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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 2 Lightning that mocks the night, Brief even as bright.
Virtue, how frail it is!
Friendship too 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.
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—
The Earth is like Ocean,
Wreck-strewn and in motion:
Bird, beast, man, and worm,
Have crept out of the storm—
"Our boat has one sail,
And the helmsman is pale;—
A bold pilot I trow,
Who should follow us now,"—
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,
Though dumb in the blast,
The red cannon flashed fast
From the lee.
"And fearist thou, and fear'st thou!
And see'st thou, and hear'st thou!
And drive we not free
O'er the terrible sea,
I and thou i"
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Is withdrawn and uplifted,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 blood-hound well beaten
The bridegroom stands, eaten
On the topmost watch-turret,
As a death-boding spirit,
Stands the grey tyrant father,
To his voice the mad weather
And with curses as wild
As e'er cling to child,
He devotes to the blast
The best, loveliest, and last
Of his name!
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.
Mine eyes were dim with tears unshed;
Yes, I was firm—thus wert not thou ;— My baffled looks did fear yet dread
To meet thy looks—I could not know
How anxiously they sought to shine
With soothing pity upon mine.
To sit and curb the soul's mute rage
Which preys upon itself alone;
To curse the life which is the cage
Of fettered grief that dares not groan,
Hiding from many a careless eye
The scorned load ef agony.
Whilst thou alone, then not regarded,
The [ ] thou alone should be,
To spend years thus, and be rewarded,
As thou, sweet love, requited me
When none were near—Oh! I did wake
From torture for that moment's sake.
Upon my heart thy accents sweet
Of peace and pity fell like dew
On flowers half dead ;—thy lips did meet
Mine tremblingly; thy dark eyes threw
Their soft persuasion on my brain,
Charming away its dream of pain.
We are not happy, sweet! our state
Is strange and full of doubt and fear;
More need of words that ills abate ;—
Reserve or censure come not near
Our sacred friendship, lest there be
No solace left for thou and me.
Gentle and good and mild thou art,
Nor can I live if thou appear
Aught but thyself, or turn thine heart
Away from me, or stoop to wear
The mask of scorn, although it be
To hide the love thou feel'st for me.
Rarely, rarely, comest thou,
Spirit of Delight! Wherefore hast thou left me now
Many a day and night? Many a weary night and day "l'is siuce thou art fled away.
How shall ever one like me
Win theo back again 1 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 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 drest,
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.
Every thing 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! O come, Make once more my heart thy home.
WRITTEN ON HEARING THE NEWS OP THE DEATH OF NAPOLEON.
What! alive and so bold, O Earth!
Art thou not over-bold 1
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 1
Are not the limbs still when the ghost is fled,
And canst thou more, 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!
"Wlio has known me of old," replied Earth,
"Or who has my story told? It is thou who art over bold."
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 cf 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."
As a violet's gentle eye
Gazes on the azure sky, Until its hue grows like what it beholds;
As a grey and empty mist
Lies like solid Amethyst,
Over the western mountain it enfolds,
When the sunset sleeps
Upon its snow.
As a strain of sweetest sound
Wraps itself the wind around,
Until the voiceless wind be music too;
As aught dark, vain and dull,
Basking in what is beautiful,
Is full of light and love.
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 even 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 i" 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
* This fragment is part of a poom which Shelley intended to write, founded on a story to be found in the first voluiuo of a book entitled " L* Osscrvatoro Fiorentino."
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 I 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 check,
And glazed her eyes, and spread an atmosphere
Round her, which chilled the burning noon with
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 and 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
A bride's-maid went, and ere she came again [then
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 whit«_>,
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
Thau 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 ha»tr.
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
Leant 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.—
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 death-bed,
And one to the bier,
And one.,to the charnel—and one, Oh where?
The dark arrow fled
In the noon.
Kre 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.
PONTK A HARE, PISA.
The sun is set; the swallows are asleep;
The bats are flitting fast in the grey 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 are no dews 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, Immoveably unquiet, and for ever
It trembles, but it never fades away; Co 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 enormous 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.
Where art thou, beloved To-morrow 1
When young and old, and strong and weal:,
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.
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
Fairies, sprites, and angels, keep her!
Holy stars, permit no wrong! And return to wake the sleeper,
Dawn,—ere it be long.
0 joy 1 0 fear! what will be done
In the absence of the sun I
Come along 1
Swifter far than summer's flight,
Swifter far than youth's delight,
Swifter far than happy night,
Art thou come and goue:
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,
I'ansies 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.