"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

04 August 2016

Happy birthday, Shelley.

Partridge, Shelley, 1899

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on this day in 1792.

Poetry turns all things to loveliness; it exalts the beauty of that which is most beautiful, and it adds beauty to that which is most deformed; it marries exultation and horror, grief and pleasure, eternity and change; it subdues to union under its light yoke all irreconcilable things. It transmutes all that it touches, and every form moving within the radiance of its presence is changed by wondrous sympathy to an incarnation of the spirit which it breathes: its secret alchemy turns to potable gold the poisonous waters which flow from death through life; it strips the veil of familiarity from the world, and lays bare the naked and sleeping beauty, which is the spirit of its forms.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Not yet the ones I loved , and to love the ones I loved, I asked them what I might love, in love with loving.—
Confess. St. August.
Earth, ocean, air, belovèd brotherhood! 
If our great Mother has imbued my soul 
With aught of natural piety to feel 
Your love, and recompense the boon with mine; 
If dewy morn, and odorous noon, and even, 
With sunset and its gorgeous ministers, 
And solemn midnight's tingling silentness; 
If autumn's hollow sighs in the sere wood, 
And winter robing with pure snow and crowns 
Of starry ice the grey grass and bare boughs; 
If spring's voluptuous pantings when she breathes 
Her first sweet kisses, have been dear to me; 
If no bright bird, insect, or gentle beast 
I consciously have injured, but still loved 
And cherished these my kindred; then forgive 
This boast, belovèd brethren, and withdraw 
No portion of your wonted favour now! 

         Mother of this unfathomable world! 
Favour my solemn song, for I have loved 
Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched 
Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps, 
And my heart ever gazes on the depth 
Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed 
In charnels and on coffins, where black death 
Keeps record of the trophies won from thee, 
Hoping to still these obstinate questionings 
Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost 
Thy messenger, to render up the tale 
Of what we are. In lone and silent hours, 
When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness, 
Like an inspired and desperate alchymist 
Staking his very life on some dark hope, 
Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks 
With my most innocent love, until strange tears 
Uniting with those breathless kisses, made 
Such magic as compels the charmèd night 
To render up thy charge:...and, though ne'er yet 
Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary, 
Enough from incommunicable dream, 
And twilight phantasms, and deep noon-day thought, 
Has shone within me, that serenely now 
And moveless, as a long-forgotten lyre 
Suspended in the solitary dome 
Of some mysterious and deserted fane, 
I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain 
May modulate with murmurs of the air, 
And motions of the forests and the sea, 
And voice of living beings, and woven hymns 
Of night and day, and the deep heart of man. 

         There was a Poet whose untimely tomb 
No human hands with pious reverence reared, 
But the charmed eddies of autumnal winds 
Built o'er his mouldering bones a pyramid 
Of mouldering leaves in the waste wilderness:— 
A lovely youth,—no mourning maiden decked 
With weeping flowers, or votive cypress wreath, 
The lone couch of his everlasting sleep:— 
Gentle, and brave, and generous,—no lorn bard 
Breathed o'er his dark fate one melodious sigh: 
He lived, he died, he sung, in solitude. 
Strangers have wept to hear his passionate notes, 
And virgins, as unknown he passed, have pined 
And wasted for fond love of his wild eyes. 
The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn, 
And Silence, too enamoured of that voice, 
Locks its mute music in her rugged cell. 

