Percy Shelley: Poems

The Daemon Of The World: Part 2

[Sections 8 and 9 of "Queen Mab" rehandled by Shelley. First printed]

in 1876 by Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B., by whose kind permission it is

here reproduced. See Editor's Introductory Note to "Queen Mab".

O happy Earth! reality of Heaven!

To which those restless powers that ceaselessly

Throng through the human universe aspire;

Thou consummation of all mortal hope! _295

Thou glorious prize of blindly-working will!

Whose rays, diffused throughout all space and time,

Verge to one point and blend for ever there:

Of purest spirits thou pure dwelling-place!

Where care and sorrow, impotence and crime, _300

Languor, disease, and ignorance dare not come:

O happy Earth, reality of Heaven!

Genius has seen thee in her passionate dreams,

And dim forebodings of thy loveliness,

Haunting the human heart, have there entwined _305

Those rooted hopes, that the proud Power of Evil

Shall not for ever on this fairest world

Shake pestilence and war, or that his slaves

With blasphemy for prayer, and human blood

For sacrifice, before his shrine for ever _310

In adoration bend, or Erebus

With all its banded fiends shall not uprise

To overwhelm in envy and revenge

The dauntless and the good, who dare to hurl

Defiance at his throne, girt tho' it be _315

With Death's omnipotence. Thou hast beheld

His empire, o'er the present and the past;

It was a desolate sight--now gaze on mine,

Futurity. Thou hoary giant Time,

Render thou up thy half-devoured babes,-- _320

And from the cradles of eternity,

Where millions lie lulled to their portioned sleep

By the deep murmuring stream of passing things,

Tear thou that gloomy shroud.--Spirit, behold

Thy glorious destiny!

The Spirit saw _325

The vast frame of the renovated world

Smile in the lap of Chaos, and the sense

Of hope thro' her fine texture did suffuse

Such varying glow, as summer evening casts

On undulating clouds and deepening lakes. _330

Like the vague sighings of a wind at even,

That wakes the wavelets of the slumbering sea

And dies on the creation of its breath,

And sinks and rises, fails and swells by fits,

Was the sweet stream of thought that with wild motion _335

Flowed o'er the Spirit's human sympathies.

The mighty tide of thought had paused awhile,

Which from the Daemon now like Ocean's stream

Again began to pour.--

To me is given

The wonders of the human world to keep- _340

Space, matter, time and mind--let the sight

Renew and strengthen all thy failing hope.

All things are recreated, and the flame

Of consentaneous love inspires all life:

The fertile bosom of the earth gives suck _345

To myriads, who still grow beneath her care,

Rewarding her with their pure perfectness:

The balmy breathings of the wind inhale

Her virtues, and diffuse them all abroad:

Health floats amid the gentle atmosphere, _350

Glows in the fruits, and mantles on the stream;

No storms deform the beaming brow of heaven,

Nor scatter in the freshness of its pride

The foliage of the undecaying trees;

But fruits are ever ripe, flowers ever fair, _355

And Autumn proudly bears her matron grace,

Kindling a flush on the fair cheek of Spring,

Whose virgin bloom beneath the ruddy fruit

Reflects its tint and blushes into love.

The habitable earth is full of bliss; _360

Those wastes of frozen billows that were hurled

By everlasting snow-storms round the poles,

Where matter dared not vegetate nor live,

But ceaseless frost round the vast solitude

Bound its broad zone of stillness, are unloosed; _365

And fragrant zephyrs there from spicy isles

Ruffle the placid ocean-deep, that rolls

Its broad, bright surges to the sloping sand,

Whose roar is wakened into echoings sweet

To murmur through the heaven-breathing groves _370

And melodise with man's blest nature there.

The vast tract of the parched and sandy waste

Now teems with countless rills and shady woods,

Corn-fields and pastures and white cottages;

And where the startled wilderness did hear _375

A savage conqueror stained in kindred blood,

Hymmng his victory, or the milder snake

Crushing the bones of some frail antelope

Within his brazen folds--the dewy lawn,

Offering sweet incense to the sunrise, smiles _380

To see a babe before his mother's door,

Share with the green and golden basilisk

That comes to lick his feet, his morning's meal.

Those trackless deeps, where many a weary sail

Has seen, above the illimitable plain, _385

Morning on night and night on morning rise,

Whilst still no land to greet the wanderer spread

Its shadowy mountains on the sunbright sea,

Where the loud roarings of the tempest-waves

So long have mingled with the gusty wind _390

In melancholy loneliness, and swept

The desert of those ocean solitudes,

But vocal to the sea-bird's harrowing shriek,

The bellowing monster, and the rushing storm,

Now to the sweet and many-mingling sounds _395

Of kindliest human impulses respond:

Those lonely realms bright garden-isles begem,

With lightsome clouds and shining seas between,

And fertile valleys resonant with bliss,

Whilst green woods overcanopy the wave, _400

Which like a toil-worn labourer leaps to shore,

To meet the kisses of the flowerets there.

