Percy Shelley: Poems


















We strew these opiate flowers

On thy restless pillow,--

They were stripped from Orient bowers,

By the Indian billow.

Be thy sleep _5

Calm and deep,

Like theirs who fell--not ours who weep!


Away, unlovely dreams!

Away, false shapes of sleep

Be his, as Heaven seems, _10

Clear, and bright, and deep!

Soft as love, and calm as death,

Sweet as a summer night without a breath.


Sleep, sleep! our song is laden

With the soul of slumber; _15

It was sung by a Samian maiden,

Whose lover was of the number

Who now keep

That calm sleep

Whence none may wake, where none shall weep. _20


I touch thy temples pale!

I breathe my soul on thee!

And could my prayers avail,

All my joy should be

Dead, and I would live to weep, _25

So thou mightst win one hour of quiet sleep.


Breathe low, low

The spell of the mighty mistress now!

When Conscience lulls her sated snake,

And Tyrants sleep, let Freedom wake. _30

Breathe low--low

The words which, like secret fire, shall flow

Through the veins of the frozen earth--low, low!


Life may change, but it may fly not;

Hope may vanish, but can die not; _35

Truth be veiled, but still it burneth;

Love repulsed,--but it returneth!


Yet were life a charnel where

Hope lay coffined with Despair;

Yet were truth a sacred lie, _40

Love were lust--


If Liberty

Lent not life its soul of light,

Hope its iris of delight,

Truth its prophet's robe to wear,

Love its power to give and bear. _45


In the great morning of the world,

The Spirit of God with might unfurled

The flag of Freedom over Chaos,

And all its banded anarchs fled,

Like vultures frighted from Imaus, _50

Before an earthquake's tread.--

So from Time's tempestuous dawn

Freedom's splendour burst and shone:--

Thermopylae and Marathon

Caught like mountains beacon-lighted, _55

The springing Fire.--The winged glory

On Philippi half-alighted,

Like an eagle on a promontory.

Its unwearied wings could fan

The quenchless ashes of Milan. _60

From age to age, from man to man,

It lived; and lit from land to land

Florence, Albion, Switzerland.

Then night fell; and, as from night,

Reassuming fiery flight, _65

From the West swift Freedom came,

Against the course of Heaven and doom.

A second sun arrayed in flame,

To burn, to kindle, to illume.

From far Atlantis its young beams _70

Chased the shadows and the dreams.

France, with all her sanguine steams,

Hid, but quenched it not; again

Through clouds its shafts of glory rain

From utmost Germany to Spain. _75

As an eagle fed with morning

Scorns the embattled tempest's warning,

When she seeks her aerie hanging

In the mountain-cedar's hair,

And her brood expect the clanging _80

Of her wings through the wild air,

Sick with famine:--Freedom, so

To what of Greece remaineth now

Returns; her hoary ruins glow

Like Orient mountains lost in day; _85

Beneath the safety of her wings

Her renovated nurslings prey,

And in the naked lightenings

Of truth they purge their dazzled eyes.

Let Freedom leave--where'er she flies, _90

A Desert, or a Paradise:

Let the beautiful and the brave

Share her glory, or a grave.


_77 tempest's]tempests edition 1822.

_87 prey edition 1822; play editions 1839.


With the gifts of gladness

Greece did thy cradle strew; _95


With the tears of sadness

Greece did thy shroud bedew!


With an orphan's affection

She followed thy bier through Time;


And at thy resurrection _100

Reappeareth, like thou, sublime!


If Heaven should resume thee,

To Heaven shall her spirit ascend;


If Hell should entomb thee,

To Hell shall her high hearts bend. _105


If Annihilation--


Dust let her glories be!

And a name and a nation

Be forgotten, Freedom, with thee!


His brow grows darker--breathe not--move not! _110

He starts--he shudders--ye that love not,

With your panting loud and fast,

Have awakened him at last.


Man the Seraglio-guard! make fast the gate!

What! from a cannonade of three short hours? _115

'Tis false! that breach towards the Bosphorus

Cannot be practicable yet--who stirs?

Stand to the match; that when the foe prevails

One spark may mix in reconciling ruin

The conqueror and the conquered! Heave the tower _120

Into the gap--wrench off the roof!


Ha! what!

The truth of day lightens upon my dream

And I am Mahmud still.


Your Sublime Highness

Is strangely moved.


The times do cast strange shadows

On those who watch and who must rule their course, _125

Lest they, being first in peril as in glory,

Be whelmed in the fierce ebb:--and these are of them.

Thrice has a gloomy vision hunted me

As thus from sleep into the troubled day;

It shakes me as the tempest shakes the sea, _130

Leaving no figure upon memory's glass.

Would that--no matter. Thou didst say thou knewest

A Jew, whose spirit is a chronicle

Of strange and secret and forgotten things.

I bade thee summon him:--'tis said his tribe _135

Dream, and are wise interpreters of dreams.


The Jew of whom I spake is old,--so old

He seems to have outlived a world's decay;

The hoary mountains and the wrinkled ocean

Seem younger still than he;--his hair and beard _140

Are whiter than the tempest-sifted snow;

His cold pale limbs and pulseless arteries

Are like the fibres of a cloud instinct

With light, and to the soul that quickens them

Are as the atoms of the mountain-drift _145

To the winter wind:--but from his eye looks forth

A life of unconsumed thought which pierces

The Present, and the Past, and the To-come.

Some say that this is he whom the great prophet

Jesus, the son of Joseph, for his mockery, _150

Mocked with the curse of immortality.

Some feign that he is Enoch: others dream

He was pre-adamite and has survived

Cycles of generation and of ruin.

