Page images
PDF
EPUB

In SHELLEY'S Queen Mab, we have this beautiful apostrophe to Night:

[ocr errors]

How beautiful this Night! the balmiest sigh

Which vernal zephyrs breathe in morning's ear
Were discord to the speaking quietude

[graphic]

That

wraps this moveless scene.
Studded with stars unutterably bright,

Through which the moon's unclouded splendour rolls,
Seems like a canopy which love has spread,
To curtain her sleeping world.

Heaven's ebon arch,

Among the most admired productions of Shelley are the lines to The Cloud, and the Ode to the Skylark. Judge of the rich quality of these compositions by the following extracts :

The Cloud:

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers
From the seas and the streams;

I bear light shade for the leaves, when laid
In their noon-day dreams.

From my wings are shaken the dews that waken

The sweet birds every one,

When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
As she dances about the sun.

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

And whiten the green plains under;
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

*

*

*

That orbed maiden, with white fire laden,
Whom mortals call the moon,

Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor
By the midnight breezes strewn ;

And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,

Which only the angels hear,

May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof,

The stars peep behind her and peer;

And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,

Like a swarm of golden bees,

When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,

Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the sun's throne with the burning zone,
And the moon's with a girdle of pearl;

The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.

*

*

I am the daughter of earth and water,

And the nursling of the sky;

I

pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.

For after the rain, when with never a stain

The pavilion of heaven is bare,

And the winds and sunbeams, with their convex gleams,

Build up the blue dome of air,

I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,

And out of the caverns of rain,

Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

To a Skylark:

Hail to thee, blithe spirit! bird thou never wert,
That from heaven, or near it, pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art!

Higher still and higher, from the earth thou springest
Like a cloud of fire; the blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring, ever singest.
In the golden lightning of the sunken sun,

O'er which clouds are brightening, thou dost float and run,
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.
The pale purple even melts around thy flight;
Like a star of heaven in the broad daylight,
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight.

*

*

*

All the earth and air with thy voice is loud,
As, when night is bare, from one lonely cloud

The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.
What thou art we know not; what is most like thee?
From rainbow-clouds there flow not drops so bright to see,
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

Like a poet hidden in the light of thought,
Singing hymns unbidden, till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:
Like a high-born maiden in a palace-tower,
Soothing her love-laden soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:
Like a glow-worm golden in a dell of dew,
Scattering unbeholden its aërial hue

Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view.

*

Teach us, sprite or bird, what sweet thoughts are thine:
I have never heard praise of love or wine

*

That panted forth a rapture so divine.

Chorus hymeneal, or triumphant chant,

Matched with thine would be all but an empty vaunt-
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.

*

*

We look before and after, and pine for what is not;
Our sincerest laughter with some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.

[ocr errors]

*

poems :

*

*

Teach me half the gladness that thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness from my lips would flow,
That the world should listen then, as I am listening now.

Note the brilliant fancy gleaming throughout these stanzas: few poets, if any, since Spenser, have possessed such an exuberance of beautiful imagery as Shelley and Keats. Had they not died so young, it is impossible to conjecture what wonders they might have achieved in the world of song.

*

Now let us gather a few fair flowers from Shelley's various

Music:

Music, when soft voices die,
Vibrates in the memory;
Odours, when sweet violets sicken,
Live within the sense they quicken.
Rose-leaves, when the rose is dead,
Are heaped for the beloved's bed;
And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,
Love itself shall slumber on.

Sensitive Plant :

Autumn :

A Sensitive Plant in a garden grew,

And the young winds fed it with silver dew;
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night,
And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere:

And each flower and herb on earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

But none ever trembled and panted with bliss,

In the garden, the field, or the wilderness,
Like a doe in the noontide with love's sweet want,
As the companionless Sensitive Plant.

The warm sun is failing, the bleak wind is wailing,
The bare boughs are sighing, the pale flowers are dying,
And the year

On the earth her death-bed, in a shroud of leaves dead,

Is lying;

« PreviousContinue »