The Complete Poetical Works, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Poems Written in 1821.

Table of Contents

  1. Dirge for the Year.
  2. To Night.
  3. Time.
  4. Lines.
  5. From the Arabic: An Imitation.
  6. To Emilia Viviani.
  7. The Fugitives.
  8. To —.
  9. Song.
  10. Mutability.
  11. Lines Written on Hearing the News of the Death of Napoleon.
  12. Sonnet: Political Greatness.
  13. The Aziola.
  14. A Lament.
  15. Remembrance.
  16. To Edward Williams.
  17. To —.
  18. To —.
  19. A Bridal Song.
  20. Epithalamium.
  21. Another Version of the Preceding.
  22. Another Version of the Same.
  23. Love, Hope, Desire, and Fear.
  24. Fragments Written for Hellas.
  25. Fragment: ‘I Would Not Be a King’.
  26. Ginevra.
  27. The Dirge.
  28. Evening: Ponte Al Mare, Pisa
  29. The Boat on the Serchio.
  30. Music.
  31. Sonnet to Byron.
  32. Fragment on Keats.
  33. On Keats, Who Desired That on His Tomb Should Be Inscribed —
  34. Fragment: ‘Methought I was a Billow in the Crowd’.
  35. To-Morrow.
  36. Stanza.
  37. Fragment: A Wanderer.
  38. Fragment: Life Rounded with Sleep.
  39. Fragment: ‘I Faint, I Perish with My Love!’.
  40. Fragment: The Lady of the South.
  41. Fragment: Zephyrus the Awakener.
  42. Fragment: Rain.
  43. Fragment: ‘When Soft Winds and Sunny Skies’.
  44. Fragment: ‘And That I Walk Thus Proudly Crowned’.
  45. Fragment: ‘The Rude Wind is Singing’.
  46. Fragment: ‘Great Spirit’.
  47. Fragment: ‘O Thou Immortal Deity’.
  48. Fragment: The False Laurel and the True.
  49. Fragment: May the Limner.
  50. Fragment: Beauty’s Halo.
  51. Fragment: ‘The Death Knell is Ringing’.
  52. Fragment: ‘I Stood Upon a Heaven-Cleaving Turret’.
  53. Note on Poems of 1821, by Mrs. Shelley.

Dirge for the Year.


Orphan Hours, the Year is dead,

Come and sigh, come and weep!

Merry Hours, smile instead,

For the Year is but asleep.


See, it smiles as it is sleeping,

Mocking your untimely weeping.


As an earthquake rocks a corse

In its coffin in the clay,

So White Winter, that rough nurse,


Rocks the death-cold Year to-day;

Solemn Hours! wail aloud

For your mother in her shroud.


As the wild air stirs and sways

The tree-swung cradle of a child,


So the breath of these rude days

Rocks the Year:— be calm and mild,

Trembling Hours, she will arise

With new love within her eyes.


January gray is here,


Like a sexton by her grave;

February bears the bier,

March with grief doth howl and rave,

And April weeps — but, O ye Hours!

Follow with May’s fairest flowers.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824, and dated January 1, 1821.]

To Night.


Swiftly walk o’er the western wave,

Spirit of Night!

Out of the misty eastern cave,

Where, all the long and lone daylight,


Thou wovest dreams of joy and fear,

‘Which make thee terrible and dear —

Swift be thy flight!


Wrap thy form in a mantle gray,



Blind with thine hair the eyes of Day;

Kiss her until she be wearied out,

Then wander o’er city, and sea, and land,

Touching all with thine opiate wand —

Come, long-sought!


When I arose and saw the dawn,

I sighed for thee;

When light rode high, and the dew was gone,

And noon lay heavy on flower and tree,

And the weary Day turned to his rest,


Lingering like an unloved guest, I sighed for thee.


Thy brother Death came, and cried,

Wouldst thou me?

Thy sweet child Sleep, the filmy-eyed,


Murmured like a noontide bee,

Shall I nestle near thy side?

Wouldst thou me? — And I replied,

No, not thee!


Death will come when thou art dead,


Soon, too soon —

Sleep will come when thou art fled;

Of neither would I ask the boon

I ask of thee, beloved Night —

Swift be thine approaching flight,


Come soon, soon!

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a transcript in the Harvard manuscript book.]

_1 o’er Harvard manuscript; over editions 1824, 1839.


Unfathomable Sea! whose waves are years,

Ocean of Time, whose waters of deep woe

Are brackish with the salt of human tears!

Thou shoreless flood, which in thy ebb and flow


Claspest the limits of mortality,

And sick of prey, yet howling on for more,

Vomitest thy wrecks on its inhospitable shore;

Treacherous in calm, and terrible in storm,

Who shall put forth on thee,


Unfathomable Sea?

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



Far, far away, O ye

Halcyons of Memory,

Seek some far calmer nest

Than this abandoned breast!


No news of your false spring

To my heart’s winter bring,

Once having gone, in vain

Ye come again.


Vultures, who build your bowers


High in the Future’s towers,

Withered hopes on hopes are spread!

Dying joys, choked by the dead,

Will serve your beaks for prey

Many a day.

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

From the Arabic: An Imitation.


My faint spirit was sitting in the light

Of thy looks, my love;

It panted for thee like the hind at noon

For the brooks, my love.


Thy barb whose hoofs outspeed the tempest’s flight

Bore thee far from me;

My heart, for my weak feet were weary soon,

Did companion thee.


Ah! fleeter far than fleetest storm or steed


Or the death they bear,

The heart which tender thought clothes like a dove

With the wings of care;

In the battle, in the darkness, in the need,

Shall mine cling to thee,


Nor claim one smile for all the comfort, love,

It may bring to thee.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is an intermediate draft amongst the Bodleian manuscripts. See Locock, “Examination”, etc., 1903, page 13.]

_3 hoofs]feet B.

_7 were]grew B.

_9 Ah!]O B.

To Emilia Viviani.


Madonna, wherefore hast thou sent to me

Sweet-basil and mignonette?

Embleming love and health, which never yet

In the same wreath might be.


Alas, and they are wet!

Is it with thy kisses or thy tears?

For never rain or dew

Such fragrance drew

From plant or flower — the very doubt endears


My sadness ever new,

The sighs I breathe, the tears I shed for thee.


Send the stars light, but send not love to me,

In whom love ever made

Health like a heap of embers soon to fade —

[Published, (1) by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824; (2, 1) by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862; (2, 2 and 3) by H. Buxton Forman, “Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1876.]

The Fugitives.


The waters are flashing,

The white hail is dashing,

The lightnings are glancing,

The hoar-spray is dancing —



The whirlwind is rolling,

The thunder is tolling,

The forest is swinging,

The minster bells ringing —


Come away!

The Earth is like Ocean,

Wreck-strewn and in motion:

Bird, beast, man and worm

Have crept out of the storm —


Come away!