The sage, in truth, by dreadful abstinence _155

And conquering penance of the mutinous flesh,

Deep contemplation, and unwearied study,

In years outstretched beyond the date of man,

May have attained to sovereignty and science

Over those strong and secret things and thoughts _160

Which others fear and know not.


I would talk

With this old Jew.


Thy will is even now

Made known to him, where he dwells in a sea-cavern

'Mid the Demonesi, less accessible

Than thou or God! He who would question him _165

Must sail alone at sunset, where the stream

Of Ocean sleeps around those foamless isles,

When the young moon is westering as now,

And evening airs wander upon the wave;

And when the pines of that bee-pasturing isle, _170

Green Erebinthus, quench the fiery shadow

Of his gilt prow within the sapphire water,

Then must the lonely helmsman cry aloud

'Ahasuerus!' and the caverns round

Will answer 'Ahasuerus!' If his prayer _175

Be granted, a faint meteor will arise

Lighting him over Marmora, and a wind

Will rush out of the sighing pine-forest,

And with the wind a storm of harmony

Unutterably sweet, and pilot him _180

Through the soft twilight to the Bosphorus:

Thence at the hour and place and circumstance

Fit for the matter of their conference

The Jew appears. Few dare, and few who dare

Win the desired communion--but that shout _185




Evil, doubtless; Like all human sounds.

Let me converse with spirits.


That shout again.


This Jew whom thou hast summoned--


Will be here--


When the omnipotent hour to which are yoked

He, I, and all things shall compel--enough! _190

Silence those mutineers--that drunken crew,

That crowd about the pilot in the storm.

Ay! strike the foremost shorter by a head!

They weary me, and I have need of rest.

Kinks are like stars--they rise and set, they have _195

The worship of the world, but no repose.



Worlds on worlds are rolling ever

From creation to decay,

Like the bubbles on a river

Sparkling, bursting, borne away. _200

But they are still immortal

Who, through birth's orient portal

And death's dark chasm hurrying to and fro,

Clothe their unceasing flight

In the brief dust and light _205

Gathered around their chariots as they go;

New shapes they still may weave,

New gods, new laws receive,

Bright or dim are they as the robes they last

On Death's bare ribs had cast. _210

A power from the unknown God,

A Promethean conqueror, came;

Like a triumphal path he trod

The thorns of death and shame.

A mortal shape to him _215

Was like the vapour dim

Which the orient planet animates with light;

Hell, Sin, and Slavery came,

Like bloodhounds mild and tame,

Nor preyed, until their Lord had taken flight; _220

The moon of Mahomet

Arose, and it shall set:

While blazoned as on Heaven's immortal noon

The cross leads generations on.

Swift as the radiant shapes of sleep _225

From one whose dreams are Paradise

Fly, when the fond wretch wakes to weep,

And Day peers forth with her blank eyes;

So fleet, so faint, so fair,

The Powers of earth and air _230

Fled from the folding-star of Bethlehem:

Apollo, Pan, and Love,

And even Olympian Jove

Grew weak, for killing Truth had glared on them;

Our hills and seas and streams, _235

Dispeopled of their dreams,

Their waters turned to blood, their dew to tears,

Wailed for the golden years.



More gold? our ancestors bought gold with victory,

And shall I sell it for defeat?


The Janizars _240

Clamour for pay.


Go! bid them pay themselves

With Christian blood! Are there no Grecian virgins

Whose shrieks and spasms and tears they may enjoy?

No infidel children to impale on spears?

No hoary priests after that Patriarch _245

Who bent the curse against his country's heart,

Which clove his own at last? Go! bid them kill,

Blood is the seed of gold.


It has been sown,

And yet the harvest to the sicklemen

Is as a grain to each.


Then, take this signet, _250

Unlock the seventh chamber in which lie

The treasures of victorious Solyman,--

An empire's spoil stored for a day of ruin.

O spirit of my sires! is it not come?

The prey-birds and the wolves are gorged and sleep; _255

But these, who spread their feast on the red earth,

Hunger for gold, which fills not.--See them fed;

Then, lead them to the rivers of fresh death.


O miserable dawn, after a night

More glorious than the day which it usurped! _260

O faith in God! O power on earth! O word

Of the great prophet, whose o'ershadowing wings

Darkened the thrones and idols of the West,

Now bright!--For thy sake cursed be the hour,

Even as a father by an evil child, _265

When the orient moon of Islam rolled in triumph

From Caucasus to White Ceraunia!

Ruin above, and anarchy below;

Terror without, and treachery within;

The Chalice of destruction full, and all _270

Thirsting to drink; and who among us dares

To dash it from his lips? and where is Hope?


The lamp of our dominion still rides high;

One God is God--Mahomet is His prophet.

Four hundred thousand Moslems, from the limits _275

Of utmost Asia, irresistibly

Throng, like full clouds at the Sirocco's cry;

But not like them to weep their strength in tears:

They bear destroying lightning, and their step

Wakes earthquake to consume and overwhelm, _280

And reign in ruin. Phrygian Olympus,

Tmolus, and Latmos, and Mycale, roughen

With horrent arms; and lofty ships even now,

Like vapours anchored to a mountain's edge,

Freighted with fire and whirlwind, wait at Scala _285

The convoy of the ever-veering wind.

Samos is drunk with blood;--the Greek has paid

Brief victory with swift loss and long despair.

The false Moldavian serfs fled fast and far

When the fierce shout of 'Allah-illa-Allah!' _290

Rose like the war-cry of the northern wind

Which kills the sluggish clouds, and leaves a flock

Of wild swans struggling with the naked storm.

So were the lost Greeks on the Danube's day!

If night is mute, yet the returning sun _295

Kindles the voices of the morning birds;

Nor at thy bidding less exultingly

Than birds rejoicing in the golden day,

The Anarchies of Africa unleash

Their tempest-winged cities of the sea, _300

To speak in thunder to the rebel world.