         By solemn vision, and bright silver dream, 
His infancy was nurtured. Every sight 
And sound from the vast earth and ambient air, 
Sent to his heart its choicest impulses. 
The fountains of divine philosophy 
Fled not his thirsting lips, and all of great, 
Or good, or lovely, which the sacred past 
In truth or fable consecrates, he felt 
And knew. When early youth had past, he left 
His cold fireside and alienated home 
To seek strange truths in undiscovered lands. 
Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness 
Has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought 
With his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, 
His rest and food. Nature's most secret steps 
He like her shadow has pursued, where'er 
The red volcano overcanopies 
Its fields of snow and pinnacles of ice 
With burning smoke, or where bitumen lakes 
On black bare pointed islets ever beat 
With sluggish surge, or where the secret caves 
Rugged and dark, winding among the springs 
Of fire and poison, inaccessible 
To avarice or pride, their starry domes 
Of diamond and of gold expand above 
Numberless and immeasurable halls, 
Frequent with crystal column, and clear shrines 
Of pearl, and thrones radiant with chrysolite. 
Nor had that scene of ampler majesty 
Than gems or gold, the varying roof of heaven 
And the green earth lost in his heart its claims 
To love and wonder; he would linger long 
In lonesome vales, making the wild his home, 
Until the doves and squirrels would partake 
From his innocuous hand his bloodless food, 
Lured by the gentle meaning of his looks, 
And the wild antelope, that starts whene'er 
The dry leaf rustles in the brake, suspend 
Her timid steps to gaze upon a form 
More graceful than her own. 

                                                His wandering step 
Obedient to high thoughts, has visited 
The awful ruins of the days of old: 
Athens, and Tyre, and Balbec, and the waste 
Where stood Jerusalem, the fallen towers 
Of Babylon, the eternal pyramids, 
Memphis and Thebes, and whatsoe'er of strange 
Sculptured on alabaster obelisk, 
Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphynx, 
Dark Æthiopia in her desert hills 
Conceals. Among the ruined temples there, 
Stupendous columns, and wild images 
Of more than man, where marble daemons watch 
The Zodiac's brazen mystery, and dead men 
Hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around, 
He lingered, poring on memorials 
Of the world's youth, through the long burning day 
Gazed on those speechless shapes, nor, when the moon 
Filled the mysterious halls with floating shades 
Suspended he that task, but ever gazed 
And gazed, till meaning on his vacant mind 
Flashed like strong inspiration, and he saw 
The thrilling secrets of the birth of time. 

         Meanwhile an Arab maiden brought his food, 
Her daily portion, from her father's tent, 
And spread her matting for his couch, and stole 
From duties and repose to tend his steps:— 
Enamoured, yet not daring for deep awe 
To speak her love:—and watched his nightly sleep, 
Sleepless herself, to gaze upon his lips 
Parted in slumber, whence the regular breath 
Of innocent dreams arose: then, when red morn 
Made paler the pale moon, to her cold home 
Wildered, and wan, and panting, she returned. 

         The Poet wandering on, through Arabie 
And Persia, and the wild Carmanian waste, 
And o'er the aërial mountains which pour down 
Indus and Oxus from their icy caves, 
In joy and exultation held his way; 
Till in the vale of Cashmire, far within 
Its loneliest dell, where odorous plants entwine 
Beneath the hollow rocks a natural bower, 
Beside a sparkling rivulet he stretched 
His languid limbs. A vision on his sleep 
There came, a dream of hopes that never yet 
Had flushed his cheek. He dreamed a veilèd maid 
Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones. 
Her voice was like the voice of his own soul 
Heard in the calm of thought; its music long, 
Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held 
His inmost sense suspended in its web 
Of many-coloured woof and shifting hues. 
Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme, 
And lofty hopes of divine liberty, 
Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy, 
Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood 
Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame 
A permeating fire: wild numbers then 
She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs 
Subdued by its own pathos: her fair hands 
Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp 
Strange symphony, and in their branching veins 
The eloquent blood told an ineffable tale. 
The beating of her heart was heard to fill 
The pauses of her music, and her breath 
Tumultuously accorded with those fits 
Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose, 
As if her heart impatiently endured 
Its bursting burthen: at the sound he turned, 
And saw by the warm light of their own life 
Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil 
Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare, 
Her dark locks floating in the breath of night, 
Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips 
Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly. 
His strong heart sunk and sickened with excess 
Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs and quelled 
His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet 
Her panting bosom:...she drew back a while, 
Then, yielding to the irresistible joy, 
With frantic gesture and short breathless cry 
Folded his frame in her dissolving arms. 
Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night 
Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep, 
Like a dark flood suspended in its course 
Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain. 