‘Our boat has one sail

And the helmsman is pale; —

A bold pilot I trow,

Who should follow us now,’—


Shouted he —

And she cried: ‘Ply the oar!

Put off gaily from shore!’—

As she spoke, bolts of death

Mixed with hail, specked their path


O’er the sea.

And from isle, tower and rock,

The blue beacon-cloud broke,

And though dumb in the blast,

The red cannon flashed fast


From the lee.


And ‘Fear’st thou?’ and ‘Fear’st thou?’

And Seest thou?’ and ‘Hear’st thou?’

And ‘Drive we not free

O’er the terrible sea,


I and thou?’

One boat-cloak did cover

The loved and the lover —

Their blood beats one measure,

They murmur proud pleasure


Soft and low; —

While around the lashed Ocean,

Like mountains in motion,

Is withdrawn and uplifted,

Sunk, shattered and shifted


To and fro.


In the court of the fortress

Beside the pale portress,

Like a bloodhound well beaten

The bridegroom stands, eaten


By shame;

On the topmost watch-turret,

As a death-boding spirit

Stands the gray tyrant father,

To his voice the mad weather


Seems tame;

And with curses as wild

As e’er clung to child,

He devotes to the blast,

The best, loveliest and last


Of his name!

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

_28 And though]Though editions 1839.

_57 clung]cling editions 1839.

To —.

Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory —

Odours, when sweet violets sicken,

Live within the sense they quicken.


Rose leaves, when the rose is dead,

Are heaped for the beloved’s bed;

And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,

Love itself shall slumber on.

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



Rarely, rarely, comest thou,

Spirit of Delight!

Wherefore hast thou left me now

Many a day and night?


Many a weary night and day

’Tis since thou art fled away.


How shall ever one like me

Win thee back again?

With the joyous and the free


Thou wilt scoff at pain.

Spirit false! thou hast forgot

All but those who need thee not.


As a lizard with the shade

Of a trembling leaf,


Thou with sorrow art dismayed;

Even the sighs of grief

Reproach thee, that thou art not near,

And reproach thou wilt not hear.


Let me set my mournful ditty


To a merry measure;

Thou wilt never come for pity,

Thou wilt come for pleasure;

Pity then will cut away

Those cruel wings, and thou wilt stay.


I love all that thou lovest,

Spirit of Delight!

The fresh Earth in new leaves dressed,

And the starry night;

Autumn evening, and the morn


When the golden mists are born.


I love snow, and all the forms

Of the radiant frost;

I love waves, and winds, and storms,

Everything almost


Which is Nature’s, and may be

Untainted by man’s misery.


I love tranquil solitude,

And such society

As is quiet, wise, and good


Between thee and me

What difference? but thou dost possess

The things I seek, not love them less.


I love Love — though he has wings,

And like light can flee,


But above all other things,

Spirit, I love thee —

Thou art love and life! Oh, come,

Make once more my heart thy home.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a transcript in the Harvard manuscript book.]



The flower that smiles to-day

To-morrow dies;

All that we wish to stay

Tempts and then flies.


What is this world’s delight?

Lightning that mocks the night,

Brief even as bright.


Virtue, how frail it is!

Friendship how rare!


Love, how it sells poor bliss

For proud despair!

But we, though soon they fall,

Survive their joy, and all

Which ours we call.


Whilst skies are blue and bright,

Whilst flowers are gay,

Whilst eyes that change ere night

Make glad the day;

Whilst yet the calm hours creep,


Dream thou — and from thy sleep

Then wake to weep.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a fair draft amongst the Boscombe manuscripts.]

_9 how Boscombe manuscript; too editions 1824, 1839.

_12 though soon they fall]though soon we or so soon they cj. Rossetti.

Lines Written on Hearing the News of the Death of Napoleon.

What! alive and so bold, O Earth?

Art thou not overbold?

What! leapest thou forth as of old

In the light of thy morning mirth,


The last of the flock of the starry fold?

Ha! leapest thou forth as of old?

Are not the limbs still when the ghost is fled,

And canst thou move, Napoleon being dead?

How! is not thy quick heart cold?


What spark is alive on thy hearth?

How! is not HIS death-knell knolled?

And livest THOU still, Mother Earth?

Thou wert warming thy fingers old

O’er the embers covered and cold


Of that most fiery spirit, when it fled —

What, Mother, do you laugh now he is dead?

‘Who has known me of old,’ replied Earth,

‘Or who has my story told?

It is thou who art overbold.’


And the lightning of scorn laughed forth

As she sung, ‘To my bosom I fold

All my sons when their knell is knolled,

And so with living motion all are fed,

And the quick spring like weeds out of the dead.


‘Still alive and still bold,’ shouted Earth,

‘I grow bolder and still more bold.

The dead fill me ten thousandfold

Fuller of speed, and splendour, and mirth.

I was cloudy, and sullen, and cold,


Like a frozen chaos uprolled,

Till by the spirit of the mighty dead

My heart grew warm. I feed on whom I fed.

‘Ay, alive and still bold.’ muttered Earth,

‘Napoleon’s fierce spirit rolled,


In terror and blood and gold,

A torrent of ruin to death from his birth.

Leave the millions who follow to mould

The metal before it be cold;

And weave into his shame, which like the dead


Shrouds me, the hopes that from his glory fled.’

[Published with “Hellas”, 1821.]

Sonnet: Political Greatness.

Nor happiness, nor majesty, nor fame,

Nor peace, nor strength, nor skill in arms or arts,

Shepherd those herds whom tyranny makes tame;

Verse echoes not one beating of their hearts,


History is but the shadow of their shame,

Art veils her glass, or from the pageant starts

As to oblivion their blind millions fleet,

Staining that Heaven with obscene imagery

Of their own likeness. What are numbers knit


By force or custom? Man who man would be,

Must rule the empire of himself; in it

Must be supreme, establishing his throne

On vanquished will, quelling the anarchy

Of hopes and fears, being himself alone.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a transcript, headed “Sonnet to the Republic of Benevento”, in the Harvard manuscript book.]

The Aziola.


‘Do you not hear the Aziola cry?

Methinks she must be nigh,’

Said Mary, as we sate

In dusk, ere stars were lit, or candles brought;


And I, who thought

This Aziola was some tedious woman,

Asked, ‘Who is Aziola?’ How elate

I felt to know that it was nothing human,

No mockery of myself to fear or hate:


And Mary saw my soul,

And laughed, and said, ‘Disquiet yourself not;

’Tis nothing but a little downy owl.’


Sad Aziola! many an eventide

Thy music I had heard


By wood and stream, meadow and mountain-side,

And fields and marshes wide —

Such as nor voice, nor lute, nor wind, nor bird,

The soul ever stirred;

Unlike and far sweeter than them all.


Sad Aziola! from that moment I

Loved thee and thy sad cry.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley in “The Keepsake”, 1829.]

_4 ere stars]ere the stars editions 1839.

_9 or]and editions 1839.

