The Complete Poetical Works, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Poems Written in 1820.

Table of Contents

  1. The Sensitive Plant.
  2. A Vision of the Sea.
  3. The Cloud.
  4. To a Skylark.
  5. Ode to Liberty.
  6. To —.
  7. Arethusa.
  8. Song of Proserpine While Gathering Flowers on the Plain of Enna.
  9. Hymn of Apollo.
  10. Hymn of Pan.
  11. The Question.
  12. The Two Spirits: An Allegory.
  13. Ode to Naples.
  14. Autumn: A Dirge.
  15. The Waning Moon.
  16. To the Moon.
  17. Death.
  18. Liberty.
  19. Summer and Winter.
  20. The Tower of Famine.
  21. An Allegory.
  22. The World’s Wanderers.
  23. Sonnet.
  24. Lines to a Reviewer.
  25. Fragment of a Satire on Satire.
  26. Good-Night.
  27. Buona Notte.
  28. Orpheus.
  29. Fiordispina.
  30. Time Long Past.
  31. Fragment: The Deserts of Dim Sleep.
  32. Fragment: ‘The Viewless and Invisible Consequence’.
  33. Fragment: A Serpent-Face.
  34. Fragment: Death in Life.
  35. Fragment: ‘Such Hope, As is the Sick Despair of Good’.
  36. Fragment: ‘Alas! This is Not What I Thought Life Was’.
  37. Fragment: Milton’s Spirit.
  38. Fragment: ‘Unrisen Splendour of the Brightest Sun’.
  39. Fragment: Pater Omnipotens.
  40. Fragment: To the Mind of Man.
  41. Note on Poems of 1820, by Mrs. Shelley.

The Sensitive Plant.

[Composed at Pisa, early in 1820 (dated ‘March, 1820,’ in Harvard manuscript), and published, with “Prometheus Unbound”, the same year: included in the Harvard College manuscript book. Reprinted in the “Poetical Works”, 1839, both editions.]

Part 1.

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,

Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;

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,

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,


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 own dear loveliness;

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,

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 addressed,


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:

And the wand-like lily, which lifted up,

As a Maenad, its moonlight-coloured cup,

Till the fiery star, which is its eye,


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.

And on the stream whose inconstant bosom

Was pranked, under boughs of embowering blossom,

With golden and green light, slanting through

Their heaven of many a tangled hue,


Broad water-lilies lay tremulously,

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,

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 fabulous asphodels,


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

Fell into pavilions, white, 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


Smile on its mother, whose singing sweet

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;

For each one was interpenetrated

With the light and the odour its neighbour shed,

Like young lovers whom youth and love make dear

Wrapped and filled by their mutual atmosphere.


But the Sensitive Plant which could give small fruit

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;

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

It desires what it has not, the Beautiful!

The light winds which from unsustaining wings

Shed the music of many murmurings;


The beams which dart from many a star

Of the flowers whose hues they bear afar;

The plumed insects swift and free,

Like golden boats on a sunny sea,

Laden with light and odour, which pass


Over the gleam of the living grass;

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,

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,

Whilst the lagging hours of the day went by

Like windless clouds o’er a 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,

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;

(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

Upgathered into the bosom of rest;

A sweet child weary of its delight,

The feeblest and yet the favourite,

Cradled within the embrace of Night.

_6 Like the Spirit of Love felt 1820; And the Spirit of Love felt 1839, 1st edition; And the Spirit of Love fell 1839, 2nd edition.

_49 and of moss]and moss Harvard manuscript.

_82 The]And the Harvard manuscript.

Part 2.

There was a Power in this sweet place,

An Eve in this Eden; a ruling Grace

Which to the flowers, did they waken or dream,

Was as God is to the starry scheme.


A Lady, the wonder of her kind,

Whose form was upborne by a lovely mind

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 sublunar Heaven,

Like the lamps of the air when Night walks forth,

Laughed round her footsteps up from the Earth!

She had no companion of mortal race,

But her tremulous breath and her flushing face


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

That her dreams were less slumber than Paradise:

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 step seemed to pity the grass it pressed;

You might hear by the heaving of her breast,

That the coming and going of the wind

Brought pleasure there and left passion behind.


And wherever her aery footstep trod,

Her trailing hair from the grassy sod

Erased its light vestige, with shadowy sweep,

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

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.

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,

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

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 the flowers, and harm not, did she

Make her attendant angels be.

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.

This fairest creature from earliest Spring

Thus moved through the garden ministering

Mi the sweet season of Summertide,


And ere the first leaf looked brown — she died!

_15 morn Harvard manuscript, 1839; moon 1820.

_23 and going 1820; and the going Harvard manuscript, 1839.

_59 All 1820, 1839; Through all Harvard manuscript.

Part 3.

Three days the flowers of the garden fair,

Like stars when the moon is awakened, were,

Or the waves of Baiae, ere luminous

She floats up through the smoke of Vesuvius.


And on the fourth, the Sensitive Plant

Felt the sound of the funeral chant,

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,

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.

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,


Then slowly changed, till it grew a heap

To make men tremble who never weep.

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,

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,

Leaf by 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 dead,

Like troops of ghosts on the dry wind passed;

Their whistling noise made the birds aghast.

And the gusty winds waked the winged 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.

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

Were bent and tangled across the walks;

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,

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,

And stifled the air till the 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.

And agarics, and fungi, with mildew and mould

Started like mist from the wet ground cold;

Pale, fleshy, as if the decaying dead


With a spirit of growth had been animated!

Spawn, weeds, and filth, a leprous scum,

Made the running rivulet thick and dumb,

And at its outlet flags huge as stakes

Dammed 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;

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

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.

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

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 finger 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

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!

And under the roots of the Sensitive Plant

The moles and the dormice died for want:


The birds dropped stiff from the frozen air

And were caught in the branches naked and bare.

First there came down a thawing rain

And its dull drops froze on the boughs again;

Then there steamed up a freezing dew


Which to the drops of the thaw-rain grew;

And a northern whirlwind, wandering about

Like a wolf that had smelt a dead child out,

Shook the boughs thus laden, and heavy, and stiff,

And snapped them off with his rigid griff.


When Winter had gone and Spring came back

The Sensitive Plant was a leafless wreck;

But the mandrakes, and toadstools, and docks, and darnels,

Rose like the dead from their ruined charnels.


Whether the Sensitive Plant, or that


Which within its boughs like a Spirit sat,

Ere its outward form had known decay,

Now felt this change, I cannot say.

Whether that Lady’s gentle mind,

No longer with the form combined


Which scattered love, as stars do light,

Found sadness, where it left delight,

I dare not guess; but in this life

Of error, ignorance, and strife,

Where nothing is, but all things seem,


And we the shadows of the dream,

It is a modest creed, and yet

Pleasant if one considers it,

To own that death itself must be,

Like all the rest, a mockery.


That garden sweet, that lady fair,

And all sweet shapes and odours there,

In truth have never passed away:

’Tis we, ’tis ours, are changed; not they.

For love, and beauty, and delight,


There is no death nor change: their might

Exceeds our organs, which endure

No light, being themselves obscure.

_19 lovely Harvard manuscript, 1839; lively 1820.

_23 of the morning 1820, 1839; of morning Harvard manuscript.

_26 snow Harvard manuscript, 1839; now 1820.

_28 And lilies were drooping, white and wan Harvard manuscript.

_32 Leaf by leaf, day after day Harvard manuscript; Leaf after leaf, day after day 1820; Leaf after leaf, day by day 1839.

_63 mist]mists Harvard manuscript.

_96 and sudden flight]and their sudden flight the Harvard manuscript.

_98 And under]Under Harvard manuscript.

_114 Whether]And if Harvard manuscript.

_118 Whether]Or if Harvard manuscript.

Cancelled Passage.

[This stanza followed 3, 62-65 in the editio princeps, 1820, but was omitted by Mrs. Shelley from all editions from 1839 onwards. It is cancelled in the Harvard manuscript.]

Their moss rotted off them, flake by flake,

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.

A Vision of the Sea.

