, through your love and care:

Henceforth we will not part. There is a cave,

All overgrown with trailing odorous plants                                                                                 144

Which curtain out the day with leaves and flowers,

And paved with veinéd emerald, and a fountain

Leaps in the midst with an awakening sound.

From its curved roof the mountain’s frozen tears,

Like snow, or silver, or long diamond spires,

Hang downward, raining forth a doubtful light:                                                                          150

And there is heard the ever-moving air,

Whispering without from tree to tree, and birds,

And bees; and all around are mossy seats,

And the rough walls are clothed with long soft grass;

A simple dwelling, which shall be our own;                                                                                155

Where we will sit and talk of time and change,

As the world ebbs and flows, ourselves unchanged.

What can hide man from mutability?

And if ye sigh, then I will smile; and thou,

Ione, shalt chaunt fragments of sea-music,                                                                                  160

Until I weep, when ye shall smile away

The tears she brought, which yet were sweet to shed.

We will entangle buds and flowers and beams

Which twinkle on the fountain’s brim, and make

Strange combinations out of common things,                                                                              165

Like human babes in their brief innocence;

And we will search, with looks and words of love,

For hidden thoughts each lovelier than the last,

Our unexhausted spirits; and like lutes

Touched by the skill of the enamoured wind,                                                                              170

Weave harmonies divine, yet ever new,

From difference sweet where discord cannot be;

And hither come, sped on the charméd winds

Which meet from all the points of heaven, as bees [page 111]

From every flower aërial Enna feeds,                                                                                          175

At their own island-homes in Himera,

The echoes of the human world, which tell

Of the low voice of love, almost unheard,

And dove-eyed pity’s murmured pain, and music,

Itself the echo of the heart, and all                                                                                               180

That tempers or improves man’s life, now free;

And lovely apparitions, dim at first,

Then radiant, as the mind, arising bright

From the embrace of beauty, whence the forms

Of which these are the phantoms, casts on them                                                                         185

The gathered rays which are reality,

Shall visit us, the progeny immortal

Of Painting, Sculpture, and rapt Poesy,

And arts, though unimagined, yet to be.

The wandering voices and the shadows these                                                                              190

Of all that man becomes, the mediators

Of that best worship, love, by him and us

Given and returned; swift shapes and sounds, which grow

More fair and soft as man grows wise and kind,

And, veil by veil, evil and error fall:                                                                                            195

Such virtue has the cave and place around.

                                                                                          [Turning to the SPIRIT OF THE HOUR.

For thee, fair Spirit, one toil remains. Ione,

Give her that curvéd shell, which Proteus old

Made Asia’s nuptial boon, breathing within it

A voice to be accomplished, and which thou                                                                              200

Didst hide in grass under the hollow rock.


Thou most desired Hour, more loved and lovely

Than all thy sisters, this [is] the mystic shell.

See the pale azure fading into silver [page 112]

Lining it with a soft yet glowing light:                                                                                        205

Looks it not like lulled music sleeping there?


It seems in truth the fairest shell of Ocean:

Its sound must be at once both sweet and strange.


Go, borne over the cities of mankind

On whirlwind-footed coursers: once again                                                                                  210

Outspeed the sun around the orbéd world;

And as thy chariot cleaves the kindling air,

Thou breathe into the many-folded shell,

Loosening its mighty music; it shall be

As thunder mingled with clear echoes: then                                                                                215

Return; and thou shalt dwell beside our cave.

And thou, O Mother Earth! —


                                                         I hear, I feel;

Thy lips are on me, and thy touch runs down
Even to the adamantine central gloom

Along these marble nerves; ’t is life, ’t is joy,                                                                             220

And through my withered, old, and icy frame

The warmth of an immortal youth shoots down

Circling. Henceforth the many children fair

Folded in my sustaining arms: all plants,

And creeping forms, and insects rainbow-winged,                                                                      225

And birds, and beasts, and fish, and human shapes,

Which drew disease and pain from my wan bosom,

Draining the poison of despair, shall take

And interchange sweet nutriment; to me

Shall they become like sister-antelopes [page 113]                                                                    220

By one fair dam, snow-white and swift as wind,

Nursed among the lilies near a brimming stream.

The dew-mists of my sunless sleep shall float

Under the stars like balm: night-folded flowers

Shall suck unwithering hues in their repose:                                                                               235

And men and beasts in happy dreams shall gather

Strength for the coming day, and all its joy:

And death shall be the last embrace of her

Who takes the life she gave, even as a mother,

Folding her child, says, “Leave me not again!”                                                                           240


O mother! wherefore speak the name of death?

Cease they to love, and move, and breathe, and speak,

Who die?


                   It would avail to reply:

Thou art immortal, and this tongue is known

But to the uncommunicating dead.                                                                                              245

Death is the veil which those who live call life:

They sleep, and it is lifted: and meanwhile

In mild variety the seasons mild

With rainbow-skirted showers, and odorous winds,

And long blue meteors cleansing the dull night,                                                                          250

And the life-kindling shafts of the keen sun’s

All-piercing bow, and the dew-mingled rain

Of the calm moonbeams, a soft influence mild,

Shall clothe the forests and the fields, ay, even

The crag-built deserts of the barren deep,                                                                                    255

With ever-living leaves, and fruits, and flowers.

And thou! There is a cavern where my spirit

Was panted forth in anguish whilst thy pain

Made my heart mad, and those who did inhale it

Became mad too, and built a temple there, [page 114]                                                               260

And spoke, and were oracular, and lured

The erring nations round to mutual war,

And faithless faith, such as Jove kept with thee;

Which breath now rises, as amongst tall weeds

A violet’s exhalation, and it fills                                                                                                  265

With a serener light and crimson air,

Intense, yet soft, the rocks and woods around;

It feeds the quick growth of the serpent vine,

And the dark linkéd ivy tangling wild,

And budding, blown, or odour-faded blooms                                                                              270

Which star the winds with points of coloured light,

As they rain through them; and bright golden globes

Of fruit, suspended in their own green heaven;

And through their veinéd leaves and amber stems

The flowers whose purple and translucid bowls                                                                          275

Stand ever mantling with aërial dew,

The drink of spirits: and it circles round,

Like the soft waving wings of noonday dreams,

Inspiring calm and happy thoughts, like mine,

Now thou art thus restored. This cave is thine.                                                                            280

Arise! Appear!

[A SPIRIT rises in the likeness of a winged child.

                              This is my torch-bearer;

Who let his lamp out in old time with gazing

On eyes from which he kindled it anew

With love, which is as fire, sweet daughter mine,

For such is that within thine own. Run, wayward,                                                                       285

And guide this company beyond the peak

Of Bacchie Nysa, Mӕnad-haunted mountain,

And beyond Indus and its tribute rivers,

Trampling the torrent streams and glassy lakes

With feet unwet, unwearied, undelaying,                                                                                    290

And up the green ravine, across the vale,

Beside the windless and crystalline pool [page 115]

Where ever lies on unerasing waves

The image of a temple, built above,

Distinct with column, arch, and architrave,                                                                                 295

And palm-like capital, and overwrought

And populous most with living imagery,

Praxitelean shapes, whose marble smiles

Fill the hushed air with everlasting love.

It is deserted now, but once it bore                                                                                              300

Thy name, Prometheus; there the emulous youths

Bore to thy honour through the divine gloom

The lamp which was thine emblem; even as those

Who bear the untransmitted torch of hope

Into the grave, across the night of life,                                                                                         305

As thou hast borne it most triumphantly

To this far goal of Time. Depart, farewell.

Beside that temple is the destined cave.

SCENE IV. — A Forest. In the Background a Cave. PROMETHEUS, ASIA, PANTHEA, IONE,    

          and the SPIRIT OF THE EARTH.


Sister, it is not earthly: how it glides

Under the leaves! how on its head there burns                                                                            310

A light, like a green star, whose emerald beams

Are twined with its fair hair! how, as it moves,

The splendour drops in flakes upon the grass!

Knowest thou it?


                               It is the delicate spirit

That guides the earth through heaven. From afar                                                                        315

The populous constellations call that light

The loveliest of the planets; and sometimes

It floats along the spray of the salt sea,

Or makes its chariot of a foggy cloud, [page 116]

Or walks through fields or cities while men sleep,                                                                      320

Or o’er the mountain-tops, or down the rivers,

Or through the green waste wilderness, as now,

Wondering at all it sees. Before Jove reigned

It loved our sister Asia, and it came

Each leisure hour to drink the liquid light                                                                                   325

Out of her eyes, for which it said it thirsted

As one bit by a dipsas, and with her

It made its childish confidence, and told her

All it had known or seen, for it saw much,

Yet idly reasoned what is saw; and called her,                                                                            330

For whence it sprung it knew not, nor do I,

Mother, dear mother.


                                     Mother, dearest mother;

May I then talk with thee as I was wont?

May I then hide my eyes in thy soft arms,

After thy looks have made them tired of joy?                                                                              335

May I then play beside thee the long noons,

When work is none in the bright silent air?


I love thee, gentlest being, and henceforth

Can cherish thee unenvied; speak, I pray:

Thy simple talk once solaced, now delights.                                                                               340


Mother, I am grown wiser, though a child

Cannot be wise like thee, within this day;

And happier too; happier and wiser both.

Thou knowest that toads, and snakes, and loathly worms,

And venomous and malicious beasts, and boughs [page 117]                                                    345

That bore ill berries in the woods, were ever

An hindrance to my walks o’er the green world:

And that, among the haunts of humankind,

Hard-featured men, or with proud, angry looks,

Or cold, staid gait, or false and hollow smiles,                                                                            350

Or the dull sneer of self-loved ignorance,

Or other such foul masks, with which ill thoughts

Hide that fair being whom we spirits call man;

And women too, ugliest of all things evil,

(Though fair, even in a world where thou art fair,                                                                       355

When good and kind, free and sincere like thee,)

When false or frowning made me sick at heart

To pass them, thought they slept, and I unseen.