_19 them]they editions 1839.

A Lament.


O world! O life! O time!

On whose last steps I climb,

Trembling at that where I had stood before;

When will return the glory of your prime?


No more — Oh, never more!


Out of the day and night

A joy has taken flight;

Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar,

Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight


No more — Oh, never more!

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



Swifter far than summer’s flight —

Swifter far than youth’s delight —

Swifter far than happy night,

Art thou come and gone —


As the earth when leaves are dead,

As the night when sleep is sped,

As the heart when joy is fled,

I am left lone, alone.


The swallow summer comes again —


The owlet night resumes her reign —

But the wild-swan youth is fain

To fly with thee, false as thou. —

My heart each day desires the morrow;

Sleep itself is turned to sorrow;


Vainly would my winter borrow

Sunny leaves from any bough.


Lilies for a bridal bed —

Roses for a matron’s head —

Violets for a maiden dead —


Pansies let MY flowers be:

On the living grave I bear

Scatter them without a tear —

Let no friend, however dear,

Waste one hope, one fear for me.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824, where it is entitled “A Lament”. Three manuscript copies are extant: The Trelawny manuscript (“Remembrance”), the Harvard manuscript (“Song”) and the Houghton manuscript — the last written by Shelley on a flyleaf of a copy of “Adonais”.]

_5-_7 So editions 1824, 1839, Trelawny manuscript, Harvard manuscript; “As the wood when leaves are shed, / As the night when sleep is fled, / As the heart when joy is dead” Houghton manuscript.

_13 So editions 1824, 1839, Harvard manuscript, Houghton manuscript. My heart to-day desires to-morrow Trelawny manuscript.

_20 So editions 1824, 1839, Harvard manuscript, Houghton manuscript. Sadder flowers find for me Trelawny manuscript.

_24 one hope, one fear]a hope, a fear Trelawny manuscript.

To Edward Williams.


The serpent is shut out from Paradise.

The wounded deer must seek the herb no more

In which its heart-cure lies:

The widowed dove must cease to haunt a bower


Like that from which its mate with feigned sighs

Fled in the April hour.

I too must seldom seek again

Near happy friends a mitigated pain.


Of hatred I am proud — with scorn content;


Indifference, that once hurt me, now is grown

Itself indifferent;

But, not to speak of love, pity alone

Can break a spirit already more than bent.

The miserable one


Turns the mind’s poison into food —

Its medicine is tears — its evil good.


Therefore, if now I see you seldomer,

Dear friends, dear FRIEND! know that I only fly

Your looks, because they stir


Griefs that should sleep, and hopes that cannot die:

The very comfort that they minister

I scarce can bear, yet I,

So deeply is the arrow gone,

Should quickly perish if it were withdrawn.


When I return to my cold home, you ask

Why I am not as I have ever been.

YOU spoil me for the task

Of acting a forced part in life’s dull scene —

Of wearing on my brow the idle mask


Of author, great or mean,

In the world’s carnival. I sought

Peace thus, and but in you I found it not.


Full half an hour, to-day, I tried my lot

With various flowers, and every one still said,


‘She loves me — loves me not.’

And if this meant a vision long since fled —

If it meant fortune, fame, or peace of thought —

If it meant — but I dread

To speak what you may know too well:


Still there was truth in the sad oracle.


The crane o’er seas and forests seeks her home;

No bird so wild but has its quiet nest,

When it no more would roam;

The sleepless billows on the ocean’s breast


Break like a bursting heart, and die in foam,

And thus at length find rest:

Doubtless there is a place of peace

Where MY weak heart and all its throbs will cease.


I asked her, yesterday, if she believed


That I had resolution. One who HAD

Would ne’er have thus relieved

His heart with words — but what his judgement bade

Would do, and leave the scorner unrelieved.

These verses are too sad


To send to you, but that I know,

Happy yourself, you feel another’s woe.

[Published in Ascham’s edition of the “Poems”, 1834. There is a copy amongst the Trelawny manuscripts.]

_10 Indifference, which once hurt me, is now grown Trelawny manuscript.

_18 Dear friends, dear friend Trelawny manuscript, 1839, 2nd edition; Dear gentle friend 1834, 1839, 1st edition.

_26 ever]lately Trelawny manuscript.

_28 in Trelawny manuscript; on 1834, editions 1839,

_43 When 1839, 2nd edition; Whence 1834, 1839, 1st edition.

_48 will 1839, 2nd edition; shall 1834, 1839, 1st edition.

_53 unrelieved Trelawny manuscript, 1839, 2nd. edition; unreprieved 1834, 1839, 1st edition.

_54 are]were Trelawny manuscript.

To —.


One word is too often profaned

For me to profane it,

One feeling too falsely disdained

For thee to disdain it;


One hope is too like despair

For prudence to smother,

And pity from thee more dear

Than that from another.


I can give not what men call love,


But wilt thou accept not

The worship the heart lifts above

And the Heavens reject not —

The desire of the moth for the star,

Of the night for the morrow,


The devotion to something afar

From the sphere of our sorrow?

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

To —.


When passion’s trance is overpast,

If tenderness and truth could last,

Or live, whilst all wild feelings keep

Some mortal slumber, dark and deep,


I should not weep, I should not weep!


It were enough to feel, to see,

Thy soft eyes gazing tenderly,

And dream the rest — and burn and be

The secret food of fires unseen,


Couldst thou but be as thou hast been,


After the slumber of the year

The woodland violets reappear;

All things revive in field or grove,

And sky and sea, but two, which move


And form all others, life and love.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a Boscombe manuscript.]

_15 form Boscombe manuscript; for editions 1824, 1839.

A Bridal Song.


The golden gates of Sleep unbar

Where Strength and Beauty, met together,

Kindle their image like a star

In a sea of glassy weather!


Night, with all thy stars look down —

Darkness, weep thy holiest dew —

Never smiled the inconstant moon

On a pair so true.

Let eyes not see their own delight; —


Haste, swift Hour, and thy flight

Oft renew.


Fairies, sprites, and angels, keep her!

Holy stars, permit no wrong!

And return to wake the sleeper,


Dawn — ere it be long!

O joy! O fear! what will be done

In the absence of the sun!

Come along!

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


Another Version of the Preceding.

Night, with all thine eyes look down!

Darkness shed its holiest dew!

When ever smiled the inconstant moon

On a pair so true?


Hence, coy hour! and quench thy light,

Lest eyes see their own delight!

Hence, swift hour! and thy loved flight

Oft renew.


O joy! O fear! what may be done


In the absence of the sun?

Come along!

The golden gates of sleep unbar!

When strength and beauty meet together,

Kindles their image like a star


In a sea of glassy weather.

Hence, coy hour! and quench thy light,

Lest eyes see their own delight!

Hence, swift hour! and thy loved flight

Oft renew.



O joy! O fear! what may be done

In the absence of the sun?

Come along!

Fairies! sprites! and angels, keep her!