’Tis the terror of tempest. The rags of the sail

Are flickering in ribbons within the fierce gale:

From the stark night of vapours the dim rain is driven,

And when lightning is loosed, like a deluge from Heaven,


She sees the black trunks of the waterspouts spin

And bend, as if Heaven was ruining in,

Which they seemed to sustain with their terrible mass

As if ocean had sunk from beneath them: they pass

To their graves in the deep with an earthquake of sound,


And the waves and the thunders, made silent around,

Leave the wind to its echo. The vessel, now tossed

Through the low-trailing rack of the tempest, is lost

In the skirts of the thunder-cloud: now down the sweep

Of the wind-cloven wave to the chasm of the deep


It sinks, and the walls of the watery vale

Whose depths of dread calm are unmoved by the gale,

Dim mirrors of ruin, hang gleaming about;

While the surf, like a chaos of stars, like a rout

Of death-flames, like whirlpools of fire-flowing iron,


With splendour and terror the black ship environ,

Or like sulphur-flakes hurled from a mine of pale fire

In fountains spout o’er it. In many a spire

The pyramid-billows with white points of brine

In the cope of the lightning inconstantly shine,


As piercing the sky from the floor of the sea.

The great ship seems splitting! it cracks as a tree,

While an earthquake is splintering its root, ere the blast

Of the whirlwind that stripped it of branches has passed.

The intense thunder-balls which are raining from Heaven


Have shattered its mast, and it stands black and riven.

The chinks suck destruction. The heavy dead hulk

On the living sea rolls an inanimate bulk,

Like a corpse on the clay which is hungering to fold

Its corruption around it. Meanwhile, from the hold,


One deck is burst up by the waters below,

And it splits like the ice when the thaw-breezes blow

O’er the lakes of the desert! Who sit on the other?

Is that all the crew that lie burying each other,

Like the dead in a breach, round the foremast? Are those


Twin tigers, who burst, when the waters arose,

In the agony of terror, their chains in the hold;

(What now makes them tame, is what then made them bold;)

Who crouch, side by side, and have driven, like a crank,

The deep grip of their claws through the vibrating plank


Are these all? Nine weeks the tall vessel had lain

On the windless expanse of the watery plain,

Where the death-darting sun cast no shadow at noon,

And there seemed to be fire in the beams of the moon,

Till a lead-coloured fog gathered up from the deep,


Whose breath was quick pestilence; then, the cold sleep

Crept, like blight through the ears of a thick field of corn,

O’er the populous vessel. And even and morn,

With their hammocks for coffins the seamen aghast

Like dead men the dead limbs of their comrades cast


Down the deep, which closed on them above and around,

And the sharks and the dogfish their grave-clothes unbound,

And were glutted like Jews with this manna rained down

From God on their wilderness. One after one

The mariners died; on the eve of this day,


When the tempest was gathering in cloudy array,

But seven remained. Six the thunder has smitten,

And they lie black as mummies on which Time has written

His scorn of the embalmer; the seventh, from the deck

An oak-splinter pierced through his breast and his back,


And hung out to the tempest, a wreck on the wreck.

No more? At the helm sits a woman more fair

Than Heaven, when, unbinding its star-braided hair,

It sinks with the sun on the earth and the sea.

She clasps a bright child on her upgathered knee;


It laughs at the lightning, it mocks the mixed thunder

Of the air and the sea, with desire and with wonder

It is beckoning the tigers to rise and come near,

It would play with those eyes where the radiance of fear

Is outshining the meteors; its bosom beats high,


The heart-fire of pleasure has kindled its eye,

While its mother’s is lustreless. ‘Smile not, my child,

But sleep deeply and sweetly, and so be beguiled

Of the pang that awaits us, whatever that be,

So dreadful since thou must divide it with me!


Dream, sleep! This pale bosom, thy cradle and bed,

Will it rock thee not, infant? ’Tis beating with dread!

Alas! what is life, what is death, what are we,

That when the ship sinks we no longer may be?

What! to see thee no more, and to feel thee no more?


To be after life what we have been before?

Not to touch those sweet hands? Not to look on those eyes,

Those lips, and that hair — all the smiling disguise

Thou yet wearest, sweet Spirit, which I, day by day,

Have so long called my child, but which now fades away


Like a rainbow, and I the fallen shower?’— Lo! the ship

Is settling, it topples, the leeward ports dip;

The tigers leap up when they feel the slow brine

Crawling inch by inch on them; hair, ears, limbs, and eyne,

Stand rigid with horror; a loud, long, hoarse cry


Bursts at once from their vitals tremendously,

And ’tis borne down the mountainous vale of the wave,

Rebounding, like thunder, from crag to cave,

Mixed with the clash of the lashing rain,

Hurried on by the might of the hurricane:


The hurricane came from the west, and passed on

By the path of the gate of the eastern sun,

Transversely dividing the stream of the storm;

As an arrowy serpent, pursuing the form

Of an elephant, bursts through the brakes of the waste.


Black as a cormorant the screaming blast,

Between Ocean and Heaven, like an ocean, passed,

Till it came to the clouds on the verge of the world

Which, based on the sea and to Heaven upcurled,

Like columns and walls did surround and sustain


The dome of the tempest; it rent them in twain,

As a flood rends its barriers of mountainous crag:

And the dense clouds in many a ruin and rag,

Like the stones of a temple ere earthquake has passed,

Like the dust of its fall. on the whirlwind are cast;


They are scattered like foam on the torrent; and where

The wind has burst out through the chasm, from the air

Of clear morning the beams of the sunrise flow in,

Unimpeded, keen, golden, and crystalline,

Banded armies of light and of air; at one gate


They encounter, but interpenetrate.

And that breach in the tempest is widening away,

And the caverns of cloud are torn up by the day,

And the fierce winds are sinking with weary wings,

Lulled by the motion and murmurings


And the long glassy heave of the rocking sea,

And overhead glorious, but dreadful to see,

The wrecks of the tempest, like vapours of gold,

Are consuming in sunrise. The heaped waves behold

The deep calm of blue Heaven dilating above,


And, like passions made still by the presence of Love,

Beneath the clear surface reflecting it slide

Tremulous with soft influence; extending its tide

From the Andes to Atlas, round mountain and isle,

Round sea-birds and wrecks, paved with Heaven’s azure smile,


The wide world of waters is vibrating. Where

Is the ship? On the verge of the wave where it lay

One tiger is mingled in ghastly affray

With a sea-snake. The foam and the smoke of the battle

Stain the clear air with sunbows; the jar, and the rattle


Of solid bones crushed by the infinite stress

Of the snake’s adamantine voluminousness;

And the hum of the hot blood that spouts and rains

Where the gripe of the tiger has wounded the veins

Swollen with rage, strength, and effort; the whirl and the splash


As of some hideous engine whose brazen teeth smash

The thin winds and soft waves into thunder; the screams

And hissings crawl fast o’er the smooth ocean-streams,

Each sound like a centipede. Near this commotion,

A blue shark is hanging within the blue ocean,


The fin-winged tomb of the victor. The other

Is winning his way from the fate of his brother

To his own with the speed of despair. Lo! a boat

Advances; twelve rowers with the impulse of thought

Urge on the keen keel — the brine foams. At the stern


Three marksmen stand levelling. Hot bullets burn

In the breast of the tiger, which yet bears him on

To his refuge and ruin. One fragment alone —

’Tis dwindling and sinking, ’tis now almost gone —

Of the wreck of the vessel peers out of the sea.


With her left hand she grasps it impetuously.

With her right she sustains her fair infant. Death, Fear,

Love, Beauty, are mixed in the atmosphere,

Which trembles and burns with the fervour of dread

Around her wild eyes, her bright hand, and her head,


Like a meteor of light o’er the waters! her child

Is yet smiling, and playing, and murmuring; so smiled

The false deep ere the storm. Like a sister and brother

The child and the ocean still smile on each other,

Whilst —

[Composed at Pisa early in 1820, and published with “Prometheus Unbound” in the same year. A transcript in Mrs. Shelley’s handwriting is included in the Harvard manuscript book, where it is dated ‘April, 1820.’]

_6 ruining Harvard manuscript, 1839; raining 1820.

_8 sunk Harvard manuscript, 1839; sank 1820.

_35 by Harvard manuscript; from 1820, 1839.

_61 has 1820; had 1839.

_87 all the Harvard manuscript; all that 1820, 1839.

_116 through Harvard manuscript; from 1820, 1839.

_121 away]alway cj. A.C. Bradley.

_122 cloud Harvard manuscript, 1839; clouds 1820.