Well, my path lately lay through a great city

Into the woody hills surrounding it:                                                                                             360

A sentinel was sleeping at the gate:

When there was heard a sound, so loud it shook

The towers amid the moonlight, yet more sweet

Than any voice but thine, sweetest of all;

A long, long sound, as it would never end:                                                                                  365

And all the inhabitants leapt suddenly

Out of their rest, and gathered in the streets,

Looking in wonder up to heaven, while yet

The music pealed along. I hid myself

Within a fountain in the public square,                                                                                        370

Where I lay like the reflex of the moon

Seen in a wave under green leaves; and soon

Those ugly human shapes and visages

Of which I spoke as having wrought me pain,

Past floating through the air, and fading still                                                                               375

Into the winds that scattered them; and those

From whom they past seemed mild and lovely forms

After some foul disguise had fallen, and all

Were somewhat changed, and after brief surprise [page 118]

And greetings of delighted wonder, all                                                                                        380

Went to their sleep again: and when the dawn

Came, wouldst thou think that toads, and snakes, and efts,

Could e’er be beautiful? yet so they were,

And that with little change of shape or hue:

All things had put their evil nature off:                                                                                        385

I cannot tell my joy, when o’er lake

Upon a drooping bough with nightshade twined,

I saw two azure halcyons clinging downward

And thinning one bright bunch of amber berries,

With quick long breaks, and in the deep there lay                                                                       390

Those lovely forms imaged as in a sky;

So with my thoughts full of these happy changes,

We meet again, the happiest change of all.


And never will we part, till thy chaste sister

Who guides the frozen and inconstant moon,                                                                              395

Will look on thy more warm and equal light

Till her heart thaw like flakes of April snow,

And love thee.


                                                             What! as Asia loves Prometheus?


Peace, wanton, thou art yet not old enough.

Think ye by gazing on each other’s eyes                                                                                     400

To multiply your lovely selves, and fill

With spheréd fires the interlunar air?


Nay, mother, while my sister trims her lamp

’T is hard I should go darkling. [page 119]


                                                                                             Listen; look!



We feel what thou hast heard and seen: yet speak!                                                                     405


Soon as the sound had ceased whose thunder filled

The abysses of the sky and the wide earth,

There was a change: the impalpable thin air

And the all-circling sunlight were transformed,

As if the sense of love, dissolved in them,                                                                                   410

Had folded itself round the spheréd world.

My vision then grew clear, and I could see

Into the mysteries of the universe.

Dizzy as with delight I floated down,

Winnowing the lightsome air with languid plumes,                                                                    415

My coursers sought their birthplace in the sun,

Where they henceforth will live exempt from toil,

Pasturing [on] flowers of vegetable fire;

And where moonlike car will stand within

A temple, gazed upon by Phidian forms                                                                                      420

Of thee, and Asia, and the Earth, and me,

And you fair nymphs, looking the love we feel;

In memory of the tidings it has borne;

Beneath a dome fretted with graven flowers,

Poised on twelve columns of resplendent stone,                                                                         425

And open to the bright and liquid sky.

Yoked to it by an amphisbӕnic snake

The likeness of those wingéd steeds will mock

The flight from which they find repose. Alas,

Whither has wandered now my partial tongue,                                                                           430

When all remains untold which ye would hear? [page 120]        

As I have said, I floated to the earth:

It was, as it is still, the pain of bliss

To move, to breathe, to be. I wandering went

Among the haunts and dwellings of mankind,                                                                             435

And first was disappointed not to see

Such mighty change as I had felt within,

Expressed in outward things; but soon I looked,

And behold, thrones were kingless, and men walked

One with the other even as spirits do:                                                                                          440

None fawned, none trampled; hate, disdain, or fear,

Self-love or self-contempt, on human brows

No more inscribed, as o’er the gate of hell,

“All hope abandon ye who enter here;”

None frowned, none trembled, none with eager fear                                                                   445

Gazed on another’s eye of cold command,

Until the subject of a tyrant’s will

Became, worse fate, the abject of his own,

Which spurred him, like an outspent horse, to death.

None wrought his lips in truth-entangling lines                                                                           450

Which smiled the lie his tongue disdained to speak;

None, with firm sneer, trod out in his own heart

The sparks of love and hope till there remained

Those bitter ashes, a soul self-consumed,

And the wretch crept a vampire among men,                                                                              455

Infecting all with his own hideous ill;

None talked that common, false, cold, hollow talk

Which makes the heart deny the yes it breathes,

Yet question that unmeant hypocrisy

With such a self-mistrust as has no name.                                                                                   460

And women too, frank, beautiful, and kind

As the free heaven which rains fresh light and dew

On the wide earth, past; gentle, radiant forms,

From custom’s evil taint exempt and pure;

Speaking the wisdom once they could not think, [page 121]                                                      465

Looking emotions once they feared to feel,

And changed to all which once they dared not be,

Yet being now, made earth like heaven; nor pride,

Nor jealousy, nor envy, nor ill-shame,

The bitterest of those drops of treasured gall,                                                                              470

Spoilt the sweet taste of the nepenthe, love.

Thrones, altars, judgment-seats, and prisons, — wherein,

And beside which, by wretched men were borne

Sceptres, tiaras, swords, and chains, and tomes

Of reasoned wrong, glozed on by ignorance, —                                                                         475

Were like those monstrous and barbaric shapes,

The ghosts of a no-more-remembered fame,

Which from their unworn obelisks, look forth

In triumph o’er the palaces and tombs

Of those who were their conquerors, mouldering round,                                                            480

Those imaged, to the pride of kings and priests,

A dark yet mighty faith, a power as wide

As is the world it wasted, and are now

But an astonishment. Even so the tools

And emblems of its last captivity,                                                                                                485

Amid the dwelling of the peopled earth,

Stand, not o’erthrown, but unregarded now;

And those foul shapes, abhorred by god and man,

Which, under many a name and many a form,

Strange, savage, ghastly, dark, and execrable,                                                                             490

Were Jupiter, the tyrant of the world;

And which the nations, panic-stricken, served

With blood, and hearts broken by long hope, and love

Dragged to his altars soiled and garlandless,

And slain among men’s unreclaiming tears,                                                                                495

Flattering the thing they feared, which fear was hate, — [page 122]

Frown, mouldering fast, o’er their abandoned shrines.

The painted veil, by those who were, called life,

Which mimicked, as with colours idly spread,

All men believed and hoped, is torn aside;                                                                                  500

The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains,

Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man:

Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless,

Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king

Over himself; just gentle, wise: but man.                                                                                    505

Passionless? no, yet free from guilt or pain,

Which were, for his will made or suffered them;

Nor yet exempt, though ruling them like slaves,

From chance, and death, and mutability,

The clogs of that which else might oversoar                                                                               510

The loftiest star of unascended heaven,

Pinnacled dim in the intense inane.


SCENE. — A part of the Forest near the Cave of PROMETHEUS. PANTHEA and IONE are    

    sleeping; they awaken gradually during the first Song.


            The pale stars are gone!

            For the sun, their swift shepherd,

            To their folds them compelling,

            In the depths of the dawn,

Hastes, in meteor-eclipsing array, and they flee                                                                              5

            Beyond his blue dwelling,

            As fauns flee the leopard,

                But where are ye?

            [A train of dark Forms and Shadows passes by confusedly singing. [page 123]

            Here, oh, here:

            We bear the bier                                                                                                                 10

    Of the Father of many a cancelled year!

            Spectres we

            Of the dead Hours be,

    We bear Time to his tomb in eternity.

            Strew, oh, strew                                                                                                                  15

            Hair, not yew!

    Wet the dusty pall with tears, not dew!

            Be the faded flowers

            Of Death’s bare bowers

    Spread on the corpse of the King of Hours!

            Haste, oh, haste!                                                                                                                 21

            As shades are chased,

    Trembling, by day, from heaven’s blue waste,

            We melt away,

            Like dissolving spray,                                                                                                        25

    From the children of a diviner day,

            With the lullaby

            Of the winds that die

    On the bosom of their own harmony!


             What dark forms were they?                                                                                             30


            The past Hours weak and gray,

            With the spoil which their toil

               Raked together

    From the conquest but One could foil.


            Have they past? [page 124]                                                                                               35


                                                 They have past;                                                                             35

            They outspeeded the blast,

            While ’t is said, they are fled:


            Whither, oh, whither?


To the dark, to the past, to the dead.


               Bright clouds float in heaven,                                                                                         40

               Dew-stars gleam on earth,

               Waves assemble on ocean:

               They are gathered and driven

By the storm of delight, by the panic of glee!

               They shake with emotion,                                                                                               45

               They dance in their mirth.

                   But where are ye?

               The pine-boughs are singing

               Old songs with new gladness,

               The billows and fountains                                                                                               50

               Fresh music are flinging,

Like the notes of a spirit from land and from sea;

               The storms mock the mountains

               With the thunder of gladness.

                   But where are ye?                                                                                                        55


What charioteers are these?


                                                                                Where are their chariots? [page 125]


The voice of the Spirits of Air and of Earth

    Has drawn back the figured curtain of sleep

Which covered our being and darkened our birth

    In the deep.


                                                              In the deep?


Oh, below the deep.


An hundred ages we had been kept                                                                                                61

    Cradled in visions of hate and care,

And each one who waked as his brother slept,

    Found the truth —


Worse than his visions were!


We have heard the lute of Hope in sleep;                                                                                      65

    We have known the voice of Love in dreams;

We have felt the wand of Power, and leap —


    As the billows leap in the morning beams!


Weave the dance on the floor of the breeze,

    Pierce with song heaven’s silent light,                                                                                       70

Enchant the day that too swiftly flees,

    To check its flight ere the cave of night. [page 126]

Once the hungry Hours were hounds

    Which chased the day like a bleeding deer,

And it limped and stumbled with many wounds                                                                           75

    Through the nightly dells of the desert year.

But now, oh weave the mystic measure

    Of music, and dance, and shapes of light;

Let the Hours, and the spirits of might and pleasure,

    Like the clouds and sunbeams, unite!                                                                                        80




See, where Spirits of the human mind,

Wrapt in sweet sounds, as in bright veils, approach!


               We join the throng

               Of the dance and the song,

By the whirlwind of gladness borne along;                                                                                   85

               As the flying-fish leap

               From the Indian deep,

And mix with the sea-birds, half asleep.


Whence come ye, so wild and so fleet? —

For sandals of lightning are on your feet,                                                                                      90

And your wings are soft and swift as thought,

And your eyes are as love which is veiléd not.


               We come from the mind

                Of humankind,

Which was late so dusk, and obscene, and blind; [page 127]                                                       95

               Now ’t is an ocean

               Of clear emotion,

A heaven of serene and mighty motion.

               From that deep abyss

               Of wonder and bliss,                                                                                                     100

Whose caverns are crystal palaces;

               From those skyey towers

               Where Thought’s crowned powers

Sit watching your dance, ye happy Hours!

