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   English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
513. To a Lady, with a Guitar
 
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
 
 
ARIEL to Miranda:—Take
This slave of music, for the sake
Of him, who is the slave of thee;
And teach it all the harmony
In which thou canst, and only thou,        5
Make the delighted spirit glow,
Till joy denies itself again
And, too intense, is turn’d to pain.
For by permission and command
Of thine own Prince Ferdinand,        10
Poor Ariel sends this silent token
Of more than ever can be spoken;
Your guardian spirit, Ariel, who
From life to life must still pursue
Your happiness, for thus alone        15
Can Ariel ever find his own;
From Prospero’s enchanted cell,
As the mighty verses tell,
To the throne of Naples he
Lit you o’er the trackless sea,        20
Flitting on, your prow before,
Like a living meteor.
When you die, the silent Moon
In her interlunar swoon
Is not sadder in her cell        25
Than deserted Ariel;
When you live again on earth,
Like an unseen Star of birth
Ariel guides you o’er the sea
Of life from your nativity:        30
Many changes have been run
Since Ferdinand and you begun
Your course of love, and Ariel still
Has track’d your steps and served your will.
Now in humbler, happier lot,        35
This is all remember’d not;
And now, alas! the poor sprite is
Imprison’d for some fault of his
In a body like a grave—
From you he only dares to crave        40
For his service and his sorrow
A smile today, a song tomorrow.
 
The artist who this idol wrought
To echo all harmonious thought,
Fell’d a tree, while on the steep        45
The woods were in their winter sleep,
Rock’d in that repose divine
On the wind-swept Apennine;
And dreaming, some of autumn past,
And some of spring approaching fast,        50
And some of April buds and showers,
And some of songs in July bowers,
And all of love: And so this tree,—
Oh that such our death may be!—
Died in sleep, and felt no pain,        55
To live in happier form again:
From which, beneath Heaven’s fairest star,
The artist wrought this loved Guitar;
And taught it justly to reply
To all who question skilfully        60
In language gentle as thine own;
Whispering in enamour’d tone
Sweet oracles of woods and dells,
And summer winds in sylvan cells;
—For it had learnt all harmonies        65
Of the plains and of the skies,
Of the forests and the mountains,
And the many-voice´d fountains;
The clearest echoes of the hills,
The softest notes of falling rills,        70
The melodies of birds and bees,
The murmuring of summer seas,
And pattering rain, and breathing dew
And airs of evening; and it knew
That seldom-heard mysterious sound        75
Which, driven on its diurnal round,
As it floats through boundless day,
Our world enkindles on its way:
—All this it knows, but will not tell
To those who cannot question well        80
The spirit that inhabits it;
It talks according to the wit
Of its companions; and no more
Is heard than has been felt before
By those who tempt it to betray        85
These secrets of an elder day.
But, sweetly as its answers will
Flatter hands of perfect skill,
It keeps its highest holiest tone
For our beloved Friend alone.        90
 

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