Month after month the gathered rains descend
Drenching yon secret Aethiopian dells,
And from the desert’s ice-girt pinnacles
Where Frost and Heat in strange embraces blend
On Atlas, fields of moist snow half depend.
Girt there with blasts and meteors Tempest dwells
By Nile’s aereal urn, with rapid spells
Urging those waters to their mighty end.
O’er Egypt’s land of Memory floods are level
And they are thine, O Nile — and well thou knowest
That soul-sustaining airs and blasts of evil
And fruits and poisons spring where’er thou flowest.
Beware, O Man — for knowledge must to thee,
Like the great flood to Egypt, ever be.
[‘Found by Mr. Townshend Meyer among the papers of Leigh Hunt, [and] published in the “St. James’s Magazine” for March, 1876.’ (Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B.; “Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, Library Edition, 1876, volume 3 page 410.) First included among Shelley’s poetical works in Mr. Forman’s Library Edition, where a facsimile of the manuscript is given. Composed February 4, 1818. See “Complete Works of John Keats”, edition H. Buxton Forman, Glasgow, 1901, volume 4 page 76.]
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
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
On the dim starlight then is spread,
And the Apennine walks abroad with the storm,
Shrouding . . .
[Composed May 4, 1818. Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a copy amongst the Shelley manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, which supplies the last word of the fragment.]
Wilt thou forget the happy hours
Which we buried in Love’s sweet bowers,
Heaping over their corpses cold
Blossoms and leaves, instead of mould?
Blossoms which were the joys that fell,
And leaves, the hopes that yet remain.
Forget the dead, the past? Oh, yet
There are ghosts that may take revenge for it,
Memories that make the heart a tomb,
Regrets which glide through the spirit’s gloom,
And with ghastly whispers tell
That joy, once lost, is pain.
[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]
O Mary dear, that you were here
With your brown eyes bright and clear.
And your sweet voice, like a bird
Singing love to its lone mate
In the ivy bower disconsolate;
Voice the sweetest ever heard!
And your brow more . . .
Than the . . . sky
Of this azure Italy.
Mary dear, come to me soon,
I am not well whilst thou art far;
As sunset to the sphered moon,
As twilight to the western star,
Thou, beloved, art to me.
O Mary dear, that you were here;
The Castle echo whispers ‘Here!’
[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]
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,
It lies on my abandoned breast,
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;
Its mute and uncomplaining lot
Is such as mine should be.
[Published by Hunt, “Literary Pocket-Book”, 1821. Reprinted by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. Again reprinted, with several variants, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition. Our text is that of the editio princeps, 1821. A transcript is extant in a letter from Shelley to Sophia Stacey, dated March 7, 1820.]
_1 odour]colour 1839.
_2 kisses breathed]sweet eyes smiled 1839.
_3 colour]odour 1839.
_4 glowed]breathed 1839.
_5 shrivelled]withered 1839.
_8 cold and silent all editions; its cold, silent Stacey manuscript.
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,
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,
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;
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
Still recedes, as ever still
Longing with divided will,
But no power to seek or shun,
He is ever drifted on
O’er the unreposing wave
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,
Can he dream before that day
To find refuge from distress
In friendship’s smile, in love’s caress?
Then ’twill wreak him little woe
Whether such there be or no:
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
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
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,
Where a few gray rushes stand,
Boundaries of the sea and land:
Nor is heard one voice of wail
But the sea-mews, as they sail
O’er the billows of the gale;
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
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.
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
I stood listening to the paean
With which the legioned rooks did hail
The sun’s uprise majestical;
Gathering round with wings all hoar,
Through the dewy mist they soar
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,
Starred with drops of golden rain,
Gleam above the sunlight woods,
As in silent multitudes
On the morning’s fitful gale
Through the broken mist they sail,
And the vapours cloven and gleaming
Follow, down the dark steep streaming,
Till all is bright, and clear, and still,
Round the solitary hill.
