LORD  BYRON  and  his  TIMES
Documents Biography Criticism

The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley
Vol II Appendix
Family History
Shelley at Eton
Taste for the Gothic
Shelley’s Juvenilia
Queen Mab
Shelley at Oxford
First Marriage
Death of Harriet
Chancery Suit
Switzerland: 1814
Alastor; Geneva: 1816
Byron and Claire
At Marlow: 1817
Italy: 1818
Naples, Rome: 1819
The Cenci
Florence: 1819
Vol I Appendix
Vol II Front Matter
Pisa: 1820
Poets and Poetry
Pisa: 1821
Shelley and Keats
Williams, Hunt, Byron
Shelley and Byron
Poetry and Politics
Byron and his Friends
The Pisan Circle
Casa Magni
Death of Shelley
Lerici: 1822
Burial in Rome
Character of Shelley
‣ Vol II Appendix
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Ever serene, and chrystal pure, and even,
Mid joys that never fail in Heaven,
Light as the Zephyr’s wing flows life away;
Moons wax and wane,—glides to one common doom
Race after race, youth’s godlike roses bloom
In endless reproduction and decay,—
An anxious choice is left to all below,
’Twixt sensual raptures and the soul’s pure love;
Both blend, and lighten on the brow
Of the high Powers, that reign with mighty Jove.
Wouldst thou on earth vie with the immortal gods,
Be free to roam in Death’s abodes,
Oh! pluck not fruit from its forbidden tree!
Enough your eye should banquet on the sight:
Excess, revenging by its speedy flight,
Mocks joys, all lasting as they seem to be.
Not Styx, although it nine times circled round,
Locked Ceres’ child in Pluto’s dread domain;
She seized the apple, and was wound,
By just decree, in Hell’s eternal chain.
Subject alone this body to the powers
That rule o’er destiny’s dark hours;
But free from all the influences of Time,
With happy natures the transfigured sprite
Sports joyously amid the fields of light,
A god with gods in their celestial clime.
Wouldst thou upon its pinions mount on high,
Unlearn the anxious cares of earth to feel,
From this poor hollow being fly
To brighter worlds,—the realms of the Ideal.
For ever young, released from Earth’s gross dreams.
Floats on Perfection’s glorious beams
Humanity’s godlike phantasm here revealed;
That vision, like life’s silent phantoms seems,
That wander, glancing round the Stygian streams,
Or as they stand in some Elysian field,
Ere mounting from the melancholy bier,
The immortal disemprisoned soars, and free.
If Conflict’s scales on earth are balanced, here
In all its glories shines the victory.
Not to unnerve the body spent with toil,
The limbs from struggle to uncoil,
The wreath of victory waves below, of power
Life, when the sinews have relaxed their strain,
To tear man on, down to a stormy main,
Time in its whirling vortex to devour.
But from the lists, with shuddering and affright,
Should the wing flag that lifted high the soul,
Then gaze with feelings of delight,
From Beauty’s sphere, upon the vanquished goal.
If worth the aim to rule or to defend,
With stormy passions men contend,
The palm of fame, or virtue’s meed to gain;
And resolution must enkindle force,
When meet the whirring chariots in the course,
And clash and clatter on the dusty plain.
Daring, and that alone applause can wring,
Who beckons onward to the arduous goal,
And when sinks low the craven’s wing,
The man of purpose strong will Fate control.
The firm of soul, who dauntlessly defies
The breakers wild that round him rise,
Down life’s smooth current safely floats, till borne
To the far scenes of the still land of dream,
Where on the silver current of the stream
Mirror themselves, soft twilight, Eve and Morn.
In love’s sweet interchange dissolved, and blest
With all the charm a union free bestows,
In reconcilement here are hushed to rest
Those passions, once our most inveterate foes.
Should, to awake the dead with plastic might,
Itself with matter to unite,
With embryo deeds impregnate, genius glow,
Then let thy nerves with tireless strain be bent,
And wrestling with the insensate element,
Thought and Reflection tame the stubborn foe.
From zeal that knows not age, that bides no yoke,
Wells forth Truth’s fount from its deep hidden vein,
And at the chisel’s heavy stroke,
Submissive yields the marble’s brittle grain.
Then onward to the World of Beauty strain:
And in the dust will back remain,
Weight, with the matter whence itself it owes;
Not from the mass, as if by torture wrung,
But aery light, as if from nothing sprung,
Before the enchanted eyes the image glows.
All doubts that rack—all strife that vexes, here,
In Victory’s sure reward are hushed to peace,
And in that unimagined sphere,
Earth’s wants and weaknesses for ever cease.
When in the nakedness of False and True,
Before the Law, to meet your due
You stand; when Guilt draws nigh the Holy One,
Before Truth’s lightning arrows then turn pale;
Before the Ideal let your virtue quail,
In shame of deeds your conscience well might shun
This goal has never reached one mortal man,
To cross that whirlpool has no boat been found,
That wide abyss no bridge can span,
No anchor reach the unfathomable ground.
But for the trammels of the senses, change
Free thoughts, and as they boundless range,
The fearful vision will be chased and flown,
And that eternal whirlpool yawn no more:
Wrestle with Godhead by your will’s own power,
And hurl him from his universal throne.
The fetters of the law are strong to bind
But slaves, the scorn of him the good and free,
Who by the might of his own mind
Can set at nought Jove’s dreaded majesty.
If pangs humanity wrestles with in vain,
Coil round thee—if it clasp and strain
Like Priam’s son, in its despair, the snakes,
Let man revolt against the will of Heaven,
Shake with its loud lament its vault, till riven
Each feeling breast with tenderest pity aches.
Let Nature’s fearful voice victorious rise,—
Make pale the cheek of joy with anguish deep,
Till bending downwards from the skies,
In holy sympathy the Immortals weep.
But in the cloudless regions of the blest,
Where the pure forms of spirits rest,
The waves of Lamentation roll no more;
No pangs the soul can dare to torture here;
In pain and sorrow never flows a tear,
For lo! the soul by its resistive power,
As Iris pierces with her sunfire bow
The heavy thunder-clouds of vaporous dew,
Gleams thro’ the dusky veil of wo,
In the clear calm of Heaven’s ethereal blue.
Atrides trod the difficult path of life,
And waged a never-ceasing strife
With slaves effeminate, humbled to a slave,
Strangled the Hydras, many a monster-foe
Subdued, and plunged to free his friend below,
Crossing in spectral bark the sleepy wave.
All pangs that on mortality could weigh,
The irreconcileable goddess in her hate
Did on his willing shoulders lay,
Till run the mortal course assigned by Fate.
Until divested of his load of clay,
He mounts from this low earth away,
And pure and ever purer ether drinks,
And as on new and unaccustomed wings,
Higher and higher still he hovering springs,
Earth’s heavy phantasm sinks, and sinks and sinks,
The glorified to Cronian’s blest abode
Olympus hails with harmonies divine,
And blooming Hebe to the god
Presents a goblet of nectareous wine.

London: Printed by G. Lilley, 148, Holborn-bars.