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

With a Guitar—To Jane

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,

Make the delighted spirit glow,

Till joy denies itself again,

And, too intense, is turned 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 tracked your steps, and served your will;

Now, in humbler, happier lot,

This is all remembered not;

And now, alas! the poor sprite is

Imprisoned, 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 to-day, a song to-morrow.

The artist who this idol wrought,

To echo all harmonious thought,

Felled a tree, while on the steep

The woods were in their winter sleep,

Rocked 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 enamoured 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-voicèd fountains;

The clearest echoes of the hills,

The softest notes of falling rills,

The melodies of birds and bees,

The murmuring of summer seas,

The 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 it highest, holiest tone

For our belovèd Jane alone.