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English Poetry II: From Collins to Fitzgerald.
The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

513. To a Lady, with a Guitar

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,

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,

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

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,

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

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:

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,

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

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

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,

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,

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

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

Of the plains and of the skies,

Of the forests and the mountains,

And the many-voicéd fountains;

The clearest echoes of the hills,

The softest notes of falling rills,

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

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

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

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.