_160 impetuously 1820, 1839; convulsively Harvard manuscript.

The Cloud.

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,

From the seas and the streams;

I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In their noonday dreams.


From my wings are shaken the dews that waken

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,

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 ’tis my pillow white,

While I sleep in the arms of the blast.

Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,

Lightning my pilot sits;

In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,


It struggles and howls at fits;

Over 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.

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.

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,

Which an earthquake rocks and swings,

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 of rest and of love,

And the crimson pall of eve may fall

From the depth of Heaven above.

With wings folded I rest, on mine aery nest,

As still as a brooding dove.


That orbed maiden with white fire laden,

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 angels hear,

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,

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;

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 a torrent sea,


Sunbeam-proof, I hand like a roof —

The mountains its columns be.

The triumphal arch through which I march

With hurricane, fire, and snow,

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


Is the million-coloured bow;

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;

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,

I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,

And out of the caverns of rain,

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

I arise and unbuild it again.

[Published with “Prometheus Unbound”, 1820.]

_3 shade 1820; shades 1839.

_6 buds 1839; birds 1820.

_59 with a 1820; with the 1830.

To a Skylark.

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.

Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The blue deep thou wingest,


And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

In the golden lightning

Of the sunken sun,

O’er which clouds are bright’ning.

Thou dost float and run;


Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.

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,

Keen as are the arrows

Of that silver sphere,

Whose intense lamp narrows

In the white dawn clear


Until we hardly see — we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air

With thy voice is loud,

As, when night is bare,

From one lonely cloud


The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflowed.

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.

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:

Like a high-born maiden

In a palace-tower,

Soothing her love-laden

Soul in secret hour


With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:

Like a glow-worm golden

In a dell of dew,

Scattering unbeholden

Its aereal hue


Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view!

Like a rose embowered

In its own green leaves,

By warm winds deflowered,

Till the scent it gives


Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:

Sound of vernal showers

On the twinkling grass,

Rain-awakened flowers,

All that ever was


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.

Chorus Hymeneal,

Or triumphal chant,

Matched with thine would be all

But an empty vaunt,


A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

What objects are the fountains

Of thy happy strain?

What fields, or waves, or mountains?

What shapes of sky or plain?


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

With thy clear keen joyance

Languor cannot be:

Shadow of annoyance

Never came near thee:


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

Waking or asleep,

Thou of death must deem

Things more true and deep

Than we mortals dream,


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.

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.

Better than all measures

Of delightful sound,

Better than all treasures

That in books are found,


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

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.

[Composed at Leghorn, 1820, and published with “Prometheus Unbound” in the same year. There is a transcript in the Harvard manuscript.]

_55 those Harvard manuscript: these 1820, 1839.

Ode to Liberty.

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,

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

The Spirit’s whirlwind rapped 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.


The Sun and the serenest Moon sprang forth:

The burning stars of the abyss were hurled

Into the depths of Heaven. The daedal earth,

That island in the ocean of the world,


Hung in its cloud of all-sustaining air:

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,

And there was war among them, and despair

Within 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.


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.

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

The sister-pest, congregator of slaves;

Into the shadow of her pinions wide

Anarchs and priests, who feed on gold and blood

Till with the stain their inmost souls are dyed,


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.

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,

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 Aegean main


Athens arose: a city such as 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;

Its portals are inhabited

By thunder-zoned 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

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

For thou wert, and thine all-creative skill

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

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

With an earth-awakening blast

Through the caverns of the past:

(Religion veils her eyes; Oppression shrinks aghast:)

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


Which soars where Expectation never flew,

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,


As Athens doth the world with thy delight renew.


Then Rome was, and from thy deep bosom fairest,

Like a wolf-cub from a Cadmaean Maenad,

She drew the milk of greatness, though thy dearest

From that Elysian food was yet unweaned;


And many a deed of terrible uprightness

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,

Thou didst desert, with spirit-winged lightness,

The senate of the tyrants: they sunk prone

Slaves of one tyrant: Palatinus sighed

Faint echoes of Ionian song; that tone


Thou didst delay to hear, lamenting to disown


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,

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.

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,

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,

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.


Thou huntress swifter than the Moon! thou terror

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

Whose sunlike shafts pierce tempest-winged Error,

As light may pierce the clouds when they dissever


In the calm regions of the orient day!

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;


And England’s prophets hailed thee as their queen,

In songs whose music cannot pass away,

Though it must flow forever: not unseen

Before the spirit-sighted countenance

Of Milton didst thou pass, from the sad scene


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

Answered 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


Of its own glorious light, thou didst arise.

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.


Thou Heaven of 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;

How like Bacchanals of blood

Round France, the ghastly vintage, stood

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

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


The Anarch of thine own bewildered powers,

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.


England yet sleeps: was she not called of old?

Spain calls her now, as with its thrilling thunder

Vesuvius wakens Aetna, and the cold

Snow-crags by its reply are cloven in sunder:


O’er the lit waves every Aeolian isle

From Pithecusa to Pelorus

Howls, and leaps, and glares in chorus:

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.

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.


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,

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!

Thou island of eternity! thou shrine

Where Desolation, clothed with loveliness,

Worships the thing thou wert! O Italy,

Gather thy blood into thy heart; repress


The beasts who make their dens thy sacred palaces.


Oh, 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


Erases, and the flat sands close behind!

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,

The axes and the rods which awe mankind;

The sound has poison in it, ’tis the sperm

Of what makes life foul, cankerous, and abhorred;

Disdain not thou, at thine appointed term,


To set thine armed heel on this reluctant worm.


Oh, 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 judgement-throne

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

Oh, that the words which make the thoughts obscure


From which they spring, as clouds of glimmering dew

From a white lake blot Heaven’s blue portraiture,

Were stripped 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!


He who taught man to vanquish whatsoever

Can be between the cradle and the grave

Crowned him the King of Life. Oh, vain endeavour!

If on his own high will, a willing slave,


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, an ardent intercessor,


Driving on fiery wings to Nature’s throne,

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,


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;

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?

O Liberty! if such could be thy name

Wert thou disjoined from these, or they from thee:

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


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 aereal golden light

On the heavy-sounding plain,

When the bolt has pierced its brain;

As summer clouds dissolve, unburthened of their rain;

As a far taper fades with fading night,


As a brief insect dies with dying day —

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.

[Composed early in 1820, and published, with “Prometheus Unbound”, in the same year. A transcript in Shelley’s hand of lines 1-21 is included in the Harvard manuscript book, and amongst the Boscombe manuscripts there is a fragment of a rough draft (Garnett). For further particulars concerning the text see Editor’s Notes.]

_4 into]unto Harvard manuscript.

_9 inverse cj. Rossetti; in verse 1820.

_92 See the Bacchae of Euripides —[SHELLEY’S NOTE].

_113 lore 1839; love 1820.

_116 shattered]scattered cj. Rossetti.

_134 wand 1820; want 1830.

_194 us]as cj. Forman.

_212 KING Boscombe manuscript; **** 1820, 1839; CHRIST cj. Swinburne.

_249 Or 1839; O, 1820.

_250 Driving 1820; Diving 1839.

Cancelled Passage of the Ode to Liberty.

[Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862.]

Within a cavern of man’s trackless spirit

Is throned an Image, so intensely fair

That the adventurous thoughts that wander near it

Worship, and as they kneel, tremble and wear


The splendour of its presence, and the light

Penetrates their dreamlike frame

Till they become charged with the strength of flame.

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,

Thou needest not fear mine;

Innocent is the heart’s devotion

With which I worship thine.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]



Arethusa arose

From her couch of snows

In the Acroceraunian mountains —

From cloud and from crag,


With many a jag,

Shepherding her bright fountains.

She leapt down the rocks,

With her rainbow locks

Streaming among the streams; —


Her steps paved with green

The downward ravine

Which slopes to the western gleams;

And gliding and springing

She went, ever singing,


In murmurs as soft as sleep;

The Earth seemed to love her,

And Heaven smiled above her,

As she lingered towards the deep.


Then Alpheus bold,


On his glacier cold,

With his trident the mountains strook;

And opened a chasm

In the rocks — with the spasm

All Erymanthus shook.


And the black south wind

It unsealed behind

The urns of the silent snow,

And earthquake and thunder

Did rend in sunder


The bars of the springs below.