               From the dim recesses                                                                                                   105

               Of woven caresses,

Where lovers catch ye by your loose tresses;

               From the azure isles,

               Where sweet Wisdom smiles,

Delaying your ships with her siren wiles.                                                                                    110

               From the temples high

               Of Man’s ear and eye,

Roofed over Sculpture and Poesy;

               From the murmurings

               Of the unsealed springs                                                                                                 115

Where Science bedews his dædal wings.

               Years after years,

               Through blood, and tears,

And a thick hell of hatreds, and hopes, and fears,

               We waded and flew,                                                                                                      120

               And the islets were few

Where the bud-blighted flowers of happiness grew.

               Our feet now, every palm,

               Are sandalled with calm,

And the dew of our wings is a rain of balm; [page 128]                                                             125

               And beyond our eyes,

               The human love lies

Which makes all its gazes on Paradise.


Then weave the web of the mystic measure;

    From the depths of the sky and the ends of the earth,                                                              130

Come, swift Spirits of might and of pleasure,

    Fill the dance and the music of mirth,

As the waves of a thousand streams rush by

To an ocean of splendour and harmony!


               Our spoil is won,                                                                                                           135

               Our task is done,

We are free to dive, or soar, or run;

               Beyond and around,

               Or within the bound

Which clips the world with darkness round.                                                                                140

               We’ll pass the eyes

               Of the starry skies

Into the hoar deep to colonize:

               Death, Chaos, and Night,

               From the sound of our flight,                                                                                        145

Shall flee, like mist from a tempest’s might.

               And Earth, Air, and Light,

               And the Spirit of Might,

Which drives round the stars in their fiery flight;

               And Love, Thought, and Breath,                                                                                  150

               The powers that quell Death,

Wherever we soar shall assemble beneath. [page 129]

               And our singing shall build

               In the void’s loose field

A world for the Spirit of Wisdom to wield;                                                                                 155

               We will take our plan

               From the new world of man,

And our work shall be called Promethean.


Break the dance, and scatter the song;

    Let some depart, and some remain.                                                                                         160


  We, beyond heaven, are driven along:


    Us the enchantments of earth retain:


Ceaseless, and rapid, and fierce, and free,

With the Spirits which build a new earth and sea,

And a heaven where yet heaven could never be.                                                                         165


Solemn, and slow, and serene, and bright,

Leading the Day, and outspeeding the Night,

With the powers of a world of perfect light.


We whirl, singing loud, round the gathering sphere,

Till the trees, and the beasts, and the clouds appear

From its chaos made calm by love, not fear.                                                                               171


We encircle the ocean and mountains of earth, [page 130]

And the happy forms of its death and birth

Change to the music of our sweet mirth.


Break the dance, and scatter the song,                                                                                         175

    Let some depart, and some remain;

Wherever we fly we lead along

In leashes, like starbeams, soft yet strong,

    The clouds that are heavy with love’s sweet rain.


Ha! they are gone!


                                  Yet feel you no delight                                                                               180

From the past sweetness?


                                          As the bare green hill,

When some soft cloud vanishes into rain,

Laughs with a thousand drops of sunny water

To the unpavilioned sky!


                                         Even whilst we speak

New notes arise. What is that awful sound?                                                                                185


’T is the deep music of the rolling world,

Kindling within the strings of the waved air

Æolian modulations.


                                     Listen, too,

How every pause is filled with under-notes, [page 131]

Clear, silver, icy, keen awakening tones,                                                                                     190

Which pierce the sense, and live within the soul,

As the sharp stars pierce winter’s crystal sea.

And gaze upon themselves within the sea.


But see where, though two openings in the forest

Which hanging branches overcanopy,                                                                                         195

And where two runnels of rivulet

Between the close moss, violet-inwoven,

Have made their path of melody, like sisters

Who part with sighs that they may meet in smiles,

Turning their dear disunion to an isle                                                                                          200

Of lovely grief, a wood of sweet sad thoughts;

Two visions of strange radiance float upon

The ocean-like enchantment of strong sound,

Which flows intenser, keener deeper yet,

Under the ground and through the windless air.                                                                          205


I see a chariot like that thinnest boat

In which the mother of the months is borne

By ebbing night in her western cave,

When she upsprings from interlunar dreams;

O’er which is curved an orblike canopy                                                                                      210

Of gentle darkness, and the hills and the woods

Distinctly seen through that dusk airy veil,

Regard like shapes in an enchanter’s glass;

Its wheels are solid clouds, azure and gold,

Such as the genii of the thunderstorm                                                                                          215

Pile on the floor of the illumined sea

When the sun rushes under it; they roll

And move and grow as with an inward wind;

Within it sits a wingéd infant, white [page 132]

Its countenance, like the whiteness of bright snow,                                                                     220

Its plumes are as feathers of sunny frost,

Its limbs gleam white, through the wind-flowing folds

Of its white robe, woof of ethereal pearl.

Its hair is white, the brightness of white light

Scattered in strings; yet its two eyes are heavens                                                                        225

Of liquid darkness, which is deity

Within seems pouring, as a strom is poured

From jaggéd, out of their arrowy lashes,

Tempering the cold and radiant air around,

With fire that is not brightness; in its hand                                                                                  230

It sways a quivering moonbeam, from whose point

A guiding power directs the chariot’s prow

Over its wheeléd clouds, which as they roll

Over the grass, and flowers, and waves, wake sounds,

Sweet as a singing rain of silver dew.                                                                                          235


And from the opening in the wood

Rushes, with loud and whirlwind harmony,

A sphere, which is as many thousand spheres,

Solid as crystal, yet through all its mass

Flow, as through empty space, music and light:                                                                          240

Ten thousand orbs involving and involved,

Purple and azure, white, green, and golden,

Sphere within sphere; and every space between

Peopled with unimaginable shapes,

Such as ghosts dream dwell in the lampless deep,                                                                       245

Yet each intertranspicuous, and they whirl

Over each other with a thousand motions,

Upon a thousand sightless axles spinning,

And with the force of self-destroying swiftness,

Intensely, slowly, solemnly roll on,                                                                                             250

Kindling with mingled sounds, and many tones, [page 133]

Intelligible words and music wild.

With mighty whirl the multitudinous orb

Grinds the bright brook into an azure mist

Of elemental subtlety, like light;                                                                                                  255

And the wild odour of the forest flowers,

The music of the living grass and air,

The emerald light of leaf-entangled beams,

Round its intense yet self-conflicting speed

Seem kneaded into one aërial mass                                                                                             260

Which drowns the sense. Within the orb itself,

Pillowed upon its alabaster arms,

Like to a child o’erwearied with sweet toil,

On its own folded wings and wavy hair,

The Spirit of the Earth is laid asleep,                                                                                           265

And you can see its little lips are moving,

Amid the changing light of their own smiles,

Like one who talks of what he loves in dream.


’T is only mocking the orb’s harmony.


And from a star upon its forehead, shoot,                                                                                    270

Like swords of azure fire, or golden spears

With tyrant-quelling myrtle overtwined,

Embleming heaven and earth united now,

Vast beams like spokes of some invisible wheel                                                                         274

Which whirl as the orb whirls, swifter than thought,

Filling the abyss with sun-like lightnings,

And perpendicular now, and now transverse,

Pierce the dark soil, and as they pierce and pass,

Make bare the secrets of the earth’s deep heart;

Infinite mine of adamant and gold,                                                                                              280

Valueless stones, and unimagined gems, [page 134]

And caverns on crystalline columns poised

With vegetable silver overspread;

Wells of unfathomed fire, and water-springs

Whence the great sea even as a child is fed,                                                                                285

Whose vapours clothe earth’s monarch mountain-tops

With kingly, ermine snow. The beams flash on,

And make appear the melancholy ruins

Of cancelled cycles: anchors, beaks of ships;

Planks turned to marble; quivers, helms, and spears,

And gorgon-headed targes, and the wheels                                                                                 291

Of scythéd chariots, and the emblazonry

Of trophies, standards, and armorial beasts,

Round which Death laughed, sepulchred emblems

Of dead destruction, ruin within ruin!                                                                                          295

The wrecks beside of many a city vast,

Whose population which the earth grew over

Was mortal, but not human; see, they lie,

Their monstrous works, and uncouth skeletons,

Their statues, homes and fanes; prodigious shapes                                                                     300

Huddled in gray annihilation, split,

Jammed in the hard, black deep; and, over these,

The anatomies of unknown wingéd things,

And fishes which were isles of living scale,

And serpents, bony chains, twisted around                                                                                  305

The iron crags, or within heaps of dust

To which the tortuous strength of their last pangs

Had crushed the iron crags; and over these

The jaggéd alligator, and the might

Of earth-convulsing behemoth, which once                                                                                310

Were monarch beasts, and on the slimy shores,

And weed-overgrown continents of earth,

Increased and multiplied like summer worms

On an abandoned corpse, till the blue globe

Wrapt deluge round it like a cloke, and they [page 135]                                                             315

Yelled, gasped, and were abolished; or some God

Whose throne was in a comet, past, and cried,

Be not! And like my words they were no more.


    The joy, the triumph, the delight, the madness!

    The boundless, overflowing, bursting gladness,                                                                      320

The vaporous exultation not to be confined!

    Ha! ha! the animation of delight

    Which wraps me, like an atmosphere of light,

And bears me as a cloud is borne by its own wind!


    Brother mine, calm wanderer,                                                                                                  325

    Happy globe of land and air,

Some Spirit is darted like a beam from thee,

    Which penetrates my frozen frame,

    And passes with the warmth of flame,

With love, and odour, and deep melody                                                                                      330

           Through me, through me!


    Ha! ha! the caverns of my hollow mountains,

    My cloven fire-crags, sound-exulting fountains,

Laugh with a vast and inextinguishable laughter.

    The oceans, and the deserts, and the abysses,                                                                          335

    And the deep air’s unmeasured wilderness,

Answer from all their clouds and billows, echoing after.

    They cry aloud as I do: Sceptred curse,

    Who all our green and azure universe

Threatenedst to muffle round with black destruction, sending [page 136]                                 340

    A solid cloud to rain hot thunder-stones,

    And splinter and knead down my children’s bones,

All I bring forth, to one void mass battering and blending;

    Until each crag-like tower, and storied column,

    Palace, and obelisk, and temple solemn,                                                                                  345

My imperial mountains crowned with cloud, and snow, and fire;

    My sea like forests, every blade and blossom

    Which finds a grave or cradle in bosom,

Were stamped by thy strong hate into a lifeless mire.

