Home  »  The Book of Georgian Verse  »  Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)

William Stanley Braithwaite, ed. The Book of Georgian Verse. 1909.

Lines Written among the Euganean Hills

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,

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,

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;

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

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

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,

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:

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

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

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,

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;

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

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.

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

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

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,

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,

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

The waveless plain of Lombardy,

Bounded by the vaporous air,

Islanded by cities fair;

Underneath Day’s azure eyes

Ocean’s nursling, Venice lies,

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,

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,

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;

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

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.

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

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

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,

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

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

Sepulchres, where human forms,

Like pollution-nourished worms

To the corpse of greatness cling,

Murdered, and now mouldering:

But if Freedom should awake

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,

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!—

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

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,

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,

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

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

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

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;

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,

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.

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,

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

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

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

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:

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.

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!’

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,

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,

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.

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:

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

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,

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,

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

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:

’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

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

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

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

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;

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,

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

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

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,

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

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

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,

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

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

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

Under which the bright sea heaves;

While each breathless interval

In their whisperings musical

The inspired soul supplies

With its own deep melodies,

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

Every sprite beneath the moon

Would repent its envy vain,

And the earth grow young again.