         Roused by the shock he started from his trance— 
The cold white light of morning, the blue moon 
Low in the west, the clear and garish hills, 
The distinct valley and the vacant woods, 
Spread round him where he stood. Whither have fled 
The hues of heaven that canopied his bower 
Of yesternight? The sounds that soothed his sleep, 
The mystery and the majesty of Earth, 
The joy, the exultation? His wan eyes 
Gaze on the empty scene as vacantly 
As ocean's moon looks on the moon in heaven. 
The spirit of sweet human love has sent 
A vision to the sleep of him who spurned 
Her choicest gifts. He eagerly pursues 
Beyond the realms of dream that fleeting shade; 
He overleaps the bounds. Alas! Alas! 
Were limbs and breath and being intertwined 
Thus treacherously? Lost, lost, for ever lost, 
In the wide pathless desert of dim sleep, 
That beautiful shape! Does the dark gate of death 
Conduct to thy mysterious paradise, 
O Sleep? Does the bright arch of rainbow clouds, 
And pendent mountains seen in the calm lake, 
Lead only to a black and watery depth, 
While death's blue vault, with loathliest vapours hung, 
Where every shade which the foul grave exhales 
Hides its dead eye from the detested day, 
Conduct, O Sleep, to thy delightful realms? 
This doubt with sudden tide flowed on his heart, 
The insatiate hope which it awakened stung 
His brain even like despair. 

                                              While daylight held 
The sky, the Poet kept mute conference 
With his still soul. At night the passion came, 
Like the fierce fiend of a distempered dream, 
And shook him from his rest, and led him forth 
Into the darkness.—As an eagle grasped 
In folds of the green serpent, feels her breast 
Burn with the poison, and precipitates 
Through night and day, tempest, and calm, and cloud, 
Frantic with dizzying anguish, her blind flight 
O'er the wide aëry wilderness: thus driven 
By the bright shadow of that lovely dream, 
Beneath the cold glare of the desolate night, 
Through tangled swamps and deep precipitous dells, 
Startling with careless step the moonlight snake, 
He fled. Red morning dawned upon his flight, 
Shedding the mockery of its vital hues 
Upon his cheek of death. He wandered on 
Till vast Aornos, seen from Petra's steep, 
Hung o'er the low horizon like a cloud; 
Through Balk, and where the desolated tombs 
Of Parthian kings scatter to every wind 
Their wasting dust, wildly he wandered on, 
Day after day a weary waste of hours, 
Bearing within his life the brooding care 
That ever fed on its decaying flame. 
And now his limbs were lean; his scattered hair 
Sered by the autumn of strange suffering 
Sung dirges in the wind; his listless hand 
Hung like dead bone within its withered skin; 
Life, and the lustre that consumed it, shone 
As in a furnace burning secretly 
From his dark eyes alone. The cottagers, 
Who ministered with human charity 
His human wants, beheld with wondering awe 
Their fleeting visitant. The mountaineer, 
Encountering on some dizzy precipice 
That spectral form, deemed that the Spirit of wind 
With lightning eyes, and eager breath, and feet 
Disturbing not the drifted snow, had paused 
In its career: the infant would conceal 
His troubled visage in his mother's robe 
In terror at the glare of those wild eyes, 
To remember their strange light in many a dream 
Of after-times; but youthful maidens, taught 
By nature, would interpret half the woe 
That wasted him, would call him with false names 
Brother, and friend, would press his pallid hand 
At parting, and watch, dim through tears, the path 
Of his departure from their father's door. 

