The Complete Poetical Works, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The Daemon of the World. a Fragment.

Part 1.

[Sections 1 and 2 of “Queen Mab” rehandled, and published by Shelley in the “Alastor” volume, 1816. See “Bibliographical List”, and the Editor’s Introductory Note to “Queen Mab”.]

Nec tantum prodere vati,

Quantum scire licet. Venit aetas omnis in unam

Congeriem, miserumque premunt tot saecula pectus.

— LUCAN, Phars. v. 176.

How wonderful is Death,

Death and his brother Sleep!

One pale as yonder wan and horned moon,

With lips of lurid blue,


The other glowing like the vital morn,

When throned on ocean’s wave

It breathes over the world:

Yet both so passing strange and wonderful!

Hath then the iron-sceptred Skeleton,


Whose reign is in the tainted sepulchres,

To the hell dogs that couch beneath his throne

Cast that fair prey? Must that divinest form,

Which love and admiration cannot view

Without a beating heart, whose azure veins


Steal like dark streams along a field of snow,

Whose outline is as fair as marble clothed

In light of some sublimest mind, decay?

Nor putrefaction’s breath

Leave aught of this pure spectacle


But loathsomeness and ruin? —

Spare aught but a dark theme,

On which the lightest heart might moralize?

Or is it but that downy-winged slumbers

Have charmed their nurse coy Silence near her lids


To watch their own repose?

Will they, when morning’s beam

Flows through those wells of light,

Seek far from noise and day some western cave,

Where woods and streams with soft and pausing winds


A lulling murmur weave? —

Ianthe doth not sleep

The dreamless sleep of death:

Nor in her moonlight chamber silently

Doth Henry hear her regular pulses throb,


Or mark her delicate cheek

With interchange of hues mock the broad moon,

Outwatching weary night,

Without assured reward.

Her dewy eyes are closed;


On their translucent lids, whose texture fine

Scarce hides the dark blue orbs that burn below

With unapparent fire,

The baby Sleep is pillowed:

Her golden tresses shade


The bosom’s stainless pride,

Twining like tendrils of the parasite

Around a marble column.

Hark! whence that rushing sound?

’Tis like a wondrous strain that sweeps


Around a lonely ruin

When west winds sigh and evening waves respond

In whispers from the shore:

’Tis wilder than the unmeasured notes

Which from the unseen lyres of dells and groves


The genii of the breezes sweep.

Floating on waves of music and of light,

The chariot of the Daemon of the World

Descends in silent power:

Its shape reposed within: slight as some cloud


That catches but the palest tinge of day

When evening yields to night,

Bright as that fibrous woof when stars indue

Its transitory robe.

Four shapeless shadows bright and beautiful


Draw that strange car of glory, reins of light

Check their unearthly speed; they stop and fold

Their wings of braided air:

The Daemon leaning from the ethereal car

Gazed on the slumbering maid.


Human eye hath ne’er beheld

A shape so wild, so bright, so beautiful,

As that which o’er the maiden’s charmed sleep

Waving a starry wand,

Hung like a mist of light.


Such sounds as breathed around like odorous winds

Of wakening spring arose,

Filling the chamber and the moonlight sky.

Maiden, the world’s supremest spirit

Beneath the shadow of her wings


Folds all thy memory doth inherit

From ruin of divinest things,

Feelings that lure thee to betray,

And light of thoughts that pass away.

For thou hast earned a mighty boon,


The truths which wisest poets see

Dimly, thy mind may make its own,

Rewarding its own majesty,

Entranced in some diviner mood

Of self-oblivious solitude.


Custom, and Faith, and Power thou spurnest;

From hate and awe thy heart is free;

Ardent and pure as day thou burnest,

For dark and cold mortality

A living light, to cheer it long,


The watch-fires of the world among.

Therefore from nature’s inner shrine,

Where gods and fiends in worship bend,

Majestic spirit, be it thine

The flame to seize, the veil to rend,


Where the vast snake Eternity

In charmed sleep doth ever lie.

All that inspires thy voice of love,

Or speaks in thy unclosing eyes,

Or through thy frame doth burn or move,


Or think or feel, awake, arise!

