Percy Shelley: Poems

Hellas: Prologue


It is the day when all the sons of God

Wait in the roofless senate-house, whose floor

Is Chaos, and the immovable abyss

Frozen by His steadfast word to hyaline


The shadow of God, and delegate _5

Of that before whose breath the universe

Is as a print of dew.

Hierarchs and kings

Who from your thrones pinnacled on the past

Sway the reluctant present, ye who sit

Pavilioned on the radiance or the gloom _10

Of mortal thought, which like an exhalation

Steaming from earth, conceals the ... of heaven

Which gave it birth. ... assemble here

Before your Father's throne; the swift decree

Yet hovers, and the fiery incarnation _15

Is yet withheld, clothed in which it shall


The fairest of those wandering isles that gem

The sapphire space of interstellar air,

That green and azure sphere, that earth enwrapped _20

Less in the beauty of its tender light

Than in an atmosphere of living spirit

Which interpenetrating all the ...

it rolls from realm to realm

And age to age, and in its ebb and flow _25

Impels the generations

To their appointed place,

Whilst the high Arbiter

Beholds the strife, and at the appointed time

Sends His decrees veiled in eternal... _30

Within the circuit of this pendent orb

There lies an antique region, on which fell

The dews of thought in the world's golden dawn

Earliest and most benign, and from it sprung

Temples and cities and immortal forms _35

And harmonies of wisdom and of song,

And thoughts, and deeds worthy of thoughts so fair.

And when the sun of its dominion failed,

And when the winter of its glory came,

The winds that stripped it bare blew on and swept _40

That dew into the utmost wildernesses

In wandering clouds of sunny rain that thawed

The unmaternal bosom of the North.

Haste, sons of God, ... for ye beheld,

Reluctant, or consenting, or astonished, _45

The stern decrees go forth, which heaped on Greece

Ruin and degradation and despair.

A fourth now waits: assemble, sons of God,

To speed or to prevent or to suspend,

If, as ye dream, such power be not withheld, _50

The unaccomplished destiny.


_8 your Garnett; yon Forman, Dowden.



The curtain of the Universe

Is rent and shattered,

The splendour-winged worlds disperse

Like wild doves scattered. _55

Space is roofless and bare,

And in the midst a cloudy shrine,

Dark amid thrones of light.

In the blue glow of hyaline

Golden worlds revolve and shine. _60

In ... flight

From every point of the Infinite,

Like a thousand dawns on a single night

The splendours rise and spread;

And through thunder and darkness dread _65

Light and music are radiated,

And in their pavilioned chariots led

By living wings high overhead

The giant Powers move,

Gloomy or bright as the thrones they fill. _70


A chaos of light and motion

Upon that glassy ocean.


The senate of the Gods is met,

Each in his rank and station set;

There is silence in the spaces-- _75

Lo! Satan, Christ, and Mahomet

Start from their places!


Almighty Father!

Low-kneeling at the feet of Destiny


There are two fountains in which spirits weep _80

When mortals err, Discord and Slavery named,

And with their bitter dew two Destinies

Filled each their irrevocable urns; the third

Fiercest and mightiest, mingled both, and added

Chaos and Death, and slow Oblivion's lymph, _85

And hate and terror, and the poisoned rain


The Aurora of the nations. By this brow

Whose pores wept tears of blood, by these wide wounds,

By this imperial crown of agony,

By infamy and solitude and death, _90

For this I underwent, and by the pain

Of pity for those who would ... for me

The unremembered joy of a revenge,

For this I felt--by Plato's sacred light,

Of which my spirit was a burning morrow-- _95

By Greece and all she cannot cease to be.

Her quenchless words, sparks of immortal truth,

Stars of all night--her harmonies and forms,

Echoes and shadows of what Love adores

In thee, I do compel thee, send forth Fate, _100

Thy irrevocable child: let her descend,

A seraph-winged Victory [arrayed]

In tempest of the omnipotence of God

Which sweeps through all things.

From hollow leagues, from Tyranny which arms _105

Adverse miscreeds and emulous anarchies

To stamp, as on a winged serpent's seed,

Upon the name of Freedom; from the storm

Of faction, which like earthquake shakes and sickens

The solid heart of enterprise; from all _110

By which the holiest dreams of highest spirits

Are stars beneath the dawn...

She shall arise

Victorious as the world arose from Chaos!

And as the Heavens and the Earth arrayed

Their presence in the beauty and the light _115

Of Thy first smile, O Father,--as they gather

The spirit of Thy love which paves for them

Their path o'er the abyss, till every sphere

Shall be one living Spirit,--so shall Greece--


Be as all things beneath the empyrean, _120

Mine! Art thou eyeless like old Destiny,

Thou mockery-king, crowned with a wreath of thorns?

Whose sceptre is a reed, the broken reed

Which pierces thee! whose throne a chair of scorn;

For seest thou not beneath this crystal floor _125

The innumerable worlds of golden light

Which are my empire, and the least of them

which thou wouldst redeem from me?

Know'st thou not them my portion?

Or wouldst rekindle the ... strife _130

Which our great Father then did arbitrate

Which he assigned to his competing sons

Each his apportioned realm?

Thou Destiny,

Thou who art mailed in the omnipotence

Of Him who tends thee forth, whate'er thy task, _135

Speed, spare not to accomplish, and be mine

Thy trophies, whether Greece again become

The fountain in the desert whence the earth

Shall drink of freedom, which shall give it strength

To suffer, or a gulf of hollow death _140

To swallow all delight, all life, all hope.

Go, thou Vicegerent of my will, no less

Than of the Father's; but lest thou shouldst faint,

The winged hounds, Famine and Pestilence,

Shall wait on thee, the hundred-forked snake _145

Insatiate Superstition still shall...

The earth behind thy steps, and War shall hover

Above, and Fraud shall gape below, and Change

Shall flit before thee on her dragon wings,

Convulsing and consuming, and I add _150

Three vials of the tears which daemons weep

When virtuous spirits through the gate of Death

Pass triumphing over the thorns of life,

Sceptres and crowns, mitres and swords and snares,

Trampling in scorn, like Him and Socrates. _155

The first is Anarchy; when Power and Pleasure,

Glory and science and security,

On Freedom hang like fruit on the green tree,

Then pour it forth, and men shall gather ashes.

The second Tyranny--


Obdurate spirit! _160

Thou seest but the Past in the To-come.

Pride is thy error and thy punishment.

Boast not thine empire, dream not that thy worlds

Are more than furnace-sparks or rainbow-drops

Before the Power that wields and kindles them. _165

True greatness asks not space, true excellence

Lives in the Spirit of all things that live,

Which lends it to the worlds thou callest thine.



...Haste thou and fill the waning crescent

With beams as keen as those which pierced the shadow _170

Of Christian night rolled back upon the West,

When the orient moon of Islam rode in triumph

From Tmolus to the Acroceraunian snow.


Wake, thou Word

Of God, and from the throne of Destiny _175

Even to the utmost limit of thy way

May Triumph


Be thou a curse on them whose creed

Divides and multiplies the most high God.