Percy Shelley: Poems

Prometheus Unbound: Act 1








Monarch of Gods and DAEmons, and all Spirits

But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds

Which Thou and I alone of living things

Behold with sleepless eyes! regard this Earth

Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou _5

Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,

And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,

With fear and self-contempt and barren hope.

Whilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in hate,

Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn, _10

O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.

Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,

And moments aye divided by keen pangs

Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,

Scorn and despair,--these are mine empire:-- _15

More glorious far than that which thou surveyest

From thine unenvied throne, O Mighty God!

Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame

Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not here

Nailed to this wall of eagle-baffling mountain, _20

Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured; without herb,

Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.

Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever!

No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.

I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt? _25

I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,

Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,

Heaven's ever-changing Shadow, spread below,

Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?

Ah me! alas, pain, pain ever, for ever! _30

The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears

Of their moon-freezing crystals; the bright chains

Eat with their burning cold into my bones.

Heaven's winged hound, polluting from thy lips

His beak in poison not his own, tears up _35

My heart; and shapeless sights come wandering by,

The ghastly people of the realm of dream,

Mocking me: and the Earthquake-fiends are charged

To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds

When the rocks split and close again behind: _40

While from their loud abysses howling throng

The genii of the storm, urging the rage

Of whirlwind, and afflict me with keen hail.

And yet to me welcome is day and night,

Whether one breaks the hoar-frost of the morn, _45

Or starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs

The leaden-coloured east; for then they lead

The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom

--As some dark Priest hales the reluctant victim--

Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood _50

From these pale feet, which then might trample thee

If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.

Disdain! Ah, no! I pity thee. What ruin

Will hunt thee undefended through wide Heaven!

How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror, _55

Gape like a hell within! I speak in grief,

Not exultation, for I hate no more,

As then ere misery made me wise. The curse

Once breathed on thee I would recall. Ye Mountains,

Whose many-voiced Echoes, through the mist _60

Of cataracts, flung the thunder of that spell!

Ye icy Springs, stagnant with wrinkling frost,

Which vibrated to hear me, and then crept

Shuddering through India! Thou serenest Air,

Through which the Sun walks burning without beams! _65

And ye swift Whirlwinds, who on poised wings

Hung mute and moveless o'er yon hushed abyss,

As thunder, louder than your own, made rock

The orbed world! If then my words had power,

Though I am changed so that aught evil wish _70

Is dead within; although no memory be

Of what is hate, let them not lose it now!

What was that curse? for ye all heard me speak.


_54 thro' wide B; thro' the wide 1820.


Thrice three hundred thousand years

O'er the Earthquake's couch we stood: _75

Oft, as men convulsed with fears,

We trembled in our multitude.


Thunderbolts had parched our water,

We had been stained with bitter blood,

And had run mute, 'mid shrieks of slaughter, _80

Thro' a city and a solitude.


I had clothed, since Earth uprose,

Its wastes in colours not their own,

And oft had my serene repose

Been cloven by many a rending groan. _85


We had soared beneath these mountains

Unresting ages; nor had thunder,

Nor yon volcano's flaming fountains,

Nor any power above or under

Ever made us mute with wonder. _90


But never bowed our snowy crest

As at the voice of thine unrest.


Never such a sound before

To the Indian waves we bore.

A pilot asleep on the howling sea _95

Leaped up from the deck in agony,

And heard, and cried, 'Ah, woe is me!'

And died as mad as the wild waves be.


By such dread words from Earth to Heaven

My still realm was never riven: _100

When its wound was closed, there stood

Darkness o'er the day like blood.


And we shrank back: for dreams of ruin

To frozen caves our flight pursuing

Made us keep silence--thus--and thus-- _105

Though silence is a hell to us.


The tongueless caverns of the craggy hills

Cried, 'Misery!' then; the hollow Heaven replied,

'Misery!' And the Ocean's purple waves,

Climbing the land, howled to the lashing winds, _110

And the pale nations heard it, 'Misery!'


_106 as hell 1839, B; a hell 1820.


I hear a sound of voices: not the voice

Which I gave forth. Mother, thy sons and thou

Scorn him, without whose all-enduring will

Beneath the fierce omnipotence of Jove, _115

Both they and thou had vanished, like thin mist

Unrolled on the morning wind. Know ye not me,

The Titan? He who made his agony

The barrier to your else all-conquering foe?

