VERSES ADDRESSED TO THE NOBLE AND UNFORTUNATE LADY, EMILIA V--,
NOW IMPRISONED IN THE CONVENT OF --.
L'anima amante si slancia fuori del creato, e si crea nell' infinito un
Mondo tutto per essa, diverso assai da questo oscuro e pauroso baratro.
HER OWN WORDS.
["Epipsychidion" was composed at Pisa, January, February, 1821, and]
published without the author's name, in the following summer, by C. &
J. Ollier, London. The poem was included by Mrs. Shelley in the
"Poetical Works", 1839, both editions. Amongst the Shelley manuscripts
in the Bodleian is a first draft of "Epipsychidion", 'consisting of
three versions, more or less complete, of the "Preface
[Advertisement]", a version in ink and pencil, much cancelled, of the
last eighty lines of the poem, and some additional lines which did not
appear in print' ("Examination of the Shelley manuscripts in the
Bodleian Library, by C.D. Locock". Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1903, page
3). This draft, the writing of which is 'extraordinarily confused and
illegible,' has been carefully deciphered and printed by Mr. Locock in
the volume named above. Our text follows that of the editio princeps,
The Writer of the following lines died at Florence, as he was
preparing for a voyage to one of the wildest of the Sporades, which he
had bought, and where he had fitted up the ruins of an old building,
and where it was his hope to have realised a scheme of life, suited
perhaps to that happier and better world of which he is now an
inhabitant, but hardly practicable in this. His life was singular;
less on account of the romantic vicissitudes which diversified it,
than the ideal tinge which it received from his own character and
feelings. The present Poem, like the "Vita Nuova" of Dante, is
sufficiently intelligible to a certain class of readers without a
matter-of-fact history of the circumstances to which it relates and to
a certain other class it must ever remain incomprehensible, from a
defect of a common organ of perception for the ideas of which it
treats. Not but that gran vergogna sarebbe a colui, che rimasse cosa
sotto veste di figura, o di colore rettorico: e domandato non sapesse
denudare le sue parole da cotal veste, in guisa che avessero verace
The present poem appears to have been intended by the Writer as the
dedication to some longer one. The stanza on the opposite page  is
almost a literal translation from Dante's famous Canzone
Voi, ch' intendendo, il terzo ciel movete, etc.
The presumptuous application of the concluding lines to his own
composition will raise a smile at the expense of my unfortunate
friend: be it a smile not of contempt, but pity. S.
 i.e. the nine lines which follow, beginning, 'My Song, I fear,'
My Song, I fear that thou wilt find but few
Who fitly shalt conceive thy reasoning,
Of such hard matter dost thou entertain;
Whence, if by misadventure, chance should bring
Thee to base company (as chance may do), _5
Quite unaware of what thou dost contain,
I prithee, comfort thy sweet self again,
My last delight! tell them that they are dull,
And bid them own that thou art beautiful.
The following Poem was found amongst other papers in the Portfolio of
a young Englishman with whom the Editor had contracted an intimacy at
Florence, brief indeed, but sufficiently long to render the
Catastrophe by which it terminated one of the most painful events of
The literary merit of the Poem in question may not be considerable;
but worse verses are printed every day, &
He was an accomplished & amiable person but his error was, thuntos on
un thunta phronein,--his fate is an additional proof that 'The tree of
Knowledge is not that of Life.'--He had framed to himself certain
opinions, founded no doubt upon the truth of things, but built up to a
Babel height; they fell by their own weight, & the thoughts that were
his architects, became unintelligible one to the other, as men upon
whom confusion of tongues has fallen.
[These] verses seem to have been written as a sort of dedication of
some work to have been presented to the person whom they address: but
his papers afford no trace of such a work--The circumstances to which
[they] the poem allude, may easily be understood by those to whom
[the] spirit of the poem itself is [un]intelligible: a detail of
facts, sufficiently romantic in [themselves but] their combinations
The melancholy [task] charge of consigning the body of my poor friend
to the grave, was committed to me by his desolated family. I caused
him to be buried in a spot selected by himself, & on the h
[Epips] T. E. V. Epipsych
Lines addressed to
the Noble Lady
[Emilia] [E. V.]