    How art thou sunk, withdrawn, covered, drunk up                                                                  350

    By thirsty nothing, as the brackish cup

Drained by a desert-troop, a little drop for all;

    And from beneath, around, within, above,

    Filling thy void annihilation, love

Bursts in like light on caves cloven by the thunderball!                                                              355


    The snow upon my lifeless mountains

    Is loosened into living fountains,

My solid oceans flow, and sing, and shine:

    A spirit from my heart bursts forth,

    It clothes with unexpected birth                                                                                               360

My cold bare bosom: Oh, it must be thine

               On mine, on mine!

    Gazing on thee, I feel, I know,

    Green stalks burst forth, and bright flowers grow,

And living shapes upon my bosom move: [page 137]                                                                365

    Music is in the sea and air,

    Wingéd clouds soar and there,

Dark with the rain new buds are dreaming of:

              ’T is love, all love!


    It interpenetrates my granite mass,                                                                                          370

    Through tangled roots and trodden clay doth pass,

Into the utmost leaves and delicatest flowers;

    Upon the winds, among the clouds ’t is spread:

    It wakes a life in the forgotten dead, —

They breathe a spirit up from their obscurest bowers.

    And like a storm bursting its cloudy prison                                                                             376

    With thunder and with whirlwind, has arisen

Out of the lampless caves of unimagined being:

    With earthquake shock and swiftness making shiver

    Thought’s stagnant chaos, unremoved for ever,                                                                      380

Till hate, and fear, and pain, light-vanquished shadows, fleeing,

    Leave Man, who was a many-sided mirror,

    Which could distort to many a shade of error,

This true fair world of things, a sea reflecting love;

    Which over all his kind as the sun’s heaven                                                                            385

    Gliding o’er ocean, smooth, serene, and even

Darting from starry depths radiance and life, doth move:

    Leave Man, even as a leprous child is left,

    Who follows a sick beast to some warm cleft

Of rocks, through which the might of healing springs is poured, —                                           390

    Then when it wanders home with rosy smile, [page 138]

    Unconscious, and its mother fears awhile

It is a spirit, then, weeps on her child restored:

    Man, oh, not men! a chain of linkéd thought,

    Of love and might to be divided not,                                                                                       395

Compelling the elements with adamantine stress;

    As the sun rules, even with a tyrant’s gaze,

    The unquiet republic of the maze

Of planets, struggling fierce towards heaven’s free wilderness:

    Man, one harmonious soul of many a soul,                                                                             400

    Whose nature is its own divine control,

Where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea;

    Familiar acts are beautiful through love;

    Labour, and pain, and grief, in life’s green grove

Sport like tame beasts, none knew how gentle they could be!                                                    405

    His will, with all mean passions, bad delights,

    And selfish cares, its trembling satellites,

A spirit ill to guide, but mighty to obey,

    Is a tempest-wingéd ship, whose helm

    Love rules through waves which dare not overwhelm,                                                           410

Forcing life’s wildest shores to own its sovereign sway.

    All things confess his strength. Through the cold of mass

    Of marble and of colour his dreams pass;

Bright threads whence mothers weave the robes their children wear;

    Language is perpetual orphic song. [page 139]                                                                       415

    Which rules with dædal harmony a throng

Of thoughts and forms, which else senseless and shapeless were.

    The lightning is his slave; heaven’s utmost deep

    Gives up her stars, and like a flock of sheep

They pass before his eye, are numbered, and roll on!                                                                 420

    The tempest is his steed, he strides with air;

    And the abyss shouts from her depth laid bare,

Heaven, hast thou secrets? Man unveils me; I have none.


    The shadow of white death has past

    From my path in heaven at last,                                                                                               425

A clinging shroud of solid frost and sleep;

    And through my newly-woven bowers,

    Wander happy paramours,

Less mighty, but as mild as those who keep

               Thy vales more deep.                                                                                                    430


    As the dissolving warmth of dawn may fold

    A half infrozen dew-globe, green, and gold,

And crystalline, till it becomes a wingéd mist,

    And wanders up the vault of the blue day,

    Outlives the noon, and one the sun’s last ray                                                                           435

Hangs o’er the sea, a fleece of fire and amethyst.


    Thou art folded, thou art lying

    In the light which is undying

Of thine own joy, and heaven’s smile divine;

    All suns and constellations shower [page 140]                                                                       440

    On thee light, a life, a power

Which doth array thy spear; thou pourest thine

        On mine, on mine!


    I spin beneath my pyramid of night,

    Which points into the heavens, dreaming delight,                                                                   445

Murmuring victorious joy in my enchanted sleep;

    As a youth lulled in love-dreams faintly sighing,

    Under the shadow of his beauty lying,

Which round his rest a watch of light and warmth doth keep.


    As in the soft and sweet eclipse,                                                                                                45

    When soul meets soul on lover’s lips,

High hearts are calm, and brightest eyes are dull;

    So when thy shadow falls on me,

    Then am I mute and still, by thee

Covered; of thy love, Orb most beautiful,                                                                                   455

               Full, oh, too full!

    Thou art speeding round the sun,

    Brightest world of many a one;

    Green and azure sphere which shinest

    With a light which is divinest                                                                                                  460

    Among all the lamps of heaven

    To whom life and light is given.

    I, thy crystal paramour,

    Borne beside thee by a power

    Like a polar paradise,                                                                                                               465

    Magnet-like, of lover’s eyes;

    I, a most enamoured maiden

    Whose weak brain is overladen [page 141]

    With the pleasure of love,

    Maniac-like around thee move                                                                                                 470

    Gazing, an insatiate bride,

    On thy form from every side

    Like a Mænad, round the cup

    Which Agave lifted up

    In the weird Cadmean forests.                                                                                                 475

    Brother, whereso’er thou soarest

    I must hurry, whirl and follow

    Through the heavens wide and hollow,

    Sheltered by the warm embrace

    Of thy soul from hungry space,                                                                                                480

    Drinking from thy sense and sight

    Beauty, majesty, and might,

    As a lover or cameleon

    Grows like what it looks upon;

    As a violet’s gentle eye                                                                                                            485

    Gazes on the azure sky

Until its hue grows like what it beholds,

    As a gray and watery mist

    Glows like solid amethyst

Athwart the western mountain it enfolds,                                                                                    490

    When the sunset sleeps

        Upon its snow.


           And the weak day weeps

               That it should be so

O gentle Moon, the voice of thy delight                                                                                      495

Falls on me like thy clear and tender light

Soothing the seaman, borne the summer night

        Through isles for ever calm;

O gentle Moon, thy crystal accents pierce

The caverns of my pride’s deep universe, [page 142]                                                                 500

Charming the tiger joy, whose tramplings fierce

        Made wounds which need thy balm.


I rise as from a bath of sparkling water,

A bath of azure light, among dark rocks,

Out of the stream of sound.


                                              Ah me! sweet sister,                                                                       505

The stream of sound has ebbed away from us,

And you pretend to rise out of its wave,

Because your words fall like the clear, soft dew

Shaken from a bathing wood-nymph’s limbs and hair.


Peace! peace! A mighty Power, which is as darkness,                                                                510

Is rising out of Earth, and from the sky

Is showered like night, and from within the air

Bursts, like eclipse which had been gathered up

Into the pores of sunlight: the bright visions,

Wherein the singing spirits rode and shone,                                                                                515

Gleam like pale meteors through a watery night.


There is a sense of words upon mine ear.


An universal sound like words: Oh, list!


Thou, Earth, calm empire of a happy soul,

    Sphere of divinest shape and harmonies, [page 143]                                                              520

Beautiful orb! gathering as thou dost roll

    The love which paves thy path along the skies:


        I hear: I am as a drop of dew that dies.


Thou, Moon, which gazest on the nightly Earth

    With wonder, as it gazes upon thee;                                                                                        525

Whilst each to men, and beasts, and the swift of birth

    Of birds, is beauty, love, calm, harmony:


        I hear: I am a leaf shaken by thee!


Ye kings of suns and stars! Dæmons and Gods,

    Æthereal Dominations! who possess                                                                                       530

Elysian, windless, fortunate abodes

    Beyond Heaven’s constellated wilderness:


    Our great Republic hears; we are blest, and bless.


Ye happy dead! whom beams of brightest verse

    Are clouds to hide, not colours to portray,                                                                               535

Whether your nature is that universe

    Which once ye saw and suffered —


                                                            Or as they

Whom we have left, we change and pass away. [page 144]


Ye elemental Genii, who have homes

    From man’s high mind even to the central stone                                                                     540

Of sullen lead; from Heaven’s star-fretted domes

    To the dull weed some sea-worm battens on:


We hear: thy words waken Oblivion.


Spirits, whose homes are flesh: ye beasts and birds,

    Ye worms, and fish; ye living leaves and buds;                                                                       545

Lightning and wind; and ye untameable herds,

    Meteors and mists, which throng air’s solitudes:


    Thy voice to us is wind among still woods.


Man, who wert once a despot and a slave;

    A dupe and a deceiver; a decay;                                                                                              550

A traveller from the cradle to the grave

    Through the dim night of this immortal day:


    Speak! Thy strong words may never pass away.


This is the day, which down the void abysm

At the Earth-born’s spell yawns for Heaven’s despotism,                                                           555

    And Conquest is dragged captive through the deep:

Love, from its awful throne of patient power

In the wise heart, from the last giddy hour [page 145]

    Of dread endurance, from the slippery, steep,

And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs                                                                             560

And folds over the world its healing wings.

Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance,

These are the seals of that most firm assurance

    Which bars the pit over Destruction’s strength;

And if, with infirm hand, Eternity,                                                                                              565

Mother of many acts and hours, should free

    The serpent that would clasp her with his length,

These are the spells by which to re-assume

An empire o’er the disentangled doom.

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;                                                                                 570

To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;

    To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;

To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates

From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;

    Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;                                                                                 575

This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be

Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;

This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory! [page 146]


TELL me, thou star, whose wings of light

Speed thee in thy fiery flight,

In what cavern of the night

        Will thy pinions close now?

Tell me, moon, thou pale and gray                                                                                                  5

Pilgrim of heaven’s homeless way,

In what depth of night or day

        Seekest thou repose now?

Weary wind, who wanderest

Like the world’s rejected guest,                                                                                                     10

Hast thou still some secret nest

        On the tree or billow?



AND like a dying lady, lean and pale,

Who totters forth, wrapt in a gauzy veil,

Out of her chamber, led by the insane

And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,

The moon arose up in the murky East,                                                                                            5

A white and shapeless mass.