Oh, rock-embosomed lawns, and snow-fed streams, _120

Now seen athwart frore vapours, deep below,

Through whose o'ershadowing woods I wandered once

With Asia, drinking life from her loved eyes;

Why scorns the spirit which informs ye, now

To commune with me? me alone, who checked, _125

As one who checks a fiend-drawn charioteer,

The falsehood and the force of him who reigns

Supreme, and with the groans of pining slaves

Fills your dim glens and liquid wildernesses:

Why answer ye not, still? Brethren!


They dare not. _130


Who dares? for I would hear that curse again.

Ha, what an awful whisper rises up!

'Tis scarce like sound: it tingles through the frame

As lightning tingles, hovering ere it strike.

Speak, Spirit! from thine inorganic voice _135

I only know that thou art moving near

And love. How cursed I him?


How canst thou hear

Who knowest not the language of the dead?


Thou art a living spirit; speak as they.


I dare not speak like life, lest Heaven's fell King _140

Should hear, and link me to some wheel of pain

More torturing than the one whereon I roll.

Subtle thou art and good; and though the Gods

Hear not this voice, yet thou art more than God,

Being wise and kind: earnestly hearken now. _145


Obscurely through my brain, like shadows dim,

Sweep awful thoughts, rapid and thick. I feel

Faint, like one mingled in entwining love;

Yet 'tis not pleasure.


No, thou canst not hear:

Thou art immortal, and this tongue is known _150

Only to those who die.


And what art thou,

O, melancholy Voice?


I am the Earth,

Thy mother; she within whose stony veins,

To the last fibre of the loftiest tree

Whose thin leaves trembled in the frozen air, _155

Joy ran, as blood within a living frame,

When thou didst from her bosom, like a cloud

Of glory, arise, a spirit of keen joy!

And at thy voice her pining sons uplifted

Their prostrate brows from the polluting dust, _160

And our almighty Tyrant with fierce dread

Grew pale, until his thunder chained thee here.

Then, see those million worlds which burn and roll

Around us: their inhabitants beheld

My sphered light wane in wide Heaven; the sea _165

Was lifted by strange tempest, and new fire

From earthquake-rifted mountains of bright snow

Shook its portentous hair beneath Heaven's frown;

Lightning and Inundation vexed the plains;

Blue thistles bloomed in cities; foodless toads _170

Within voluptuous chambers panting crawled:

When Plague had fallen on man, and beast, and worm,

And Famine; and black blight on herb and tree;

And in the corn, and vines, and meadow-grass,

Teemed ineradicable poisonous weeds _175

Draining their growth, for my wan breast was dry

With grief; and the thin air, my breath, was stained

With the contagion of a mother's hate

Breathed on her child's destroyer; ay, I heard

Thy curse, the which, if thou rememberest not, _180

Yet my innumerable seas and streams,

Mountains, and caves, and winds, and yon wide air,

And the inarticulate people of the dead,

Preserve, a treasured spell. We meditate

In secret joy and hope those dreadful words, _185

But dare not speak them.


_137 And love 1820; And lovest cj. Swinburne.


Venerable mother!

All else who live and suffer take from thee

Some comfort; flowers, and fruits, and happy sounds,

And love, though fleeting; these may not be mine.

But mine own words, I pray, deny me not. _190


They shall be told. Ere Babylon was dust,

The Magus Zoroaster, my dead child,

Met his own image walking in the garden.

That apparition, sole of men, he saw.

For know there are two worlds of life and death: _195

One that which thou beholdest; but the other

Is underneath the grave, where do inhabit

The shadows of all forms that think and live

Till death unite them and they part no more;

Dreams and the light imaginings of men, _200

And all that faith creates or love desires,

Terrible, strange, sublime and beauteous shapes.

There thou art, and dost hang, a writhing shade,

'Mid whirlwind-peopled mountains; all the gods

Are there, and all the powers of nameless worlds, _205

Vast, sceptred phantoms; heroes, men, and beasts;

And Demogorgon, a tremendous gloom;

And he, the supreme Tyrant, on his throne

Of burning gold. Son, one of these shall utter

The curse which all remember. Call at will _210

Thine own ghost, or the ghost of Jupiter,

Hades or Typhon, or what mightier Gods

From all-prolific Evil, since thy ruin,

Have sprung, and trampled on my prostrate sons.