         At length upon the lone Chorasmian shore 
He paused, a wide and melancholy waste 
Of putrid marshes. A strong impulse urged 
His steps to the sea-shore. A swan was there, 
Beside a sluggish stream among the reeds. 
It rose as he approached, and with strong wings 
Scaling the upward sky, bent its bright course 
High over the immeasurable main. 
His eyes pursued its flight.—"Thou hast a home, 
Beautiful bird; thou voyagest to thine home, 
Where thy sweet mate will twine her downy neck 
With thine, and welcome thy return with eyes 
Bright in the lustre of their own fond joy. 
And what am I that I should linger here, 
With voice far sweeter than thy dying notes, 
Spirit more vast than thine, frame more attuned 
To beauty, wasting these surpassing powers 
In the deaf air, to the blind earth, and heaven 
That echoes not my thoughts?" A gloomy smile 
Of desperate hope wrinkled his quivering lips. 
For sleep, he knew, kept most relentlessly 
Its precious charge, and silent death exposed, 
Faithless perhaps as sleep, a shadowy lure, 
With doubtful smile mocking its own strange charms. 

         Startled by his own thoughts he looked around. 
There was no fair fiend near him, not a sight 
Or sound of awe but in his own deep mind. 
A little shallop floating near the shore 
Caught the impatient wandering of his gaze. 
It had been long abandoned, for its sides 
Gaped wide with many a rift, and its frail joints 
Swayed with the undulations of the tide. 
A restless impulse urged him to embark 
And meet lone Death on the drear ocean's waste; 
For well he knew that mighty Shadow loves 
The slimy caverns of the populous deep. 

         The day was fair and sunny: sea and sky 
Drank its inspiring radiance, and the wind 
Swept strongly from the shore, blackening the waves. 
Following his eager soul, the wanderer 
Leaped in the boat, he spread his cloak aloft 
On the bare mast, and took his lonely seat, 
And felt the boat speed o'er the tranquil sea 
Like a torn cloud before the hurricane. 

         As one that in a silver vision floats 
Obedient to the sweep of odorous winds 
Upon resplendent clouds, so rapidly 
Along the dark and ruffled waters fled 
The straining boat.—A whirlwind swept it on, 
With fierce gusts and precipitating force, 
Through the white ridges of the chafèd sea. 
The waves arose. Higher and higher still 
Their fierce necks writhed beneath the tempest's scourge 
Like serpents struggling in a vulture's grasp. 
Calm and rejoicing in the fearful war 
Of wave ruining on wave, and blast on blast 
Descending, and black flood on whirlpool driven 
With dark obliterating course, he sate: 
As if their genii were the ministers 
Appointed to conduct him to the light 
Of those belovèd eyes, the Poet sate 
Holding the steady helm. Evening came on, 
The beams of sunset hung their rainbow hues 
High 'mid the shifting domes of sheeted spray 
That canopied his path o'er the waste deep; 
Twilight, ascending slowly from the east, 
Entwined in duskier wreaths her braided locks 
O'er the fair front and radiant eyes of day; 
Night followed, clad with stars. On every side 
More horribly the multitudinous streams 
Of ocean's mountainous waste to mutual war 
Rushed in dark tumult thundering, as to mock 
The calm and spangled sky. The little boat 
Still fled before the storm; still fled, like foam 
Down the steep cataract of a wintry river; 
Now pausing on the edge of the riven wave; 
Now leaving far behind the bursting mass 
That fell, convulsing ocean. Safely fled— 
As if that frail and wasted human form, 
Had been an elemental god. 

                                              At midnight 
The moon arose: and lo! the ethereal cliffs 
Of Caucasus, whose icy summits shone 
Among the stars like sunlight, and around 
Whose caverned base the whirlpools and the waves 
Bursting and eddying irresistibly 
Rage and resound for ever.—Who shall save?— 
The boat fled on,—the boiling torrent drove,— 
The crags closed round with black and jaggèd arms, 
The shattered mountain overhung the sea, 
And faster still, beyond all human speed, 
Suspended on the sweep of the smooth wave, 
The little boat was driven. A cavern there 
Yawned, and amid its slant and winding depths 
Ingulfed the rushing sea. The boat fled on 
With unrelaxing speed.—"Vision and Love!" 
The Poet cried aloud, "I have beheld 
The path of thy departure. Sleep and death 
Shall not divide us long!" 