Like sulphurous clouds, half-shattered by the storm,

They sweep the pale Aegean, while the Queen

Of Ocean, bound upon her island-throne,

Far in the West, sits mourning that her sons _305

Who frown on Freedom spare a smile for thee:

Russia still hovers, as an eagle might

Within a cloud, near which a kite and crane

Hang tangled in inextricable fight,

To stoop upon the victor;--for she fears _310

The name of Freedom, even as she hates thine.

But recreant Austria loves thee as the Grave

Loves Pestilence, and her slow dogs of war

Fleshed with the chase, come up from Italy,

And howl upon their limits; for they see _315

The panther, Freedom, fled to her old cover,

Amid seas and mountains, and a mightier brood

Crouch round. What Anarch wears a crown or mitre,

Or bears the sword, or grasps the key of gold,

Whose friends are not thy friends, whose foes thy foes? _320

Our arsenals and our armouries are full;

Our forts defy assault; ten thousand cannon

Lie ranged upon the beach, and hour by hour

Their earth-convulsing wheels affright the city;

The galloping of fiery steeds makes pale _325

The Christian merchant; and the yellow Jew

Hides his hoard deeper in the faithless earth.

Like clouds, and like the shadows of the clouds,

Over the hills of Anatolia,

Swift in wide troops the Tartar chivalry _330

Sweep;--the far flashing of their starry lances

Reverberates the dying light of day.

We have one God, one King, one Hope, one Law;

But many-headed Insurrection stands

Divided in itself, and soon must fall. _335


_253 spoil edition 1822; spoils editions 1839.

_279 bear edition 1822; have editions 1839.

_322 assault edition 1822; assaults editions 1839.


Proud words, when deeds come short, are seasonable:

Look, Hassan, on yon crescent moon, emblazoned

Upon that shattered flag of fiery cloud

Which leads the rear of the departing day;

Wan emblem of an empire fading now! _340

See how it trembles in the blood-red air,

And like a mighty lamp whose oil is spent

Shrinks on the horizon's edge, while, from above,

One star with insolent and victorious light

Hovers above its fall, and with keen beams, _345

Like arrows through a fainting antelope,

Strikes its weak form to death.


Even as that moon

Renews itself--


Shall we be not renewed!

Far other bark than ours were needed now

To stem the torrent of descending time: _350

The Spirit that lifts the slave before his lord

Stalks through the capitals of armed kings,

And spreads his ensign in the wilderness:

Exults in chains; and, when the rebel falls,

Cries like the blood of Abel from the dust; _355

And the inheritors of the earth, like beasts

When earthquake is unleashed, with idiot fear

Cower in their kingly dens--as I do now.

What were Defeat when Victory must appal?

Or Danger, when Security looks pale?-- _360

How said the messenger--who, from the fort

Islanded in the Danube, saw the battle

Of Bucharest?--that--


_351 his edition 1822; its editions 1839.

_356 of the earth edition 1822; of earth editions 1839.


Ibrahim's scimitar

Drew with its gleam swift victory from Heaven,

To burn before him in the night of battle-- _365

A light and a destruction.


Ay! the day

Was ours: but how?--


The light Wallachians,

The Arnaut, Servian, and Albanian allies

Fled from the glance of our artillery

Almost before the thunderstone alit. _370

One half the Grecian army made a bridge

Of safe and slow retreat, with Moslem dead;

The other--


Speak--tremble not.--



By victor myriads, formed in hollow square

With rough and steadfast front, and thrice flung back _375

The deluge of our foaming cavalry;

Thrice their keen wedge of battle pierced our lines.

Our baffled army trembled like one man

Before a host, and gave them space; but soon,

From the surrounding hills, the batteries blazed, _380

Kneading them down with fire and iron rain:

Yet none approached; till, like a field of corn

Under the hook of the swart sickleman,

The band, intrenched in mounds of Turkish dead,

Grew weak and few.--Then said the Pacha, 'Slaves, _385

Render yourselves--they have abandoned you--

What hope of refuge, or retreat, or aid?

We grant your lives.' 'Grant that which is thine own!'

Cried one, and fell upon his sword and died!

Another--'God, and man, and hope abandon me; _390

But I to them, and to myself, remain

Constant:'--he bowed his head, and his heart burst.

A third exclaimed, 'There is a refuge, tyrant,

Where thou darest not pursue, and canst not harm

Shouldst thou pursue; there we shall meet again.' _395

Then held his breath, and, after a brief spasm,

The indignant spirit cast its mortal garment

Among the slain--dead earth upon the earth!

So these survivors, each by different ways,

Some strange, all sudden, none dishonourable, _400

Met in triumphant death; and when our army

Closed in, while yet wonder, and awe, and shame

Held back the base hyaenas of the battle

That feed upon the dead and fly the living,

One rose out of the chaos of the slain: _405

And if it were a corpse which some dread spirit

Of the old saviours of the land we rule

Had lifted in its anger, wandering by;--

Or if there burned within the dying man

Unquenchable disdain of death, and faith _410

Creating what it feigned;--I cannot tell--

But he cried, 'Phantoms of the free, we come!

Armies of the Eternal, ye who strike

To dust the citadels of sanguine kings,

And shake the souls throned on their stony hearts, _415

And thaw their frostwork diadems like dew;--

O ye who float around this clime, and weave

The garment of the glory which it wears,

Whose fame, though earth betray the dust it clasped,

Lies sepulchred in monumental thought;-- _420

Progenitors of all that yet is great,

Ascribe to your bright senate, O accept

In your high ministrations, us, your sons--

Us first, and the more glorious yet to come!