Ask, and they must reply: so the revenge _215

Of the Supreme may sweep through vacant shades,

As rainy wind through the abandoned gate

Of a fallen palace.


Mother, let not aught

Of that which may be evil, pass again

My lips, or those of aught resembling me. _220

Phantasm of Jupiter, arise, appear!


My wings are folded o'er mine ears:

My wings are crossed o'er mine eyes:

Yet through their silver shade appears,

And through their lulling plumes arise, _225

A Shape, a throng of sounds;

May it be no ill to thee

O thou of many wounds!

Near whom, for our sweet sister's sake,

Ever thus we watch and wake. _230


The sound is of whirlwind underground,

Earthquake, and fire, and mountains cloven;

The shape is awful like the sound,

Clothed in dark purple, star-inwoven.

A sceptre of pale gold _235

To stay steps proud, o'er the slow cloud

His veined hand doth hold.

Cruel he looks, but calm and strong,

Like one who does, not suffers wrong.


Why have the secret powers of this strange world _240

Driven me, a frail and empty phantom, hither

On direst storms? What unaccustomed sounds

Are hovering on my lips, unlike the voice

With which our pallid race hold ghastly talk

In darkness? And, proud sufferer, who art thou? _245


Tremendous Image, as thou art must be

He whom thou shadowest forth. I am his foe,

The Titan. Speak the words which I would hear,

Although no thought inform thine empty voice.


Listen! And though your echoes must be mute, _250

Grey mountains, and old woods, and haunted springs,

Prophetic caves, and isle-surrounding streams,

Rejoice to hear what yet ye cannot speak.


A spirit seizes me and speaks within:

It tears me as fire tears a thunder-cloud. _255


See, how he lifts his mighty looks, the Heaven

Darkens above.


He speaks! O shelter me!


I see the curse on gestures proud and cold,

And looks of firm defiance, and calm hate,

And such despair as mocks itself with smiles, _260

Written as on a scroll: yet speak! Oh, speak!


Fiend, I defy thee! with a calm, fixed mind,

All that thou canst inflict I bid thee do;

Foul Tyrant both of Gods and Humankind,

One only being shalt thou not subdue. _265

Rain then thy plagues upon me here,

Ghastly disease, and frenzying fear;

And let alternate frost and fire

Eat into me, and be thine ire

Lightning, and cutting hail, and legioned forms _270

Of furies, driving by upon the wounding storms.

Ay, do thy worst. Thou art omnipotent.

O'er all things but thyself I gave thee power,

And my own will. Be thy swift mischiefs sent

To blast mankind, from yon ethereal tower. _275

Let thy malignant spirit move

In darkness over those I love:

On me and mine I imprecate

The utmost torture of thy hate;

And thus devote to sleepless agony, _280

This undeclining head while thou must reign on high.

But thou, who art the God and Lord: O, thou,

Who fillest with thy soul this world of woe,

To whom all things of Earth and Heaven do bow

In fear and worship: all-prevailing foe! _285

I curse thee! let a sufferer's curse

Clasp thee, his torturer, like remorse;

Till thine Infinity shall be

A robe of envenomed agony;

And thine Omnipotence a crown of pain, _290

To cling like burning gold round thy dissolving brain.

Heap on thy soul, by virtue of this Curse,

Ill deeds, then be thou damned, beholding good;

Both infinite as is the universe,

And thou, and thy self-torturing solitude. _295

An awful image of calm power

Though now thou sittest, let the hour

Come, when thou must appear to be

That which thou art internally;

And after many a false and fruitless crime _300

Scorn track thy lagging fall through boundless space and time.


Were these my words, O Parent?


They were thine.


It doth repent me: words are quick and vain;

Grief for awhile is blind, and so was mine.

I wish no living thing to suffer pain. _305


Misery, Oh misery to me,

That Jove at length should vanquish thee.

Wail, howl aloud, Land and Sea,

The Earth's rent heart shall answer ye.

Howl, Spirits of the living and the dead, _310

Your refuge, your defence, lies fallen and vanquished.


Lies fallen and vanquished!


Fallen and vanquished!