Holiest powers, permit no wrong!


And return, to wake the sleeper,

Dawn, ere it be long.

Hence, swift hour! and quench thy light,

Lest eyes see their own delight!

Hence, coy hour! and thy loved flight


Oft renew.


O joy! O fear! what will be done

In the absence of the sun?

Come along!

[Published by Medwin, “Life of Shelley”, 1847.]

_17 Lest]Let 1847.

Another Version of the Same.


Night! with all thine eyes look down!

Darkness! weep thy holiest dew!

Never smiled the inconstant moon

On a pair so true.


Haste, coy hour! and quench all light,

Lest eyes see their own delight!

Haste, swift hour! and thy loved flight

Oft renew!


Fairies, sprites, and angels, keep her!


Holy stars! permit no wrong!

And return, to wake the sleeper,

Dawn, ere it be long!

O joy! O fear! there is not one

Of us can guess what may be done


In the absence of the sun:—

Come along!


Oh! linger long, thou envious eastern lamp

In the damp

Caves of the deep!



Nay, return, Vesper! urge thy lazy car!

Swift unbar

The gates of Sleep!


The golden gate of Sleep unbar,

When Strength and Beauty, met together,


Kindle their image, like a star

In a sea of glassy weather.

May the purple mist of love

Round them rise, and with them move,

Nourishing each tender gem


Which, like flowers, will burst from them.

As the fruit is to the tree

May their children ever be!

[Published by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870, from the Trelawny manuscript of Edward Williams’s play, “The Promise: or, A Year, a Month, and a Day”.]

Love, Hope, Desire, and Fear.

. . .

And many there were hurt by that strong boy,

His name, they said, was Pleasure,

And near him stood, glorious beyond measure

Four Ladies who possess all empery


In earth and air and sea,

Nothing that lives from their award is free.

Their names will I declare to thee,

Love, Hope, Desire, and Fear,

And they the regents are


Of the four elements that frame the heart,

And each diversely exercised her art

By force or circumstance or sleight

To prove her dreadful might

Upon that poor domain.


Desire presented her [false] glass, and then

The spirit dwelling there

Was spellbound to embrace what seemed so fair

Within that magic mirror,

And dazed by that bright error,


It would have scorned the [shafts] of the avenger

And death, and penitence, and danger,

Had not then silent Fear

Touched with her palsying spear,

So that as if a frozen torrent


The blood was curdled in its current;

It dared not speak, even in look or motion,

But chained within itself its proud devotion.

Between Desire and Fear thou wert

A wretched thing, poor heart!


Sad was his life who bore thee in his breast,

Wild bird for that weak nest.

Till Love even from fierce Desire it bought,

And from the very wound of tender thought

Drew solace, and the pity of sweet eyes


Gave strength to bear those gentle agonies,

Surmount the loss, the terror, and the sorrow.

Then Hope approached, she who can borrow

For poor to-day, from rich tomorrow,

And Fear withdrew, as night when day


Descends upon the orient ray,

And after long and vain endurance

The poor heart woke to her assurance.

— At one birth these four were born

With the world’s forgotten morn,


And from Pleasure still they hold

All it circles, as of old.

When, as summer lures the swallow,

Pleasure lures the heart to follow —

O weak heart of little wit!


The fair hand that wounded it,

Seeking, like a panting hare,

Refuge in the lynx’s lair,

Love, Desire, Hope, and Fear,

Ever will be near.

[Published by Dr. Garnett, “Relics of Shelley”, 1862. ‘A very free translation of Brunetto Latini’s “Tesoretto”, lines 81-154.’— A.C. Bradley.]

Fragments Written for Hellas.


Fairest of the Destinies,

Disarray thy dazzling eyes:

Keener far thy lightnings are

Than the winged [bolts] thou bearest,


And the smile thou wearest

Wraps thee as a star

Is wrapped in light.


Could Arethuse to her forsaken urn

From Alpheus and the bitter Doris run,


Or could the morning shafts of purest light

Again into the quivers of the Sun

Be gathered — could one thought from its wild flight

Return into the temple of the brain

Without a change, without a stain —


Could aught that is, ever again

Be what it once has ceased to be,

Greece might again be free!


A star has fallen upon the earth

Mid the benighted nations,


A quenchless atom of immortal light,

A living spark of Night,

A cresset shaken from the constellations.

Swifter than the thunder fell

To the heart of Earth, the well


Where its pulses flow and beat,

And unextinct in that cold source

Burns, and on . . . course

Guides the sphere which is its prison,

Like an angelic spirit pent


In a form of mortal birth,

Till, as a spirit half-arisen

Shatters its charnel, it has rent,

In the rapture of its mirth,

The thin and painted garment of the Earth,


Ruining its chaos — a fierce breath

Consuming all its forms of living death.

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

Fragment: ‘I Would Not Be a King’.

I would not be a king — enough

Of woe it is to love;

The path to power is steep and rough,

And tempests reign above.


I would not climb the imperial throne;

’Tis built on ice which fortune’s sun

Thaws in the height of noon.

Then farewell, king, yet were I one,

Care would not come so soon.


Would he and I were far away

Keeping flocks on Himalay!

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 2nd edition.]


Wild, pale, and wonder-stricken, even as one

Who staggers forth into the air and sun

From the dark chamber of a mortal fever,

Bewildered, and incapable, and ever


Fancying strange comments in her dizzy brain

Of usual shapes, till the familiar train

Of objects and of persons passed like things

Strange as a dreamer’s mad imaginings,

Ginevra from the nuptial altar went;


The vows to which her lips had sworn assent

Rung in her brain still with a jarring din,

Deafening the lost intelligence within.

And so she moved under the bridal veil,

Which made the paleness of her cheek more pale,


And deepened the faint crimson of her mouth,

And darkened her dark locks, as moonlight doth —

And of the gold and jewels glittering there

She scarce felt conscious — but the weary glare

Lay like a chaos of unwelcome light,


Vexing the sense with gorgeous undelight,

A moonbeam in the shadow of a cloud

Was less heavenly fair — her face was bowed,

And as she passed, the diamonds in her hair

Were mirrored in the polished marble stair


Which led from the cathedral to the street;

And ever as she went her light fair feet

Erased these images.

The bride-maidens who round her thronging came,

Some with a sense of self-rebuke and shame,

Envying the unenviable; and others


Making the joy which should have been another’s

Their own by gentle sympathy; and some

Sighing to think of an unhappy home:

Some few admiring what can ever lure

Maidens to leave the heaven serene and pure


Of parents’ smiles for life’s great cheat; a thing

Bitter to taste, sweet in imagining.

But they are all dispersed — and, lo! she stands

Looking in idle grief on her white hands,


Alone within the garden now her own;

And through the sunny air, with jangling tone,

The music of the merry marriage-bells,

Killing the azure silence, sinks and swells; —

Absorbed like one within a dream who dreams


That he is dreaming, until slumber seems

A mockery of itself — when suddenly

Antonio stood before her, pale as she.