[The following Poem was found in the PF. of a young Englishman, who]
died on his passage from Leghorn to the Levant. He had bought one of
the Sporades He was accompanied by a lady [who might have been]
supposed to be his wife, & an effeminate looking youth, to whom he
shewed an [attachment] so [singular] excessive an attachment as to
give rise to the suspicion, that she was a woman--At his death this
suspicion was confirmed;...object speedily found a refuge both from
the taunts of the brute multitude, and from the...of her grief in the
same grave that contained her lover.--He had bought one of the
Sporades, & fitted up a Saracenic castle which accident had preserved
in some repair with simple elegance, & it was his intention to
dedicate the remainder of his life to undisturbed intercourse with his
These verses apparently were intended as a dedication of a longer poem
or series of poems
The writer of these lines died at Florence in [January 1820] while he
was preparing * * for one wildest of the of the Sporades, where he
bought & fitted up the ruins of some old building--His life was
singular, less on account of the romantic vicissitudes which
diversified it, than the ideal tinge which they received from his own
character & feelings--
The verses were apparently intended by the writer to accompany some
longer poem or collection of poems, of which there* [are no remnants
in his] * * * remains [in his] portfolio.--
The editor is induced to
The present poem, like the vita Nova of Dante, is sufficiently
intelligible to a certain class of readers without a matter of fact
history of the circumstances to which it relate, & to a certain other
class, it must & ought ever to remain incomprehensible--It was
evidently intended to be prefixed to a longer poem or series of
poems--but among his papers there are no traces of such a collection.
PASSAGES OF THE POEM, OR CONNECTED THEREWITH.
Here, my dear friend, is a new book for you;
I have already dedicated two
To other friends, one female and one male,--
What you are, is a thing that I must veil;
What can this be to those who praise or rail? _5
I never was attached to that great sect
Whose doctrine is that each one should select
Out of the world a mistress or a friend,
And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
To cold oblivion--though 'tis in the code _10
Of modern morals, and the beaten road
Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread
Who travel to their home among the dead
By the broad highway of the world--and so
With one sad friend, and many a jealous foe, _15
The dreariest and the longest journey go.
Free love has this, different from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take away.
Like ocean, which the general north wind breaks
Into ten thousand waves, and each one makes _20
A mirror of the moon--like some great glass,
Which did distort whatever form might pass,
Dashed into fragments by a playful child,
Which then reflects its eyes and forehead mild;
Giving for one, which it could ne'er express, _25
A thousand images of loveliness.
If I were one whom the loud world held wise,
I should disdain to quote authorities
In commendation of this kind of love:--
Why there is first the God in heaven above, _30
Who wrote a book called Nature, 'tis to be
Reviewed, I hear, in the next Quarterly;
And Socrates, the Jesus Christ of Greece,
And Jesus Christ Himself, did never cease
To urge all living things to love each other, _35
And to forgive their mutual faults, and smother
The Devil of disunion in their souls.
I love you!--Listen, O embodied Ray
Of the great Brightness; I must pass away
While you remain, and these light words must be _40
Tokens by which you may remember me.
Start not--the thing you are is unbetrayed,
If you are human, and if but the shade
Of some sublimer spirit...
And as to friend or mistress, 'tis a form; _45
Perhaps I wish you were one. Some declare
You a familiar spirit, as you are;
Others with a ... more inhuman
Hint that, though not my wife, you are a woman;
What is the colour of your eyes and hair? _50
Why, if you were a lady, it were fair
The world should know--but, as I am afraid,
The Quarterly would bait you if betrayed;
And if, as it will be sport to see them stumble
Over all sorts of scandals. hear them mumble _55
Their litany of curses--some guess right,
And others swear you're a Hermaphrodite;
Like that sweet marble monster of both sexes,
Which looks so sweet and gentle that it vexes
The very soul that the soul is gone _60
Which lifted from her limbs the veil of stone.
It is a sweet thing, friendship, a dear balm,
A happy and auspicious bird of calm,
Which rides o'er life's ever tumultuous Ocean;
A God that broods o'er chaos in commotion; _65
A flower which fresh as Lapland roses are,
Lifts its bold head into the world's frore air,
And blooms most radiantly when others die,
Health, hope, and youth, and brief prosperity;
And with the light and odour of its bloom, _70
Shining within the dun eon and the tomb;
Whose coming is as light and music are
'Mid dissonance and gloom--a star
Which moves not 'mid the moving heavens alone--
A smile among dark frowns--a gentle tone _75
Among rude voices, a beloved light,
A solitude, a refuge, a delight.
