Verse > Anthologies > William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. > The Book of Georgian Verse
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William Stanley Braithwaite, ed.  The Book of Georgian Verse.  1909.
 
Lines Written among the Euganean Hills
By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
 
MANY a green isle needs must be
In the deep wide sea of Misery,
Or the mariner, worn and wan,
Never thus could voyage on
Day and night, and night and day,        5
Drifting on his weary way,
With the solid darkness black
Closing round his vessel’s track;
Whilst above the sunless sky,
Big with clouds, hangs heavily,        10
And behind the tempest fleet
Hurries on with lightning feet,
Riving sail, and cord, and plank,
Till the ship has almost drank
Death from the o’er-brimming deep;        15
And sinks down, down, like that sleep
When the dreamer seems to be
Weltering through eternity;
And the dim low line before
Of a dark and distant shore        20
Still recedes, as ever still
Longing with divided will,
But no power to seek or shun,
He is ever drifted on
O’er the unreposing wave        25
To the haven of the grave.
What, if there no friends will greet;
What, if there no heart will meet
His with love’s impatient beat;
Wander wheresoe’er he may,        30
Can he dream before that day
To find refuge from distress
In friendship’s smile, in love’s caress?
Then ’twill wreak him little woe
Whether such there be or no:        35
Senseless is the breast, and cold,
Which relenting love would fold;
Bloodless are the veins and chill
Which the pulse of pain did fill;
Every little living nerve        40
That from bitter words did swerve
Round the tortured lips and brow,
Are like sapless leaflets now
Frozen upon December’s bough.
 
On the beach of a northern sea        45
Which tempests shake eternally,
As once the wretch there lay to sleep,
Lies a solitary heap,
One white skull and seven dry bones,
On the margin of the stones,        50
Where a few gray rushes stand,
Boundaries of the sea and land:
Nor is heard one voice of wail
But the sea-mews, as they sail
O’er the billows of the gale;        55
Or the whirlwind up and down
Howling, like a slaughtered town,
When a king in glory rides
Through the pomp of fratricides:
Those unburied bones around        60
There is many a mournful sound;
There is no lament for him,
Like a sunless vapour, dim,
Who once clothed with life and thought
What now moves nor murmurs not.        65
 
Ay, many flowering islands lie
In the waters of wide Agony:
To such a one this morn was led,
My bark by soft winds piloted:
’Mid the mountains Euganean        70
I stood listening to the pæan,
With which the legioned rooks did hail
The sun’s uprise majestical;
Gathering round with wings all hoar,
Thro’ the dewy mist they soar        75
Like gray shades, till the eastern heaven
Bursts, and then, as clouds of even,
Flecked with fire and azure, lie
In the unfathomable sky,
So their plumes of purple grain,        80
Starred with drops of golden rain,
Gleam above the sunlight woods,
As in silent multitudes
On the morning’s fitful gale
Thro’ the broken mist they sail,        85
And the vapours cloven and gleaming
Follow, down the dark steep streaming,
Till all is bright, and clear, and still,
Round the solitary hill.
 
Beneath is spread like a green sea        90
The waveless plain of Lombardy,
Bounded by the vaporous air,
Islanded by cities fair;
Underneath Day’s azure eyes
Ocean’s nursling, Venice lies,        95
A peopled labyrinth of walls,
Amphitrite’s destined halls,
Which her hoary sire now paves
With his blue and beaming waves.
Lo! the sun upsprings behind,        100
Broad, red, radiant, half reclined
On the level quivering line
Of the waters crystalline;
And before that chasm of light,
As within a furnace bright,        105
Column, tower, and dome, and spire,
Shine like obelisks of fire,
Pointing with inconstant motion
From the altar of dark ocean
To the sapphire-tinted skies;        110
As the flames of sacrifice
From the marble shrines did rise,
As to pierce the dome of gold
Where Apollo spoke of old.
 