With agony, with sorrow, and with pride,

He lifted his wan eyes upon the bride,


And said —‘Is this thy faith?’ and then as one

Whose sleeping face is stricken by the sun

With light like a harsh voice, which bids him rise

And look upon his day of life with eyes

Which weep in vain that they can dream no more,


Ginevra saw her lover, and forbore

To shriek or faint, and checked the stifling blood

Rushing upon her heart, and unsubdued

Said —‘Friend, if earthly violence or ill,

Suspicion, doubt, or the tyrannic will


Of parents, chance or custom, time or change,

Or circumstance, or terror, or revenge,

Or wildered looks, or words, or evil speech,

With all their stings and venom can impeach

Our love — we love not:— if the grave which hides


The victim from the tyrant, and divides

The cheek that whitens from the eyes that dart

Imperious inquisition to the heart

That is another’s, could dissever ours,

We love not.’—‘What! do not the silent hours


Beckon thee to Gherardi’s bridal bed?

Is not that ring’— a pledge, he would have said,

Of broken vows, but she with patient look

The golden circle from her finger took,

And said —‘Accept this token of my faith,


The pledge of vows to be absolved by death;

And I am dead or shall be soon — my knell

Will mix its music with that merry bell,

Does it not sound as if they sweetly said

“We toll a corpse out of the marriage-bed”?


The flowers upon my bridal chamber strewn

Will serve unfaded for my bier — so soon

That even the dying violet will not die

Before Ginevra.’ The strong fantasy

Had made her accents weaker and more weak,


And quenched the crimson life upon her cheek,

And glazed her eyes, and spread an atmosphere

Round her, which chilled the burning noon with fear,

Making her but an image of the thought

Which, like a prophet or a shadow, brought


News of the terrors of the coming time.

Like an accuser branded with the crime

He would have cast on a beloved friend,

Whose dying eyes reproach not to the end

The pale betrayer — he then with vain repentance


Would share, he cannot now avert, the sentence —

Antonio stood and would have spoken, when

The compound voice of women and of men

Was heard approaching; he retired, while she

Was led amid the admiring company


Back to the palace — and her maidens soon

Changed her attire for the afternoon,

And left her at her own request to keep

An hour of quiet rest:— like one asleep

With open eyes and folded hands she lay,


Pale in the light of the declining day.

Meanwhile the day sinks fast, the sun is set,

And in the lighted hall the guests are met;

The beautiful looked lovelier in the light

Of love, and admiration, and delight


Reflected from a thousand hearts and eyes,

Kindling a momentary Paradise.

This crowd is safer than the silent wood,

Where love’s own doubts disturb the solitude;

On frozen hearts the fiery rain of wine


Falls, and the dew of music more divine

Tempers the deep emotions of the time

To spirits cradled in a sunny clime:—

How many meet, who never yet have met,

To part too soon, but never to forget.


How many saw the beauty, power and wit

Of looks and words which ne’er enchanted yet;

But life’s familiar veil was now withdrawn,

As the world leaps before an earthquake’s dawn,

And unprophetic of the coming hours,


The matin winds from the expanded flowers

Scatter their hoarded incense, and awaken

The earth, until the dewy sleep is shaken

From every living heart which it possesses,

Through seas and winds, cities and wildernesses,


As if the future and the past were all

Treasured i’ the instant; — so Gherardi’s hall

Laughed in the mirth of its lord’s festival,

Till some one asked —‘Where is the Bride?’ And then

A bridesmaid went — and ere she came again


A silence fell upon the guests — a pause

Of expectation, as when beauty awes

All hearts with its approach, though unbeheld;

Then wonder, and then fear that wonder quelled; —

For whispers passed from mouth to ear which drew


The colour from the hearer’s cheeks, and flew

Louder and swifter round the company;

And then Gherardi entered with an eye

Of ostentatious trouble, and a crowd

Surrounded him, and some were weeping loud.


They found Ginevra dead! if it be death

To lie without motion, or pulse, or breath,

With waxen cheeks, and limbs cold, stiff, and white,

And open eyes, whose fixed and glassy light

Mocked at the speculation they had owned.


If it be death, when there is felt around

A smell of clay, a pale and icy glare,

And silence, and a sense that lifts the hair

From the scalp to the ankles, as it were

Corruption from the spirit passing forth,


And giving all it shrouded to the earth,

And leaving as swift lightning in its flight

Ashes, and smoke, and darkness: in our night

Of thought we know thus much of death — no more

Than the unborn dream of our life before


Their barks are wrecked on its inhospitable shore.

The marriage feast and its solemnity

Was turned to funeral pomp — the company,

With heavy hearts and looks, broke up; nor they

Who loved the dead went weeping on their way


Alone, but sorrow mixed with sad surprise

Loosened the springs of pity in all eyes,

On which that form, whose fate they weep in vain,

Will never, thought they, kindle smiles again.

The lamps which, half extinguished in their haste,


Gleamed few and faint o’er the abandoned feast,

Showed as it were within the vaulted room

A cloud of sorrow hanging, as if gloom

Had passed out of men’s minds into the air.

Some few yet stood around Gherardi there,


Friends and relations of the dead — and he,

A loveless man, accepted torpidly

The consolation that he wanted not;

Awe in the place of grief within him wrought.

Their whispers made the solemn silence seem


More still — some wept, . . .

Some melted into tears without a sob,

And some with hearts that might be heard to throb

Leaned on the table and at intervals

Shuddered to hear through the deserted halls


And corridors the thrilling shrieks which came

Upon the breeze of night, that shook the flame

Of every torch and taper as it swept

From out the chamber where the women kept; —

Their tears fell on the dear companion cold


Of pleasures now departed; then was knolled

The bell of death, and soon the priests arrived,

And finding Death their penitent had shrived,

Returned like ravens from a corpse whereon

A vulture has just feasted to the bone.


And then the mourning women came. —

. . .

The Dirge.

Old winter was gone

In his weakness back to the mountains hoar,

And the spring came down

From the planet that hovers upon the shore


Where the sea of sunlight encroaches

On the limits of wintry night; —

If the land, and the air, and the sea,

Rejoice not when spring approaches,

We did not rejoice in thee,



She is still, she is cold

On the bridal couch,

One step to the white deathbed,

And one to the bier,


And one to the charnel — and one, oh where?

The dark arrow fled

In the noon.

Ere the sun through heaven once more has rolled,

The rats in her heart


Will have made their nest,

And the worms be alive in her golden hair,

While the Spirit that guides the sun,

Sits throned in his flaming chair,

She shall sleep.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824, and dated ‘Pisa, 1821.’]

_22 Was]Were cj. Rossetti.old

_26 ever 1824; even editions 1839.

_37 Bitter editions 1839; Better 1824.

_63 wanting in 1824.

_103 quiet rest cj. A.C. Bradley; quiet and rest 1824.