And ye, weak conquerors! giants who look pale _425

When the crushed worm rebels beneath your tread,

The vultures and the dogs, your pensioners tame,

Are overgorged; but, like oppressors, still

They crave the relic of Destruction's feast.

The exhalations and the thirsty winds _430

Are sick with blood; the dew is foul with death;

Heaven's light is quenched in slaughter: thus, where'er

Upon your camps, cities, or towers, or fleets,

The obscene birds the reeking remnants cast

Of these dead limbs,--upon your streams and mountains, _435

Upon your fields, your gardens, and your housetops,

Where'er the winds shall creep, or the clouds fly,

Or the dews fall, or the angry sun look down

With poisoned light--Famine, and Pestilence,

And Panic, shall wage war upon our side! _440

Nature from all her boundaries is moved

Against ye: Time has found ye light as foam.

The Earth rebels; and Good and Evil stake

Their empire o'er the unborn world of men

On this one cast;--but ere the die be thrown, _445

The renovated genius of our race,

Proud umpire of the impious game, descends,

A seraph-winged Victory, bestriding

The tempest of the Omnipotence of God,

Which sweeps all things to their appointed doom, _450

And you to oblivion!'--More he would have said,



_384 band edition 1822; bands editions 1839.


Died--as thou shouldst ore thy lips had painted

Their ruin in the hues of our success.

A rebel's crime, gilt with a rebel's tongue!

Your heart is Greek, Hassan.


It may be so: _455

A spirit not my own wrenched me within,

And I have spoken words I fear and hate;

Yet would I die for--


Live! oh live! outlive

Me and this sinking empire. But the fleet--




The fleet which, like a flock of clouds _460

Chased by the wind, flies the insurgent banner!

Our winged castles from their merchant ships!

Our myriads before their weak pirate bands!

Our arms before their chains! our years of empire

Before their centuries of servile fear! _465

Death is awake! Repulse is on the waters!

They own no more the thunder-bearing banner

Of Mahmud; but, like hounds of a base breed,

Gorge from a stranger's hand, and rend their master.


_466 Repulse is "Shelley, Errata", edition 1822; Repulsed edition 1822.


Latmos, and Ampelos, and Phanae saw _470

The wreck--


The caves of the Icarian isles

Told each to the other in loud mockery,

And with the tongue as of a thousand echoes,

First of the sea-convulsing fight--and, then,--

Thou darest to speak--senseless are the mountains: _475

Interpret thou their voice!


_472 Told Errata, Wms. transcript; Hold edition 1822.


My presence bore

A part in that day's shame. The Grecian fleet

Bore down at daybreak from the North, and hung

As multitudinous on the ocean line,

As cranes upon the cloudless Thracian wind. _480

Our squadron, convoying ten thousand men,

Was stretching towards Nauplia when the battle

Was kindled.--

First through the hail of our artillery

The agile Hydriote barks with press of sail _485

Dashed:--ship to ship, cannon to cannon, man

To man were grappled in the embrace of war,

Inextricable but by death or victory.

The tempest of the raging fight convulsed

To its crystalline depths that stainless sea, _490

And shook Heaven's roof of golden morning clouds,

Poised on an hundred azure mountain-isles.

In the brief trances of the artillery

One cry from the destroyed and the destroyer

Rose, and a cloud of desolation wrapped _495

The unforeseen event, till the north wind

Sprung from the sea, lifting the heavy veil

Of battle-smoke--then victory--victory!

For, as we thought, three frigates from Algiers

Bore down from Naxos to our aid, but soon _500

The abhorred cross glimmered behind, before,

Among, around us; and that fatal sign

Dried with its beams the strength in Moslem hearts,

As the sun drinks the dew.--What more? We fled!--

Our noonday path over the sanguine foam _505

Was beaconed,--and the glare struck the sun pale,--

By our consuming transports: the fierce light

Made all the shadows of our sails blood-red,

And every countenance blank. Some ships lay feeding

The ravening fire, even to the water's level; _510

Some were blown up; some, settling heavily,

Sunk; and the shrieks of our companions died

Upon the wind, that bore us fast and far,

Even after they were dead. Nine thousand perished!

We met the vultures legioned in the air _515

Stemming the torrent of the tainted wind;

They, screaming from their cloudy mountain-peaks,

Stooped through the sulphurous battle-smoke and perched

Each on the weltering carcase that we loved,

Like its ill angel or its damned soul, _520

Riding upon the bosom of the sea.

We saw the dog-fish hastening to their feast.

Joy waked the voiceless people of the sea,

And ravening Famine left his ocean cave

To dwell with War, with us, and with Despair. _525

We met night three hours to the west of Patmos,

And with night, tempest--


_503 in edition 1822; of editions 1839.

_527 And edition 1822; As editions 1839.





Your Sublime Highness,

That Christian hound, the Muscovite Ambassador,

Has left the city.--If the rebel fleet

Had anchored in the port, had victory _530

Crowned the Greek legions in the Hippodrome,

Panic were tamer.--Obedience and Mutiny,

Like giants in contention planet-struck,

Stand gazing on each other.--There is peace

In Stamboul.--


Is the grave not calmer still? _535

Its ruins shall be mine.