Sun-girt City, thou hast been        115
Ocean’s child, and then his queen;
Now is come a darker day,
And thou soon must be his grey,
If the power that raised thee here
Hallow so thy watery bier.        120
A less drear ruin then than now,
With thy conquest-branded brow
Stooping to the slave of slaves
From thy throne, among the waves
Wilt thou be, when the sea-mew        125
Flies, as once before it flew,
O’er thine isles depopulate,
And all is in its ancient state,
Save where many a palace gate
With green sea-flowers overgrown        130
Like a rock of ocean’s own,
Topples o’er the abandoned sea
As the tides change sullenly.
The fisher on his watery way,
Wandering at the close of day,        135
Will spread his sail and seize his oar
Till he pass the gloomy shore,
Lest thy dead should, from their sleep
Bursting o’er the starlight deep,
Lead a rapid masque of death        140
O’er the waters of his path.
 
Those who alone thy towers behold
Quivering through aërial gold,
As I now behold them here,
Would imagine not they were        145
Sepulchres, where human forms,
Like pollution-nourished worms
To the corpse of greatness cling,
Murdered, and now mouldering:
But if Freedom should awake        150
In her omnipotence, and shake
From the Celtic Anarch’s hold
All the keys of dungeons cold,
Where a hundred cities lie
Chained like thee, ingloriously,        155
Thou and all thy sister band
Might adorn this sunny land,
Twining memories of old time
With new virtues more sublime;
If not, perish thou and they!—        160
Clouds which stain truth’s rising day
By her sun consumed away—
Earth can spare ye: while like flowers,
In the waste of years and hours,
From your dust new nations spring        165
With more kindly blossoming.
 
Perish—let there only be
Floating o’er thy hearthless sea
As the garment of thy sky
Clothes the world immortally,        170
One remembrance, more sublime
Than the tattered pall of time,
Which scarce hides thy visage wan;—
That a tempest-cleaving Swan
Of the songs of Albion,        175
Driven from his ancestral streams
By the might of evil dreams,
Found a nest in thee; and Ocean
Welcomed him with such emotion
That its joy grew his, and sprung        180
From his lips like music flung
O’er a mighty thunder-fit
Chastening terror:—what though yet
Poesy’s unfailing River,
Which thro’ Albion winds for ever        185
Lashing with melodious wave
Many a sacred Poet’s grave,
Mourn its latest nursling fled?
What though thou with all thy dead
Scarce can for this fame repay        190
Aught thine own? oh, rather say,
Though thy sins and slaveries foul
Overcloud a sunlike soul?—
As the ghost of Homer clings
Round Scamander’s wasting springs;        195
As divinest Shakespeare’s might
Fill Avon and the world with light
Like omniscient power which he
Imaged ’mid mortality;
As the love from Petrarch’s urn,        200
Yet amid yon hills doth burn,
A quenchless lamp by which the heart
Sees things unearthly;—so thou art
Mighty spirit—so shall be
The City that did refuge thee.        205
 
Lo, the sun floats up the sky
Like thought-wingèd Liberty,
Till the universal light
Seems to level plain and height;
From the sea a mist has spread,        210
And the beams of morn lie dead
On the towers of Venice now,
Like its glory long ago.
By the skirts of that grey cloud
Many-domèd Padua proud        215
Stands, a peopled solitude,
’Mid the harvest-shining plain,
Where the peasant heaps his grain
In the garner of his foe,
And the milk-white oxen slow        220
With the purple vintage strain,
Heaped upon the creaking wain,
That the brutal Celt may swill
Drunken sleep with savage will;
And the sickle to the sword        225
Lies unchanged, though many a lord,
Like a weed whose shade is poison,
Overgrows this region’s foison,
Sheaves of whom are ripe to come
To destruction’s harvest home:        230
Men must reap the things they sow,
Force from force must ever flow,
Or worse; but ’tis a bitter woe
That love or reason cannot change
The despot’s rage, the slave’s revenge.        235
Padua, thou within whose walls
Those mute guests at festivals,
Son and Mother, Death and Sin,
Played at dice for Ezzelin,
Till Death cried, ‘I win, I win!’        240
And Sin cursed to lose the wager,
But Death promised, to assuage her,
That he would petition for
Her to be made Vice-Emperor,
When the destined years were o’er,        245
Over all between the Po
And the eastern Alpine snow
Under the mighty Austrian.
Sin smiled so as Sin only can,
And since that time, ay, long before,        250
Both have ruled from shore to shore,
That incestuous pair, who follow
Tyrants as the sun the swallow,
As Repentance follows Crime,
And as changes follow Time.        255
 