If I had but a friend! Why, I have three
Even by my own confession; there may be
Some more, for what I know, for 'tis my mind _80
To call my friends all who are wise and kind,-
And these, Heaven knows, at best are very few;
But none can ever be more dear than you.
Why should they be? My muse has lost her wings,
Or like a dying swan who soars and sings, _85
I should describe you in heroic style,
But as it is, are you not void of guile?
A lovely soul, formed to be blessed and bless:
A well of sealed and secret happiness;
A lute which those whom Love has taught to play _90
Make music on to cheer the roughest day,
And enchant sadness till it sleeps?...
To the oblivion whither I and thou,
All loving and all lovely, hasten now
With steps, ah, too unequal! may we meet _95
In one Elysium or one winding-sheet!
If any should be curious to discover
Whether to you I am a friend or lover,
Let them read Shakespeare's sonnets, taking thence
A whetstone for their dull intelligence _100
That tears and will not cut, or let them guess
How Diotima, the wise prophetess,
Instructed the instructor, and why he
Rebuked the infant spirit of melody
On Agathon's sweet lips, which as he spoke _105
Was as the lovely star when morn has broke
The roof of darkness, in the golden dawn,
Half-hidden, and yet beautiful.
My hopes of Heaven-you know what they are worth --
That the presumptuous pedagogues of Earth, _110
If they could tell the riddle offered here
Would scorn to be, or being to appear
What now they seem and are--but let them chide,
They have few pleasures in the world beside;
Perhaps we should be dull were we not chidden, _115
Paradise fruits are sweetest when forbidden.
Folly can season Wisdom, Hatred Love.
Farewell, if it can be to say farewell
To those who
I will not, as most dedicators do, _120
Assure myself and all the world and you,
That you are faultless--would to God they were
Who taunt me with your love! I then should wear
These heavy chains of life with a light spirit,
And would to God I were, or even as near it _125
As you, dear heart. Alas! what are we? Clouds
Driven by the wind in warring multitudes,
Which rain into the bosom of the earth,
And rise again, and in our death and birth,
And through our restless life, take as from heaven _130
Hues which are not our own, but which are given,
And then withdrawn, and with inconstant glance
Flash from the spirit to the countenance.
There is a Power, a Love, a Joy, a God
Which makes in mortal hearts its brief abode, _135
A Pythian exhalation, which inspires
Love, only love--a wind which o'er the wires
Of the soul's giant harp
There is a mood which language faints beneath;
You feel it striding, as Almighty Death _140
His bloodless steed...
And what is that most brief and bright delight
Which rushes through the touch and through the sight,
And stands before the spirit's inmost throne,
A naked Seraph? None hath ever known. _145
Its birth is darkness, and its growth desire;
Untameable and fleet and fierce as fire,
Not to be touched but to be felt alone,
It fills the world with glory-and is gone.
It floats with rainbow pinions o'er the stream _150
Of life, which flows, like a ... dream
Into the light of morning, to the grave
As to an ocean...
What is that joy which serene infancy
Perceives not, as the hours content them by, _155
Each in a chain of blossoms, yet enjoys
The shapes of this new world, in giant toys
Wrought by the busy ... ever new?
Remembrance borrows Fancy's glass, to show
These forms more ... sincere _160
Than now they are, than then, perhaps, they were.
When everything familiar seemed to be
Wonderful, and the immortality
Of this great world, which all things must inherit,
Was felt as one with the awakening spirit, _165
Unconscious of itself, and of the strange
Distinctions which in its proceeding change
It feels and knows, and mourns as if each were
Were it not a sweet refuge, Emily, _170
For all those exiles from the dull insane
Who vex this pleasant world with pride and pain,
For all that band of sister-spirits known
To one another by a voiceless tone?
If day should part us night will mend division _175
And if sleep parts us--we will meet in vision
And if life parts us--we will mix in death
Yielding our mite [?] of unreluctant breath
Death cannot part us--we must meet again
In all in nothing in delight in pain: _180
How, why or when or where--it matters not
So that we share an undivided lot...
And we will move possessing and possessed
Wherever beauty on the earth's bare [?] breast
Lies like the shadow of thy soul--till we _185
Become one being with the world we see...
_52-_53 afraid The cj. A.C. Bradley.
_54 And as cj. Rossetti, A.C. Bradley.
_61 stone... cj. A.C. Bradley.
_155 them]trip or troop cj. A.C. Bradley.
_157 in]as cj. A.C. Bradley.