Beneath is spread like a green sea
The waveless plain of Lombardy,
Bounded by the vaporous air,
Islanded by cities fair;
Underneath Day’s azure eyes
Ocean’s nursling, Venice lies,
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,
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,
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;
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
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.
A less drear ruin then than now,
With thy conquest-branded brow
Stooping to the slave of slaves
From thy throne, among the waves
Wilt thou be, when the sea-mew
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
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,
Will spread his sail and seize his oar
Till he pass the gloomy shore,
Lest thy dead should, from their sleep
Bursting o’er the starlight deep,
Lead a rapid masque of death
O’er the waters of his path.
Those who alone thy towers behold
Quivering through aereal gold,
As I now behold them here,
Would imagine not they were
Sepulchres, where human forms,
Like pollution-nourished worms,
To the corpse of greatness cling,
Murdered, and now mouldering:
But if Freedom should awake
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,
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! —
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
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,
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,
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
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 forever
Lashing with melodious wave
Many a sacred Poet’s grave,
Mourn its latest nursling fled?
What though thou with all thy dead
Scarce can for this fame repay
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;
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,
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.
Lo, the sun floats up the sky
Like thought-winged Liberty,
Till the universal light
Seems to level plain and height;
From the sea a mist has spread,
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-domed Padua proud
Stands, a peopled solitude,
‘Mid the harvest-shining plain,
Where the peasant heaps his grain
In the garner of his foe,
And the milk-white oxen slow
With the purple vintage strain,
Heaped upon the creaking wain,
That the brutal Celt may swill
Drunken sleep with savage will;
And the sickle to the sword
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:
Men must reap the things they sow,
Force from force must ever flow,
Or worse; but ’tis a bitter woe
That love or reason cannot change
The despot’s rage, the slave’s revenge.
Padua, thou within whose walls
Those mute guests at festivals,
Son and Mother, Death and Sin,
Played at dice for Ezzelin,
Till Death cried, “I win, I win!”
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 the destined years were o’er,
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,
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.
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:
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
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,
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,
He starts to see the flames it fed
Howling through the darkened sky
With a myriad tongues victoriously,
And sinks down in fear: so thou,
O Tyranny, beholdest now
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:
’Tis the noon of autumn’s glow,
When a soft and purple mist
Like a vaporous amethyst,
Or an air-dissolved star
Mingling light and fragrance, far
From the curved horizon’s bound
To the point of Heaven’s profound,
Fills the overflowing sky;
And the plains that silent lie
Underneath, the leaves unsodden
Where the infant Frost has trodden
With his morning-winged feet,
Whose bright print is gleaming yet;
And the red and golden vines,
Piercing with their trellised lines
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
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;
And my spirit which so long
Darkened this swift stream of song —
By the glory of the sky:
Be it love, light, harmony,
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
Autumn’s evening meets me soon,
Leading the infantine moon,
And that one star, which to her
Almost seems to minister
Half the crimson light she brings
From the sunset’s radiant springs:
And the soft dreams of the morn
(Which like winged winds had borne
To that silent isle, which lies
Mid remembered agonies,
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
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
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,
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
Of all flowers that breathe and shine:
We may live so happy there,
That the Spirits of the Air,
Envying us, may even entice
To our healing Paradise
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
Under which the bright sea heaves;
While each breathless interval
In their whisperings musical
The inspired soul supplies
With its own deep melodies;
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
Every sprite beneath the moon
Would repent its envy vain,
And the earth grow young again.
[Composed at Este, October, 1818. Published with “Rosalind and Helen”, 1819. Amongst the late Mr. Fredk. Locker-Lampson’s collections at Rowfant there is a manuscript of the lines (167-205) on Byron, interpolated after the completion of the poem.]
_54 seamews 1819; seamew’s Rossetti.
_115 Sun-girt]Sea-girt cj. Palgrave.
_165 From your dust new 1819; From thy dust shall Rowfant manuscript (heading of lines 167-205).
_175 songs 1819; sons cj. Forman.
_278 a 1819; wanting, 1839.
MADDALO, A COURTIER.
MALPIGLIO, A POET.