                                              The boat pursued 
The windings of the cavern. Daylight shone 
At length upon that gloomy river's flow; 
Now, where the fiercest war among the waves 
Is calm, on the unfathomable stream 
The boat moved slowly. Where the mountain, riven, 
Exposed those black depths to the azure sky, 
Ere yet the flood's enormous volume fell 
Even to the base of Caucasus, with sound 
That shook the everlasting rocks, the mass 
Filled with one whirlpool all that ample chasm; 
Stair above stair the eddying waters rose, 
Circling immeasurably fast, and laved 
With alternating dash the gnarlèd roots 
Of mighty trees, that stretched their giant arms 
In darkness over it. I' the midst was left, 
Reflecting, yet distorting every cloud, 
A pool of treacherous and tremendous calm. 
Seized by the sway of the ascending stream, 
With dizzy swiftness, round, and round, and round, 
Ridge after ridge the straining boat arose, 
Till on the verge of the extremest curve, 
Where, through an opening of the rocky bank, 
The waters overflow, and a smooth spot 
Of glassy quiet mid those battling tides 
Is left, the boat paused shuddering.—Shall it sink 
Down the abyss? Shall the reverting stress 
Of that resistless gulf embosom it? 
Now shall it fall?—A wandering stream of wind, 
Breathed from the west, has caught the expanded sail, 
And, lo! with gentle motion, between banks 
Of mossy slope, and on a placid stream, 
Beneath a woven grove it sails, and, hark! 
The ghastly torrent mingles its far roar, 
With the breeze murmuring in the musical woods. 
Where the embowering trees recede, and leave 
A little space of green expanse, the cove 
Is closed by meeting banks, whose yellow flowers 
For ever gaze on their own drooping eyes, 
Reflected in the crystal calm. The wave 
Of the boat's motion marred their pensive task, 
Which nought but vagrant bird, or wanton wind, 
Or falling spear-grass, or their own decay 
Had e'er disturbed before. The Poet longed 
To deck with their bright hues his withered hair, 
But on his heart its solitude returned, 
And he forbore. Not the strong impulse hid 
In those flushed cheeks, bent eyes, and shadowy frame 
Had yet performed its ministry: it hung 
Upon his life, as lightning in a cloud 
Gleams, hovering ere it vanish, ere the floods 
Of night close over it. 

                                              The noonday sun 
Now shone upon the forest, one vast mass 
Of mingling shade, whose brown magnificence 
A narrow vale embosoms. There, huge caves 
Scooped in the dark base of their aëry rocks 
Mocking its moans, respond and roar for ever. 
The meeting boughs and implicated leaves 
Wove twilight o'er the Poet's path, as led 
By love, or dream, or god, or mightier Death, 
He sought in Nature's dearest haunt, some bank 
Her cradle, and his sepulchre. More dark 
And dark the shades accumulate. The oak, 
Expanding its immense and knotty arms, 
Embraces the light beech. The pyramids 
Of the tall cedar overarching, frame 
Most solemn domes within, and far below, 
Like clouds suspended in an emerald sky, 
The ash and the acacia floating hang 
Tremulous and pale. Like restless serpents, clothed 
In rainbow and in fire, the parasites, 
Starred with ten thousand blossoms, flow around 
The grey trunks, and, as gamesome infants' eyes, 
With gentle meanings, and most innocent wiles, 
Fold their beams round the hearts of those that love, 
These twine their tendrils with the wedded boughs 
Uniting their close union; the woven leaves 
Make net-work of the dark blue light of day, 
And the night's noontide clearness, mutable 
As shapes in the weird clouds. Soft mossy lawns 
Beneath these canopies extend their swells, 
Fragrant with perfumed herbs, and eyed with blooms 
Minute yet beautiful. One darkest glen 
Sends from its woods of musk-rose, twined with jasmine, 
A soul-dissolving odour, to invite 
To some more lovely mystery. Through the dell, 
Silence and Twilight here, twin-sisters, keep 
Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades, 
Like vaporous shapes half seen; beyond, a well, 
Dark, gleaming, and of most translucent wave, 
Images all the woven boughs above, 
And each depending leaf, and every speck 
Of azure sky, darting between their chasms; 
Nor aught else in the liquid mirror laves 
Its portraiture, but some inconstant star 
Between one foliaged lattice twinkling fair, 
Or painted bird, sleeping beneath the moon, 
Or gorgeous insect floating motionless, 
Unconscious of the day, ere yet his wings 
Have spread their glories to the gaze of noon. 