And the beard and the hair

Of the River-god were

Seen through the torrent’s sweep,

As he followed the light


Of the fleet nymph’s flight

To the brink of the Dorian deep.


‘Oh, save me! Oh, guide me!

And bid the deep hide me,

For he grasps me now by the hair!’


The loud Ocean heard,

To its blue depth stirred,

And divided at her prayer;

And under the water

The Earth’s white daughter


Fled like a sunny beam;

Behind her descended

Her billows, unblended

With the brackish Dorian stream:—

Like a gloomy stain


On the emerald main

Alpheus rushed behind —

As an eagle pursuing

A dove to its ruin

Down the streams of the cloudy wind.


Under the bowers

Where the Ocean Powers

Sit on their pearled thrones;

Through the coral woods

Of the weltering floods,


Over heaps of unvalued stones;

Through the dim beams

Which amid the streams

Weave a network of coloured light;

And under the caves,


Where the shadowy waves

Are as green as the forest’s night:—

Outspeeding the shark,

And the sword-fish dark,

Under the Ocean’s foam,


And up through the rifts

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,

Like friends once parted

Grown single-hearted,

They ply their watery tasks.

At sunrise they leap


From their cradles steep

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

In the rocking deep

Beneath the Ortygian shore; —

Like spirits that lie

In the azure sky


When they love but live no more.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824, and dated by her ‘Pisa, 1820.’ There is a fair draft amongst the Shelley manuscripts at the Bodleian Library. See Mr. C.D. Locock’s “Examination”, etc., 1903, page 24.]

_6 unsealed B.; concealed 1824.

_31 And the B.; The 1824.

_69 Ocean’s B.; ocean 1824.

Song of Proserpine While Gathering Flowers on the Plain of Enna.


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

On thine own child, Proserpine.


If with mists of evening dew

Thou dost nourish these young flowers

Till they grow, in scent and hue,


Fairest children of the Hours,

Breathe thine influence most divine

On thine own child, Proserpine.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition. There is a fair draft amongst the Shelley manuscripts at the Bodleian Library. See Mr. C.D. Locock’s “Examination,” etc., 1903, page 24.]

Hymn of Apollo.


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 —


Waken me when their Mother, the gray Dawn,

Tells them that dreams and that 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

Are filled with my bright presence, and the air

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

Fly me, and from the glory of my ray

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 aethereal colours; the moon’s globe

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,

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?


I am the eye with which the Universe

Beholds itself and knows itself divine;

All harmony of instrument or verse,

All prophecy, all medicine is mine,


All light of art or nature; — to my song

Victory and praise in its own right belong.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a fair draft amongst the Shelley manuscripts at the Bodleian. See Mr. C.D. Locock’s “Examination”, etc., 1903, page 25.]

_32 itself divine]it is divine B.

_34 is B.; are 1824.

_36 its cj. Rossetti, 1870, B.; their 1824.

Hymn of Pan.


From the forests and highlands

We come, we come;

From the river-girt islands,

Where loud waves are dumb


Listening to my sweet pipings.

The wind in the reeds and the rushes,

The bees on the bells of thyme,

The birds on the myrtle bushes,

The cicale above in the lime,


And the lizards below in the grass,

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

The light of the dying day,

Speeded by my sweet pipings.

The Sileni, and Sylvans, and Fauns,

And the Nymphs of the woods and the waves,


To the edge of the moist river-lawns,

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,

I sang of the daedal 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 Maenalus

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,

At the sorrow of my sweet pipings.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a fair draft amongst the Shelley manuscripts at the Bodleian. See Mr. C.D. Locock’s “Examination”, etc., 1903, page 25.]

_5, _12 Listening to]Listening B.

The Question.


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

Under a copse, and hardly dared to fling

Its green arms round the bosom of the stream,

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


There grew pied wind-flowers and violets,


Daisies, those pearled Arcturi of the earth,

The constellated flower that never sets;

Faint oxslips; 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’s collected tears,

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;

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

There grew broad flag-flowers, purple pranked with white.

And starry river buds among the sedge,

And floating water-lilies, broad and bright,

Which lit the oak that overhung the hedge


With moonlight beams of their own watery light;

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

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! — Oh! to whom?

[Published by Leigh Hunt (with the signature Sigma) in “The Literary Pocket-Book”, 1822. Reprinted by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. Copies exist in the Harvard manuscript book, amongst the Boscombe manuscripts, and amongst Ollier manuscripts.]

_14 Like . . . mirth Harvard manuscript, Boscombe manuscript; wanting in Ollier manuscript, 1822, 1824, 1839.

_15 Heaven’s collected Harvard manuscript, Ollier manuscript, 1822; Heaven-collected 1824, 1839.

The Two Spirits: An Allegory.


O thou, who plumed with strong desire

Wouldst float above the earth, beware!

A Shadow tracks thy flight of fire —

Night is coming!


Bright are the regions of the air,

And among the winds and beams

It were delight to wander there —

Night is coming!


The deathless stars are bright above;


If I would cross the shade of night,

Within my heart is the lamp of love,

And that is day!

And the moon will smile with gentle light

On my golden plumes where’er they move;


The meteors will linger round my flight,

And make night day.


But if the whirlwinds of darkness waken

Hail, and lightning, and stormy rain;

See, the bounds of the air are shaken —


Night is coming!

The red swift clouds of the hurricane

Yon declining sun have overtaken,

The clash of the hail sweeps over the plain —

Night is coming!



I see the light, and I hear the sound;

I’ll sail on the flood of the tempest dark

With the calm within and the light around

Which makes night day:

And thou, when the gloom is deep and stark,


Look from thy dull earth, slumber-bound,

My moon-like flight thou then mayst mark

On high, far away.

. . .

Some say there is a precipice

Where one vast pine is frozen to ruin


O’er piles of snow and chasms of ice

Mid Alpine mountains;

And that the languid storm pursuing

That winged shape, for ever flies

Round those hoar branches, aye renewing


Its aery fountains.

Some say when nights are dry and clear,

And the death-dews sleep on the morass,

Sweet whispers are heard by the traveller,

Which make night day:


And a silver shape like his early love doth pass

Upborne by her wild and glittering hair,

And when he awakes on the fragrant grass,

He finds night day.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]

_2 Wouldst 1839; Would 1824.

_31 moon-like 1824; moonlight 1839.

_44 make]makes 1824, 1839.

Ode to Naples.

(The Author has connected many recollections of his visit to Pompeii and Baiae with the enthusiasm excited by the intelligence of the proclamation of a Constitutional Government at Naples. This has given a tinge of picturesque and descriptive imagery to the introductory Epodes which depicture these scenes, and some of the majestic feelings permanently connected with the scene of this animating event. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.])


I stood within the City disinterred;

And heard the autumnal leaves like light footfalls

Of spirits passing through the streets; and heard

The Mountain’s slumberous voice at intervals


Thrill through those roofless halls;

The oracular thunder penetrating shook

The listening soul in my suspended blood;

I felt that Earth out of her deep heart spoke —

I felt, but heard not:— through white columns glowed


The isle-sustaining ocean-flood,

A plane of light between two heavens of azure!

Around me gleamed many a bright sepulchre

Of whose pure beauty, Time, as if his pleasure

Were to spare Death, had never made erasure;


But every living lineament was clear

As in the sculptor’s thought; and there

The wreaths of stony myrtle, ivy, and pine,

Like winter leaves o’ergrown by moulded snow,

Seemed only not to move and grow


Because the crystal silence of the air

Weighed on their life; even as the Power divine

Which then lulled all things, brooded upon mine.


Then gentle winds arose

With many a mingled close


Of wild Aeolian sound, and mountain-odours keen;

And where the Baian ocean

Welters with airlike motion,

Within, above, around its bowers of starry green,

Moving the sea-flowers in those purple caves,


Even as the ever stormless atmosphere

Floats o’er the Elysian realm,

It bore me, like an Angel, o’er the waves

Of sunlight, whose swift pinnace of dewy air

No storm can overwhelm.


I sailed, where ever flows

Under the calm Serene

A spirit of deep emotion

From the unknown graves

Of the dead Kings of Melody.