PIGNA, A MINISTER.
ALBANO, AN USHER.
No access to the Duke! You have not said
That the Count Maddalo would speak with him?
Did you inform his Grace that Signor Pigna
Waits with state papers for his signature?
The Lady Leonora cannot know
That I have written a sonnet to her fame,
In which I . . . Venus and Adonis.
You should not take my gold and serve me not.
In truth I told her, and she smiled and said,
‘If I am Venus, thou, coy Poesy,
Art the Adonis whom I love, and he
The Erymanthian boar that wounded him.’
O trust to me, Signor Malpiglio,
Those nods and smiles were favours worth the zechin.
The words are twisted in some double sense
That I reach not: the smiles fell not on me.
How are the Duke and Duchess occupied?
Buried in some strange talk. The Duke was leaning,
His finger on his brow, his lips unclosed.
The Princess sate within the window-seat,
And so her face was hid; but on her knee
Her hands were clasped, veined, and pale as snow,
And quivering — young Tasso, too, was there.
Thou seest on whom from thine own worshipped heaven
Thou drawest down smiles — they did not rain on thee.
Would they were parching lightnings for his sake
On whom they fell!
[Composed, 1818. Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862.]
I loved — alas! our life is love;
But when we cease to breathe and move
I do suppose love ceases too.
I thought, but not as now I do,
Keen thoughts and bright of linked lore,
Of all that men had thought before.
And all that Nature shows, and more.
And still I love and still I think,
But strangely, for my heart can drink
The dregs of such despair, and live,
And love; . . .
And if I think, my thoughts come fast,
I mix the present with the past,
And each seems uglier than the last.
Sometimes I see before me flee
A silver spirit’s form, like thee,
O Leonora, and I sit
. . . still watching it,
Till by the grated casement’s ledge
It fades, with such a sigh, as sedge
Breathes o’er the breezy streamlet’s edge.
[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]
Come, be happy! — sit near me,
Coy, unwilling, silent bride,
Mourning in thy robe of pride,
Desolation — deified!
Come, be happy! — sit near me:
Sad as I may seem to thee,
I am happier far than thou,
Lady, whose imperial brow
Is endiademed with woe.
Misery! we have known each other,
Like a sister and a brother
Living in the same lone home,
Many years — we must live some
Hours or ages yet to come.
’Tis an evil lot, and yet
Let us make the best of it;
If love can live when pleasure dies,
We two will love, till in our eyes
This heart’s Hell seem Paradise.
Come, be happy! — lie thee down
On the fresh grass newly mown,
Where the Grasshopper doth sing
Merrily — one joyous thing
In a world of sorrowing!
There our tent shall be the willow,
And mine arm shall be thy pillow;
Sounds and odours, sorrowful
Because they once were sweet, shall lull
Us to slumber, deep and dull.
Ha! thy frozen pulses flutter
With a love thou darest not utter.
Thou art murmuring — thou art weeping —
Is thine icy bosom leaping
While my burning heart lies sleeping?
Kiss me; — oh! thy lips are cold:
Round my neck thine arms enfold —
They are soft, but chill and dead;
And thy tears upon my head
Burn like points of frozen lead.
Hasten to the bridal bed —
Underneath the grave ’tis spread:
In darkness may our love be hid,
Oblivion be our coverlid —
We may rest, and none forbid.
Clasp me till our hearts be grown
Like two shadows into one;
Till this dreadful transport may
Like a vapour fade away,
In the sleep that lasts alway.
We may dream, in that long sleep,
That we are not those who weep;
E’en as Pleasure dreams of thee,
Thou mayst dream of her with me.
Let us laugh, and make our mirth,
At the shadows of the earth,
As dogs bay the moonlight clouds,
Which, like spectres wrapped in shrouds,
Pass o’er night in multitudes.
All the wide world, beside us,
Show like multitudinous
Puppets passing from a scene;
What but mockery can they mean,
Where I am — where thou hast been?