Fear not: 'tis but some passing spasm,

The Titan is unvanquished still. _315

But see, where through the azure chasm

Of yon forked and snowy hill

Trampling the slant winds on high

With golden-sandalled feet, that glow

Under plumes of purple dye, _320

Like rose-ensanguined ivory,

A Shape comes now,

Stretching on high from his right hand

A serpent-cinctured wand.


'Tis Jove's world-wandering herald, Mercury. _325


And who are those with hydra tresses

And iron wings that climb the wind,

Whom the frowning God represses

Like vapours steaming up behind,

Clanging loud, an endless crowd-- _330


These are Jove's tempest-walking hounds,

Whom he gluts with groans and blood,

When charioted on sulphurous cloud

He bursts Heaven's bounds.


Are they now led, from the thin dead _335

On new pangs to be fed?


The Titan looks as ever, firm, not proud.


Ha! I scent life!


Let me but look into his eyes!


The hope of torturing him smells like a heap

Of corpses, to a death-bird after battle. _340


Darest thou delay, O Herald! take cheer, Hounds

Of Hell: what if the Son of Maia soon

Should make us food and sport--who can please long

The Omnipotent?


Back to your towers of iron,

And gnash, beside the streams of fire and wail, _345

Your foodless teeth. Geryon, arise! and Gorgon,

Chimaera, and thou Sphinx, subtlest of fiends

Who ministered to Thebes Heaven's poisoned wine,

Unnatural love, and more unnatural hate:

These shall perform your task.


Oh, mercy! mercy! _350

We die with our desire: drive us not back!


Crouch then in silence.

Awful Sufferer!

To thee unwilling, most unwillingly

I come, by the great Father's will driven down,

To execute a doom of new revenge. _355

Alas! I pity thee, and hate myself

That I can do no more: aye from thy sight

Returning, for a season, Heaven seems Hell,

So thy worn form pursues me night and day,

Smiling reproach. Wise art thou, firm and good, _360

But vainly wouldst stand forth alone in strife

Against the Omnipotent; as yon clear lamps

That measure and divide the weary years

From which there is no refuge, long have taught

And long must teach. Even now thy Torturer arms _365

With the strange might of unimagined pains

The powers who scheme slow agonies in Hell,

And my commission is to lead them here,

Or what more subtle, foul, or savage fiends

People the abyss, and leave them to their task. _370

Be it not so! there is a secret known

To thee, and to none else of living things,

Which may transfer the sceptre of wide Heaven,

The fear of which perplexes the Supreme:

Clothe it in words, and bid it clasp his throne _375

In intercession; bend thy soul in prayer,

And like a suppliant in some gorgeous fane,

Let the will kneel within thy haughty heart:

For benefits and meek submission tame

The fiercest and the mightiest.


Evil minds _380

Change good to their own nature. I gave all

He has; and in return he chains me here

Years, ages, night and day: whether the Sun

Split my parched skin, or in the moony night

The crystal-winged snow cling round my hair: _385

Whilst my beloved race is trampled down

By his thought-executing ministers.

Such is the tyrant's recompense: 'tis just:

He who is evil can receive no good;

And for a world bestowed, or a friend lost, _390

He can feel hate, fear, shame; not gratitude:

He but requites me for his own misdeed.

Kindness to such is keen reproach, which breaks

With bitter stings the light sleep of Revenge.

Submission, thou dost know I cannot try: _395

For what submission but that fatal word,

The death-seal of mankind's captivity,

Like the Sicilian's hair-suspended sword,

Which trembles o'er his crown, would he accept,

Or could I yield? Which yet I will not yield. _400

Let others flatter Crime, where it sits throned

In brief Omnipotence: secure are they:

For Justice, when triumphant, will weep down

Pity, not punishment, on her own wrongs,

Too much avenged by those who err. I wait, _405

Enduring thus, the retributive hour

Which since we spake is even nearer now.

But hark, the hell-hounds clamour: fear delay:

Behold! Heaven lowers under thy Father's frown.


Oh, that we might be spared; I to inflict _410

And thou to suffer! Once more answer me:

Thou knowest not the period of Jove's power?


I know but this, that it must come.



Thou canst not count thy years to come of pain?


They last while Jove must reign: nor more, nor less _415

Do I desire or fear.