_129 winds]lands cj. Forman; waves, sands or strands cj. Rossetti.

_167 On]In cj. Rossetti.

Evening: Ponte Al Mare, Pisa


The sun is set; the swallows are asleep;

The bats are flitting fast in the gray air;

The slow soft toads out of damp corners creep,

And evening’s breath, wandering here and there


Over the quivering surface of the stream,

Wakes not one ripple from its summer dream.


There is no dew on the dry grass to-night,

Nor damp within the shadow of the trees;

The wind is intermitting, dry, and light;


And in the inconstant motion of the breeze

The dust and straws are driven up and down,

And whirled about the pavement of the town.


Within the surface of the fleeting river

The wrinkled image of the city lay,


Immovably unquiet, and forever

It trembles, but it never fades away;

Go to the . . .

You, being changed, will find it then as now.


The chasm in which the sun has sunk is shut


By darkest barriers of cinereous cloud,

Like mountain over mountain huddled — but

Growing and moving upwards in a crowd,

And over it a space of watery blue,

Which the keen evening star is shining through..

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824. There is a draft amongst the Boscombe manuscripts.]

_6 summer 1839, 2nd edition; silent 1824, 1839, 1st edition.

_20 cinereous Boscombe manuscript; enormous editions 1824, 1839.

The Boat on the Serchio.

Our boat is asleep on Serchio’s stream,

Its sails are folded like thoughts in a dream,

The helm sways idly, hither and thither;

Dominic, the boatman, has brought the mast,


And the oars, and the sails; but ’tis sleeping fast,

Like a beast, unconscious of its tether.

The stars burnt out in the pale blue air,

And the thin white moon lay withering there;

To tower, and cavern, and rift, and tree,


The owl and the bat fled drowsily.

Day had kindled the dewy woods,

And the rocks above and the stream below,

And the vapours in their multitudes,

And the Apennine’s shroud of summer snow,


And clothed with light of aery gold

The mists in their eastern caves uprolled.

Day had awakened all things that be,

The lark and the thrush and the swallow free,

And the milkmaid’s song and the mower’s scythe


And the matin-bell and the mountain bee:

Fireflies were quenched on the dewy corn,

Glow-worms went out on the river’s brim,

Like lamps which a student forgets to trim:

The beetle forgot to wind his horn,


The crickets were still in the meadow and hill:

Like a flock of rooks at a farmer’s gun

Night’s dreams and terrors, every one,

Fled from the brains which are their prey

From the lamp’s death to the morning ray.


All rose to do the task He set to each,

Who shaped us to His ends and not our own;

The million rose to learn, and one to teach

What none yet ever knew or can be known.

And many rose


Whose woe was such that fear became desire; —

Melchior and Lionel were not among those;

They from the throng of men had stepped aside,

And made their home under the green hill-side.

It was that hill, whose intervening brow


Screens Lucca from the Pisan’s envious eye,

Which the circumfluous plain waving below,

Like a wide lake of green fertility,

With streams and fields and marshes bare,

Divides from the far Apennines — which lie


Islanded in the immeasurable air.

‘What think you, as she lies in her green cove,

Our little sleeping boat is dreaming of?’

‘If morning dreams are true, why I should guess

That she was dreaming of our idleness,


And of the miles of watery way

We should have led her by this time of day.’-

‘Never mind,’ said Lionel,

‘Give care to the winds, they can bear it well

About yon poplar-tops; and see


The white clouds are driving merrily,

And the stars we miss this morn will light

More willingly our return to-night. —

How it whistles, Dominic’s long black hair!

List, my dear fellow; the breeze blows fair:


Hear how it sings into the air —’

—‘Of us and of our lazy motions,’

Impatiently said Melchior,

‘If I can guess a boat’s emotions;

And how we ought, two hours before,


To have been the devil knows where.’

And then, in such transalpine Tuscan

As would have killed a Della-Cruscan,

. . .

So, Lionel according to his art

Weaving his idle words, Melchior said:


‘She dreams that we are not yet out of bed;

We’ll put a soul into her, and a heart

Which like a dove chased by a dove shall beat.’

. . .

‘Ay, heave the ballast overboard,

And stow the eatables in the aft locker.’


‘Would not this keg be best a little lowered?’

‘No, now all’s right.’ ‘Those bottles of warm tea —

(Give me some straw)— must be stowed tenderly;

Such as we used, in summer after six,

To cram in greatcoat pockets, and to mix


Hard eggs and radishes and rolls at Eton,

And, couched on stolen hay in those green harbours

Farmers called gaps, and we schoolboys called arbours,

Would feast till eight.’

. . .

With a bottle in one hand,


As if his very soul were at a stand

Lionel stood — when Melchior brought him steady:—

‘Sit at the helm — fasten this sheet — all ready!’

The chain is loosed, the sails are spread,

The living breath is fresh behind,


As with dews and sunrise fed,

Comes the laughing morning wind; —

The sails are full, the boat makes head

Against the Serchio’s torrent fierce,

Then flags with intermitting course,


And hangs upon the wave, and stems

The tempest of the . . .

Which fervid from its mountain source

Shallow, smooth and strong doth come —

Swift as fire, tempestuously


It sweeps into the affrighted sea;

In morning’s smile its eddies coil,

Its billows sparkle, toss and boil,

Torturing all its quiet light

Into columns fierce and bright.


The Serchio, twisting forth

Between the marble barriers which it clove

At Ripafratta, leads through the dread chasm

The wave that died the death which lovers love,

Living in what it sought; as if this spasm


Had not yet passed, the toppling mountains cling,

But the clear stream in full enthusiasm

Pours itself on the plain, then wandering

Down one clear path of effluence crystalline

Sends its superfluous waves, that they may fling

At Arno’s feet tribute of corn and wine;

Then, through the pestilential deserts wild

Of tangled marsh and woods of stunted pine,

It rushes to the Ocean.

[Published in part (lines 1-61, 88-118) by Mrs. Shelley, “Posthumous Poems”, 1824; revised and enlarged by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870.]

_58-_61 “List, my dear fellow, the breeze blows fair; / How it scatters Dominic’s long black hair! / Singing of us, and our lazy motions, / If I can guess a boat’s emotions.”— editions 1824, 1839.

_61-_67 Rossetti places these lines conjecturally between lines 51 and 52.

_61-_65 ‘are evidently an alternative version of 48-51’ (A.C. Bradley).

_95, _96 and stems The tempest of the wanting in editions 1824, 1839.

_112 then Boscombe manuscript; until editions 1824, 1839

_114 superfluous Boscombe manuscript; clear editions 1824, 1839.

_117 pine Boscombe manuscript; fir editions 1824, 1839.



I pant for the music which is divine,

My heart in its thirst is a dying flower;

Pour forth the sound like enchanted wine,

Loosen the notes in a silver shower;


Like a herbless plain, for the gentle rain,

I gasp, I faint, till they wake again.