Spirit, leave for mine and me

Earth’s unsubstantial mimicry!

It ceased, and from the mute and moveless frame

A radiant spirit arose,


All beautiful in naked purity.

Robed in its human hues it did ascend,

Disparting as it went the silver clouds,

It moved towards the car, and took its seat

Beside the Daemon shape.


Obedient to the sweep of aery song,

The mighty ministers

Unfurled their prismy wings.

The magic car moved on;

The night was fair, innumerable stars


Studded heaven’s dark blue vault;

The eastern wave grew pale

With the first smile of morn.

The magic car moved on.

From the swift sweep of wings


The atmosphere in flaming sparkles flew;

And where the burning wheels

Eddied above the mountain’s loftiest peak

Was traced a line of lightning.

Now far above a rock the utmost verge


Of the wide earth it flew,

The rival of the Andes, whose dark brow

Frowned o’er the silver sea.

Far, far below the chariot’s stormy path,

Calm as a slumbering babe,


Tremendous ocean lay.

Its broad and silent mirror gave to view

The pale and waning stars,

The chariot’s fiery track,

And the grey light of morn


Tingeing those fleecy clouds

That cradled in their folds the infant dawn.

The chariot seemed to fly

Through the abyss of an immense concave,

Radiant with million constellations, tinged


With shades of infinite colour,

And semicircled with a belt

Flashing incessant meteors.

As they approached their goal,

The winged shadows seemed to gather speed.


The sea no longer was distinguished; earth

Appeared a vast and shadowy sphere, suspended

In the black concave of heaven

With the sun’s cloudless orb,

Whose rays of rapid light


Parted around the chariot’s swifter course,

And fell like ocean’s feathery spray

Dashed from the boiling surge

Before a vessel’s prow.

The magic car moved on.


Earth’s distant orb appeared

The smallest light that twinkles in the heavens,

Whilst round the chariot’s way

Innumerable systems widely rolled,

And countless spheres diffused


An ever varying glory.

It was a sight of wonder! Some were horned,

And like the moon’s argentine crescent hung

In the dark dome of heaven; some did shed

A clear mild beam like Hesperus, while the sea


Yet glows with fading sunlight; others dashed

Athwart the night with trains of bickering fire,

Like sphered worlds to death and ruin driven;

Some shone like stars, and as the chariot passed

Bedimmed all other light.


Spirit of Nature! here

In this interminable wilderness

Of worlds, at whose involved immensity

Even soaring fancy staggers,

Here is thy fitting temple.


Yet not the lightest leaf

That quivers to the passing breeze

Is less instinct with thee —

Yet not the meanest worm.

That lurks in graves and fattens on the dead,


Less shares thy eternal breath.

Spirit of Nature! thou

Imperishable as this glorious scene,

Here is thy fitting temple.

If solitude hath ever led thy steps


To the shore of the immeasurable sea,

And thou hast lingered there

Until the sun’s broad orb

Seemed resting on the fiery line of ocean,

Thou must have marked the braided webs of gold


That without motion hang

Over the sinking sphere:

Thou must have marked the billowy mountain clouds,

Edged with intolerable radiancy,

Towering like rocks of jet


Above the burning deep:

And yet there is a moment

When the sun’s highest point

Peers like a star o’er ocean’s western edge,

When those far clouds of feathery purple gleam


Like fairy lands girt by some heavenly sea:

Then has thy rapt imagination soared

Where in the midst of all existing things

The temple of the mightiest Daemon stands.

Yet not the golden islands


That gleam amid yon flood of purple light,

Nor the feathery curtains

That canopy the sun’s resplendent couch,

Nor the burnished ocean waves

Paving that gorgeous dome,


So fair, so wonderful a sight

As the eternal temple could afford.

The elements of all that human thought

Can frame of lovely or sublime, did join

To rear the fabric of the fane, nor aught


Of earth may image forth its majesty.