Man chief perceives the change, his being notes

The gradual renovation, and defines

Each movement of its progress on his mind. _405

Man, where the gloom of the long polar night

Lowered o'er the snow-clad rocks and frozen soil,

Where scarce the hardiest herb that braves the frost

Basked in the moonlight's ineffectual glow,

Shrank with the plants, and darkened with the night; _410

Nor where the tropics bound the realms of day

With a broad belt of mingling cloud and flame,

Where blue mists through the unmoving atmosphere

Scattered the seeds of pestilence, and fed

Unnatural vegetation, where the land _415

Teemed with all earthquake, tempest and disease,

Was man a nobler being; slavery

Had crushed him to his country's blood-stained dust.

Even where the milder zone afforded man

A seeming shelter, yet contagion there, _420

Blighting his being with unnumbered ills,

Spread like a quenchless fire; nor truth availed

Till late to arrest its progress, or create

That peace which first in bloodless victory waved

Her snowy standard o'er this favoured clime: _425

There man was long the train-bearer of slaves,

The mimic of surrounding misery,

The jackal of ambition's lion-rage,

The bloodhound of religion's hungry zeal.

Here now the human being stands adorning _430

This loveliest earth with taintless body and mind;

Blest from his birth with all bland impulses,

Which gently in his noble bosom wake

All kindly passions and all pure desires.

Him, still from hope to hope the bliss pursuing, _435

Which from the exhaustless lore of human weal

Dawns on the virtuous mind, the thoughts that rise

In time-destroying infiniteness gift

With self-enshrined eternity, that mocks

The unprevailing hoariness of age, _440

And man, once fleeting o'er the transient scene

Swift as an unremembered vision, stands

Immortal upon earth: no longer now

He slays the beast that sports around his dwelling

And horribly devours its mangled flesh, _445

Or drinks its vital blood, which like a stream

Of poison thro' his fevered veins did flow

Feeding a plague that secretly consumed

His feeble frame, and kindling in his mind

Hatred, despair, and fear and vain belief, _450

The germs of misery, death, disease and crime.

No longer now the winged habitants,

That in the woods their sweet lives sing away,

Flee from the form of man; but gather round,

And prune their sunny feathers on the hands _455

Which little children stretch in friendly sport

Towards these dreadless partners of their play.

All things are void of terror: man has lost

His desolating privilege, and stands

An equal amidst equals: happiness _460

And science dawn though late upon the earth;

Peace cheers the mind, health renovates the frame;

Disease and pleasure cease to mingle here,

Reason and passion cease to combat there;

Whilst mind unfettered o'er the earth extends _465

Its all-subduing energies, and wields

The sceptre of a vast dominion there.

Mild is the slow necessity of death:

The tranquil spirit fails beneath its grasp,

Without a groan, almost without a fear, _470

Resigned in peace to the necessity,

Calm as a voyager to some distant land,

And full of wonder, full of hope as he.

The deadly germs of languor and disease

Waste in the human frame, and Nature gifts _475

With choicest boons her human worshippers.

How vigorous now the athletic form of age!

How clear its open and unwrinkled brow!

Where neither avarice, cunning, pride, or care,

Had stamped the seal of grey deformity _480

On all the mingling lineaments of time.

How lovely the intrepid front of youth!

How sweet the smiles of taintless infancy.

Within the massy prison's mouldering courts,

Fearless and free the ruddy children play, _485

Weaving gay chaplets for their innocent brows

With the green ivy and the red wall-flower,

That mock the dungeon's unavailing gloom;

The ponderous chains, and gratings of strong iron,

There rust amid the accumulated ruins _490

Now mingling slowly with their native earth:

There the broad beam of day, which feebly once

Lighted the cheek of lean captivity

With a pale and sickly glare, now freely shines

On the pure smiles of infant playfulness: _495

No more the shuddering voice of hoarse despair

Peals through the echoing vaults, but soothing notes

Of ivy-fingered winds and gladsome birds

And merriment are resonant around.

The fanes of Fear and Falsehood hear no more _500

The voice that once waked multitudes to war

Thundering thro' all their aisles: but now respond

To the death dirge of the melancholy wind:

It were a sight of awfulness to see

The works of faith and slavery, so vast, _505

So sumptuous, yet withal so perishing!

Even as the corpse that rests beneath their wall.