Shadowy Aornos darkened o’er the helm

The horizontal aether; Heaven stripped bare

Its depth over Elysium, where the prow

Made the invisible water white as snow;

From that Typhaean mount, Inarime,


There streamed a sunbright vapour, like the standard

Of some aethereal host;

Whilst from all the coast,

Louder and louder, gathering round, there wandered

Over the oracular woods and divine sea

Prophesyings which grew articulate —


They seize me — I must speak them! — be they fate!

Strophe 1.

Naples! thou Heart of men which ever pantest

Naked, beneath the lidless eye of Heaven!

Elysian City, which to calm enchantest


The mutinous air and sea! they round thee, even

As sleep round Love, are driven!

Metropolis of a ruined Paradise

Long lost, late won, and yet but half regained!

Bright Altar of the bloodless sacrifice


Which armed Victory offers up unstained

To Love, the flower-enchained!

Thou which wert once, and then didst cease to be,

Now art, and henceforth ever shalt be, free,

If Hope, and Truth, and Justice can avail —


Hail, hail, all hail!

Strophe 2.

Thou youngest giant birth

Which from the groaning earth

Leap’st, clothed in armour of impenetrable scale!

Last of the Intercessors!


Who ‘gainst the Crowned Transgressors

Pleadest before God’s love! Arrayed in Wisdom’s mail,

Wave thy lightning lance in mirth

Nor let thy high heart fail,

Though from their hundred gates the leagued Oppressors


With hurried legions move!

Hail, hail, all hail!


What though Cimmerian Anarchs dare blaspheme

Freedom and thee? thy shield is as a mirror

To make their blind slaves see, and with fierce gleam


To turn his hungry sword upon the wearer;

A new Actaeon’s error

Shall theirs have been — devoured by their own hounds!

Be thou like the imperial Basilisk

Killing thy foe with unapparent wounds!


Gaze on Oppression, till at that dread risk

Aghast she pass from the Earth’s disk:

Fear not, but gaze — for freemen mightier grow,

And slaves more feeble, gazing on their foe:—

If Hope, and Truth, and Justice may avail,


Thou shalt be great — All hail!


From Freedom’s form divine,

From Nature’s inmost shrine,

Strip every impious gawd, rend

Error veil by veil;

O’er Ruin desolate,


O’er Falsehood’s fallen state,

Sit thou sublime, unawed; be the Destroyer pale!

And equal laws be thine,

And winged words let sail,

Freighted with truth even from the throne of God:


That wealth, surviving fate,

Be thine. — All hail!


Didst thou not start to hear Spain’s thrilling paean

From land to land re-echoed solemnly,

Till silence became music? From the Aeaean


To the cold Alps, eternal Italy

Starts to hear thine! The Sea

Which paves the desert streets of Venice laughs

In light, and music; widowed Genoa wan

By moonlight spells ancestral epitaphs,


Murmuring, ‘Where is Doria?’ fair Milan,

Within whose veins long ran

The viper’s palsying venom, lifts her heel

To bruise his head. The signal and the seal

(If Hope and Truth and Justice can avail)


Art thou of all these hopes. — O hail!


Florence! beneath the sun,

Of cities fairest one,

Blushes within her bower for Freedom’s expectation:

From eyes of quenchless hope


Rome tears the priestly cope,

As ruling once by power, so now by admiration —

An athlete stripped to run

From a remoter station

For the high prize lost on Philippi’s shore:—


As then Hope, Truth, and Justice did avail,

So now may Fraud and Wrong! O hail!


Hear ye the march as of the Earth-born Forms

Arrayed against the ever-living Gods?

The crash and darkness of a thousand storms


Bursting their inaccessible abodes

Of crags and thunder-clouds?

See ye the banners blazoned to the day,

Inwrought with emblems of barbaric pride?

Dissonant threats kill Silence far away,


The serene Heaven which wraps our Eden wide

With iron light is dyed;

The Anarchs of the North lead forth their legions

Like Chaos o’er creation, uncreating;

An hundred tribes nourished on strange religions


And lawless slaveries — down the aereal regions

Of the white Alps, desolating,

Famished wolves that bide no waiting,

Blotting the glowing footsteps of old glory,

Trampling our columned cities into dust,


Their dull and savage lust

On Beauty’s corse to sickness satiating —

They come! The fields they tread look black and hoary

With fire — from their red feet the streams run gory!


Great Spirit, deepest Love!


Which rulest and dost move

All things which live and are, within the Italian shore;

Who spreadest Heaven around it,

Whose woods, rocks, waves, surround it;

Who sittest in thy star, o’er Ocean’s western floor;


Spirit of beauty! at whose soft command

The sunbeams and the showers distil its foison

From the Earth’s bosom chill;

Oh, bid those beams be each a blinding brand

Of lightning! bid those showers be dews of poison!


Bid the Earth’s plenty kill!

Bid thy bright Heaven above,

Whilst light and darkness bound it,

Be their tomb who planned

To make it ours and thine!


Or, with thine harmonizing ardours fill

And raise thy sons, as o’er the prone horizon

Thy lamp feeds every twilight wave with fire —

Be man’s high hope and unextinct desire

The instrument to work thy will divine!


Then clouds from sunbeams, antelopes from leopards,

And frowns and fears from thee,

Would not more swiftly flee

Than Celtic wolves from the Ausonian shepherds. —

Whatever, Spirit, from thy starry shrine


Thou yieldest or withholdest, oh, let be

This city of thy worship ever free!

[Composed at San Juliano di Pisa, August 17-25, 1820; published in “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a copy, ‘for the most part neat and legible,’ amongst the Shelley manuscripts at the Bodleian Library. See Mr. C.D. Locock’s “Examination”, etc., 1903, pages 14-18.]

_1 Pompeii. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.]

_25 odours B.; odour 1824.

_42 depth B.; depths 1824.

_45 sun-bright B.; sunlit 1824.

_39 Homer and Virgil. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.]

_100 wealth-surviving cj. A.C. Bradley.

_104 Aeaea, the island of Circe. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.]

_112 The viper was the armorial device of the Visconti, tyrants of Milan. —[SHELLEY’S NOTE.]

_143 old 1824; lost B.

_147 black 1824; blue B.

Autumn: A Dirge.


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 a shroud of leaves dead,


Is lying.

Come, Months, come away,

From November to May,

In your saddest array;

Follow the bier


Of the dead cold Year,

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

For the Year;


The blithe swallows are flown, and the lizards each gone

To his dwelling;

Come, Months, come away;

Put on white, black, and gray;

Let your light sisters play —


Ye, follow the bier

Of the dead cold Year,

And make her grave green with tear on tear.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]

The Waning Moon.

And like a dying lady, lean and pale,

Who totters forth, wrapped 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,

A white and shapeless mass —

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]

To the Moon.


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

That finds no object worth its constancy?


Thou chosen sister of the Spirit,

That grazes on thee till in thee it pities . . .

[Published (1) by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824, (2) by W.M. Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works”, 1870.]



Death is here and death is there,

Death is busy everywhere,

All around, within, beneath,

Above is death — and we are death.


Death has set his mark and seal

On all we are and all we feel,

On all we know and all we fear,

. . .


First our pleasures die — and then

Our hopes, and then our fears — and when


These are dead, the debt is due,

Dust claims dust — and we die too.


All things that we love and cherish,

Like ourselves must fade and perish;

Such is our rude mortal lot —


Love itself would, did they not.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]



The fiery mountains answer each other;

Their thunderings are echoed from zone to zone;

The tempestuous oceans awake one another,

And the ice-rocks are shaken round Winter’s throne,


When the clarion of the Typhoon is blown.


From a single cloud the lightening flashes,

Whilst a thousand isles are illumined around,

Earthquake is trampling one city to ashes,

An hundred are shuddering and tottering; the sound


Is bellowing underground.


But keener thy gaze than the lightening’s glare,

And swifter thy step than the earthquake’s tramp;

Thou deafenest the rage of the ocean; thy stare

Makes blind the volcanoes; the sun’s bright lamp


To thine is a fen-fire damp.


From billow and mountain and exhalation

The sunlight is darted through vapour and blast;

From spirit to spirit, from nation to nation,

From city to hamlet thy dawning is cast —


And tyrants and slaves are like shadows of night

In the van of the morning light.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]

_4 zone editions 1824, 1839; throne later editions.

Summer and Winter.

It was a bright and cheerful afternoon,

Towards the end of the sunny month of June,

When the north wind congregates in crowds

The floating mountains of the silver clouds


From the horizon — and the stainless sky

Opens beyond them like eternity.