Yet likest evening’s vault that faery hall,

As heaven low resting on the wave it spread

Its floors of flashing light,

Its vast and azure dome;


And on the verge of that obscure abyss

Where crystal battlements o’erhang the gulf

Of the dark world, ten thousand spheres diffuse

Their lustre through its adamantine gates.

The magic car no longer moved;


The Daemon and the Spirit

Entered the eternal gates.

Those clouds of aery gold

That slept in glittering billows

Beneath the azure canopy,


With the ethereal footsteps trembled not;

While slight and odorous mists

Floated to strains of thrilling melody

Through the vast columns and the pearly shrines.

The Daemon and the Spirit


Approached the overhanging battlement,

Below lay stretched the boundless universe!

There, far as the remotest line

That limits swift imagination’s flight.

Unending orbs mingled in mazy motion,


Immutably fulfilling

Eternal Nature’s law.

Above, below, around,

The circling systems formed

A wilderness of harmony.


Each with undeviating aim

In eloquent silence through the depths of space

Pursued its wondrous way. —

Awhile the Spirit paused in ecstasy.

Yet soon she saw, as the vast spheres swept by,


Strange things within their belted orbs appear.

Like animated frenzies, dimly moved

Shadows, and skeletons, and fiendly shapes,

Thronging round human graves, and o’er the dead

Sculpturing records for each memory


In verse, such as malignant gods pronounce,

Blasting the hopes of men, when heaven and hell

Confounded burst in ruin o’er the world:

And they did build vast trophies, instruments

Of murder, human bones, barbaric gold,


Skins torn from living men, and towers of skulls

With sightless holes gazing on blinder heaven,

Mitres, and crowns, and brazen chariots stained

With blood, and scrolls of mystic wickedness,

The sanguine codes of venerable crime.


The likeness of a throned king came by.

When these had passed, bearing upon his brow

A threefold crown; his countenance was calm.

His eye severe and cold; but his right hand

Was charged with bloody coin, and he did gnaw


By fits, with secret smiles, a human heart

Concealed beneath his robe; and motley shapes,

A multitudinous throng, around him knelt.

With bosoms bare, and bowed heads, and false looks

Of true submission, as the sphere rolled by.


Brooking no eye to witness their foul shame,

Which human hearts must feel, while human tongues

Tremble to speak, they did rage horribly,

Breathing in self-contempt fierce blasphemies

Against the Daemon of the World, and high


Hurling their armed hands where the pure Spirit,

Serene and inaccessibly secure,

Stood on an isolated pinnacle.

The flood of ages combating below,

The depth of the unbounded universe


Above, and all around

Necessity’s unchanging harmony.

Part 2.

[Sections 8 and 9 of “Queen Mab” rehandled by Shelley. First printed in 1876 by Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B., by whose kind permission it is here reproduced. See Editor’s Introductory Note to “Queen Mab”.]

O happy Earth! reality of Heaven!

To which those restless powers that ceaselessly

Throng through the human universe aspire;


Thou consummation of all mortal hope!

Thou glorious prize of blindly-working will!

Whose rays, diffused throughout all space and time,

Verge to one point and blend for ever there:

Of purest spirits thou pure dwelling-place!


Where care and sorrow, impotence and crime,

Languor, disease, and ignorance dare not come:

O happy Earth, reality of Heaven!

Genius has seen thee in her passionate dreams,

And dim forebodings of thy loveliness,


Haunting the human heart, have there entwined

Those rooted hopes, that the proud Power of Evil

Shall not for ever on this fairest world

Shake pestilence and war, or that his slaves

With blasphemy for prayer, and human blood


For sacrifice, before his shrine for ever

In adoration bend, or Erebus

With all its banded fiends shall not uprise

To overwhelm in envy and revenge

The dauntless and the good, who dare to hurl


Defiance at his throne, girt tho’ it be

With Death’s omnipotence. Thou hast beheld

His empire, o’er the present and the past;

It was a desolate sight — now gaze on mine,

Futurity. Thou hoary giant Time,


Render thou up thy half-devoured babes —

And from the cradles of eternity,

Where millions lie lulled to their portioned sleep

By the deep murmuring stream of passing things,

Tear thou that gloomy shroud. — Spirit, behold

Thy glorious destiny!