Yet pause, and plunge

Into Eternity, where recorded time,

Even all that we imagine, age on age,

Seems but a point, and the reluctant mind

Flags wearily in its unending flight, _420

Till it sink, dizzy, blind, lost, shelterless;

Perchance it has not numbered the slow years

Which thou must spend in torture, unreprieved?


Perchance no thought can count them, yet they pass.


If thou might'st dwell among the Gods the while

Lapped in voluptuous joy? _425


I would not quit

This bleak ravine, these unrepentant pains.


Alas! I wonder at, yet pity thee.


Pity the self-despising slaves of Heaven,

Not me, within whose mind sits peace serene. _430

As light in the sun, throned: how vain is talk!

Call up the fiends.


O, sister, look! White fire

Has cloven to the roots yon huge snow-loaded cedar;

How fearfully God's thunder howls behind!


I must obey his words and thine: alas! _435

Most heavily remorse hangs at my heart!


See where the child of Heaven, with winged feet,

Runs down the slanted sunlight of the dawn.


Dear sister, close thy plumes over thine eyes

Lest thou behold and die: they come: they come _440

Blackening the birth of day with countless wings,

And hollow underneath, like death.




Immortal Titan!


Champion of Heaven's slaves!


He whom some dreadful voice invokes is here,

Prometheus, the chained Titan. Horrible forms, _445

What and who are ye? Never yet there came

Phantasms so foul through monster-teeming Hell

From the all-miscreative brain of Jove;

Whilst I behold such execrable shapes,

Methinks I grow like what I contemplate, _450

And laugh and stare in loathsome sympathy.


We are the ministers of pain, and fear,

And disappointment, and mistrust, and hate,

And clinging crime; and as lean dogs pursue

Through wood and lake some struck and sobbing fawn, _455

We track all things that weep, and bleed, and live,

When the great King betrays them to our will.


Oh! many fearful natures in one name,

I know ye; and these lakes and echoes know

The darkness and the clangour of your wings. _460

But why more hideous than your loathed selves

Gather ye up in legions from the deep?


We knew not that: Sisters, rejoice, rejoice!


Can aught exult in its deformity?


The beauty of delight makes lovers glad, _465

Gazing on one another: so are we.

As from the rose which the pale priestess kneels

To gather for her festal crown of flowers

The aereal crimson falls, flushing her cheek,

So from our victim's destined agony _470

The shade which is our form invests us round,

Else we are shapeless as our mother Night.


I laugh your power, and his who sent you here,

To lowest scorn. Pour forth the cup of pain.


Thou thinkest we will rend thee bone from bone, _475

And nerve from nerve, working like fire within?


Pain is my element, as hate is thine;

Ye rend me now; I care not.


Dost imagine

We will but laugh into thy lidless eyes?


I weigh not what ye do, but what ye suffer, _480

Being evil. Cruel was the power which called

You, or aught else so wretched, into light.


Thou think'st we will live through thee, one by one,

Like animal life, and though we can obscure not

The soul which burns within, that we will dwell _485

Beside it, like a vain loud multitude

Vexing the self-content of wisest men:

That we will be dread thought beneath thy brain,

And foul desire round thine astonished heart,

And blood within thy labyrinthine veins _490

Crawling like agony?


Why, ye are thus now;

Yet am I king over myself, and rule

The torturing and conflicting throngs within,

As Jove rules you when Hell grows mutinous.


From the ends of the earth, from the ends of the earth, _495

Where the night has its grave and the morning its birth,

Come, come, come!

Oh, ye who shake hills with the scream of your mirth,

When cities sink howling in ruin; and ye

Who with wingless footsteps trample the sea, _500

And close upon Shipwreck and Famine's track,

Sit chattering with joy on the foodless wreck;

Come, come, come!

Leave the bed, low, cold, and red,

Strewed beneath a nation dead; _505

Leave the hatred, as in ashes

Fire is left for future burning:

It will burst in bloodier flashes

When ye stir it, soon returning:

Leave the self-contempt implanted _510

In young spirits, sense-enchanted,

Misery's yet unkindled fuel:

Leave Hell's secrets half unchanted

To the maniac dreamer; cruel

More than ye can be with hate _515

Is he with fear.

Come, come, come!