         Hither the Poet came. His eyes beheld 
Their own wan light through the reflected lines 
Of his thin hair, distinct in the dark depth 
Of that still fountain; as the human heart, 
Gazing in dreams over the gloomy grave, 
Sees its own treacherous likeness there. He heard 
The motion of the leaves, the grass that sprung 
Startled and glanced and trembled even to feel 
An unaccustomed presence, and the sound 
Of the sweet brook that from the secret springs 
Of that dark fountain rose. A Spirit seemed 
To stand beside him—clothed in no bright robes 
Of shadowy silver or enshrining light, 
Borrowed from aught the visible world affords 
Of grace, or majesty, or mystery;— 
But, undulating woods, and silent well, 
And leaping rivulet, and evening gloom 
Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming, 
Held commune with him, as if he and it 
Were all that was,—only... when his regard 
Was raised by intense pensiveness,... two eyes, 
Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought, 
And seemed with their serene and azure smiles 
To beckon him. 

                                              Obedient to the light 
That shone within his soul, he went, pursuing 
The windings of the dell.—The rivulet 
Wanton and wild, through many a green ravine 
Beneath the forest flowed. Sometimes it fell 
Among the moss, with hollow harmony 
Dark and profound. Now on the polished stones 
It danced; like childhood laughing as it went: 
Then, through the plain in tranquil wanderings crept, 
Reflecting every herb and drooping bud 
That overhung its quietness.—"O stream! 
Whose source is inaccessibly profound, 
Whither do thy mysterious waters tend? 
Thou imagest my life. Thy darksome stillness, 
Thy dazzling waves, thy loud and hollow gulfs, 
Thy searchless fountain, and invisible course 
Have each their type in me: and the wide sky, 
And measureless ocean may declare as soon 
What oozy cavern or what wandering cloud 
Contains thy waters, as the universe 
Tell where these living thoughts reside, when stretched 
Upon thy flowers my bloodless limbs shall waste 
I' the passing wind!" 