Fear not the Russian:

The tiger leagues not with the stag at bay

Against the hunter.--Cunning, base, and cruel,

He crouches, watching till the spoil be won,

And must be paid for his reserve in blood. _540

After the war is fought, yield the sleek Russian

That which thou canst not keep, his deserved portion

Of blood, which shall not flow through streets and fields,

Rivers and seas, like that which we may win,

But stagnate in the veins of Christian slaves! _545



Nauplia, Tripolizza, Mothon, Athens,

Navarin, Artas, Monembasia,

Corinth, and Thebes are carried by assault,

And every Islamite who made his dogs

Fat with the flesh of Galilean slaves _550

Passed at the edge of the sword: the lust of blood,

Which made our warriors drunk, is quenched in death;

But like a fiery plague breaks out anew

In deeds which make the Christian cause look pale

In its own light. The garrison of Patras _555

Has store but for ten days, nor is there hope

But from the Briton: at once slave and tyrant,

His wishes still are weaker than his fears,

Or he would sell what faith may yet remain

From the oaths broke in Genoa and in Norway; _560

And if you buy him not, your treasury

Is empty even of promises--his own coin.

The freedman of a western poet-chief

Holds Attica with seven thousand rebels,

And has beat back the Pacha of Negropont: _565

The aged Ali sits in Yanina

A crownless metaphor of empire:

His name, that shadow of his withered might,

Holds our besieging army like a spell

In prey to famine, pest, and mutiny; _570

He, bastioned in his citadel, looks forth

Joyless upon the sapphire lake that mirrors

The ruins of the city where he reigned

Childless and sceptreless. The Greek has reaped

The costly harvest his own blood matured, _575

Not the sower, Ali--who has bought a truce

From Ypsilanti with ten camel-loads

Of Indian gold.


_563 freedman edition 1822; freeman editions 1839.



What more?


The Christian tribes

Of Lebanon and the Syrian wilderness

Are in revolt;--Damascus, Hems, Aleppo _580

Tremble;--the Arab menaces Medina,

The Aethiop has intrenched himself in Sennaar,

And keeps the Egyptian rebel well employed,

Who denies homage, claims investiture

As price of tardy aid. Persia demands _585

The cities on the Tigris, and the Georgians

Refuse their living tribute. Crete and Cyprus,

Like mountain-twins that from each other's veins

Catch the volcano-fire and earthquake-spasm,

Shake in the general fever. Through the city, _590

Like birds before a storm, the Santons shriek,

And prophesyings horrible and new

Are heard among the crowd: that sea of men

Sleeps on the wrecks it made, breathless and still.

A Dervise, learned in the Koran, preaches _595

That it is written how the sins of Islam

Must raise up a destroyer even now.

The Greeks expect a Saviour from the West,

Who shall not come, men say, in clouds and glory,

But in the omnipresence of that Spirit _600

In which all live and are. Ominous signs

Are blazoned broadly on the noonday sky:

One saw a red cross stamped upon the sun;

It has rained blood; and monstrous births declare

The secret wrath of Nature and her Lord. _605

The army encamped upon the Cydaris

Was roused last night by the alarm of battle,

And saw two hosts conflicting in the air,

The shadows doubtless of the unborn time

Cast on the mirror of the night. While yet _610

The fight hung balanced, there arose a storm

Which swept the phantoms from among the stars.

At the third watch the Spirit of the Plague

Was heard abroad flapping among the tents;

Those who relieved watch found the sentinels dead. _615

The last news from the camp is, that a thousand

Have sickened, and--



And thou, pale ghost, dim shadow

Of some untimely rumour, speak!


One comes

Fainting with toil, covered with foam and blood:

He stood, he says, on Chelonites' _620

Promontory, which o'erlooks the isles that groan

Under the Briton's frown, and all their waters

Then trembling in the splendour of the moon,

When as the wandering clouds unveiled or hid

Her boundless light, he saw two adverse fleets _625

Stalk through the night in the horizon's glimmer,

Mingling fierce thunders and sulphureous gleams,

And smoke which strangled every infant wind

That soothed the silver clouds through the deep air.

At length the battle slept, but the Sirocco _630

Awoke, and drove his flock of thunder-clouds

Over the sea-horizon, blotting out

All objects--save that in the faint moon-glimpse

He saw, or dreamed he saw, the Turkish admiral

And two the loftiest of our ships of war, _635

With the bright image of that Queen of Heaven,

Who hid, perhaps, her face for grief, reversed;

And the abhorred cross--


_620 on Chelonites']on Chelonites "Errata";

upon Clelonite's edition 1822;

upon Clelonit's editions 1839.



Your Sublime Highness,

The Jew, who--


Could not come more seasonably:

Bid him attend. I'll hear no more! too long _640

We gaze on danger through the mist of fear,

And multiply upon our shattered hopes

The images of ruin. Come what will!

To-morrow and to-morrow are as lamps

Set in our path to light us to the edge _645

Through rough and smooth, nor can we suffer aught

Which He inflicts not in whose hand we are.



Would I were the winged cloud

Of a tempest swift and loud!

I would scorn _650

The smile of morn

And the wave where the moonrise is born!

I would leave

The spirits of eve

A shroud for the corpse of the day to weave _655

From other threads than mine!

Bask in the deep blue noon divine.

Who would? Not I.


_657 the deep blue "Errata", Wms. transcript; the blue edition 1822.


Whither to fly?


Where the rocks that gird th' Aegean _660

Echo to the battle paean

Of the free--

I would flee

A tempestuous herald of victory!

My golden rain

For the Grecian slain _665

Should mingle in tears with the bloody main,

And my solemn thunder-knell

Should ring to the world the passing-bell

Of Tyranny! _670


Ah king! wilt thou chain

The rack and the rain?

Wilt thou fetter the lightning and hurricane?

The storms are free,

But we-- _675


O Slavery! thou frost of the world's prime,

Killing its flowers and leaving its thorns bare!

Thy touch has stamped these limbs with crime,

These brows thy branding garland bear,

But the free heart, the impassive soul _680

Scorn thy control!


Let there be light! said Liberty,

And like sunrise from the sea,

Athens arose!--Around her born,

Shone like mountains in the morn _685

Glorious states;--and are they now

Ashes, wrecks, oblivion?