Let me drink of the spirit of that sweet sound,

More, oh more — I am thirsting yet;

It loosens the serpent which care has bound


Upon my heart to stifle it;

The dissolving strain, through every vein,

Passes into my heart and brain.


As the scent of a violet withered up,

Which grew by the brink of a silver lake,


When the hot noon has drained its dewy cup,

And mist there was none its thirst to slake —

And the violet lay dead while the odour flew

On the wings of the wind o’er the waters blue —


As one who drinks from a charmed cup


Of foaming, and sparkling, and murmuring wine,

Whom, a mighty Enchantress filling up,

Invites to love with her kiss divine . . .

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

_16 mist 1824; tank 1839, 2nd edition.

Sonnet to Byron.

[I am afraid these verses will not please you, but]

If I esteemed you less, Envy would kill

Pleasure, and leave to Wonder and Despair

The ministration of the thoughts that fill

The mind which, like a worm whose life may share


A portion of the unapproachable,

Marks your creations rise as fast and fair

As perfect worlds at the Creator’s will.

But such is my regard that nor your power

To soar above the heights where others [climb],


Nor fame, that shadow of the unborn hour

Cast from the envious future on the time,

Move one regret for his unhonoured name

Who dares these words:— the worm beneath the sod

May lift itself in homage of the God.

[Published by Medwin, “The Shelley Papers”, 1832 (lines 1-7), and “Life of Shelley”, 1847 (lines 1-9, 12-14). Revised and completed from the Boscombe manuscript by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870.]

_1 you edition 1870; him 1832; thee 1847.

_4 So edition 1870; My soul which as a worm may haply share 1832; My soul which even as a worm may share 1847.

_6 your edition 1870; his 1832; thy 1847.

_8, _9 So edition 1870 wanting 1832 — “But not the blessings of thy happier lot, / Nor thy well-won prosperity, and fame” 1847.

_10, _11 So edition 1870; wanting 1832, 1847.

_12-_14 So 1847, edition 1870; wanting 1832.

Fragment on Keats.

On Keats, Who Desired That on His Tomb Should Be Inscribed —

‘Here lieth One whose name was writ on water.

But, ere the breath that could erase it blew,

Death, in remorse for that fell slaughter,

Death, the immortalizing winter, flew


Athwart the stream — and time’s printless torrent grew

A scroll of crystal, blazoning the name

Of Adonais!

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition — ED.]

Fragment: ‘Methought I was a Billow in the Crowd’.

Methought I was a billow in the crowd

Of common men, that stream without a shore,

That ocean which at once is deaf and loud;

That I, a man, stood amid many more


By a wayside . . ., which the aspect bore

Of some imperial metropolis,

Where mighty shapes — pyramid, dome, and tower —

Gleamed like a pile of crags —

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


Where art thou, beloved To-morrow?

When young and old, and strong and weak,

Rich and poor, through joy and sorrow,

Thy sweet smiles we ever seek —


In thy place — ah! well-a-day!

We find the thing we fled — To-day.

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


If I walk in Autumn’s even

While the dead leaves pass,

If I look on Spring’s soft heaven —

Something is not there which was


Winter’s wondrous frost and snow,

Summer’s clouds, where are they now?

[Published by Rossetti, “Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.”, 1870. Connected by Dowden with the preceding.]

Fragment: A Wanderer.

He wanders, like a day-appearing dream,

Through the dim wildernesses of the mind;

Through desert woods and tracts, which seem

Like ocean, homeless, boundless, unconfined.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition.]

Fragment: Life Rounded with Sleep.

The babe is at peace within the womb;

The corpse is at rest within the tomb:

We begin in what we end.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 2nd edition.]

Fragment: ‘I Faint, I Perish with My Love!’.

I faint, I perish with my love! I grow

Frail as a cloud whose [splendours] pale

Under the evening’s ever-changing glow:

I die like mist upon the gale,


And like a wave under the calm I fail.

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

Fragment: The Lady of the South.

Faint with love, the Lady of the South

Lay in the paradise of Lebanon

Under a heaven of cedar boughs: the drouth

Of love was on her lips; the light was gone


Out of her eyes —

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

Fragment: Zephyrus the Awakener.

Come, thou awakener of the spirit’s ocean,

Zephyr, whom to thy cloud or cave

No thought can trace! speed with thy gentle motion!

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

Fragment: Rain.

The gentleness of rain was in the wind.

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

Fragment: ‘When Soft Winds and Sunny Skies’.

When soft winds and sunny skies

With the green earth harmonize,

And the young and dewy dawn,

Bold as an unhunted fawn,


Up the windless heaven is gone —

Laugh — for ambushed in the day —

Clouds and whirlwinds watch their prey.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition.]

Fragment: ‘And That I Walk Thus Proudly Crowned’.

And that I walk thus proudly crowned withal

Is that ’tis my distinction; if I fall,

I shall not weep out of the vital day,

To-morrow dust, nor wear a dull decay.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition.]

_2 ’Tis that is or In that is cj. A.C. Bradley.

Fragment: ‘The Rude Wind is Singing’.

The rude wind is singing

The dirge of the music dead;

The cold worms are clinging

Where kisses were lately fed.

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition.]

Fragment: ‘Great Spirit’.

Great Spirit whom the sea of boundless thought

Nurtures within its unimagined caves,

In which thou sittest sole, as in my mind,

Giving a voice to its mysterious waves —

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

Fragment: ‘O Thou Immortal Deity’.

O thou immortal deity

Whose throne is in the depth of human thought,

I do adjure thy power and thee

By all that man may be, by all that he is not,


By all that he has been and yet must be!

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 2nd edition.]

Fragment: The False Laurel and the True.

‘What art thou, Presumptuous, who profanest

The wreath to mighty poets only due,

Even whilst like a forgotten moon thou wanest?

Touch not those leaves which for the eternal few


Who wander o’er the Paradise of fame,

In sacred dedication ever grew:

One of the crowd thou art without a name.’

‘Ah, friend, ’tis the false laurel that I wear;

Bright though it seem, it is not the same


As that which bound Milton’s immortal hair;

Its dew is poison; and the hopes that quicken

Under its chilling shade, though seeming fair,

Are flowers which die almost before they sicken.’

[Published by Mrs. Shelley, “Poetical Works”, 1839, 1st edition.]

Fragment: May the Limner.

When May is painting with her colours gay

The landscape sketched by April her sweet twin . . .

[This and the three following Fragments were edited from manuscript Shelley D1 at the Bodleian Library and published by Mr. C.D. Locock, “Examination”, etc., Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1903. They are printed here as belonging probably to the year 1821.]

Fragment: Beauty’s Halo.

Thy beauty hangs around thee like

Splendour around the moon —

Thy voice, as silver bells that strike


[Published by Mr. C.D. Locock, “Examination”, etc, 1903.]

Fragment: ‘The Death Knell is Ringing’.