[Published by Medwin, “The Athenaeum”, September 8, 1832. Reprinted (as “Misery, a Fragment”) by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition. Our text is that of 1839. A pencil copy of this poem is amongst the Shelley manuscripts at the Bodleian Library. See Mr. C.D. Locock’s “Examination”, etc., 1903, page 38. The readings of this copy are indicated by the letter B. in the footnotes.]
_1 near B., 1839; by 1832.
_8 happier far]merrier yet B.
_15 Hours or]Years and 1832.
_17 best]most 1832.
_19 We two will]We will 1832.
_27 mine arm shall be thy B., 1839; thine arm shall be my 1832.
_33 represented by asterisks, 1832.
_34, _35 Thou art murmuring, thou art weeping, Whilst my burning bosom’s leaping 1832; Was thine icy bosom leaping While my burning heart was sleeping B.
_40 frozen 1832, 1839, B.; molten cj. Forman.
_44 be]is B.
_47 shadows]lovers 1832, B.
_59 which B., 1839; that 1832.
_62 Show]Are 1832, B.
_63 Puppets passing]Shadows shifting 1832; Shadows passing B.
_64, _65 So B.: What but mockery may they mean? Where am I? — Where thou hast been 1832.
The sun is warm, the sky is clear,
The waves are dancing fast and bright,
Blue isles and snowy mountains wear
The purple noon’s transparent might,
The breath of the moist earth is light,
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.
I see the Deep’s untrampled floor
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 lightning of the noontide ocean
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,
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 —
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,
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
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;
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,
Will linger, though enjoyed, like joy in memory yet.
[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824, where it is dated ‘December, 1818.’ A draft of stanza 1 is amongst the Boscombe manuscripts. (Garnett).]
_4 might Boscombe manuscript, Medwin 1847; light 1824, 1839.
_5 The . . . light Boscombe manuscript, 1839, Medwin 1847; omitted, 1824. moist earth Boscombe manuscript; moist air 1839; west wind Medwin 1847.
_17 measured 1824; mingled 1847.
_18 did any heart now 1824; if any heart could Medwin 1847.
_31 the 1824; this Medwin 1847.
_36 dying 1824; outworn Medwin 1847.
A woodman whose rough heart was out of tune
(I think such hearts yet never came to good)
Hated to hear, under the stars or moon,
One nightingale in an interfluous wood
Satiate the hungry dark with melody; —
And as a vale is watered by a flood,
Or as the moonlight fills the open sky
Struggling with darkness — as a tuberose
Peoples some Indian dell with scents which lie
Like clouds above the flower from which they rose,
The singing of that happy nightingale
In this sweet forest, from the golden close
Of evening till the star of dawn may fail,
Was interfused upon the silentness;
The folded roses and the violets pale
Heard her within their slumbers, the abyss
Of heaven with all its planets; the dull ear
Of the night-cradled earth; the loneliness
Of the circumfluous waters — every sphere
And every flower and beam and cloud and wave,
And every wind of the mute atmosphere,
And every beast stretched in its rugged cave,
And every bird lulled on its mossy bough,
And every silver moth fresh from the grave
Which is its cradle — ever from below
Aspiring like one who loves too fair, too far,
To be consumed within the purest glow
Of one serene and unapproached star,
As if it were a lamp of earthly light,
Unconscious, as some human lovers are,
Itself how low, how high beyond all height
The heaven where it would perish! — and every form
That worshipped in the temple of the night
Was awed into delight, and by the charm
Girt as with an interminable zone,
Whilst that sweet bird, whose music was a storm
Of sound, shook forth the dull oblivion
Out of their dreams; harmony became love
In every soul but one.
. . .