            ART thou pale for weariness

        Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,

            Wandering companionless

        Among the stars that have a different birth, —

And ever changing, like a joyless eye                                                                                              5

That finds no object worth constancy?

1820. [page 147]


    GOOD NIGHT? ah, no; the hour is ill

        Which serves those it should unite;

    Let us remain together still,

           Then it will be good night.

    How can I call the lone night good,                                                                                             5

        Though thy sweet wishes wing its flight?

    Be it not said, thought, understood,

            Then it will be good night.

    To hearts which near each other move

        From evening close to morning light                                                                                     10

    The night is good; because, my love,

            They never say good night.



RARELY, rarely, comest thou,

    Spirit of Delight!

Wherefore hast thou left me now

    Many a day and night?

Many a weary night and day                                                                                                            5

’T is since thou art fled away.

How shall ever one like me

    Win thee back again?

With the joyous and the free

    Thou wilt scoff at pain.                                                                                                              10

Spirit false! thou hast forgot

All but those who need thee not. [page 148]

As a lizard with the shade

    Of a trembling leaf,

Thou with sorrow art dismayed;                                                                                                    15

    Even the sighs of grief

Reproach thee, that thou art not near,

And reproach thou wilt not hear.

Let me set my mournful ditty

    To a merry measure:                                                                                                                  20

Thou wilt never come for pity,    

    Thou wilt come for pleasure;

Pity then will cut away

Those cruel wings, and thou wilt stay.

I love all that thou lovest,                                                                                                               25

    Spirit of Delight!

The fresh Earth in new leaves drest,

     And the starry night;

Autumn evening, and the morn

When the golden mists are born.                                                                                                    30

I love snow, and all the forms

    Of the radiant frost;

I love waves, and winds, and storms,

    Everything almost

Which is Nature’s, and may be                                                                                                      35

Untainted by man’s misery.

I love tranquil solitude,

   And such society

As is quiet, wise, and good;

    Between thee and me                                                                                                                 40

What difference? But thou dost possess

The things I seek, not love them less. [page 149]

I love Love — though he has wings,

    And like light can flee,

But, above all other things,                                                                                                            45

    Spirit, I love thee —

Thou art love and life! O come,

Make once more my heart thy home!


TO —

I FEAR thy kisses, gentle maiden, —

    Thou needest not fear mine;

My spirit is too deeply laden

    Ever to burthen thine.

I fear thy mien, thy tones, thy motion, —                                                                                        5

    Thou needest not fear mine;

Innocent is the heart’s devotion

    With which I worship thine.




SACRED Goddess, Mother Earth,

     Thou from whose immortal bosom

Gods, and men, and beasts have birth,

    Leaf and blade, and bud and blossom,

Breathe thine influence most divine                                                                                                5

On thine own child, Proserpine.

If with mists of evening dew

   Thou dost nourish these young flowers [page 150]

Till they grow, in scent and hue

    Fairest children of the Hours,                                                                                                     10

Breathe thine influence most divine

On thine own child, Proserpine.




THE warm sun is failing, the bleak wind is wailing,

The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying;

                       And the year

On the earth, her death-bed, in shroud of leaves dead,

                       Is lying.                                                                                                                     5

               Come, months, come away,

               From November to May,

               In your saddest array;

               Follow the bier

               Of the dead cold year,                                                                                                     10

And like dim shadows watch by her sepulchre.

The chill rain is falling, the nipped worm is crawling,

The rivers are swelling, the thunder is knelling

                       From the year:

The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone                                                             15

                       To his dwelling.

               Come, months, come away;

               Put on white, black, and gray;

               Let your light sisters play —

               Ye follow the bier                                                                                                           20

               Of the dead cold year,

And make her grave green with tear on tear.

    1820. [page 151]


 I DREAMED that, as I wandered by the way,

    Bare winter suddenly was changed to spring,

And gentle odours led my steps astray,

    Mixed with a sound of waters murmuring

Along a shelving bank of turf, which lay                                                                                         5

    Under a copse, and hardly dared to fling

Its green arms around the bosom of the stream,

But kissed it and then fled, as thou mightiest in dream.

There grew pied wind-flowers and violets;

    Daisies, those pearled Areturi of the earth;                                                                                10

The constellated flower that never sets;

    Faint oxlips; tender bluebells, at whose birth

The sod scarce heaved; and that tall flower that wets —

    Like a child, half in tenderness and mirth —

Its mother’s face with heaven-collected tears,                                                                               15

When the low wind, its playmate’s voice, it hears.

And in the warm hedge grew lush eglantine,

   Green cowbind and the moonlight-coloured may,

And cherry-blossoms, and white cups, whose wine

    Was the bright dew yet drained not by the Day;                                                                        20

And wild roses, and ivy serpentine,

    With its dark buds and leaves, wandering astray;

And flowers azure, black, and streaked with gold,

Fairer than any wakened eyes behold.

And nearer to the river’s trembling edge                                                                                       25

    There grew broad flag-flowers, purple prankt with white;

And starry river-buds among the sedge;

    And floating water-lilies, broad and bright, [page 152]

Which lit the oak that overhung the hedge

    With moonlight beams of their own watery light;                                                                     30

And bulrushes, and reeds of such deep green

As soothed the dazzled eye with sober sheen.

Methought that of these visionary flowers

    I made a nosegay, bound in such a way

That the same hues, which in their natural bowers                                                                        35

    Were mingled or opposed, the like array

Kept these imprisoned children of the Hours

    Within my hand, — and then, elate and gay,

I hastened to the spot whence I had come,

That I might there present it! — O, to whom?                                                                               40



THE sleepless Hours who watch me, as I lie

    Curtained with star-inwoven tapestries

From the broad moonlight of the sky,

    Fanning the busy dreams from my dim eyes, —

Waking me when their Mother, the gray Dawn,                                                                              5

Tells them that dreams and the moon is gone.

Then I arise, and climbing Heaven’s blue dome,

    I walk over the mountains and the waves,

Leaving my robe upon the ocean-foam;

    My footsteps pave the clouds with fire; the caves                                                                     10

Leaves the green earth to my embraces bare.

The sunbeams are my shafts, with which I kill

    Deceit, that loves the night and fears the day;

All men who do or even imagine ill                                                                                               15

    Fly me, and from the glory of my ray [page 153]

Good minds and open actions take new might,

Until diminished by the reign of night.

I feed the clouds, the rainbows, and the flowers,

    With their æthereal colours; the Moon’s globe                                                                          20

And the pure stars in their eternal bowers

    Are cinctured with my power as with a robe;

Whatever lamps on Earth or Heaven may shine

Are portions of one power, which is mine.

I stand at noon upon the peak of Heaven;                                                                                      25

    Then with unwilling steps I wander down

Into the clouds of the Atlantic even;

    For grief that I depart they weep and frown:

What look is more delightful than the smile

With which I soothe them from the western isle?                                                                          30

I am the eye with which the universe

    Beholds itself and knows itself divine;

All harmony of instrument or verse,

    All prophecy, all medicine, are mine,

All light of art or nature; —to my song                                                                                         35

Victory and praise in their own right belong.



FROM the forests and highlands

    We come, we come;

From the river-girt islands,

    Where loud waves are dumb

        Listening to my sweet pipings.                                                                                                5

The wind in the reeds and the rushes,

    The bees on the bells of thyme, [page 154]

The birds on the myrtle-bushes,

    The cicale above in the lime,

And the lizards below in the grass,                                                                                               10

Were as silent as ever old Tmolus was,

        Listening to my sweet pipings.

Liquid Peneus was flowing,

    And all dark Tempe lay

In Pelion’s shadow, outgrowing                                                                                                    15

    The light of the dying day,

        Speeded by my sweet pipings.

The Sileni, and Sylvans, and Fauns,

    And the Nymphs of the woods and waves,

To the edge of the moist river-lawns,                                                                                            20

    And the brink of the dewy caves,

And all that did then attend and follow,

Were silent with love, as you now, Apollo,

        With envy of my sweet pipings.

I sang of the dancing stars,                                                                                                             25

    I sang of the dædal Earth,

And of Heaven — and the giant wars,

    And Love, and Death, and Birth; —

        And then I changed my pipings, —

Singing how down the vale of Mænalus                                                                                        30

    I pursued a maiden and clasped a reed:

Gods and men, we are all deluded thus!

    It breaks in our bosom, and then we bleed:

All wept, as I think both ye now would,

If envy or age had not frozen your blood,                                                                                      35

        At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

1820. [page 155]


             ARETHUSA arose

             From her couch of snows

      In the Acroceraunian mountains, —

             From cloud and from crag,

             With many a jag,                                                                                                                 5

      Shepherding her bright fountains.

             She leapt down the rocks,

             With her rainbow locks

      Streaming among the streams;

             Her steps paved with green                                                                                               10

             The downward ravine

      Which slopes to the western gleams:

             And the gliding and springing,

             She went, ever singing

      In murmurs as soft as sleep.                                                                                                     15

             The Earth seemed to love her,

             And Heaven smiled above her,

      As she lingered towards the deep.

             Then Alpheus bold,

             On his glacier cold,                                                                                                           20

      With his trident the mountains strook;

             And opened a chasm

             In the rocks; — with the spasm

      All Erymanthus shook.

             And the black south wind                                                                                                 25

             It concealed behind

      The urns of the silent snow,

             And earthquake and thunder

             Did render in sunder

      The bars of the springs below:                                                                                                 30

             The beard and the hair

             Of the river-god were [page 156]

      Seen through the torrent’s sweep,

             As he followed the light

             Of the fleet nymph’s flight                                                                                                35

      To the brink of the Dorian deep.

             “O save me! O guide me,

             And bid the deep hide me,

      For he grasps me now by the hair!”

             The loud Ocean heard,                                                                                                      40

             To its blue depth stirred,

      And divided at her prayer;

             And under the water

             The Earth’s white daughter

      Fled like a sunny beam;                                                                                                           45

             Behind her descended

             Her billows, unblended

      With the brackish Dorian stream:

             Like a gloomy stain

             On the emerald main                                                                                                         50

      Alpheus rushed behind, —

             As an eagle pursuing

             A dove to its ruin

      Down the streams of the cloudy wind.