We are steaming up from Hell's wide gate

And we burthen the blast of the atmosphere,

But vainly we toil till ye come here. _520


Sister, I hear the thunder of new wings.


These solid mountains quiver with the sound

Even as the tremulous air: their shadows make

The space within my plumes more black than night.


Your call was as a winged car, _525

Driven on whirlwinds fast and far;

It rapped us from red gulfs of war.


From wide cities, famine-wasted;


Groans half heard, and blood untasted;


Kingly conclaves stern and cold, _530

Where blood with gold is bought and sold;


From the furnace, white and hot,

In which--


Speak not: whisper not:

I know all that ye would tell,

But to speak might break the spell _535

Which must bend the Invincible,

The stern of thought;

He yet defies the deepest power of Hell.


Tear the veil!


It is torn.


The pale stars of the morn

Shine on a misery, dire to be borne. _540

Dost thou faint, mighty Titan? We laugh thee to scorn.

Dost thou boast the clear knowledge thou waken'dst for man?

Then was kindled within him a thirst which outran

Those perishing waters; a thirst of fierce fever,

Hope, love, doubt, desire, which consume him for ever. _545

One came forth of gentle worth

Smiling on the sanguine earth;

His words outlived him, like swift poison

Withering up truth, peace, and pity.

Look! where round the wide horizon _550

Many a million-peopled city

Vomits smoke in the bright air.

Mark that outcry of despair!

'Tis his mild and gentle ghost

Wailing for the faith he kindled: _555

Look again, the flames almost

To a glow-worm's lamp have dwindled:

The survivors round the embers

Gather in dread.

Joy, joy, joy! _560

Past ages crowd on thee, but each one remembers,

And the future is dark, and the present is spread

Like a pillow of thorns for thy slumberless head.


_553 Hark B; Mark 1820.


Drops of bloody agony flow

From his white and quivering brow. _565

Grant a little respite now:

See a disenchanted nation

Springs like day from desolation;

To Truth its state is dedicate,

And Freedom leads it forth, her mate; _570

A legioned band of linked brothers

Whom Love calls children--


'Tis another's:

See how kindred murder kin:

'Tis the vintage-time for death and sin:

Blood, like new wine, bubbles within: _575

Till Despair smothers

The struggling world, which slaves and tyrants win.



Hark, sister! what a low yet dreadful groan

Quite unsuppressed is tearing up the heart

Of the good Titan, as storms tear the deep, _580

And beasts hear the sea moan in inland caves.

Darest thou observe how the fiends torture him?


Alas! I looked forth twice, but will no more.


What didst thou see?


A woful sight: a youth

With patient looks nailed to a crucifix. _585


What next?


The heaven around, the earth below

Was peopled with thick shapes of human death,

All horrible, and wrought by human hands,

And some appeared the work of human hearts,

For men were slowly killed by frowns and smiles: _590

And other sights too foul to speak and live

Were wandering by. Let us not tempt worse fear

By looking forth: those groans are grief enough.


_589 And 1820; Tho' B.


Behold an emblem: those who do endure

Deep wrongs for man, and scorn, and chains, but heap _595

Thousand-fold torment on themselves and him.


Remit the anguish of that lighted stare;

Close those wan lips; let that thorn-wounded brow

Stream not with blood; it mingles with thy tears!

Fix, fix those tortured orbs in peace and death, _600

So thy sick throes shake not that crucifix,

So those pale fingers play not with thy gore.

O, horrible! Thy name I will not speak,

It hath become a curse. I see, I see

The wise, the mild, the lofty, and the just, _605

Whom thy slaves hate for being like to thee,

Some hunted by foul lies from their heart's home,

An early-chosen, late-lamented home;

As hooded ounces cling to the driven hind;

Some linked to corpses in unwholesome cells: _610

Some--Hear I not the multitude laugh loud?--

Impaled in lingering fire: and mighty realms

Float by my feet, like sea-uprooted isles,

Whose sons are kneaded down in common blood

By the red light of their own burning homes. _615


Blood thou canst see, and fire; and canst hear groans;

Worse things unheard, unseen, remain behind.




In each human heart terror survives

The ravin it has gorged: the loftiest fear

All that they would disdain to think were true: _620

Hypocrisy and custom make their minds

The fanes of many a worship, now outworn.