And so this man returned with axe and saw
At evening close from killing the tall treen,
The soul of whom by Nature’s gentle law
Was each a wood-nymph, and kept ever green
The pavement and the roof of the wild copse,
Chequering the sunlight of the blue serene
With jagged leaves — and from the forest tops
Singing the winds to sleep — or weeping oft
Fast showers of aereal water-drops
Into their mother’s bosom, sweet and soft,
Nature’s pure tears which have no bitterness; —
Around the cradles of the birds aloft
They spread themselves into the loveliness
Of fan-like leaves, and over pallid flowers
Hang like moist clouds:— or, where high branches kiss,
Make a green space among the silent bowers,
Like a vast fane in a metropolis,
Surrounded by the columns and the towers
All overwrought with branch-like traceries
In which there is religion — and the mute
Persuasion of unkindled melodies,
Odours and gleams and murmurs, which the lute
Of the blind pilot-spirit of the blast
Stirs as it sails, now grave and now acute,
Wakening the leaves and waves, ere it has passed
To such brief unison as on the brain
One tone, which never can recur, has cast,
One accent never to return again.
. . .
The world is full of Woodmen who expel
Love’s gentle Dryads from the haunts of life,
And vex the nightingales in every dell.
[Published in part (1-67) by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824; the remainder (68-70) by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862.]
_8 — or as a tuberose cj. A.C. Bradley.
(This fragment refers to an event told in Sismondi’s “Histoire des Republiques Italiennes”, which occurred during the war when Florence finally subdued Pisa, and reduced it to a province. —[MRS. SHELLEY’S NOTE, 1824.])
Let those who pine in pride or in revenge,
Or think that ill for ill should be repaid,
Who barter wrong for wrong, until the exchange
Ruins the merchants of such thriftless trade,
Visit the tower of Vado, and unlearn
Such bitter faith beside Marenghi’s urn.
A massy tower yet overhangs the town,
A scattered group of ruined dwellings now . . .
. . .
Another scene are wise Etruria knew
Its second ruin through internal strife
And tyrants through the breach of discord threw
The chain which binds and kills. As death to life,
As winter to fair flowers (though some be poison)
So Monarchy succeeds to Freedom’s foison.
In Pisa’s church a cup of sculptured gold
Was brimming with the blood of feuds forsworn:
A Sacrament more holy ne’er of old
Etrurians mingled mid the shades forlorn
Of moon-illumined forests, when . . .
And reconciling factions wet their lips
With that dread wine, and swear to keep each spirit
Undarkened by their country’s last eclipse . . .
. . .
Was Florence the liberticide? that band
Of free and glorious brothers who had planted,
Like a green isle mid Aethiopian sand,
A nation amid slaveries, disenchanted
Of many impious faiths — wise, just — do they,
Does Florence, gorge the sated tyrants’ prey?
O foster-nurse of man’s abandoned glory,
Since Athens, its great mother, sunk in splendour;
Thou shadowest forth that mighty shape in story,
As ocean its wrecked fanes, severe yet tender:—
The light-invested angel Poesy
Was drawn from the dim world to welcome thee.
And thou in painting didst transcribe all taught
By loftiest meditations; marble knew
The sculptor’s fearless soul — and as he wrought,
The grace of his own power and freedom grew.
And more than all, heroic, just, sublime,
Thou wart among the false . . . was this thy crime?
Yes; and on Pisa’s marble walls the twine
Of direst weeds hangs garlanded — the snake
Inhabits its wrecked palaces; — in thine
A beast of subtler venom now doth make
Its lair, and sits amid their glories overthrown,
And thus thy victim’s fate is as thine own.
The sweetest flowers are ever frail and rare,
And love and freedom blossom but to wither;
And good and ill like vines entangled are,
So that their grapes may oft be plucked together; —
Divide the vintage ere thou drink, then make
Thy heart rejoice for dead Marenghi’s sake.
[Albert] Marenghi was a Florentine;
If he had wealth, or children, or a wife
Or friends, [or farm] or cherished thoughts which twine
The sights and sounds of home with life’s own life
Of these he was despoiled and Florence sent . . .
. . .
No record of his crime remains in story,
But if the morning bright as evening shone,
It was some high and holy deed, by glory
Pursued into forgetfulness, which won
From the blind crowd he made secure and free
The patriot’s meed, toil, death, and infamy.