A thousand mourners deck the pomp of death

To-day, the breathing marble glows above

To decorate its memory, and tongues _510

Are busy of its life: to-morrow, worms

In silence and in darkness seize their prey.

These ruins soon leave not a wreck behind:

Their elements, wide-scattered o'er the globe,

To happier shapes are moulded, and become _515

Ministrant to all blissful impulses:

Thus human things are perfected, and earth,

Even as a child beneath its mother's love,

Is strengthened in all excellence, and grows

Fairer and nobler with each passing year. _520

Now Time his dusky pennons o'er the scene

Closes in steadfast darkness, and the past

Fades from our charmed sight. My task is done:

Thy lore is learned. Earth's wonders are thine own,

With all the fear and all the hope they bring. _525

My spells are past: the present now recurs.

Ah me! a pathless wilderness remains

Yet unsubdued by man's reclaiming hand.

Yet, human Spirit, bravely hold thy course,

Let virtue teach thee firmly to pursue _530

The gradual paths of an aspiring change:

For birth and life and death, and that strange state

Before the naked powers that thro' the world

Wander like winds have found a human home,

All tend to perfect happiness, and urge _535

The restless wheels of being on their way,

Whose flashing spokes, instinct with infinite life,

Bicker and burn to gain their destined goal:

For birth but wakes the universal mind

Whose mighty streams might else in silence flow _540

Thro' the vast world, to individual sense

Of outward shows, whose unexperienced shape

New modes of passion to its frame may lend;

Life is its state of action, and the store

Of all events is aggregated there _545

That variegate the eternal universe;

Death is a gate of dreariness and gloom,

That leads to azure isles and beaming skies

And happy regions of eternal hope.

Therefore, O Spirit! fearlessly bear on: _550

Though storms may break the primrose on its stalk,

Though frosts may blight the freshness of its bloom,

Yet spring's awakening breath will woo the earth,

To feed with kindliest dews its favourite flower,

That blooms in mossy banks and darksome glens, _555

Lighting the green wood with its sunny smile.

Fear not then, Spirit, death's disrobing hand,

So welcome when the tyrant is awake,

So welcome when the bigot's hell-torch flares;

'Tis but the voyage of a darksome hour, _560

The transient gulf-dream of a startling sleep.

For what thou art shall perish utterly,

But what is thine may never cease to be;

Death is no foe to virtue: earth has seen

Love's brightest roses on the scaffold bloom, _565

Mingling with freedom's fadeless laurels there,

And presaging the truth of visioned bliss.

Are there not hopes within thee, which this scene

Of linked and gradual being has confirmed?

Hopes that not vainly thou, and living fires _570

Of mind as radiant and as pure as thou,

Have shone upon the paths of men--return,

Surpassing Spirit, to that world, where thou

Art destined an eternal war to wage

With tyranny and falsehood, and uproot _575

The germs of misery from the human heart.

Thine is the hand whose piety would soothe

The thorny pillow of unhappy crime,

Whose impotence an easy pardon gains,

Watching its wanderings as a friend's disease: _580

Thine is the brow whose mildness would defy

Its fiercest rage, and brave its sternest will,

When fenced by power and master of the world.

Thou art sincere and good; of resolute mind,

Free from heart-withering custom's cold control, _585

Of passion lofty, pure and unsubdued.

Earth's pride and meanness could not vanquish thee,

And therefore art thou worthy of the boon

Which thou hast now received: virtue shall keep

Thy footsteps in the path that thou hast trod, _590

And many days of beaming hope shall bless

Thy spotless life of sweet and sacred love.

Go, happy one, and give that bosom joy

Whose sleepless spirit waits to catch

Light, life and rapture from thy smile. _595

The Daemon called its winged ministers.

Speechless with bliss the Spirit mounts the car,

That rolled beside the crystal battlement,

Bending her beamy eyes in thankfulness.

The burning wheels inflame _600

The steep descent of Heaven's untrodden way.

Fast and far the chariot flew:

The mighty globes that rolled

Around the gate of the Eternal Fane

Lessened by slow degrees, and soon appeared _605

Such tiny twinklers as the planet orbs

That ministering on the solar power

With borrowed light pursued their narrower way.

Earth floated then below:

The chariot paused a moment; _610

The Spirit then descended:

And from the earth departing

The shadows with swift wings

Speeded like thought upon the light of Heaven.

The Body and the Soul united then, _615

A gentle start convulsed Ianthe's frame:

Her veiny eyelids quietly unclosed;

Moveless awhile the dark blue orbs remained:

She looked around in wonder and beheld

Henry, who kneeled in silence by her couch, _620

Watching her sleep with looks of speechless love,

And the bright beaming stars

That through the casement shone.


_87 Regarding cj. A.C. Bradley.)