             Under the bowers                                                                                                              55

             Where the Ocean Powers

      Sit on their pearléd thrones;

             Through the coral woods

             Of the weltering floods;

      Over heaps of unvalued stones;                                                                                               60

             Through the dim beams

             Which amid the streams

      Weave a network of coloured light;

             And under the caves

             Where the shadowy waves [page 157]                                                                             65

      Are as green as the forest’s night:

             Outspeeding the shark,

             And the sword-fish dark,

      Under the ocean foam,

             And up through the rifts                                                                                                    70

             Of the mountain-clifts

      They passed to their Dorian home.

             And now from their fountains

             In Enna’s mountains,

      Down one vale where the morning basks,                                                                               75

             Like friends once parted

             Grown single-hearted,

      Then ply their watery tasks.

             At sunrise they leap

             From their cradles steep                                                                                                    80

      In the cave of the shelving hill;

             At noontide they flow

             Through the woods below,

      And the meadows of asphodel;

             And at night they sleep                                                                                                     85

             In the rocking deep

      Beneath the Ortygian shore; —

             Like spirits that lie

             In the azure sky

      When they love but live no more.                                                                                           90



I BRING the fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,

        From the seas and the streams;

I bear the light shade for the leaves when laid

        In their noonday dreams. [page 158]

From my wings are shaken the dews that waken                                                                             5

        The sweet buds every one,

When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,

        As she dances about the sun.

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

        And whiten the green plains under,                                                                                       10

And then again I dissolve it in rain,

        And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,

        And their great pines groan aghast;

And all the night ’t is my pillow white,                                                                                         15

        While I sleep in the arms of the blast.

Sublime on the towers of my skyey bowers,

        Lightning my pilot sits;

In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,

        It struggles and howls at fits;                                                                                                 20

Over the earth and ocean, with gentle motion,

        This pilot is guiding me,

Lured by the love of the genii that move

        In the depths of the purple sea;

Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,                                                                                     25

        Over the lakes and the plains,

Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,

        The Spirit he loves remains;

And I all the while bask in heaven’s blue smile,

        Whilst he is dissolving in rains.                                                                                             30

The sanguine sunrise, with his meteor eyes,

        And his burning plumes outspread,

Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,

        When the morning-star shines dead;

As on the jag of a mountain crag,                                                                                                  35

        Which an earthquake rocks and swings, [page 159]

An eagle alit one moment may sit

        In the light of its golden wings.

And when sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,

        Its ardours or rest and of love,                                                                                               40

And the crimson pall of eve may fall

        From the depth of heaven above,

With wings folded I rest, on mine airy nest,

        As still as a brooding dove.

That orbéd maiden, with white fire laden,                                                                                     45

        Whom mortals call the moon,

Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,

        By the midnight breezes strewn;

And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,

        Which only the angles hear,                                                                                                   50

May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,

        The stars peep behind her and peer;

And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,

        Like a swarm of golden bees,

When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,                                                                                55

        Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,

Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,

        Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the sun’s throne with a burning zone,

        And the moon’s with a girdle of pearl;                                                                                  60

The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,

        When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.

From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,

        Over the torrent sea,

Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,                                                                                                65

        The mountains its columns be.

The triumphal arch through which I march,

        With hurricane, fire, and snow, [page 160]

When the powers of the air are chained to my chair,

        Is the million-coloured bow;                                                                                                  70

The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,

        While the moist earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of earth and water,

        And the nursling of the sky;

I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;                                                                          75

        I change, but I cannot die.

For after the rain, when with never a stain

        The pavilion of heaven is bare,

And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams,

        Build up the blue dome of air,                                                                                               80

I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,

        And out the caverns of rain,

Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,

        I arise and unbuild it again.



           HAIL to thee, blithe spirit!

               Bird thou never wert,

           That from heaven, or near it,

               Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.                                                                                         5

           Higher still and higher

               From the earth thou springest

           Like a cloud of fire;

               The blue deep thou wingest,                                                                                             9

And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

           In the golden lightning

               Of the sunken sun, [page 161]

           O’er which clouds are brigh’ning,

               Thou dost float and run;

Like and unbodied joy whose race is just begun.                                                                          15

           The pale purple even

               Melts around thy flight;

           Like a star of heaven,

               In the broad daylight

Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,                                                                          20

           Keen as are the arrows

               Of what silver sphere

           Whose intense lamp narrows

               In the white dawn clear,

Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.                                                                                   25

           All the earth and air

               With my voice is loud,

           As, when night is bare,

                From one lonely cloud

The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.                                                           30

           What thou art we know not;

               What is most like thee?

           From rainbow clouds there flow not

               Drops so bright to see,

As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.                                                                           35

           Like a poet hidden

               In the light of thought,

           Singing hymns unbidden,

               Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not: [page 162]                                                       40

           Like a high-born maiden

               In a palace tower,

           Soothing her love-laden

               Soul in secret hour                                                                                                          44

With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

           Like a glow-worm golden

               In a dell of dew,

           Scattering unbeholden

               Its aërial hue

Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:                                                      50

          Like a rose embowered

              In its own green leaves

          By warm winds deflowered,

              Till the scent it gives

Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-wingéd thieves.                                                    55

           Sound of vernal showers

               On the twinkling grass,

           Rain-awakened flowers, —

               All that ever was                                                                                                             59

Joyous, and clear, and fresh, —thy music doth surpass.

           Teach us, sprite or bird,

               What sweet thoughts are thine:

           I have never heard

               Praise of love or wine

That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.                                                                              65

           Chorus Hymenæal,

               Or triumphal chaunt, [page 163]

           Matched with thine would be all

               But an empty vaunt, —

A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.                                                                     70

           What objects are the fountains

               Of thy happy strain?

           What fields, or waves, or mountains?

               What shapes of sky or plain?                                                                                          74

What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?

           With thy clear keen joyance

               Languour cannot be:

           Shadow of annoyance

               Never can near thee:

Thou lovest; but ne’er knew love’s sad satiety.                                                                             80

           Walking or asleep,

               Thou of death must deem

           Things more true and deep

               Than we mortals dream,                                                                                                  84

Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?

           We look before and after,

               And pine for what is not:

           Our sincerest laughter

               With some pain is fraught;

Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.                                                             90

           Yet if we could scorn

               Hate, and pride, and fear;

           If we were things born

               Not to shed a tear,

I know not how thy joy we ever should come near. [page 164]                                                    95

           Better than all measures

               Of delight and sound,

           Better than all treasures

               That in books are found,

Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!                                                                     100

           Teach me half the gladness

               That thy brain must know,

           Such harmonious madness

               From my lips would flow,

The world should listen then, as I am listening now.                                                                   105



Yet, Freedom, yet thy banner, torn but flying,

Streams like a thunder-storm against the wind. — BYRON


A GLORIOUS people vibrated again

    The lightning of the nations: Liberty,

From heart to heart, from tower to tower, o’er Spain,

    Scattering contagious fire into the sky,

Gleamed. My soul spurned the chains of its dismay,                                                                      5

            And, in the rapid plumes of song,

            Clothed itself, sublime and strong;

As a young eagle soars the morning clouds among,

    Hovering inverse o’er its accustomed prey;

        Till from its station in the heaven of fame                                                                             10

    The Spirit’s whirlwind rapt it, and the ray

        Of the remotest sphere of living flame

Which paves the void, was from behind it flung,

        As foam from a ship’s swiftness; when there came

        A voice out of the deep: I will record the same. — [page 165]


“The Sun and the serenest Moon sprang forth;                                                                              16

    The burning stars of the abyss were hurled

Into the depths of heaven. The dædal earth,

    That island in the ocean of the world,

Hung in its cloud of all-sustaining air;                                                                                           20

            But this divinest universe

            Was yet a chaos and a curse,

For thou wert not: but power from worst producing worse,

    The spirit of the beasts was kindled there,

        And of the birds, and of the watery forms,                                                                            25

    And there was war among them, and despair

        With them, raging without truce or terms:

The bosom of their violated nurse

    Groaned, for beasts warred on beasts, and worms on worms,

    And men on men; each heart was as a hell of storms.                                                               30


“Man, the imperial shape, then multiplied

    His generations under the pavilion

Of the Sun’s throne: palace and pyramid,

    Temple and prison, to many a swarming million

Were as to mountain-wolves their ragged caves.                                                                           35

            This human living multitude

            Was savage, cunning, blind, and rude,

For thou wert not; but o’er the populous solitude,

    Like one fierce cloud over a waste of waves,

        Hung tyranny; beneath, sate deified                                                                                       40

    The sister-pest, congregator of slaves;

        In the shadow of her pinions wide, [page 166]

Anarchs and priests, who feed on gold and blood,

    Till with the stain their inmost souls are dyed,                                                                          44

    Drove the astonished herds of men from every side.


“The nodding promontories, and blue isles,

    And cloud-like mountains, and dividuous waves

Of Greece basked glorious in the open smiles

    Of favouring heaven; from their enchanted caves

Prophetic echoes flung dim melody                                                                                               50

            On the unapprehensive wild.

            The vine, the corn, the olive mild,

Grew, savage yet, to human use unreconciled;

    And, like unfolded flowers beneath the sea,

        Like the man’s thought dark in the infant’s brain,

    Like aught that is which wraps what is to be,                                                                            56

        Art’s deathless dreams lay veiled by many a vein

Of Parian stone; and, yet a speechless child,

    Verse murmured, and Philosophy did strain

    Her lidless eyes for thee; when o’er the Ægean main                                                                60


“Athens arose: a city such a vision

    Builds from the purple crags and silver towers

Of battlemented cloud, as in derision

    Of kingliest masonry: the ocean-floors

Pave it; the evening sky pavilions it;                                                                                             65

            Its portals are inhabited

            By thunder-zonéd winds, each head

Within its cloudy wings with sun-fire garlanded,

    A divine work! Athens diviner yet

        Gleamed with its crest of columns, on the will                                                                      70

    Of man, as on a mount of diamond, set;

        For thou wert, and thine all-creative skill [page 167]

Peopled with forms that mock the eternal dead

    In marble immortality, that hill

    Which was thine earliest throne and latest oracle.


“Within the surface of Time’s fleeting river                                                                                  76

    Its wrinkled image lies, as then it lay

Immovably unquiet, and for ever

    It trembles but it cannot pass away!

The voices of thy bards and sages thunder                                                                                    80

            With an earth-awakening blast

            Through the caverns past;

Religion veils her eyes; Oppression sinks aghast:

    A wingéd sound of joy, and love, and wonder,

        Which soars where expectation never flew,                                                                          85

Rending the veil of space and time asunder!

        One ocean feeds the clouds, and streams, and dew;

One sun illumines heaven; one spirit vast

    With life and love makes chaos ever new, —                                                                            89

    As Athens doth the world with thy delight renew.