All things rejoiced beneath the sun; the weeds,

The river, and the corn-fields, and the reeds;

The willow leaves that glanced in the light breeze,


And the firm foliage of the larger trees.

It was a winter such as when birds die

In the deep forests; and the fishes lie

Stiffened in the translucent ice, which makes

Even the mud and slime of the warm lakes


A wrinkled clod as hard as brick; and when,

Among their children, comfortable men

Gather about great fires, and yet feel cold:

Alas, then, for the homeless beggar old!

[Published by Mrs. Shelley in “The Keepsake”, 1829. Mr. C.W. Frederickson of Brooklyn possesses a transcript in Mrs. Shelley’s handwriting.]

_11 birds die 1839; birds do die 1829.

The Tower of Famine.

Amid the desolation of a city,

Which was the cradle, and is now the grave

Of an extinguished people — so that Pity

Weeps o’er the shipwrecks of Oblivion’s wave,


There stands the Tower of Famine. It is built

Upon some prison-homes, whose dwellers rave

For bread, and gold, and blood: Pain, linked to Guilt,

Agitates the light flame of their hours,

Until its vital oil is spent or spilt.


There stands the pile, a tower amid the towers

And sacred domes; each marble-ribbed roof,

The brazen-gated temples, and the bowers

Of solitary wealth — the tempest-proof

Pavilions of the dark Italian air —


Are by its presence dimmed — they stand aloof,

And are withdrawn — so that the world is bare;

As if a spectre wrapped in shapeless terror

Amid a company of ladies fair

Should glide and glow, till it became a mirror


Of all their beauty, and their hair and hue,

The life of their sweet eyes, with all its error,

Should be absorbed, till they to marble grew.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley in “The Keepsake”, 1829. Mr. C.W. Frederickson of Brooklyn possesses a transcript in Mrs. Shelley’s handwriting.]

_7 For]With 1829.

An Allegory.


A portal as of shadowy adamant

Stands yawning on the highway of the life

Which we all tread, a cavern huge and gaunt;

Around it rages an unceasing strife


Of shadows, like the restless clouds that haunt

The gap of some cleft mountain, lifted high

Into the whirlwinds of the upper sky.


And many pass it by with careless tread,

Not knowing that a shadowy . . .


Tracks every traveller even to where the dead

Wait peacefully for their companion new;

But others, by more curious humour led,

Pause to examine; — these are very few,

And they learn little there, except to know


That shadows follow them where’er they go.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]

_8 pass Rossetti; passed editions 1824, 1839.

The World’s Wanderers.


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

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,

Hast thou still some secret nest

On the tree or billow?

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824.]


Ye hasten to the grave! What seek ye there,

Ye restless thoughts and busy purposes

Of the idle brain, which the world’s livery wear?

O thou quick heart, which pantest to possess


All that pale Expectation feigneth fair!

Thou vainly curious mind which wouldest guess

Whence thou didst come, and whither thou must go,

And all that never yet was known would know —

Oh, whither hasten ye, that thus ye press,


With such swift feet life’s green and pleasant path,

Seeking, alike from happiness and woe,

A refuge in the cavern of gray death?

O heart, and mind, and thoughts! what thing do you

Hope to inherit in the grave below?

[Published by Leigh Hunt, “The Literary Pocket-Book”, 1823. There is a transcript amongst the Ollier manuscripts, and another in the Harvard manuscript book.]

_1 grave Ollier manuscript; dead Harvard manuscript, 1823, editions 1824, 1839.

_5 pale Expectation Ollier manuscript; anticipation Harvard manuscript, 1823, editions 1824, 1839.

_7 must Harvard manuscript, 1823; mayst 1824; mayest editions 1839.

_8 all that Harvard manuscript, 1823; that which editions 1824, 1839. would Harvard manuscript, 1823; wouldst editions 1839.

Lines to a Reviewer.

Alas, good friend, what profit can you see

In hating such a hateless thing as me?

There is no sport in hate where all the rage

Is on one side: in vain would you assuage


Your frowns upon an unresisting smile,

In which not even contempt lurks to beguile

Your heart, by some faint sympathy of hate.

Oh, conquer what you cannot satiate!

For to your passion I am far more coy


Than ever yet was coldest maid or boy

In winter noon. Of your antipathy

If I am the Narcissus, you are free

To pine into a sound with hating me.

[Published by Leigh Hunt, “The Literary Pocket-Book”, 1823. These lines, and the “Sonnet” immediately preceding, are signed Sigma in the “Literary Pocket-Book”.]

_3 where editions 1824, 1839; when 1823.

Fragment of a Satire on Satire.

If gibbets, axes, confiscations, chains,

And racks of subtle torture, if the pains

Of shame, of fiery Hell’s tempestuous wave,

Seen through the caverns of the shadowy grave,


Hurling the damned into the murky air

While the meek blest sit smiling; if Despair

And Hate, the rapid bloodhounds with which Terror

Hunts through the world the homeless steps of Error,

Are the true secrets of the commonweal


To make men wise and just; . . .

And not the sophisms of revenge and fear,

Bloodier than is revenge . . .

Then send the priests to every hearth and home

To preach the burning wrath which is to come,


In words like flakes of sulphur, such as thaw

The frozen tears . . .

If Satire’s scourge could wake the slumbering hounds

Of Conscience, or erase the deeper wounds,

The leprous scars of callous Infamy;


If it could make the present not to be,

Or charm the dark past never to have been,

Or turn regret to hope; who that has seen

What Southey is and was, would not exclaim,

‘Lash on!’ . . . be the keen verse dipped in flame;


Follow his flight with winged words, and urge

The strokes of the inexorable scourge

Until the heart be naked, till his soul

See the contagion’s spots . . . foul;

And from the mirror of Truth’s sunlike shield,


From which his Parthian arrow . . .

Flash on his sight the spectres of the past,

Until his mind’s eye paint thereon —

Let scorn like . . . yawn below,

And rain on him like flakes of fiery snow.


This cannot be, it ought not, evil still —

Suffering makes suffering, ill must follow ill.

Rough words beget sad thoughts, . . . and, beside,

Men take a sullen and a stupid pride

In being all they hate in others’ shame,


By a perverse antipathy of fame.

’Tis not worth while to prove, as I could, how

From the sweet fountains of our Nature flow

These bitter waters; I will only say,

If any friend would take Southey some day,


And tell him, in a country walk alone,

Softening harsh words with friendship’s gentle tone,

How incorrect his public conduct is,

And what men think of it, ’twere not amiss.

Far better than to make innocent ink —

[Published by Edward Dowden, “Correspondence of Robert Southey and Caroline Bowles”, 1880.]



Good-night? ah! no; the hour is ill

Which severs those it should unite;

Let us remain together still,

Then it will be GOOD night.


How can I call the lone night good,

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,

The night is good; because, my love,

They never SAY good-night.

[Published by Leigh Hunt over the signature Sigma, “The Literary Pocket-Book”, 1822. It is included in the Harvard manuscript book, and there is a transcript by Shelley in a copy of “The Literary Pocket-Book”, 1819, presented by him to Miss Sophia Stacey, December 29, 1820. (See “Love’s Philosophy” and “Time Long Past”.) Our text is that of the editio princeps, 1822, with which the Harvard manuscript and “Posthumous Poems”, 1824, agree. The variants of the Stacey manuscript, 1820, are given in the footnotes.]

_1 Good-night? no, love! the night is ill Stacey manuscript.

_5 How were the night without thee good Stacey manuscript.

_9 The hearts that on each other beat Stacey manuscript.

_11 Have nights as good as they are sweet Stacey manuscript.

_12 But never SAY good night Stacey manuscript.

Buona Notte.


‘Buona notte, buona notte!’— Come mai

La notte sara buona senza te?

Non dirmi buona notte — che tu sai,

La notte sa star buona da per se.


Solinga, scura, cupa, senza speme,

La notte quando Lilla m’abbandona;

Pei cuori chi si batton insieme

Ogni notte, senza dirla, sara buona.


Come male buona notte ci suona


Con sospiri e parole interrotte! —

Il modo di aver la notte buona

E mai non di dir la buona notte.

[Published by Medwin, “The Angler in Wales, or Days and Nights of Sportsmen”, 1834. The text is revised by Rossetti from the Boscombe manuscript.]