The Spirit saw

The vast frame of the renovated world

Smile in the lap of Chaos, and the sense

Of hope thro’ her fine texture did suffuse

Such varying glow, as summer evening casts


On undulating clouds and deepening lakes.

Like the vague sighings of a wind at even,

That wakes the wavelets of the slumbering sea

And dies on the creation of its breath,

And sinks and rises, fails and swells by fits,


Was the sweet stream of thought that with wild motion

Flowed o’er the Spirit’s human sympathies.

The mighty tide of thought had paused awhile,

Which from the Daemon now like Ocean’s stream

Again began to pour. —

To me is given


The wonders of the human world to keep —

Space, matter, time and mind — let the sight

Renew and strengthen all thy failing hope.

All things are recreated, and the flame

Of consentaneous love inspires all life:


The fertile bosom of the earth gives suck

To myriads, who still grow beneath her care,

Rewarding her with their pure perfectness:

The balmy breathings of the wind inhale

Her virtues, and diffuse them all abroad:


Health floats amid the gentle atmosphere,

Glows in the fruits, and mantles on the stream;

No storms deform the beaming brow of heaven,

Nor scatter in the freshness of its pride

The foliage of the undecaying trees;


But fruits are ever ripe, flowers ever fair,

And Autumn proudly bears her matron grace,

Kindling a flush on the fair cheek of Spring,

Whose virgin bloom beneath the ruddy fruit

Reflects its tint and blushes into love.


The habitable earth is full of bliss;

Those wastes of frozen billows that were hurled

By everlasting snow-storms round the poles,

Where matter dared not vegetate nor live,

But ceaseless frost round the vast solitude


Bound its broad zone of stillness, are unloosed;

And fragrant zephyrs there from spicy isles

Ruffle the placid ocean-deep, that rolls

Its broad, bright surges to the sloping sand,

Whose roar is wakened into echoings sweet


To murmur through the heaven-breathing groves

And melodise with man’s blest nature there.

The vast tract of the parched and sandy waste

Now teems with countless rills and shady woods,

Corn-fields and pastures and white cottages;


And where the startled wilderness did hear

A savage conqueror stained in kindred blood,

Hymmng his victory, or the milder snake

Crushing the bones of some frail antelope

Within his brazen folds — the dewy lawn,


Offering sweet incense to the sunrise, smiles

To see a babe before his mother’s door,

Share with the green and golden basilisk

That comes to lick his feet, his morning’s meal.

Those trackless deeps, where many a weary sail


Has seen, above the illimitable plain,

Morning on night and night on morning rise,

Whilst still no land to greet the wanderer spread

Its shadowy mountains on the sunbright sea,

Where the loud roarings of the tempest-waves


So long have mingled with the gusty wind

In melancholy loneliness, and swept

The desert of those ocean solitudes,

But vocal to the sea-bird’s harrowing shriek,

The bellowing monster, and the rushing storm,


Now to the sweet and many-mingling sounds

Of kindliest human impulses respond:

Those lonely realms bright garden-isles begem,

With lightsome clouds and shining seas between,

And fertile valleys resonant with bliss,


Whilst green woods overcanopy the wave,

Which like a toil-worn labourer leaps to shore,

To meet the kisses of the flowerets there.

Man chief perceives the change, his being notes

The gradual renovation, and defines


Each movement of its progress on his mind.

Man, where the gloom of the long polar night

Lowered o’er the snow-clad rocks and frozen soil,

Where scarce the hardiest herb that braves the frost

Basked in the moonlight’s ineffectual glow,


Shrank with the plants, and darkened with the night;

Nor where the tropics bound the realms of day

With a broad belt of mingling cloud and flame,

Where blue mists through the unmoving atmosphere

Scattered the seeds of pestilence, and fed


Unnatural vegetation, where the land

Teemed with all earthquake, tempest and disease,

Was man a nobler being; slavery

Had crushed him to his country’s blood-stained dust.