“Then Rome was, and from thy deep bosom fairest,

    Like a wolf-cub from a Cadmæan Mænad,

She drew the milk of greatness, though thy dearest

    From the elysian food was yet unweanéd;

And many a deed of terrible uprightness                                                                                       95

            By thy sweet love was sanctified;

            And in thy smile, and by thy side,

Saintly Camillus lived, and firm Atilius died.

    But when tears stained thy robe of vestal whiteness,

        And gold profaned thy capitolian throne,                                                                            100

    Thou didst desert, with spirit-wingéd lightness,

        The senate of the tyrants: they sunk prone [page 168]

Slaves of one tyrant. Palatinus sighed

    Faint echoes of Ionian song: that tone

    Thou didst delay to hear, lamenting to disown.                                                                       105


“From what Hyrcanian glen or frozen hill,

    Or piny promontory of the Arctic main,

Or utmost islet inaccessible,

    Didst thou lament the ruin of thy reign,

Teaching the woods and waves, and desert rocks,                                                                       110

            And every Naiad’s ice-cold urn,

            To talk in echoes sad and stern,

Of that sublimest lore which man had dared unlearn?

    For neither didst thou watch the wizard flocks

        Of the Scald’s dreams, nor haunt the Druid’s sleep.                                                            115

    What if the tears rained through thy shattered locks

        Were quickly dried? for thou didst groan, not weep,

When from its sea of death to kill and burn,

    The Galilean serpent forth did creep,

    And made thy world an undistinguishable heap.


“A thousand years the Earth cried, Where art thou?

    And then the shadow of thy coming fell

On Saxon Alfred’s olive-cinctured brow:

    And many a warrior-peopled citadel,

Like rocks which fire lifts out of the flat deep,                                                                            125

            Arose in sacred Italy,

            Frowning o’er the tempestuous sea

Of kings, and priests, and slaves, in tower-crowned majesty;

    That multitudinous anarchy did sweep

        And burst around their walls like idle foam, [page 169]                                                     130

    Whilst from the human spirit’s deepest deep,

        Strange melody with love and awe struck dumb

Dissonant arms; and Art, which cannot die,

    With divine wand traced on our earthly home

    Fit imagery to pave heaven’s everlasting dome.                                                                      135


“Thou huntress swifter than the Moon! Thou terror

    Of the world’s wolves! thou bearer of the quiver,

Whose sunlike shafts pierce tempest-wingéd Error,

    As light may pierce the clouds when they dissever

In the calm regions of the orient day!                                                                                          140

            Luther caught thy wakening glance:

            Like lightning from his leaden lance

Reflected, it dissolved the visions of the trance

    In which, as in a tomb, the nations lay;                                                                                    144

        And England’s prophets hailed thee as their queen,

    In songs whose music cannot pass away,

        Though it must flow for ever: not unseen

Before the spirit-sighted countenance

    Of Milton didst thou pass, from the sad scene                                                                         149

    Beyond whose night he saw, with a dejected mien.


“The eager hours and unreluctant years

    As on a dawn-illumined mountain stood,

Trampling to silence their loud hopes and fears,

    Darkening each other with their multitude,

And cried aloud, Liberty! Indignation                                                                                         155

            Answered in Pity from her cave;

            Death grew pale within the grave;

And Desolation howled to the destroyer, Save!

    When, like heaven’s sun girt by the exhalation [page 170]

        Of its own glorious light, thou didst arise,                                                                           160

    Chasing thy foes from nation unto nation

        Like shadows; as if day had cloven the skies

At dreaming midnight o’er the western wave,

    Men started, staggering with a glad surprise,

    Under the lightnings of thine unfamiliar eyes.                                                                         165


“Thou heaven and earth! What spells could pall thee then,

    In ominous eclipse? A thousand years,

Bred from the slime of deep oppression’s den,

    Dyed all thy liquid light with blood and tears,

Till thy sweet stars could weep the stain away;                                                                           170

            How like Bacchanals of blood,

            Round France, the ghastly vintage, stood

Destruction’s sceptre slaves, and Folly’s mitred brood!

    When one, like them, but mightier far than they,

        The Anarch of thine own bewildered powers,                                                                     175

    Rose: armies mingled in obscure array,

        Like clouds with clouds, darkening the sacred bowers

Of serene heaven. He, by the past pursued,

    Rests with those dead but unforgotten hours,

    Whose ghosts scare victor kings in their ancestral towers.                                                      180


“England yet sleeps: was she not called of old?

    Spain calls her now, as with its thrilling thunder

Vesuvius wakens Ætna, and the cold

    Snow-crags by its reply are cloven in sunder:

O’er the lit waves every Æolian isle                                                                                            185

            From Pithecusa to Pelorus

            Howls, and leaps, and glares in chorus: [page 171]

They cry, Be dim, ye lamps of heaven suspended o’er us!

    Her chains are threads of gold, she need but smile

        And they dissolve; but Spain’s were links of steel,

    Till bit to dust by virtue’s keenest file.                                                                                    191

        Twins of a single destiny! appeal

To the eternal years enthroned before us,

    In the dim West, impress us from a seal,

    All ye have thought and done! Time cannot dare conceal.                                                      195


“Tomb of Arminius! render up thy dead,

    Till, like a standard from a watch-tower’s staff,

His soul may stream over the tyrant’s head!

    Thy victory shall be his epitaph!

Wild Bacchanal of truth’s mysterious wine,                                                                                200

            King-deluded Germany,

            His dead spirit lives in thee.

Why do we fear or hope? thou art already free!

    And thou, lost paradise of this divine

        And glorious world! thou flowery wilderness!                                                                    205

    Thou island of eternity! thou shrine

        Where desolation, clothed with loveliness,

Worships the thing thou wert! O Italy,

    Gather up thy blood into thy heart; repress                                                                              209

    The beasts who make their dens thy sacred palaces!


“O that the free would stamp the impious name

    Of KING into the dust; or write it there,

So that this blot upon the page of fame
   Were as a serpent’s path, which the light air
[page 172]

Erases, and the flat sands close behind!                                                                                       215

            Ye the oracle have heard:

            Lift the victory-flashing sword,

And cut the snaky knots of this foul Gordian word,

    Which, weak itself as stubble, yet can bind

        Into a mass, irrefragably firm                                                                                               220

    The axes and the rods which mankind;

        The sound has poison in it; ’t is the sperm

Of what makes life foul, cankerous, and abhorred;

    Disdain not thou, at thine appointed term,                                                                               224

    To set thine arméd heel on this reluctant worm.


“O that the wise from their bright minds would kindle

    Such lamps within the dome of this dim world,

That the pale name of PRIEST might shrink and dwindle

    Into the hell from which it first was hurled,

A scoff of impious pride from fiends impure;

            Till human thoughts might kneel alone,

            Each before the judgment-throne

Of its own aweless soul, or of the power unknown!

    O that the words which make the thoughts obscure

        From which they spring, as clouds of glimmering dew                                                       235

    From a white lake blot heaven’s blue portraiture,

        Were stript of their thin masks and various hue,

And frowns and smiles and splendours not their own,

    Till in the nakedness of false and true

    They stand before their Lord, each to receive its due! [page 173]                                          240


“He who taught man to vanquish whatsoever

    Can be between the cradle and the grave,

Crowned him the King of Life. O vain endeavour!

    If on his own high will, a willing slave,                                                                                   244

He has enthroned the oppression and the oppressor!

            What if earth can clothe and feed

            Amplest millions at their need,

And power in thought be as the tree within the seed?

    Or what if Art, and ardent intercessor,

        Driving on fiery wings to Nature’s throne,                                                                          250

    Checks the great mother stooping to caress her,

        And cries, Give me, thy child, dominion

Over all height and depth! if Life can breed

    New wants, and wealth from those who toil and groan,                                                          254

    Rend, of thy gifts and hers, a thousandfold for one!


“Come thou, but lead out of the inmost cave

    Of man’s deep spirit, as the morning-star

Beckons the sun from the Eoan wave,

    Wisdom. I hear the pennons of her car

Self-moving, like cloud charioted by flame;                                                                                260

            Comes she not, and come ye not,

            Rulers of eternal thought,

To judge with solemn truth life’s ill-apportioned lot, —

    Blind Love, and equal Justice, and the Fame

        Of what has been, the Hope of what will be?                                                                      265

    O, Liberty! If such could be thy name

        Wert thou disjoined from these, or they from thee; [page 174]

If thine or theirs were treasures to be bought

    By blood or tears, have not the wise and free

    Wept tears, and blood like tears?” — The solemn harmony                                                   270


Paused, and the spirit of that mighty singing

    To its abyss was suddenly withdrawn;

Then as a wild swan, when sublimely winging

    Its path athwart the thunder-smoke of dawn,

Sinks headlong through the aërial golden light                                                                            275

            On the heavy-sounding plain,

            When the bolt has pierced its brain;

As summer clouds dissolve, unburdened of their rain;

    As a far taper fades with fading night;

        As a brief insect dies within a dying day, —                                                                       280

    My song, its pinions disarrayed of might,

        Drooped; o’er it closed the echoes far away

Of the great voice which did its flight sustain,

    As waves which lately paved his watery way

    Hiss round a drowner’s head in their tempestuous play.                                                         285




A SENSITIVE PLANT in a garden grew,

And the young winds fed it with silver dew,

And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,

And closed them beneath the kisses of night.

And the Spring arose on the garden fair,                                                                                         5

Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere; [page 175]

And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast

Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

But none ever trembled and panted with bliss

In the garden, the field, or the wilderness,                                                                                     10

Like a doe in the noontide with love’s sweet want,

As the companionless Sensitive Plant.

The snowdrop, and then the violet,

Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,                                                                                  14

And their breath was mixed with fresh odour, sent

From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.