(‘This reads like a study for “Autumn, A Dirge”’ (Locock). Might it not

be part of a projected Fit v. of “The Fugitives”? — ED.)

The death knell is ringing

The raven is singing

The earth worm is creeping

The mourners are weeping


Ding dong, bell —

[Published by Mr. C.D. Locock, “Examination”, etc., 1903.]

Fragment: ‘I Stood Upon a Heaven-Cleaving Turret’.

I stood upon a heaven-cleaving turret

Which overlooked a wide Metropolis —

And in the temple of my heart my Spirit

Lay prostrate, and with parted lips did kiss


The dust of Desolations [altar] hearth —

And with a voice too faint to falter

It shook that trembling fane with its weak prayer

’Twas noon — the sleeping skies were blue

The city

Note on Poems of 1821, by Mrs. Shelley.

My task becomes inexpressibly painful as the year draws near that which sealed our earthly fate, and each poem, and each event it records, has a real or mysterious connection with the fatal catastrophe. I feel that I am incapable of putting on paper the history of those times. The heart of the man, abhorred of the poet, who could

‘peep and botanize

Upon his mother’s grave,’

does not appear to me more inexplicably framed than that of one who can dissect and probe past woes, and repeat to the public ear the groans drawn from them in the throes of their agony.

The year 1821 was spent in Pisa, or at the Baths of San Giuliano. We were not, as our wont had been, alone; friends had gathered round us. Nearly all are dead, and, when Memory recurs to the past, she wanders among tombs. The genius, with all his blighting errors and mighty powers; the companion of Shelley’s ocean-wanderings, and the sharer of his fate, than whom no man ever existed more gentle, generous, and fearless; and others, who found in Shelley’s society, and in his great knowledge and warm sympathy, delight, instruction, and solace; have joined him beyond the grave. A few survive who have felt life a desert since he left it. What misfortune can equal death? Change can convert every other into a blessing, or heal its sting — death alone has no cure. It shakes the foundations of the earth on which we tread; it destroys its beauty; it casts down our shelter; it exposes us bare to desolation. When those we love have passed into eternity, ‘life is the desert and the solitude’ in which we are forced to linger — but never find comfort more.

There is much in the “Adonais” which seems now more applicable to Shelley himself than to the young and gifted poet whom he mourned. The poetic view he takes of death, and the lofty scorn he displays towards his calumniators, are as a prophecy on his own destiny when received among immortal names, and the poisonous breath of critics has vanished into emptiness before the fame he inherits.

Shelley’s favourite taste was boating; when living near the Thames or by the Lake of Geneva, much of his life was spent on the water. On the shore of every lake or stream or sea near which he dwelt, he had a boat moored. He had latterly enjoyed this pleasure again. There are no pleasure-boats on the Arno; and the shallowness of its waters (except in winter-time, when the stream is too turbid and impetuous for boating) rendered it difficult to get any skiff light enough to float. Shelley, however, overcame the difficulty; he, together with a friend, contrived a boat such as the huntsmen carry about with them in the Maremma, to cross the sluggish but deep streams that intersect the forests — a boat of laths and pitched canvas. It held three persons; and he was often seen on the Arno in it, to the horror of the Italians, who remonstrated on the danger, and could not understand how anyone could take pleasure in an exercise that risked life. ‘Ma va per la vita!’ they exclaimed. I little thought how true their words would prove. He once ventured, with a friend, on the glassy sea of a calm day, down the Arno and round the coast to Leghorn, which, by keeping close in shore, was very practicable. They returned to Pisa by the canal, when, missing the direct cut, they got entangled among weeds, and the boat upset; a wetting was all the harm done, except that the intense cold of his drenched clothes made Shelley faint. Once I went down with him to the mouth of the Arno, where the stream, then high and swift, met the tideless sea, and disturbed its sluggish waters. It was a waste and dreary scene; the desert sand stretched into a point surrounded by waves that broke idly though perpetually around; it was a scene very similar to Lido, of which he had said —

‘I love all waste

And solitary places; where we taste

The pleasure of believing what we see

Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be:

And such was this wide ocean, and this shore

More barren than its billows.’

Our little boat was of greater use, unaccompanied by any danger, when we removed to the Baths. Some friends lived at the village of Pugnano, four miles off, and we went to and fro to see them, in our boat, by the canal; which, fed by the Serchio, was, though an artificial, a full and picturesque stream, making its way under verdant banks, sheltered by trees that dipped their boughs into the murmuring waters. By day, multitudes of Ephemera darted to and fro on the surface; at night, the fireflies came out among the shrubs on the banks; the cicale at noon-day kept up their hum; the aziola cooed in the quiet evening. It was a pleasant summer, bright in all but Shelley’s health and inconstant spirits; yet he enjoyed himself greatly, and became more and more attached to the part of the country were chance appeared to cast us. Sometimes he projected taking a farm situated on the height of one of the near hills, surrounded by chestnut and pine woods, and overlooking a wide extent of country: or settling still farther in the maritime Apennines, at Massa. Several of his slighter and unfinished poems were inspired by these scenes, and by the companions around us. It is the nature of that poetry, however, which overflows from the soul oftener to express sorrow and regret than joy; for it is when oppressed by the weight of life, and away from those he loves, that the poet has recourse to the solace of expression in verse.

Still, Shelley’s passion was the ocean; and he wished that our summers, instead of being passed among the hills near Pisa, should be spent on the shores of the sea. It was very difficult to find a spot. We shrank from Naples from a fear that the heats would disagree with Percy: Leghorn had lost its only attraction, since our friends who had resided there were returned to England; and, Monte Nero being the resort of many English, we did not wish to find ourselves in the midst of a colony of chance travellers. No one then thought it possible to reside at Via Reggio, which latterly has become a summer resort. The low lands and bad air of Maremma stretch the whole length of the western shores of the Mediterranean, till broken by the rocks and hills of Spezia. It was a vague idea, but Shelley suggested an excursion to Spezia, to see whether it would be feasible to spend a summer there. The beauty of the bay enchanted him. We saw no house to suit us; but the notion took root, and many circumstances, enchained as by fatality, occurred to urge him to execute it.

He looked forward this autumn with great pleasure to the prospect of a visit from Leigh Hunt. When Shelley visited Lord Byron at Ravenna, the latter had suggested his coming out, together with the plan of a periodical work in which they should all join. Shelley saw a prospect of good for the fortunes of his friend, and pleasure in his society; and instantly exerted himself to have the plan executed. He did not intend himself joining in the work: partly from pride, not wishing to have the air of acquiring readers for his poetry by associating it with the compositions of more popular writers; and also because he might feel shackled in the free expression of his opinions, if any friends were to be compromised. By those opinions, carried even to their outermost extent, he wished to live and die, as being in his conviction not only true, but such as alone would conduce to the moral improvement and happiness of mankind. The sale of the work might meanwhile, either really or supposedly, be injured by the free expression of his thoughts; and this evil he resolved to avoid.

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