_2 sara]sia 1834.

_4 buona]bene 1834.

_9 Come]Quanto 1834.



Not far from hence. From yonder pointed hill,

Crowned with a ring of oaks, you may behold

A dark and barren field, through which there flows,

Sluggish and black, a deep but narrow stream,


Which the wind ripples not, and the fair moon

Gazes in vain, and finds no mirror there.

Follow the herbless banks of that strange brook

Until you pause beside a darksome pond,

The fountain of this rivulet, whose gush


Cannot be seen, hid by a rayless night

That lives beneath the overhanging rock

That shades the pool — an endless spring of gloom,

Upon whose edge hovers the tender light,

Trembling to mingle with its paramour —


But, as Syrinx fled Pan, so night flies day,

Or, with most sullen and regardless hate,

Refuses stern her heaven-born embrace.

On one side of this jagged and shapeless hill

There is a cave, from which there eddies up


A pale mist, like aereal gossamer,

Whose breath destroys all life — awhile it veils

The rock — then, scattered by the wind, it flies

Along the stream, or lingers on the clefts,

Killing the sleepy worms, if aught bide there.


Upon the beetling edge of that dark rock

There stands a group of cypresses; not such

As, with a graceful spire and stirring life,

Pierce the pure heaven of your native vale,

Whose branches the air plays among, but not


Disturbs, fearing to spoil their solemn grace;

But blasted and all wearily they stand,

One to another clinging; their weak boughs

Sigh as the wind buffets them, and they shake

Beneath its blasts — a weatherbeaten crew!



What wondrous sound is that, mournful and faint,

But more melodious than the murmuring wind

Which through the columns of a temple glides?


It is the wandering voice of Orpheus’ lyre,

Borne by the winds, who sigh that their rude king


Hurries them fast from these air-feeding notes;

But in their speed they bear along with them

The waning sound, scattering it like dew

Upon the startled sense.


Does he still sing?

Methought he rashly cast away his harp

When he had lost Eurydice.



Ah, no!

Awhile he paused. As a poor hunted stag

A moment shudders on the fearful brink

Of a swift stream — the cruel hounds press on

With deafening yell, the arrows glance and wound —


He plunges in: so Orpheus, seized and torn

By the sharp fangs of an insatiate grief,

Maenad-like waved his lyre in the bright air,

And wildly shrieked ‘Where she is, it is dark!’

And then he struck from forth the strings a sound


Of deep and fearful melody. Alas!

In times long past, when fair Eurydice

With her bright eyes sat listening by his side,

He gently sang of high and heavenly themes.

As in a brook, fretted with little waves


By the light airs of spring — each riplet makes

A many-sided mirror for the sun,

While it flows musically through green banks,

Ceaseless and pauseless, ever clear and fresh,

So flowed his song, reflecting the deep joy


And tender love that fed those sweetest notes,

The heavenly offspring of ambrosial food.

But that is past. Returning from drear Hell,

He chose a lonely seat of unhewn stone,

Blackened with lichens, on a herbless plain.


Then from the deep and overflowing spring

Of his eternal ever-moving grief

There rose to Heaven a sound of angry song.

’Tis as a mighty cataract that parts


Two sister rocks with waters swift and strong,

And casts itself with horrid roar and din

Adown a steep; from a perennial source

It ever flows and falls, and breaks the air

With loud and fierce, but most harmonious roar,

And as it falls casts up a vaporous spray


Which the sun clothes in hues of Iris light.

Thus the tempestuous torrent of his grief

Is clothed in sweetest sounds and varying words

Of poesy. Unlike all human works,

It never slackens, and through every change


Wisdom and beauty and the power divine

Of mighty poesy together dwell,

Mingling in sweet accord. As I have seen

A fierce south blast tear through the darkened sky,

Driving along a rack of winged clouds,


Which may not pause, but ever hurry on,

As their wild shepherd wills them, while the stars,

Twinkling and dim, peep from between the plumes.

Anon the sky is cleared, and the high dome

Of serene Heaven, starred with fiery flowers,


Shuts in the shaken earth; or the still moon

Swiftly, yet gracefully, begins her walk,

Rising all bright behind the eastern hills.

I talk of moon, and wind, and stars, and not

Of song; but, would I echo his high song,


Nature must lend me words ne’er used before,

Or I must borrow from her perfect works,

To picture forth his perfect attributes.

He does no longer sit upon his throne

Of rock upon a desert herbless plain,


For the evergreen and knotted ilexes,

And cypresses that seldom wave their boughs,

And sea-green olives with their grateful fruit,

And elms dragging along the twisted vines,

Which drop their berries as they follow fast,


And blackthorn bushes with their infant race

Of blushing rose-blooms; beeches, to lovers dear,

And weeping willow trees; all swift or slow,

As their huge boughs or lighter dress permit,

Have circled in his throne, and Earth herself


Has sent from her maternal breast a growth

Of starlike flowers and herbs of odour sweet,

To pave the temple that his poesy

Has framed, while near his feet grim lions couch,

And kids, fearless from love, creep near his lair.


Even the blind worms seem to feel the sound.

The birds are silent, hanging down their heads,

Perched on the lowest branches of the trees;

Not even the nightingale intrudes a note

In rivalry, but all entranced she listens.

[Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862; revised and enlarged by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870.]

_16, _17, _24 1870 only.

_45-_55 Ah, no! . . . melody 1870 only.

_66 1870 only.

_112 trees 1870; too 1862.

_113 huge 1870; long 1862.

_116 starlike 1870; starry 1862. odour 1862; odours 1870.


The season was the childhood of sweet June,

Whose sunny hours from morning until noon

Went creeping through the day with silent feet,

Each with its load of pleasure; slow yet sweet;


Like the long years of blest Eternity

Never to be developed. Joy to thee,

Fiordispina and thy Cosimo,

For thou the wonders of the depth canst know

Of this unfathomable flood of hours,


Sparkling beneath the heaven which embowers —

. . .

They were two cousins, almost like to twins,

Except that from the catalogue of sins

Nature had rased their love — which could not be

But by dissevering their nativity.


And so they grew together like two flowers

Upon one stem, which the same beams and showers

Lull or awaken in their purple prime,

Which the same hand will gather — the same clime

Shake with decay. This fair day smiles to see


All those who love — and who e’er loved like thee,

Fiordispina? Scarcely Cosimo,

Within whose bosom and whose brain now glow

The ardours of a vision which obscure

The very idol of its portraiture.


He faints, dissolved into a sea of love;

But thou art as a planet sphered above;

But thou art Love itself — ruling the motion

Of his subjected spirit: such emotion

Must end in sin and sorrow, if sweet May


Had not brought forth this morn — your wedding-day.

. . .

‘Lie there; sleep awhile in your own dew,

Ye faint-eyed children of the . . . Hours,’

Fiordispina said, and threw the flowers

Which she had from the breathing —

. . .


A table near of polished porphyry.

They seemed to wear a beauty from the eye

That looked on them — a fragrance from the touch

Whose warmth . . . checked their life; a light such


As sleepers wear, lulled by the voice they love, which did reprove

The childish pity that she felt for them,

And a . . . remorse that from their stem

She had divided such fair shapes . . . made

A feeling in the . . . which was a shade


Of gentle beauty on the flowers: there lay

All gems that make the earth’s dark bosom gay.

. . . rods of myrtle-buds and lemon-blooms,

And that leaf tinted lightly which assumes

The livery of unremembered snow —


Violets whose eyes have drunk —

. . .

Fiordispina and her nurse are now

Upon the steps of the high portico,

Under the withered arm of Media

She flings her glowing arm

. . .


. . . step by step and stair by stair,

That withered woman, gray and white and brown —

More like a trunk by lichens overgrown

Than anything which once could have been human.

And ever as she goes the palsied woman

. . .


‘How slow and painfully you seem to walk,

Poor Media! you tire yourself with talk.’

‘And well it may,

Fiordispina, dearest — well-a-day!

You are hastening to a marriage-bed;


I to the grave!’—‘And if my love were dead,

Unless my heart deceives me, I would lie

Beside him in my shroud as willingly

As now in the gay night-dress Lilla wrought.’

‘Fie, child! Let that unseasonable thought


Not be remembered till it snows in June;

Such fancies are a music out of tune

With the sweet dance your heart must keep to-night.