Then the pied wind-flowers and the tulip tall,

And narcissi, the fairest among them all,

Who gaze on their eyes in the stream’s recess

Till they die of their owns dear loveliness,                                                                                    20

And the Naiad-like lily of the vale,

Whom youth makes so fair and passion so pale,

That the light of its tremulous bells is seen

Through their pavilions of tender green;

And the hyacinth, purple, and white, and blue,                                                                             25

Which flung from its bells a sweet peal anew

Of music so delicate, soft, and intense,

It was felt like an odour within the sense;

And the rose like a nymph to the bath addrest,                                                                              29

Which unveiled the depth of her glowing breast,

Till, fold after fold, to the fainting air

The soul of her beauty and love lay bare; [page 176]

And the wand-like lily, which lifted up,

As a Mænad, its moonlight-coloured cup,

Till the fiery star, which is its eye,                                                                                                 35

Gazed through clear dew on the tender sky;

And the jessamine faint, and the sweet tuberose —

The sweetest flower for scent that blows —

And all rare blossoms from every clime,

Grew in that garden in perfect prime.                                                                                            40

And on the stream whose inconstant bosom

Was prankt, under boughs of embowering blossom,

With golden and green light, slanting through

Their heaven of many a tangled hue,

Broad water-lilies lay tremulously,                                                                                                45
And starry river-buds glimmered by,

And around them the soft stream did glide and dance

With a motion of sweet sound and radiance.

And the sinuous paths of lawn and of moss,

Which led through the garden along and across,                                                                           50

Some open at once to the sun and the breeze,

Some lost among bowers of blossoming trees,

Were all paved with daisies and delicate bells,

As fair as the famous asphodels,

And flow’rets which, drooping as day drooped too,                                                                      55

Fell into pavilions, white, and purple, and blue,

To roof the glow-worm from the evening dew.

And from this undefiled Paradise

The flowers (as an infant’s awakening eyes [page 177]

Smile on its mother, whose singing sweet                                                                                     60

Can first lull, and at last must awaken it),

When Heaven’s blithe winds had unfolded them

As mine-lamps enkindle a hidden gem,

Shone smiling to Heaven, and every one

Shared joy in the light of the gentle sun;                                                                                       65

For each one was interpenetrated

With the light and the odour its neighbour shed,

Like young lovers who youth and love make dear

Wrapt and filled by their mutual atmosphere.

But the Sensitive Plant, which could give small fruit                                                                    70

Of the love which it felt from the leaf to the root,

Received more than all, it loved more than ever,

Where none wanted but it, could belong to the giver;

For the Sensitive Plant has no bright flower:

Radiance and odour are not its dower;                                                                                           75

It loves, even like Love, its deep heart is full;

It desires what it has not, the Beautiful!

The light winds, which from unsustaining winds

Shed the music of many murmurings;

The beams which dart from many a star                                                                                        80

Of the flowers whose hues they bear afar;

The pluméd insect swift and free,

Like golden boats on a sunny sea,

Laden with light and odour, which pass

Over the gleam of the living grass; [page 178]                                                                             85

The unseen clouds of the dew, which lie

Like fire in the flowers till the sun rides high,

Then wander like spirits among the spheres,

Each cloud faint with the fragrance it bears;

The quivering vapours of dim noontide,                                                                                        90

Which like a sea o’er the warm earth glide,

In which every sound, and odour, and beam,

Move, as reeds in a single stream; —

Each and all like ministering angels were

For the Sensitive Plant sweet joy to bear,                                                                                      95

Whilst lagging hours of the day went by

Like windless clouds o’er the tender sky.

And when evening descended from Heaven above,

And the Earth was all rest, and the air was all love,

And delight, though less bright, was far more deep,

And the day’s veil fell from the world of sleep,                                                                          101

And the beasts, and the birds, and the insects were drowned

In an ocean of dreams without a sound,

Whose waves never mark, though they ever impress

The light sand which paves it, consciousness;                                                                             105

(Only overhead the sweet nightingale

Ever sang more sweet as the day might fail,

And snatches of its Elysian chant

Were mixed with the dreams of the Sensitive Plant.)

The Sensitive Plant was the earliest                                                                                             110

Upgathered into the bosom of rest:

A sweet child weary of its delight, [page 179]

The feeblest and yet the favourite,

Cradled within the embrace of night.


There was a Power in this sweet place,                                                                                        115

An Eve in this Eden, a ruling grace

Which to the flowers, did they waken or dream,

Was a God is to the starry scheme:

A Lady, the wonder of her kind,

Whose form was upborne by a lovely mind,                                                                               120

Which, dilating, had moulded her mien and motion

Like a sea-flower unfolded beneath the ocean,

Tended the garden from morn to even:

And the meteors of that sublunary heaven,

Like the lamps of the air when night walks forth,                                                                       125

Laughed round her footsteps up from the Earth!

She had no companion of mortal face

Told, whilst the morn kissed the sleep from her eyes,

That her dreams were less slumber than Paradise:                                                                      130

As if some bright Spirit for her sweet sake

Had deserted heaven while the stars were awake,

As if yet around her he lingering were,

Though the veil of daylight concealed him from her.

Her steep seemed to pity the grass it prest;                                                                                  135

You might hear, by the heaving of her breast,

That the coming and going of the wind

Brought pleasure there, and left passion behind. [page 180]

And wherever her airy footstep trod,

Her trailing hair from the grassy sod                                                                                           140

Erased its light vestige, with shadowy sweet,

Like a sunny storm o’er the dark green deep.

I doubt not the flowers of that garden sweet

Rejoiced in the sound of her gentle feet;

I doubt not they felt the spirit that came                                                                                      145

From her glowing fingers through all their frame.

She sprinkled bright water from the stream

On those that were faint with the sunny beam;

And out of the cups of the heavy flowers

She emptied the rain of the thunder-showers.                                                                              150

She lifted their heads with her tender hands,

And sustained them with rods and osier bands;

If the flowers had been her own infants, she

Could never have nursed them more tenderly.

And all killing insects and gnawing worms,                                                                                155

And things of obscene and unlovely forms,

She bore in a basket of Indian woof,

Into the rough woods far aloof, —

In a basket, of grasses and wild flowers full,

The freshest her gentle hands could pull                                                                                      160

For the poor banished insects, whose intent,

Although they did ill, was innocent.

But the bee, and the beamlike ephemeris

Whose path is the lightning’s, and soft moths that kiss

The sweet lips of flowers, and harm not, did she

Make her attendant angels be. [page 181]                                                                                   166

And many an antenatal tomb,

Where butterflies dream of the life to come,

She left clinging round the smooth and dark

Edge of the odorous cedar bark.                                                                                                  170

This fairest creature from earliest spring

Thus moved through the garden ministering

All the sweet season of summer tide,

And ere the first leaf looked brown — she died!


Three days the flowers of the garden fair,                                                                                   175

Like stars when the moon is awakened, were,

Or the waves of Baiæ, ere luminous

She floats up through the smoke of Vesuvius.

And on the fourth, the Sensitive Plant

Felt the sound of the funeral chant,                                                                                              180

And the steps of the bearers, heavy and slow,

And the sobs of the mourners, deep and low;

The weary sound and the heavy breath,

And the silent motions of passing death,

And the smell, cold, oppressive, and dank,                                                                                  185

Sent through the pores of the coffin plank.

The dark grass, and the flowers among the grass,

Were bright with tears as the crowd did pass;

From their sighs the wind caught a mournful tone,

And sate in the pines, and gave groan for groan.                                                                         190

The garden, once fair, became cold and foul,

Like the corpse of her who had been its soul:

Which at first was lovely as if in sleep, [page 182]

Then slowly changed, till it grew a heap

To make men tremble who never weep.                                                                                      195

Swift summer into the autumn flowed,

And frost in the mist of the morning rode,

Though the noonday sun looked clear and bright,

Mocking the spoil of the secret night.

The rose-leaves, like flakes of crimson snow,                                                                             200

Paved the turf and the moss below.

The lilies were drooping, and white, and wan,

Like the head and the skin of a dying man.

And Indian plants, of scent and hue

The sweetest that ever were fed on dew,                                                                                     205

Leaf after leaf, day after day,

Were massed into the common clay.

And the leaves, brown, yellow, and gray, and red,

And white with the whiteness of what is dread,

Like troops of ghosts on the dry wind past;                                                                                 210

Their whistling noise made the birds aghast.

And the gusty winds waked the wingéd seeds

Out of their birthplace of ugly weeds,

Till they clung round many a sweet flower’s stem,

Which rotted into the earth with them.                                                                                        215

The water-blooms under the rivulet

Fell from the stalks on which they were set,

And the eddies drove them here and there,

As the winds did those of the upper air.

Then the rain came down, and the broken stalks                                                                         220

Were bent and tangled across the walks; [page 183]

And the leafless network of parasite bowers

Massed into ruin, and all sweet flowers.

Between the time of the wind and the snow,

All loathliest weeds began to grow,                                                                                             225

Whose coarse leaves were splashed with many a speck,

Like the water-snake’s belly and the toad’s back.

And thistles, and nettles, and darnels rank,

And the dock, and henbane, and hemlock dank,

Stretched out its long and hollow shank,                                                                                     230

And stifled the air till dead wind stank.

And plants, at whose names the verse feels loath,

Filled the place with a monstrous undergrowth,

Prickly, and pulpous, and blistering, and blue,

Livid, and starred with a lurid dew.                                                                                             235

And agarics and fungi, with mildew and mould,

Stated like mist from the wet ground cold;

Pale, fleshy, as if the decaying dead

With a spirit of growth had been animated!

Their moss rotted off them, flake by flake,                                                                                  240

Till the thick stalk stuck like a murderer’s stake,

Where rags of loose flesh yet tremble on high,

Infecting the winds that wander by.

Spawn, weeds, and filth, a leprous scum,

Made the running rivulet thick and dumb,                                                                                   245

And at its outlet, flags huge as stakes

Damned it up with roots knotted like water-snakes.

And hour by hour, when the air was still,

The vapours arose which have strength to kill: [page 184]

At morn they were seen, at noon they were felt,                                                                         250

At night they were darkness no star could melt.

And unctuous meteors from spray to spray

Crept and flitted in broad noonday

Unseen; every branch on which they alit

By a venomous blight was burned and bit.                                                                                  255

The Sensitive Plant, like one forbid,

Wept, and the tears within each lid

Of its folded leaves which together grew,

Were changed to a blight of frozen glue.

For the leaves soon fell, and the branches soon                                                                           260

By the heavy axe of the blast were hewn;

The sap shrank to the root through every pore,

As blood to a heart that will beat no more.

For Winter came: The wind was his whip;

One choppy hinger was on his lip;

He had torn the cataracts from the hills,

And they clanked at his girdle like manacles;

His breath was a chain which without a sound

The earth, and the air, and the water bound;

He came, fiercely driven in his chariot-throne                                                                             270

By the tenfold blasts of the Arctic zone.

Then the weeds which were forms of living death

Fled from the frost to the earth beneath;

Their decay and sudden flight from frost

Was but like the vanishing of a ghost!