They dare not devise good for man's estate,

And yet they know not that they do not dare.

The good want power, but to weep barren tears. _625

The powerful goodness want: worse need for them.

The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom;

And all best things are thus confused to ill.

Many are strong and rich, and would be just,

But live among their suffering fellow-men _630

As if none felt: they know not what they do.


_619 ravin B, edition 1839; ruin 1820.


Thy words are like a cloud of winged snakes;

And yet I pity those they torture not.


Thou pitiest them? I speak no more!



Ah woe!

Ah woe! Alas! pain, pain ever, for ever! _635

I close my tearless eyes, but see more clear

Thy works within my woe-illumed mind,

Thou subtle tyrant! Peace is in the grave.

The grave hides all things beautiful and good:

I am a God and cannot find it there, _640

Nor would I seek it: for, though dread revenge,

This is defeat, fierce king, not victory.

The sights with which thou torturest gird my soul

With new endurance, till the hour arrives

When they shall be no types of things which are. _645


Alas! what sawest thou more?


_646 thou more? B; thou? 1820.


There are two woes:

To speak, and to behold; thou spare me one.

Names are there, Nature's sacred watchwords, they

Were borne aloft in bright emblazonry;

The nations thronged around, and cried aloud, _650

As with one voice, Truth, liberty, and love!

Suddenly fierce confusion fell from heaven

Among them: there was strife, deceit, and fear:

Tyrants rushed in, and did divide the spoil.

This was the shadow of the truth I saw. _655


I felt thy torture, son; with such mixed joy

As pain and virtue give. To cheer thy state

I bid ascend those subtle and fair spirits,

Whose homes are the dim caves of human thought,

And who inhabit, as birds wing the wind, _660

Its world-surrounding aether: they behold

Beyond that twilight realm, as in a glass,

The future: may they speak comfort to thee!


Look, sister, where a troop of spirits gather,

Like flocks of clouds in spring's delightful weather, _665

Thronging in the blue air!


And see! more come,

Like fountain-vapours when the winds are dumb,

That climb up the ravine in scattered lines.

And, hark! is it the music of the pines?

Is it the lake? Is it the waterfall? _670


'Tis something sadder, sweeter far than all.


From unremembered ages we

Gentle guides and guardians be

Of heaven-oppressed mortality;

And we breathe, and sicken not, _675

The atmosphere of human thought:

Be it dim, and dank, and gray,

Like a storm-extinguished day,

Travelled o'er by dying gleams;

Be it bright as all between _680

Cloudless skies and windless streams,

Silent, liquid, and serene;

As the birds within the wind,

As the fish within the wave,

As the thoughts of man's own mind _685

Float through all above the grave;

We make there our liquid lair,

Voyaging cloudlike and unpent

Through the boundless element:

Thence we bear the prophecy _690

Which begins and ends in thee!


_687 there B, edition 1839; these 1820.


More yet come, one by one: the air around them

Looks radiant as the air around a star.


On a battle-trumpet's blast

I fled hither, fast, fast, fast, _695

'Mid the darkness upward cast.

From the dust of creeds outworn,

From the tyrant's banner torn,

Gathering 'round me, onward borne,

There was mingled many a cry-- _700

Freedom! Hope! Death! Victory!

Till they faded through the sky;

And one sound, above, around,

One sound beneath, around, above,

Was moving; 'twas the soul of Love; _705

'Twas the hope, the prophecy,

Which begins and ends in thee.


A rainbow's arch stood on the sea,

Which rocked beneath, immovably;

And the triumphant storm did flee, _710

Like a conqueror, swift and proud,

Between, with many a captive cloud,

A shapeless, dark and rapid crowd,

Each by lightning riven in half:

I heard the thunder hoarsely laugh: _715

Mighty fleets were strewn like chaff

And spread beneath a hell of death

O'er the white waters. I alit

On a great ship lightning-split,

And speeded hither on the sigh _720

Of one who gave an enemy

His plank, then plunged aside to die.


I sate beside a sage's bed,

And the lamp was burning red

Near the book where he had fed, _725

When a Dream with plumes of flame,

To his pillow hovering came,

And I knew it was the same

Which had kindled long ago

Pity, eloquence, and woe; _730

And the world awhile below

Wore the shade, its lustre made.