For when by sound of trumpet was declared
A price upon his life, and there was set
A penalty of blood on all who shared
So much of water with him as might wet
His lips, which speech divided not — he went
Alone, as you may guess, to banishment.
Amid the mountains, like a hunted beast,
He hid himself, and hunger, toil, and cold,
Month after month endured; it was a feast
Whene’er he found those globes of deep-red gold
Which in the woods the strawberry-tree doth bear,
Suspended in their emerald atmosphere.
And in the roofless huts of vast morasses,
Deserted by the fever-stricken serf,
All overgrown with reeds and long rank grasses,
And hillocks heaped of moss-inwoven turf,
And where the huge and speckled aloe made,
Rooted in stones, a broad and pointed shade —
He housed himself. There is a point of strand
Near Vado’s tower and town; and on one side
The treacherous marsh divides it from the land,
Shadowed by pine and ilex forests wide,
And on the other, creeps eternally,
Through muddy weeds, the shallow sullen sea.
Here the earth’s breath is pestilence, and few
But things whose nature is at war with life —
Snakes and ill worms — endure its mortal dew.
The trophies of the clime’s victorious strife —
And ringed horns which the buffalo did wear,
And the wolf’s dark gray scalp who tracked him there.
And at the utmost point . . . stood there
The relics of a reed-inwoven cot,
Thatched with broad flags. An outlawed murderer
Had lived seven days there: the pursuit was hot
When he was cold. The birds that were his grave
Fell dead after their feast in Vado’s wave.
There must have burned within Marenghi’s breast
That fire, more warm and bright than life and hope,
(Which to the martyr makes his dungeon . . .
More joyous than free heaven’s majestic cope
To his oppressor), warring with decay —
Or he could ne’er have lived years, day by day.
Nor was his state so lone as you might think.
He had tamed every newt and snake and toad,
And every seagull which sailed down to drink
Those freshes ere the death-mist went abroad.
And each one, with peculiar talk and play,
Wiled, not untaught, his silent time away.
And the marsh-meteors, like tame beasts, at night
Came licking with blue tongues his veined feet;
And he would watch them, as, like spirits bright,
In many entangled figures quaint and sweet
To some enchanted music they would dance —
Until they vanished at the first moon-glance.
He mocked the stars by grouping on each weed
The summer dew-globes in the golden dawn;
And, ere the hoar-frost languished, he could read
Its pictured path, as on bare spots of lawn
Its delicate brief touch in silver weaves
The likeness of the wood’s remembered leaves.
And many a fresh Spring morn would he awaken —
While yet the unrisen sun made glow, like iron
Quivering in crimson fire, the peaks unshaken
Of mountains and blue isles which did environ
With air-clad crags that plain of land and sea —
And feel . . . liberty.
And in the moonless nights when the dun ocean
Heaved underneath wide heaven, star-impearled,
Starting from dreams . . .
Communed with the immeasurable world;
And felt his life beyond his limbs dilated,
Till his mind grew like that it contemplated.
His food was the wild fig and strawberry;
The milky pine-nuts which the autumn-blast
Shakes into the tall grass; or such small fry
As from the sea by winter-storms are cast;
And the coarse bulbs of iris-flowers he found
Knotted in clumps under the spongy ground.
And so were kindled powers and thoughts which made
His solitude less dark. When memory came
(For years gone by leave each a deepening shade),
His spirit basked in its internal flame —
As, when the black storm hurries round at night,
The fisher basks beside his red firelight.
Yet human hopes and cares and faiths and errors,
Like billows unawakened by the wind,
Slept in Marenghi still; but that all terrors,
Weakness, and doubt, had withered in his mind.
His couch . . .
. . .
And, when he saw beneath the sunset’s planet
A black ship walk over the crimson ocean —
Its pennon streaming on the blasts that fan it,
Its sails and ropes all tense and without motion,
Like the dark ghost of the unburied even
Striding athwart the orange-coloured heaven —
The thought of his own kind who made the soul
Which sped that winged shape through night and day —
The thought of his own country . . .
. . .