Even where the milder zone afforded man


A seeming shelter, yet contagion there,

Blighting his being with unnumbered ills,

Spread like a quenchless fire; nor truth availed

Till late to arrest its progress, or create

That peace which first in bloodless victory waved


Her snowy standard o’er this favoured clime:

There man was long the train-bearer of slaves,

The mimic of surrounding misery,

The jackal of ambition’s lion-rage,

The bloodhound of religion’s hungry zeal.


Here now the human being stands adorning

This loveliest earth with taintless body and mind;

Blest from his birth with all bland impulses,

Which gently in his noble bosom wake

All kindly passions and all pure desires.


Him, still from hope to hope the bliss pursuing,

Which from the exhaustless lore of human weal

Dawns on the virtuous mind, the thoughts that rise

In time-destroying infiniteness gift

With self-enshrined eternity, that mocks


The unprevailing hoariness of age,

And man, once fleeting o’er the transient scene

Swift as an unremembered vision, stands

Immortal upon earth: no longer now

He slays the beast that sports around his dwelling


And horribly devours its mangled flesh,

Or drinks its vital blood, which like a stream

Of poison thro’ his fevered veins did flow

Feeding a plague that secretly consumed

His feeble frame, and kindling in his mind


Hatred, despair, and fear and vain belief,

The germs of misery, death, disease and crime.

No longer now the winged habitants,

That in the woods their sweet lives sing away,

Flee from the form of man; but gather round,


And prune their sunny feathers on the hands

Which little children stretch in friendly sport

Towards these dreadless partners of their play.

All things are void of terror: man has lost

His desolating privilege, and stands


An equal amidst equals: happiness

And science dawn though late upon the earth;

Peace cheers the mind, health renovates the frame;

Disease and pleasure cease to mingle here,

Reason and passion cease to combat there;


Whilst mind unfettered o’er the earth extends

Its all-subduing energies, and wields

The sceptre of a vast dominion there.

Mild is the slow necessity of death:

The tranquil spirit fails beneath its grasp,


Without a groan, almost without a fear,

Resigned in peace to the necessity,

Calm as a voyager to some distant land,

And full of wonder, full of hope as he.

The deadly germs of languor and disease


Waste in the human frame, and Nature gifts

With choicest boons her human worshippers.

How vigorous now the athletic form of age!

How clear its open and unwrinkled brow!

Where neither avarice, cunning, pride, or care,


Had stamped the seal of grey deformity

On all the mingling lineaments of time.

How lovely the intrepid front of youth!

How sweet the smiles of taintless infancy.

Within the massy prison’s mouldering courts,


Fearless and free the ruddy children play,

Weaving gay chaplets for their innocent brows

With the green ivy and the red wall-flower,

That mock the dungeon’s unavailing gloom;

The ponderous chains, and gratings of strong iron,


There rust amid the accumulated ruins

Now mingling slowly with their native earth:

There the broad beam of day, which feebly once

Lighted the cheek of lean captivity

With a pale and sickly glare, now freely shines


On the pure smiles of infant playfulness:

No more the shuddering voice of hoarse despair

Peals through the echoing vaults, but soothing notes

Of ivy-fingered winds and gladsome birds

And merriment are resonant around.


The fanes of Fear and Falsehood hear no more

The voice that once waked multitudes to war

Thundering thro’ all their aisles: but now respond

To the death dirge of the melancholy wind:

It were a sight of awfulness to see


The works of faith and slavery, so vast,

So sumptuous, yet withal so perishing!

Even as the corpse that rests beneath their wall.

A thousand mourners deck the pomp of death

To-day, the breathing marble glows above


To decorate its memory, and tongues

Are busy of its life: to-morrow, worms

In silence and in darkness seize their prey.

These ruins soon leave not a wreck behind:

Their elements, wide-scattered o’er the globe,


To happier shapes are moulded, and become

Ministrant to all blissful impulses:

Thus human things are perfected, and earth,

Even as a child beneath its mother’s love,

Is strengthened in all excellence, and grows


Fairer and nobler with each passing year.