It has borne me here as fleet

As Desire's lightning feet:

I must ride it back ere morrow, _735

Or the sage will wake in sorrow.


On a poet's lips I slept

Dreaming like a love-adept

In the sound his breathing kept;

Nor seeks nor finds he mortal blisses, _740

But feeds on the aereal kisses

Of shapes that haunt thought's wildernesses.

He will watch from dawn to gloom

The lake-reflected sun illume

The yellow bees in the ivy-bloom, _745

Nor heed nor see, what things they be;

But from these create he can

Forms more real than living man,

Nurslings of immortality!

One of these awakened me, _750

And I sped to succour thee.


Behold'st thou not two shapes from the east and west

Come, as two doves to one beloved nest,

Twin nurslings of the all-sustaining air

On swift still wings glide down the atmosphere? _755

And, hark! their sweet sad voices! 'tis despair

Mingled with love and then dissolved in sound.


Canst thou speak, sister? all my words are drowned.


Their beauty gives me voice. See how they float

On their sustaining wings of skiey grain, _760

Orange and azure deepening into gold:

Their soft smiles light the air like a star's fire.


Hast thou beheld the form of Love?


As over wide dominions

I sped, like some swift cloud that wings the wide air's wildernesses,

That planet-crested shape swept by on lightning-braided pinions, _765

Scattering the liquid joy of life from his ambrosial tresses:

His footsteps paved the world with light; but as I passed 'twas fading,

And hollow Ruin yawned behind: great sages bound in madness,

And headless patriots, and pale youths who perished, unupbraiding,

Gleamed in the night. I wandered o'er, till thou, O King of sadness, _770

Turned by thy smile the worst I saw to recollected gladness.


Ah, sister! Desolation is a delicate thing:

It walks not on the earth, it floats not on the air,

But treads with lulling footstep, and fans with silent wing

The tender hopes which in their hearts the best and gentlest bear; _775

Who, soothed to false repose by the fanning plumes above

And the music-stirring motion of its soft and busy feet,

Dream visions of aereal joy, and call the monster, Love,

And wake, and find the shadow Pain, as he whom now we greet.


_774 lulling B; silent 1820.


Though Ruin now Love's shadow be, _780

Following him, destroyingly,

On Death's white and winged steed,

Which the fleetest cannot flee,

Trampling down both flower and weed,

Man and beast, and foul and fair, _785

Like a tempest through the air;

Thou shalt quell this horseman grim,

Woundless though in heart or limb.


Spirits! how know ye this shall be?


In the atmosphere we breathe, _790

As buds grow red when the snow-storms flee,

From Spring gathering up beneath,

Whose mild winds shake the elder-brake,

And the wandering herdsmen know

That the white-thorn soon will blow: _795

Wisdom, Justice, Love, and Peace,

When they struggle to increase,

Are to us as soft winds be

To shepherd boys, the prophecy

Which begins and ends in thee. _800


Where are the Spirits fled?


Only a sense

Remains of them, like the omnipotence

Of music, when the inspired voice and lute

Languish, ere yet the responses are mute,

Which through the deep and labyrinthine soul, _805

Like echoes through long caverns, wind and roll.


How fair these airborn shapes! and yet I feel

Most vain all hope but love; and thou art far,

Asia! who, when my being overflowed,

Wert like a golden chalice to bright wine _810

Which else had sunk into the thirsty dust.

All things are still: alas! how heavily

This quiet morning weighs upon my heart;

Though I should dream I could even sleep with grief

If slumber were denied not. I would fain _815

Be what it is my destiny to be,

The saviour and the strength of suffering man,

Or sink into the original gulf of things:

There is no agony, and no solace left;

Earth can console, Heaven can torment no more. _820


Hast thou forgotten one who watches thee

The cold dark night, and never sleeps but when

The shadow of thy spirit falls on her?


I said all hope was vain but love: thou lovest.


Deeply in truth; but the eastern star looks white, _825

And Asia waits in that far Indian vale,

The scene of her sad exile; rugged once

And desolate and frozen, like this ravine;

But now invested with fair flowers and herbs,

And haunted by sweet airs and sounds, which flow _830

Among the woods and waters, from the aether

Of her transforming presence, which would fade

If it were mingled not with thine. Farewell!