[Published in part (stanzas 7-15.) by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824; stanzas 1-28 by W.M. Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870. The Boscombe manuscript — evidently a first draft — from which (through Dr. Garnett) Rossetti derived the text of 1870 is now at the Bodleian, and has recently been collated by Mr. C.D. Locock, to whom the enlarged and amended text here printed is owing. The substitution, in title and text, of “Marenghi” for “Mazenghi” (1824) is due to Rossetti. Here as elsewhere in the footnotes B. = the Bodleian manuscript.]
_3 Who B.; Or 1870.
_6 Marenghi’s 1870; Mazenghi’s B.
_7 town 1870; sea B.
_8 ruined 1870; squalid B. (‘the whole line is cancelled,’ Locock).
_11 threw 1870; cancelled, B.
_17 A Sacrament more B.; At Sacrament: more 1870.
_18 mid B.; with 1870.
_19 forests when . . . B.; forests. 1870.
_23, _24 that band Of free and glorious brothers who had 1870; omitted, B.
_25 a 1870; one B.
_27 wise, just — do they 1870; omitted, B.
_28 Does 1870; Doth B. prey 1870; spoil B.
_33 angel 1824; Herald [?] B.
_34 to welcome thee 1824; cancelled for . . . by thee B.
_42 direst 1824; Desert B.
_45 sits amid 1824 amid cancelled for soils (?) B.
_53-_57 Albert . . . sent B.; omitted 1824, 1870. Albert cancelled B.: Pietro is the correct name.
_53 Marenghi]Mazenghi B.
_55 farm doubtful: perh. fame (Locock).
_62 he 1824; thus B.
_70 Amid the mountains 1824; Mid desert mountains [?] B.
_71 toil, and cold]cold and toil editions 1824, 1839.
_92, _93 And . . . there B. (see Editor’s Note); White bones, and locks of dun and yellow hair, And ringed horns which buffaloes did wear — 1870.
_94 at the utmost point 1870; cancelled for when (where?) B.
_95 reed B.; weed 1870.
_99 after B.; upon 1870.
_100 burned within Marenghi’s breast B.; lived within Marenghi’s heart 1870.
_101 and B.; or 1870.
_103 free B.; the 1870.
_109 freshes B.; omitted, 1870.
_118 by 1870; with B.
_119 dew-globes B.; dewdrops 1870.
_120 languished B.; vanished 1870.
_121 path, as on [bare] B.; footprints, as on 1870.
_122 silver B.; silence 1870.
_130 And in the moonless nights 1870; cancelled, B. dun B.; dim 1870.
_131 Heaved 1870; cancelled, B. wide B.; the 1870. star-impearled B.; omitted, 1870.
_132 Starting from dreams 1870; cancelled for He B.
_137 autumn B.; autumnal 1870.
_138 or B.; and 1870.
_155 pennon B.; pennons 1870.
_158 athwart B.; across 1870.
Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread — behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it — he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.
[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. Our text is that of the “Poetical Works”, 1839.]
_6 Their . . . drear 1839; The shadows, which the world calls substance, there 1824.
_7 who had lifted 1839; who lifted 1824.
O mighty mind, in whose deep stream this age
Shakes like a reed in the unheeding storm,
Why dost thou curb not thine own sacred rage?
[Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862.]
Silence! Oh, well are Death and Sleep and Thou
Three brethren named, the guardians gloomy-winged
Of one abyss, where life, and truth, and joy
Are swallowed up — yet spare me, Spirit, pity me,
Until the sounds I hear become my soul,
And it has left these faint and weary limbs,
To track along the lapses of the air
This wandering melody until it rests
Among lone mountains in some . . .
[Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862. A transcript by Mrs. Shelley, given to Charles Cowden Clarke, presents one or two variants.]
_4 Spirit 1862; O Spirit C.C.C. manuscript.
_8 This wandering melody 1862; These wandering melodies . . . C.C.C. manuscript.
The fierce beasts of the woods and wildernesses
Track not the steps of him who drinks of it;
For the light breezes, which for ever fleet
Around its margin, heap the sand thereon.