                                              Beside the grassy shore 
Of the small stream he went; he did impress 
On the green moss his tremulous step, that caught 
Strong shuddering from his burning limbs. As one 
Roused by some joyous madness from the couch 
Of fever, he did move; yet, not like him, 
Forgetful of the grave, where, when the flame 
Of his frail exultation shall be spent, 
He must descend. With rapid steps he went 
Beneath the shade of trees, beside the flow 
Of the wild babbling rivulet; and now 
The forest's solemn canopies were changed 
For the uniform and lightsome evening sky. 
Grey rocks did peep from the spare moss, and stemmed 
The struggling brook: tall spires of windlestrae 
Threw their thin shadows down the rugged slope, 
And nought but gnarlèd roots of ancient pines 
Branchless and blasted, clenched with grasping roots 
The unwilling soil. A gradual change was here, 
Yet ghastly. For, as fast years flow away, 
The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin 
And white, and where irradiate dewy eyes 
Had shone, gleam stony orbs:—so from his steps 
Bright flowers departed, and the beautiful shade 
Of the green groves, with all their odorous winds 
And musical motions. Calm, he still pursued 
The stream, that with a larger volume now 
Rolled through the labyrinthine dell; and there 
Fretted a path through its descending curves 
With its wintry speed. On every side now rose 
Rocks, which, in unimaginable forms, 
Lifted their black and barren pinnacles 
In the light of evening, and its precipice 
Obscuring the ravine, disclosed above, 
Mid toppling stones, black gulfs and yawning caves, 
Whose windings gave ten thousand various tongues 
To the loud stream. Lo! where the pass expands 
Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks, 
And seems, with its accumulated crags, 
To overhang the world: for wide expand 
Beneath the wan stars and descending moon 
Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams, 
Dim tracts and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom 
Of leaden-coloured even, and fiery hills 
Mingling their flames with twilight, on the verge 
Of the remote horizon. The near scene, 
In naked and severe simplicity, 
Made contrast with the universe. A pine, 
Rock-rooted, stretched athwart the vacancy 
Its swinging boughs, to each inconstant blast 
Yielding one only response, at each pause, 
In most familiar cadence, with the howl 
The thunder and the hiss of homeless streams 
Mingling its solemn song, whilst the broad river, 
Foaming and hurrying o'er its rugged path, 
Fell into that immeasurable void, 
Scattering its waters to the passing winds. 

         Yet the grey precipice and solemn pine 
And torrent, were not all;—one silent nook 
Was there. Even on the edge of that vast mountain, 
Upheld by knotty roots and fallen rocks, 
It overlooked in its serenity 
The dark earth, and the bending vault of stars. 
It was a tranquil spot, that seemed to smile 
Even in the lap of horror. Ivy clasped 
The fissured stones with its entwining arms, 
And did embower with leaves for ever green, 
And berries dark, the smooth and even space 
Of its inviolated floor, and here 
The children of the autumnal whirlwind bore, 
In wanton sport, those bright leaves, whose decay, 
Red, yellow, or ethereally pale, 
Rivals the pride of summer. 'Tis the haunt 
Of every gentle wind, whose breath can teach 
The wilds to love tranquillity. One step, 
One human step alone, has ever broken 
The stillness of its solitude:—one voice 
Alone inspired its echoes;—even that voice 
Which hither came, floating among the winds, 
And led the loveliest among human forms 
To make their wild haunts the depository 
Of all the grace and beauty that endued 
Its motions, render up its majesty, 
Scatter its music on the unfeeling storm, 
And to the damp leaves and blue cavern mould, 
Nurses of rainbow flowers and branching moss, 
Commit the colours of that varying cheek, 
That snowy breast, those dark and drooping eyes. 

         The dim and hornèd moon hung low, and poured 
A sea of lustre on the horizon's verge 
That overflowed its mountains. Yellow mist 
Filled the unbounded atmosphere, and drank 
Wan moonlight even to fulness: not a star 
Shone, not a sound was heard; the very winds, 
Danger's grim playmates, on that precipice 
Slept, clasped in his embrace.—O, storm of death! 
Whose sightless speed divides this sullen night: 
And thou, colossal Skeleton, that, still 
Guiding its irresistible career 
In thy devastating omnipotence, 
Art king of this frail world, from the red field 
Of slaughter, from the reeking hospital, 
The patriot's sacred couch, the snowy bed 
Of innocence, the scaffold and the throne, 
A mighty voice invokes thee. Ruin calls 
His brother Death. A rare and regal prey 
He hath prepared, prowling around the world; 
Glutted with which thou mayst repose, and men 
Go to their graves like flowers or creeping worms, 
Nor ever more offer at thy dark shrine 
The unheeded tribute of a broken heart. 