In thine halls the lamp of learning,
Padua, now no more is burning;
Like a meteor, whose wild way
Is lost over the grave of day,
It gleams betrayed and to betray:        260
Once remotest nations came
To adore that sacred flame,
When it lit not many a hearth
On this cold and gloomy earth:
Now new fires from antique light        265
Spring beneath the wide world’s might;
But their spark lies dead in thee,
Trampled out by tyranny.
As the Norway woodman quells,
In the depth of piny dells,        270
One light flame among the brakes,
While the boundless forest shakes,
And its mighty trunks are torn
By the fire thus lowly born:
The spark beneath his feet is dead,        275
He starts to see the flames it fed
Howling through the darkened sky
With a myriad tongues victoriously,
And sinks down in fear: so thou,
O Tyranny, beholdest now        280
Light around thee, and thou hearest
The loud flames ascend, and fearest:
Grovel on the earth; ay, hide
In the dust thy purple pride!
 
Noon descends around me now:        285
’Tis the noon of autumn’s glow,
When a soft and purple mist
Like a vaporous amethyst,
Or an air-dissolvèd star
Mingling light and fragrance, far        290
From the curved horizon’s bound
To the point of Heaven’s profound,
Fills the overflowing sky;
And the plains that silent lie
Underneath, the leaves unsodden        295
Where the infant Frost has trodden
With his morning-wingèd feet,
Whose bright print is gleaming yet;
And the red and golden vines,
Piercing with their trellised lines        300
The rough, dark-skirted wilderness;
The dun and bladed grass no less,
Pointing from this hoary tower
In the windless air; the flower
Glimmering at my feet; the line        305
Of the olive-sandalled Apennine
In the south dimly islanded;
And the Alps, whose snows are spread
High between the clouds and sun;
And of living things each one;        310
And my spirit which so long
Darkened this swift stream of song,
Interpenetrated lie
By the glory of the sky:
Be it love, light, harmony,        315
Odour, or the soul of all
Which from Heaven like dew doth fall,
Or the mind which feeds this verse
Peopling the lone universe.
 
Noon descends, and after noon        320
Autumn’s evening meets me soon,
Leading the infantine moon,
And that one star, which to her
Almost seems to minister
Half the crimson light she brings        325
From the sunset’s radiant springs:
And the soft dreams of the morn
(Which like wingèd winds had borne
To that silent isle, which lies
’Mid remembered agonies,        330
The frail bark of this lone being)
Pass, to other sufferers fleeing,
And its ancient pilot, Pain,
Sits beside the helm again.
 
Other flowering isles must be        335
In the sea of Life and Agony:
Other spirits float and flee
O’er that gulf: even now, perhaps,
On some rock the wild wave wraps,
With folded wings they waiting sit        340
For my bark, to pilot it
To some calm and blooming cove,
Where for me, and those I love,
May a windless bower be built,
Far from passion, pain, and guilt,        345
In a dell ’mid lawny hills
Which the wild sea-murmur fills,
And soft sunshine, and the sound
Of old forests echoing round,
And the light and smell divine        350
Of all flowers that breathe and shine:
We may live so happy there,
That the Spirits of the Air,
Envying us, may even entice
To our healing Paradise        355
The polluting multitude;
But their rage would be subdued
By that clime divine and calm,
And the winds whose wings rain balm
On the uplifted soul, and leaves        360
Under which the bright sea heaves;
While each breathless interval
In their whisperings musical
The inspired soul supplies
With its own deep melodies,        365
And the love which heals all strife
Circling, like the breath of life,
All things in that sweet abode
With its own mild brotherhood:
They, not it, would change; and soon        370
Every sprite beneath the moon
Would repent its envy vain,
And the earth grow young again.
 
 
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