[Published by W.M. Rossetti, 1870.]
My head is wild with weeping for a grief
Which is the shadow of a gentle mind.
I walk into the air (but no relief
To seek — or haply, if I sought, to find;
It came unsought); — to wonder that a chief
Among men’s spirits should be cold and blind.
[Published by W.M. Rossetti, 1870.]
_4 find cj. A.C. Bradley.
Flourishing vine, whose kindling clusters glow
Beneath the autumnal sun, none taste of thee;
For thou dost shroud a ruin, and below
The rotting bones of dead antiquity.
[Published by W.M. Rossetti, 1870.]
We often hear of persons disappointed by a first visit to Italy. This was not Shelley’s case. The aspect of its nature, its sunny sky, its majestic storms, of the luxuriant vegetation of the country, and the noble marble-built cities, enchanted him. The sight of the works of art was full enjoyment and wonder. He had not studied pictures or statues before; he now did so with the eye of taste, that referred not to the rules of schools, but to those of Nature and truth. The first entrance to Rome opened to him a scene of remains of antique grandeur that far surpassed his expectations; and the unspeakable beauty of Naples and its environs added to the impression he received of the transcendent and glorious beauty of Italy.
Our winter was spent at Naples. Here he wrote the fragments of “Marenghi” and “The Woodman and the Nightingale”, which he afterwards threw aside. At this time, Shelley suffered greatly in health. He put himself under the care of a medical man, who promised great things, and made him endure severe bodily pain, without any good results. Constant and poignant physical suffering exhausted him; and though he preserved the appearance of cheerfulness, and often greatly enjoyed our wanderings in the environs of Naples, and our excursions on its sunny sea, yet many hours were passed when his thoughts, shadowed by illness, became gloomy — and then he escaped to solitude, and in verses, which he hid from fear of wounding me, poured forth morbid but too natural bursts of discontent and sadness. One looks back with unspeakable regret and gnawing remorse to such periods; fancying that, had one been more alive to the nature of his feelings, and more attentive to soothe them, such would not have existed. And yet, enjoying as he appeared to do every sight or influence of earth or sky, it was difficult to imagine that any melancholy he showed was aught but the effect of the constant pain to which he was a martyr.
We lived in utter solitude. And such is often not the nurse of cheerfulness; for then, at least with those who have been exposed to adversity, the mind broods over its sorrows too intently; while the society of the enlightened, the witty, and the wise, enables us to forget ourselves by making us the sharers of the thoughts of others, which is a portion of the philosophy of happiness. Shelley never liked society in numbers — it harassed and wearied him; but neither did he like loneliness, and usually, when alone, sheltered himself against memory and reflection in a book. But, with one or two whom he loved, he gave way to wild and joyous spirits, or in more serious conversation expounded his opinions with vivacity and eloquence. If an argument arose, no man ever argued better. He was clear, logical, and earnest, in supporting his own views; attentive, patient, and impartial, while listening to those on the adverse side. Had not a wall of prejudice been raised at this time between him and his countrymen, how many would have sought the acquaintance of one whom to know was to love and to revere! How many of the more enlightened of his contemporaries have since regretted that they did not seek him! how very few knew his worth while he lived! and, of those few, several were withheld by timidity or envy from declaring their sense of it. But no man was ever more enthusiastically loved — more looked up to, as one superior to his fellows in intellectual endowments and moral worth, by the few who knew him well, and had sufficient nobleness of soul to appreciate his superiority. His excellence is now acknowledged; but, even while admitted, not duly appreciated. For who, except those who were acquainted with him, can imagine his unwearied benevolence, his generosity, his systematic forbearance? And still less is his vast superiority in intellectual attainments sufficiently understood — his sagacity, his clear understanding, his learning, his prodigious memory. All these as displayed in conversation, were known to few while he lived, and are now silent in the tomb:
‘Ahi orbo mondo ingrato!
Gran cagion hai di dever pianger meco;
Che quel ben ch’ era in te, perdut’ hai seco.’
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00