Where Thermae and Asopus swallowed

Persia, as the sand does foam:

Deluge upon deluge followed, _690

Discord, Macedon, and Rome:

And lastly thou!


Temples and towers,

Citadels and marts, and they

Who live and die there, have been ours,

And may be thine, and must decay; _695

But Greece and her foundations are

Built below the tide of war,

Based on the crystalline sea

Of thought and its eternity;

Her citizens, imperial spirits, _700

Rule the present from the past,

On all this world of men inherits

Their seal is set.


Hear ye the blast,

Whose Orphic thunder thrilling calls

From ruin her Titanian walls? _705

Whose spirit shakes the sapless bones

Of Slavery? Argos, Corinth, Crete

Hear, and from their mountain thrones

The daemons and the nymphs repeat

The harmony.


I hear! I hear! _710


The world's eyeless charioteer,

Destiny, is hurrying by!

What faith is crushed, what empire bleeds

Beneath her earthquake-footed steeds?

What eagle-winged victory sits _715

At her right hand? what shadow flits

Before? what splendour rolls behind?

Ruin and renovation cry

'Who but We?'


I hear! I hear!

The hiss as of a rushing wind, _720

The roar as of an ocean foaming,

The thunder as of earthquake coming.

I hear! I hear!

The crash as of an empire falling,

The shrieks as of a people calling _725

'Mercy! mercy!'--How they thrill!

Then a shout of 'kill! kill! kill!'

And then a small still voice, thus--



Revenge and Wrong bring forth their kind,

The foul cubs like their parents are, _730

Their den is in the guilty mind,

And Conscience feeds them with despair.


_728 For edition 1822, Wms. transcript;

Fear cj. Fleay, Forman, Dowden. See Editor's Note.


In sacred Athens, near the fane

Of Wisdom, Pity's altar stood:

Serve not the unknown God in vain. _735

But pay that broken shrine again,

Love for hate and tears for blood.



Thou art a man, thou sayest, even as we.


No more!


But raised above thy fellow-men

By thought, as I by power.


Thou sayest so. _740


Thou art an adept in the difficult lore

Of Greek and Frank philosophy; thou numberest

The flowers, and thou measurest the stars;

Thou severest element from element;

Thy spirit is present in the Past, and sees _745

The birth of this old world through all its cycles

Of desolation and of loveliness,

And when man was not, and how man became

The monarch and the slave of this low sphere,

And all its narrow circles--it is much-- _750

I honour thee, and would be what thou art

Were I not what I am; but the unborn hour,

Cradled in fear and hope, conflicting storms,

Who shall unveil? Nor thou, nor I, nor any

Mighty or wise. I apprehended not _755

What thou hast taught me, but I now perceive

That thou art no interpreter of dreams;

Thou dost not own that art, device, or God,

Can make the Future present--let it come!

Moreover thou disdainest us and ours; _760

Thou art as God, whom thou contemplatest.


Disdain thee?--not the worm beneath thy feet!

The Fathomless has care for meaner things

Than thou canst dream, and has made pride for those

Who would be what they may not, or would seem _765

That which they are not. Sultan! talk no more

Of thee and me, the Future and the Past;

But look on that which cannot change--the One,

The unborn and the undying. Earth and ocean,

Space, and the isles of life or light that gem _770

The sapphire floods of interstellar air,

This firmament pavilioned upon chaos,

With all its cressets of immortal fire,

Whose outwall, bastioned impregnably

Against the escape of boldest thoughts, repels them _775

As Calpe the Atlantic clouds--this Whole

Of suns, and worlds, and men, and beasts, and flowers,

With all the silent or tempestuous workings

By which they have been, are, or cease to be,

Is but a vision;--all that it inherits _780

Are motes of a sick eye, bubbles and dreams;

Thought is its cradle and its grave, nor less

The Future and the Past are idle shadows

Of thought's eternal flight--they have no being:

Nought is but that which feels itself to be. _785


_762 thy edition 1822; my editions 1839.


What meanest thou? Thy words stream like a tempest

Of dazzling mist within my brain--they shake

The earth on which I stand, and hang like night

On Heaven above me. What can they avail?

They cast on all things surest, brightest, best, _790

Doubt, insecurity, astonishment.


Mistake me not! All is contained in each.

Dodona's forest to an acorn's cup

Is that which has been, or will be, to that

Which is--the absent to the present. Thought _795

Alone, and its quick elements, Will, Passion,

Reason, Imagination, cannot die;

They are, what that which they regard appears,

The stuff whence mutability can weave

All that it hath dominion o'er, worlds, worms, _800

Empires, and superstitions. What has thought

To do with time, or place, or circumstance?

Wouldst thou behold the Future?--ask and have!

Knock and it shall be opened--look, and lo!

The coming age is shadowed on the Past _805

As on a glass.


Wild, wilder thoughts convulse

My spirit--Did not Mahomet the Second

Win Stamboul?


Thou wouldst ask that giant spirit

The written fortunes of thy house and faith.

Thou wouldst cite one out of the grave to tell _810

How what was born in blood must die.


Thy words

Have power on me! I see--


What hearest thou?


A far whisper--

Terrible silence.


What succeeds?


The sound

As of the assault of an imperial city, _815

The hiss of inextinguishable fire,

The roar of giant cannon; the earthquaking

Fall of vast bastions and precipitous towers,

The shock of crags shot from strange enginery,

The clash of wheels, and clang of armed hoofs, _820

And crash of brazen mail as of the wreck

Of adamantine mountains--the mad blast

Of trumpets, and the neigh of raging steeds,

The shrieks of women whose thrill jars the blood,

And one sweet laugh, most horrible to hear, _825

As of a joyous infant waked and playing

With its dead mother's breast, and now more loud

The mingled battle-cry,--ha! hear I not

'En touto nike!' 'Allah-illa-Allah!'?