         When on the threshold of the green recess 
The wanderer's footsteps fell, he knew that death 
Was on him. Yet a little, ere it fled, 
Did he resign his high and holy soul 
To images of the majestic past, 
That paused within his passive being now, 
Like winds that bear sweet music, when they breathe 
Through some dim latticed chamber. He did place 
His pale lean hand upon the rugged trunk 
Of the old pine. Upon an ivied stone 
Reclined his languid head, his limbs did rest, 
Diffused and motionless, on the smooth brink 
Of that obscurest chasm;—and thus he lay, 
Surrendering to their final impulses 
The hovering powers of life. Hope and despair, 
The torturers, slept; no mortal pain or fear 
Marred his repose, the influxes of sense, 
And his own being unalloyed by pain, 
Yet feebler and more feeble, calmly fed 
The stream of thought, till he lay breathing there 
At peace, and faintly smiling:—his last sight 
Was the great moon, which o'er the western line 
Of the wide world her mighty horn suspended, 
With whose dun beams inwoven darkness seemed 
To mingle. Now upon the jaggèd hills 
It rests, and still as the divided frame 
Of the vast meteor sunk, the Poet's blood, 
That ever beat in mystic sympathy 
With nature's ebb and flow, grew feebler still: 
And when two lessening points of light alone 
Gleamed through the darkness, the alternate gasp 
Of his faint respiration scarce did stir 
The stagnate night:—till the minutest ray 
Was quenched, the pulse yet lingered in his heart. 
It paused—it fluttered. But when heaven remained 
Utterly black, the murky shades involved 
An image, silent, cold, and motionless, 
As their own voiceless earth and vacant air. 
Even as a vapour fed with golden beams 
That ministered on sunlight, ere the west 
Eclipses it, was now that wondrous frame— 
No sense, no motion, no divinity— 
A fragile lute, on whose harmonious strings 
The breath of heaven did wander—a bright stream 
Once fed with many-voicèd waves—a dream 
Of youth, which night and time have quenched for ever, 
Still, dark, and dry, and unremembered now. 

         O, for Medea's wondrous alchemy, 
Which wheresoe'er it fell made the earth gleam 
With bright flowers, and the wintry boughs exhale 
From vernal blooms fresh fragrance! O, that God, 
Profuse of poisons, would concede the chalice 
Which but one living man has drained, who now, 
Vessel of deathless wrath, a slave that feels 
No proud exemption in the blighting curse 
He bears, over the world wanders for ever, 
Lone as incarnate death! O, that the dream 
Of dark magician in his visioned cave, 
Raking the cinders of a crucible 
For life and power, even when his feeble hand 
Shakes in its last decay, were the true law 
Of this so lovely world! But thou art fled 
Like some frail exhalation; which the dawn 
Robes in its golden beams,—ah! thou hast fled! 
The brave, the gentle, and the beautiful, 
The child of grace and genius. Heartless things 
Are done and said i' the world, and many worms 
And beasts and men live on, and mighty Earth 
From sea and mountain, city and wilderness, 
In vesper low or joyous orison, 
Lifts still its solemn voice:—but thou art fled— 
Thou canst no longer know or love the shapes 
Of this phantasmal scene, who have to thee 
Been purest ministers, who are, alas! 
Now thou art not. Upon those pallid lips 
So sweet even in their silence, on those eyes 
That image sleep in death, upon that form 
Yet safe from the worm's outrage, let no tear 
Be shed—not even in thought. Nor, when those hues 
Are gone, and those divinest lineaments, 
Worn by the senseless wind, shall live alone 
In the frail pauses of this simple strain, 
Let not high verse, mourning the memory 
Of that which is no more, or painting's woe 
Or sculpture, speak in feeble imagery 
Their own cold powers. Art and eloquence, 
And all the shows o' the world are frail and vain 
To weep a loss that turns their lights to shade. 
It is a woe too "deep for tears," when all 
Is reft at once, when some surpassing Spirit, 
Whose light adorned the world around it, leaves 
Those who remain behind, not sobs or groans, 
The passionate tumult of a clinging hope; 
But pale despair and cold tranquillity, 
Nature's vast frame, the web of human things,
Birth and the grave, that are not as they were.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

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