What! would you take all beauty and delight

Back to the Paradise from which you sprung,


And leave to grosser mortals? —

And say, sweet lamb, would you not learn the sweet

And subtle mystery by which spirits meet?

Who knows whether the loving game is played,

When, once of mortal [vesture] disarrayed,


The naked soul goes wandering here and there

Through the wide deserts of Elysian air?

The violet dies not till it’—

[Published in part (lines 11-30) by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824; in full (from the Boscombe manuscript) by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862.]

_11 to 1824; two editions 1839.

_20 e’er 1862; ever editions 1824, 1839.

_25 sea edition 1862; sense editions 1824, 1839.

Time Long Past.


Like the ghost of a dear friend dead

Is Time long past.

A tone which is now forever fled,

A hope which is now forever past,


A love so sweet it could not last,

Was Time long past.


There were sweet dreams in the night

Of Time long past:

And, was it sadness or delight,


Each day a shadow onward cast

Which made us wish it yet might last —

That Time long past.


There is regret, almost remorse,

For Time long past.


’Tis like a child’s beloved corse

A father watches, till at last

Beauty is like remembrance, cast

From Time long past.

[Published by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870. This is one of three poems (cf. “Love’s Philosophy” and “Good-Night”) transcribed by Shelley in a copy of Leigh Hunt’s “Literary Pocket-Book” for 1819 presented by him to Miss Sophia Stacey, December 29, 1820.]

Fragment: The Deserts of Dim Sleep.

I went into the deserts of dim sleep —

That world which, like an unknown wilderness,

Bounds this with its recesses wide and deep —

[Published by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870.]

Fragment: ‘The Viewless and Invisible Consequence’.

The viewless and invisible Consequence

Watches thy goings-out, and comings-in,

And . . . hovers o’er thy guilty sleep,

Unveiling every new-born deed, and thoughts


More ghastly than those deeds —

[Published by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870.]

Fragment: A Serpent-Face.

His face was like a snake’s — wrinkled and loose

And withered —

[Published by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870.]

Fragment: Death in Life.

My head is heavy, my limbs are weary,

And it is not life that makes me move.

[Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862.]

Fragment: ‘Such Hope, As is the Sick Despair of Good’.

Such hope, as is the sick despair of good,

Such fear, as is the certainty of ill,

Such doubt, as is pale Expectation’s food

Turned while she tastes to poison, when the will


Is powerless, and the spirit . . .

[Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862.]

Fragment: ‘Alas! This is Not What I Thought Life Was’.

Alas! this is not what I thought life was.

I knew that there were crimes and evil men,

Misery and hate; nor did I hope to pass

Untouched by suffering, through the rugged glen.


In mine own heart I saw as in a glass

The hearts of others . . . And when

I went among my kind, with triple brass

Of calm endurance my weak breast I armed,

To bear scorn, fear, and hate, a woful mass!

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition. This fragment is joined by Forman with that immediately preceding.]

Fragment: Milton’s Spirit.

I dreamed that Milton’s spirit rose, and took

From life’s green tree his Uranian lute;

And from his touch sweet thunder flowed, and shook

All human things built in contempt of man —


And sanguine thrones and impious altars quaked,

Prisons and citadels . . .

[Published by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870.]

_2 lute Uranian cj. A.C. Bradley.

Fragment: ‘Unrisen Splendour of the Brightest Sun’.

Unrisen splendour of the brightest sun,

To rise upon our darkness, if the star

Now beckoning thee out of thy misty throne

Could thaw the clouds which wage an obscure war


With thy young brightness!

[Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862.]

Fragment: Pater Omnipotens.

Serene in his unconquerable might

Endued[,] the Almighty King, his steadfast throne

Encompassed unapproachably with power

And darkness and deep solitude an awe


Stood like a black cloud on some aery cliff

Embosoming its lightning — in his sight

Unnumbered glorious spirits trembling stood

Like slaves before their Lord — prostrate around

Heaven’s multitudes hymned everlasting praise.

[Edited from manuscript Shelley E 4 in the Bodleian Library, and published by Mr. C.D. Locock, “Examination” etc., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1903. Here placed conjecturally amongst the compositions of 1820, but of uncertain date, and belonging possibly to 1819 or a still earlier year.]

Fragment: To the Mind of Man.

Thou living light that in thy rainbow hues

Clothest this naked world; and over Sea

And Earth and air, and all the shapes that be

In peopled darkness of this wondrous world


The Spirit of thy glory dost diffuse

. . . truth . . . thou Vital Flame

Mysterious thought that in this mortal frame

Of things, with unextinguished lustre burnest

Now pale and faint now high to Heaven upcurled


That eer as thou dost languish still returnest

And ever

Before the . . . before the Pyramids

So soon as from the Earth formless and rude

One living step had chased drear Solitude


Thou wert, Thought; thy brightness charmed the lids

Of the vast snake Eternity, who kept

The tree of good and evil. —

[Edited, published and here placed as the preceding.]

Note on Poems of 1820, by Mrs. Shelley.

We spent the latter part of the year 1819 in Florence, where Shelley passed several hours daily in the Gallery, and made various notes on its ancient works of art. His thoughts were a good deal taken up also by the project of a steamboat, undertaken by a friend, an engineer, to ply between Leghorn and Marseilles, for which he supplied a sum of money. This was a sort of plan to delight Shelley, and he was greatly disappointed when it was thrown aside.

There was something in Florence that disagreed excessively with his health, and he suffered far more pain than usual; so much so that we left it sooner than we intended, and removed to Pisa, where we had some friends, and, above all, where we could consult the celebrated Vacca as to the cause of Shelley’s sufferings. He, like every other medical man, could only guess at that, and gave little hope of immediate relief; he enjoined him to abstain from all physicians and medicine, and to leave his complaint to Nature. As he had vainly consulted medical men of the highest repute in England, he was easily persuaded to adopt this advice. Pain and ill-health followed him to the end; but the residence at Pisa agreed with him better than any other, and there in consequence we remained.

In the Spring we spent a week or two near Leghorn, borrowing the house of some friends who were absent on a journey to England. It was on a beautiful summer evening, while wandering among the lanes whose myrtle-hedges were the bowers of the fire-flies, that we heard the carolling of the skylark which inspired one of the most beautiful of his poems. He addressed the letter to Mrs. Gisborne from this house, which was hers: he had made his study of the workshop of her son, who was an engineer. Mrs. Gisborne had been a friend of my father in her younger days. She was a lady of great accomplishments, and charming from her frank and affectionate nature. She had the most intense love of knowledge, a delicate and trembling sensibility, and preserved freshness of mind after a life of considerable adversity. As a favourite friend of my father, we had sought her with eagerness; and the most open and cordial friendship was established between us.

Our stay at the Baths of San Giuliano was shortened by an accident. At the foot of our garden ran the canal that communicated between the Serchio and the Arno. The Serchio overflowed its banks, and, breaking its bounds, this canal also overflowed; all this part of the country is below the level of its rivers, and the consequence was that it was speedily flooded. The rising waters filled the Square of the Baths, in the lower part of which our house was situated. The canal overflowed in the garden behind; the rising waters on either side at last burst open the doors, and, meeting in the house, rose to the height of six feet. It was a picturesque sight at night to see the peasants driving the cattle from the plains below to the hills above the Baths. A fire was kept up to guide them across the ford; and the forms of the men and the animals showed in dark relief against the red glare of the flame, which was reflected again in the waters that filled the Square.

We then removed to Pisa, and took up our abode there for the winter. The extreme mildness of the climate suited Shelley, and his solitude was enlivened by an intercourse with several intimate friends. Chance cast us strangely enough on this quiet half-unpeopled town; but its very peace suited Shelley. Its river, the near mountains, and not distant sea, added to its attractions, and were the objects of many delightful excursions. We feared the south of Italy, and a hotter climate, on account of our child; our former bereavement inspiring us with terror. We seemed to take root here, and moved little afterwards; often, indeed, entertaining projects for visiting other parts of Italy, but still delaying. But for our fears on account of our child, I believe we should have wandered over the world, both being passionately fond of travelling. But human life, besides its great unalterable necessities, is ruled by a thousand lilliputian ties that shackle at the time, although it is difficult to account afterwards for their influence over our destiny.

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