The sulphurous mist is raised--thou seest--


A chasm, _830

As of two mountains in the wall of Stamboul;

And in that ghastly breach the Islamites,

Like giants on the ruins of a world,

Stand in the light of sunrise. In the dust

Glimmers a kingless diadem, and one _835

Of regal port has cast himself beneath

The stream of war. Another proudly clad

In golden arms spurs a Tartarian barb

Into the gap, and with his iron mace

Directs the torrent of that tide of men, _840

And seems--he is--Mahomet!


What thou seest

Is but the ghost of thy forgotten dream.

A dream itself, yet less, perhaps, than that

Thou call'st reality. Thou mayst behold

How cities, on which Empire sleeps enthroned, _845

Bow their towered crests to mutability.

Poised by the flood, e'en on the height thou holdest,

Thou mayst now learn how the full tide of power

Ebbs to its depths.--Inheritor of glory,

Conceived in darkness, born in blood, and nourished _850

With tears and toil, thou seest the mortal throes

Of that whose birth was but the same. The Past

Now stands before thee like an Incarnation

Of the To-come; yet wouldst thou commune with

That portion of thyself which was ere thou _855

Didst start for this brief race whose crown is death,

Dissolve with that strong faith and fervent passion

Which called it from the uncreated deep,

Yon cloud of war, with its tempestuous phantoms

Of raging death; and draw with mighty will _860

The imperial shade hither.






I come

Thence whither thou must go! The grave is fitter

To take the living than give up the dead;

Yet has thy faith prevailed, and I am here.

The heavy fragments of the power which fell _865

When I arose, like shapeless crags and clouds,

Hang round my throne on the abyss, and voices

Of strange lament soothe my supreme repose,

Wailing for glory never to return.--

A later Empire nods in its decay: _870

The autumn of a greener faith is come,

And wolfish change, like winter, howls to strip

The foliage in which Fame, the eagle, built

Her aerie, while Dominion whelped below.

The storm is in its branches, and the frost _875

Is on its leaves, and the blank deep expects

Oblivion on oblivion, spoil on spoil,

Ruin on ruin:--Thou art slow, my son;

The Anarchs of the world of darkness keep

A throne for thee, round which thine empire lies _880

Boundless and mute; and for thy subjects thou,

Like us, shalt rule the ghosts of murdered life,

The phantoms of the powers who rule thee now--

Mutinous passions, and conflicting fears,

And hopes that sate themselves on dust, and die!-- _885

Stripped of their mortal strength, as thou of thine.

Islam must fall, but we will reign together

Over its ruins in the world of death:--

And if the trunk be dry, yet shall the seed

Unfold itself even in the shape of that _890

Which gathers birth in its decay. Woe! woe!

To the weak people tangled in the grasp

Of its last spasms.


Spirit, woe to all!

Woe to the wronged and the avenger! Woe

To the destroyer, woe to the destroyed! _895

Woe to the dupe, and woe to the deceiver!

Woe to the oppressed, and woe to the oppressor!

Woe both to those that suffer and inflict;

Those who are born and those who die! but say,

Imperial shadow of the thing I am, _900

When, how, by whom, Destruction must accomplish

Her consummation!


Ask the cold pale Hour,

Rich in reversion of impending death,

When HE shall fall upon whose ripe gray hairs

Sit Care, and Sorrow, and Infirmity-- _905

The weight which Crime, whose wings are plumed with years,

Leaves in his flight from ravaged heart to heart

Over the heads of men, under which burthen

They bow themselves unto the grave: fond wretch!

He leans upon his crutch, and talks of years _910

To come, and how in hours of youth renewed

He will renew lost joys, and--


Victory! Victory!



What sound of the importunate earth has broken

My mighty trance?


Victory! Victory!


Weak lightning before darkness! poor faint smile _915

Of dying Islam! Voice which art the response

Of hollow weakness! Do I wake and live?

Were there such things, or may the unquiet brain,

Vexed by the wise mad talk of the old Jew,

Have shaped itself these shadows of its fear? _920

It matters not!--for nought we see or dream,

Possess, or lose, or grasp at, can be worth

More than it gives or teaches. Come what may,

The Future must become the Past, and I

As they were to whom once this present hour, _925

This gloomy crag of time to which I cling,

Seemed an Elysian isle of peace and joy

Never to be attained.--I must rebuke

This drunkenness of triumph ere it die,

And dying, bring despair. Victory! poor slaves! _930



Shout in the jubilee of death! The Greeks

Are as a brood of lions in the net

Round which the kingly hunters of the earth

Stand smiling. Anarchs, ye whose daily food

Are curses, groans, and gold, the fruit of death, _935

From Thule to the girdle of the world,

Come, feast! the board groans with the flesh of men;

The cup is foaming with a nation's blood,

Famine and Thirst await! eat, drink, and die!


Victorious Wrong, with vulture scream, _940

Salutes the rising sun, pursues the flying day!

I saw her, ghastly as a tyrant's dream,

Perch on the trembling pyramid of night,

Beneath which earth and all her realms pavilioned lay

In visions of the dawning undelight. _945

Who shall impede her flight?

Who rob her of her prey?


Victory! Victory! Russia's famished eagles

Dare not to prey beneath the crescent's light.

Impale the remnant of the Greeks! despoil! _950

Violate! make their flesh cheaper than dust!


Thou voice which art

The herald of the ill in splendour hid!