Now Time his dusky pennons o’er the scene

Closes in steadfast darkness, and the past

Fades from our charmed sight. My task is done:

Thy lore is learned. Earth’s wonders are thine own,


With all the fear and all the hope they bring.

My spells are past: the present now recurs.

Ah me! a pathless wilderness remains

Yet unsubdued by man’s reclaiming hand.

Yet, human Spirit, bravely hold thy course,


Let virtue teach thee firmly to pursue

The gradual paths of an aspiring change:

For birth and life and death, and that strange state

Before the naked powers that thro’ the world

Wander like winds have found a human home,


All tend to perfect happiness, and urge

The restless wheels of being on their way,

Whose flashing spokes, instinct with infinite life,

Bicker and burn to gain their destined goal:

For birth but wakes the universal mind


Whose mighty streams might else in silence flow

Thro’ the vast world, to individual sense

Of outward shows, whose unexperienced shape

New modes of passion to its frame may lend;

Life is its state of action, and the store


Of all events is aggregated there

That variegate the eternal universe;

Death is a gate of dreariness and gloom,

That leads to azure isles and beaming skies

And happy regions of eternal hope.


Therefore, O Spirit! fearlessly bear on:

Though storms may break the primrose on its stalk,

Though frosts may blight the freshness of its bloom,

Yet spring’s awakening breath will woo the earth,

To feed with kindliest dews its favourite flower,


That blooms in mossy banks and darksome glens,

Lighting the green wood with its sunny smile.

Fear not then, Spirit, death’s disrobing hand,

So welcome when the tyrant is awake,

So welcome when the bigot’s hell-torch flares;


’Tis but the voyage of a darksome hour,

The transient gulf-dream of a startling sleep.

For what thou art shall perish utterly,

But what is thine may never cease to be;

Death is no foe to virtue: earth has seen


Love’s brightest roses on the scaffold bloom,

Mingling with freedom’s fadeless laurels there,

And presaging the truth of visioned bliss.

Are there not hopes within thee, which this scene

Of linked and gradual being has confirmed?


Hopes that not vainly thou, and living fires

Of mind as radiant and as pure as thou,

Have shone upon the paths of men — return,

Surpassing Spirit, to that world, where thou

Art destined an eternal war to wage


With tyranny and falsehood, and uproot

The germs of misery from the human heart.

Thine is the hand whose piety would soothe

The thorny pillow of unhappy crime,

Whose impotence an easy pardon gains,


Watching its wanderings as a friend’s disease:

Thine is the brow whose mildness would defy

Its fiercest rage, and brave its sternest will,

When fenced by power and master of the world.

Thou art sincere and good; of resolute mind,


Free from heart-withering custom’s cold control,

Of passion lofty, pure and unsubdued.

Earth’s pride and meanness could not vanquish thee,

And therefore art thou worthy of the boon

Which thou hast now received: virtue shall keep


Thy footsteps in the path that thou hast trod,

And many days of beaming hope shall bless

Thy spotless life of sweet and sacred love.

Go, happy one, and give that bosom joy

Whose sleepless spirit waits to catch


Light, life and rapture from thy smile.

The Daemon called its winged ministers.

Speechless with bliss the Spirit mounts the car,

That rolled beside the crystal battlement,

Bending her beamy eyes in thankfulness.


The burning wheels inflame

The steep descent of Heaven’s untrodden way.

Fast and far the chariot flew:

The mighty globes that rolled

Around the gate of the Eternal Fane


Lessened by slow degrees, and soon appeared

Such tiny twinklers as the planet orbs

That ministering on the solar power

With borrowed light pursued their narrower way.

Earth floated then below:


The chariot paused a moment;

The Spirit then descended:

And from the earth departing

The shadows with swift wings

Speeded like thought upon the light of Heaven.


The Body and the Soul united then,

A gentle start convulsed Ianthe’s frame:

Her veiny eyelids quietly unclosed;

Moveless awhile the dark blue orbs remained:

She looked around in wonder and beheld


Henry, who kneeled in silence by her couch,

Watching her sleep with looks of speechless love,

And the bright beaming stars

That through the casement shone.

_87 Regarding cj. A.C. Bradley.)

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00