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Epipsychidion (excerpt)

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 (Horsham) – 1822 (Lerici)

  A ship is floating in the harbour now,
  A wind is hovering o'er the mountain's brow;
  There is a path on the sea's azure floor,
  No keel has ever plough'd that path before;
  The halcyons brood around the foamless isles;
  The treacherous Ocean has forsworn its wiles;
  The merry mariners are bold and free:
  Say, my heart's sister, wilt thou sail with me?
  Our bark is as an albatross, whose nest
  Is a far Eden of the purple East;
  And we between her wings will sit, while Night,
  And Day, and Storm, and Calm, pursue their flight,
  Our ministers, along the boundless Sea,
  Treading each other's heels, unheededly.
  It is an isle under Ionian skies,
  Beautiful as a wreck of Paradise,
  And, for the harbours are not safe and good,
  This land would have remain'd a solitude
  But for some pastoral people native there,
  Who from the Elysian, clear, and golden air
  Draw the last spirit of the age of gold,
  Simple and spirited; innocent and bold.
  The blue Aegean girds this chosen home,
  With ever-changing sound and light and foam,
  Kissing the sifted sands, and caverns hoar;
  And all the winds wandering along the shore
  Undulate with the undulating tide:
  There are thick woods where sylvan forms abide;
  And many a fountain, rivulet and pond,
  As clear as elemental diamond,
  Or serene morning air; and far beyond,
  The mossy tracks made by the goats and deer
  (Which the rough shepherd treads but once a year)
  Pierce into glades, caverns and bowers, and halls
  Built round with ivy, which the waterfalls
  Illumining, with sound that never fails
  Accompany the noonday nightingales;
  And all the place is peopled with sweet airs;
  The light clear element which the isle wears
  Is heavy with the scent of lemon-flowers,
  Which floats like mist laden with unseen showers,
  And falls upon the eyelids like faint sleep;
  And from the moss violets and jonquils peep
  And dart their arrowy odour through the brain
  Till you might faint with that delicious pain.
  And every motion, odour, beam and tone,
  With that deep music is in unison:
  Which is a soul within the soul--they seem
  Like echoes of an antenatal dream.
  It is an isle 'twixt Heaven, Air, Earth and Sea,
  Cradled and hung in clear tranquillity;
  Bright as that wandering Eden Lucifer,
  Wash'd by the soft blue Oceans of young air.
  It is a favour'd place. Famine or Blight,
  Pestilence, War and Earthquake, never light
  Upon its mountain-peaks; blind vultures, they
  Sail onward far upon their fatal way:
  The wingèd storms, chanting their thunder-psalm
  To other lands, leave azure chasms of calm
  Over this isle, or weep themselves in dew,
  From which its fields and woods ever renew
  Their green and golden immortality.
  And from the sea there rise, and from the sky
  There fall, clear exhalations, soft and bright,
  Veil after veil, each hiding some delight,
  Which Sun or Moon or zephyr draw aside,
  Till the isle's beauty, like a naked bride
  Glowing at once with love and loveliness,
  Blushes and trembles at its own excess:
  Yet, like a buried lamp, a Soul no less
  Burns in the heart of this delicious isle,
  An atom of th' Eternal, whose own smile
  Unfolds itself, and may be felt not seen
  O'er the gray rocks, blue waves and forests green,
  Filling their bare and void interstices.
  But the chief marvel of the wilderness
  Is a lone dwelling, built by whom or how
  None of the rustic island-people know:
  'Tis not a tower of strength, though with its height
  It overtops the woods; but, for delight,
  Some wise and tender Ocean-King, ere crime
  Had been invented, in the world's young prime,
  Rear'd it, a wonder of that simple time,
  An envy of the isles, a pleasure-house
  Made sacred to his sister and his spouse.
  It scarce seems now a wreck of human art,
  But, as it were, Titanic; in the heart
  Of Earth having assum'd its form, then grown
  Out of the mountains, from the living stone,
  Lifting itself in caverns light and high:
  For all the antique and learned imagery
  Has been eras'd, and in the place of it
  The ivy and the wild-vine interknit
  The volumes of their many-twining stems;
  Parasite flowers illume with dewy gems
  The lampless halls, and when they fade, the sky
  Peeps through their winter-woof of tracery
  With moonlight patches, or star atoms keen,
  Or fragments of the day's intense serene;
  Working mosaic on their Parian floors.
  And, day and night, aloof,
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:50 min read

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is regarded by critics as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. more…

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