Thou echo of the hollow heart

Of monarchy, bear me to thine abode _955

When desolation flashes o'er a world destroyed:

Oh, bear me to those isles of jagged cloud

Which float like mountains on the earthquake, mid

The momentary oceans of the lightning,

Or to some toppling promontory proud _960

Of solid tempest whose black pyramid,

Riven, overhangs the founts intensely bright'ning

Of those dawn-tinted deluges of fire

Before their waves expire,

When heaven and earth are light, and only light _965

In the thunder-night!


_958 earthquake edition 1822; earthquakes editions 1839.


Victory! Victory! Austria, Russia, England,

And that tame serpent, that poor shadow, France,

Cry peace, and that means death when monarchs speak.

Ho, there! bring torches, sharpen those red stakes, _970

These chains are light, fitter for slaves and poisoners

Than Greeks. Kill! plunder! burn! let none remain.


Alas! for Liberty!

If numbers, wealth, or unfulfilling years,

Or fate, can quell the free! _975

Alas! for Virtue, when

Torments, or contumely, or the sneers

Of erring judging men

Can break the heart where it abides.

Alas! if Love, whose smile makes this obscure world splendid, _980

Can change with its false times and tides,

Like hope and terror,--

Alas for Love!

And Truth, who wanderest lone and unbefriended,

If thou canst veil thy lie-consuming mirror _985

Before the dazzled eyes of Error,

Alas for thee! Image of the Above.


Repulse, with plumes from conquest torn,

Led the ten thousand from the limits of the morn

Through many an hostile Anarchy! _990

At length they wept aloud, and cried, 'The Sea! the Sea!'

Through exile, persecution, and despair,

Rome was, and young Atlantis shall become

The wonder, or the terror, or the tomb

Of all whose step wakes Power lulled in her savage lair: _995

But Greece was as a hermit-child,

Whose fairest thoughts and limbs were built

To woman's growth, by dreams so mild,

She knew not pain or guilt;

And now, O Victory, blush! and Empire, tremble _1000

When ye desert the free--

If Greece must be

A wreck, yet shall its fragments reassemble,

And build themselves again impregnably

In a diviner clime, _1005

To Amphionic music on some Cape sublime,

Which frowns above the idle foam of Time.


Let the tyrants rule the desert they have made;

Let the free possess the Paradise they claim;

Be the fortune of our fierce oppressors weighed _1010

With our ruin, our resistance, and our name!


Our dead shall be the seed of their decay,

Our survivors be the shadow of their pride,

Our adversity a dream to pass away--

Their dishonour a remembrance to abide! _1015


Victory! Victory! The bought Briton sends

The keys of ocean to the Islamite.--

Now shall the blazon of the cross be veiled,

And British skill directing Othman might,

Thunder-strike rebel victory. Oh, keep holy _1020

This jubilee of unrevenged blood!

Kill! crush! despoil! Let not a Greek escape!


Darkness has dawned in the East

On the noon of time:

The death-birds descend to their feast _1025

From the hungry clime.

Let Freedom and Peace flee far

To a sunnier strand,

And follow Love's folding-star

To the Evening land! _1030


The young moon has fed

Her exhausted horn

With the sunset's fire:

The weak day is dead,

But the night is not born; _1035

And, like loveliness panting with wild desire

While it trembles with fear and delight,

Hesperus flies from awakening night,

And pants in its beauty and speed with light

Fast-flashing, soft, and bright. _1040

Thou beacon of love! thou lamp of the free!

Guide us far, far away,

To climes where now veiled by the ardour of day

Thou art hidden

From waves on which weary Noon _1045

Faints in her summer swoon,

Between kingless continents sinless as Eden,

Around mountains and islands inviolably

Pranked on the sapphire sea.


Through the sunset of hope, _1050

Like the shapes of a dream.

What Paradise islands of glory gleam!

Beneath Heaven's cope,

Their shadows more clear float by--

The sound of their oceans, the light of their sky, _1055

The music and fragrance their solitudes breathe

Burst, like morning on dream, or like Heaven on death,

Through the walls of our prison;

And Greece, which was dead, is arisen!


_1057 dream edition 1822; dreams editions 1839.


The world's great age begins anew, _1060

The golden years return,

The earth doth like a snake renew

Her winter weeds outworn:

Heaven smiles, and faiths and empires gleam,

Like wrecks of a dissolving dream. _1065

A brighter Hellas rears its mountains

From waves serener far;

A new Peneus rolls his fountains

Against the morning star.

Where fairer Tempes bloom, there sleep _1070

Young Cyclads on a sunnier deep.

A loftier Argo cleaves the main,

Fraught with a later prize;

Another Orpheus sings again,

And loves, and weeps, and dies. _1075

A new Ulysses leaves once more

Calypso for his native shore.

Oh, write no more the tale of Troy,

If earth Death's scroll must be!

Nor mix with Laian rage the joy _1080

Which dawns upon the free:

Although a subtler Sphinx renew

Riddles of death Thebes never knew.

Another Athens shall arise,

And to remoter time _1085

Bequeath, like sunset to the skies,

The splendour of its prime;

And leave, if nought so bright may live,

All earth can take or Heaven can give.

Saturn and Love their long repose _1090

Shall burst, more bright and good

Than all who fell, than One who rose,

Than many unsubdued:

Not gold, not blood, their altar dowers,

But votive tears and symbol flowers. _1095

Oh, cease! must hate and death return?

Cease! must men kill and die?

Cease! drain not to its dregs the urn

Of bitter prophecy.

The world is weary of the past, _1100

Oh, might it die or rest at last!


_1068 his edition 1822; its editions 1839.

_1072 Argo]Argos edition 1822.

_1091-_1093 See Editor's note.

_1091 bright editions 1839; wise edition 1829 (ed. Galignani).

_1093 unsubdued editions 1839; unwithstood edition 1829 (ed. Galignani).