Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. V. Nature
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume V. Nature.  1904.
 
I. Nature’s Influence
Earth, Ocean, Air
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
 
From “Alastor”; Preface

   “Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, quærebam quid amarem, amans amare.”—Confessions of Saint Augustine.

  EARTH, ocean, air, belovèd brotherhood!
If our great mother has imbued my soul
With aught of natural piety to feel
Your love, and recompense the boon with mine;
If dewy morn, and odorous noon, and even,        5
With sunset and its gorgeous ministers,
And solemn midnight’s tingling silentness;
If autumn’s hollow sighs in the sere wood,
And winter robing with pure snow and crowns
Of starry ice the gray grass and bare boughs;        10
If spring’s voluptuous pantings when she breathes
Her first sweet kisses, have been dear to me;
If no bright bird, insect, or gentle beast
I consciously have injured, but still loved
And cherished these my kindred; then forgive        15
This boast, belovèd brethren, and withdraw
No portion of your wonted favor now!
 
  Mother of this unfathomable world!
Favor my solemn song, for I have loved
Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched        20
Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps,
And my heart ever gazes on the depth
Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed
In charnels and on coffins, where black death
Keeps record of the trophies won from thee,        25
Hoping to still these obstinate questionings
Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost,
Thy messenger, to render up the tale
Of what we are. In lone and silent hours,
When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness,        30
Like an inspired and desperate alchemist
Staking his very life on some dark hope,
Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks
With my most innocent love, until strange tears
Uniting with those breathless kisses, made        35
Such magic as compels the charmèd night
To render up thy charge: and, tho’ ne’er yet
Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary,
Enough from incommunicable dream,
And twilight phantasms, and deep noonday thought,        40
Has shone within me, that serenely now
And moveless, as a long-forgotten lyre
Suspended in a solitary dome
Of some mysterious and deserted fane,
I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain        45
May modulate with murmurs of the air,
And motions of the forests and the sea
And voice of living beings, and woven hymns
Of night and day, and the deep heart of man.
 
 
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