Verse > Anthologies > T. H. Ward, ed. > The English Poets > Vol. IV. Wordsworth to Rossetti
Thomas Humphry Ward, ed.  The English Poets.  1880–1918.
Vol. IV. The Nineteenth Century: Wordsworth to Rossetti
Extract from Epipsychidion
By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
(See full text.)

Verses Addressed to the Noble and Unfortunate Lady Emilia Viviani, Now Imprisoned in the Convent of St. Anne, Pisa

SPOUSE! sister! angel! pilot of the fate
Whose course has been so starless! O too late
Beloved, O too soon adored, by me!
For in the fields of immortality
My spirit should at first have worshipped thine,        5
A divine presence in a place divine;
Or should have moved beside it on this earth,
A shadow of that substance, from its birth:
But not as now.—I love thee; yes, I feel
That on the fountain of my heart a seal        10
Is set, to keep its waters pure and bright
For thee, since in those tears thou hast delight.
We—are we not formed, as notes of music are,
For one another, though dissimilar?
Such difference without discord as can make        15
Those sweetest sounds in which all spirits shake,
As trembling leaves in a continuous air.
Thy wisdom speaks in me, and bids me dare
Beacon the rocks on which high hearts are wrecked.
I never was attached to that great sect        20
Whose doctrine is that each one should select
Out of the crowd a mistress or a friend,
And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
To cold oblivion; though it is in the code
Of modern morals, and the beaten road        25
Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread
Who travel to their home among the dead
By the broad highway of the world, and so
With one chained friend, perhaps a jealous foe,
The dreariest and the longest journey go.        30
True love in this differs from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take away.
Love is like understanding, that grows bright,
Gazing on many truths; ’tis like thy light,
Imagination, which from earth and sky,        35
And from the depths of human fantasy,
As from a thousand prisms and mirrors, fills
The universe with glorious beams, and kills
Error the worm with many a sunlike arrow
Of its reverberated lightning. Narrow        40
The heart that loves, the brain that contemplates,
The life that wears, the spirit that creates,
One object and one form, and builds thereby
A sepulchre for its eternity!
Mind from its object differs most in this:        45
Evil from good; misery from happiness;
The baser from the nobler; the impure
And frail from what is clear and must endure.
If you divide suffering and dross, you may
Diminish till it is consumed away;        50
If you divide pleasure and love and thought,
Each part exceeds the whole; and we know not
How much, while any yet remains unshared,
Of pleasure may be gained, of sorrow spared.
This truth is that deep well whence sages draw        55
The unenvied light of hope; the eternal law
By which those live to whom this world of life
Is as a garden ravaged, and whose strife
Tills for the promise of a later birth
The wilderness of this elysian earth.
*        *        *        *        *
The day is come, and thou wilt fly with me!
To whatsoe’er of dull mortality
Is mine remain a vestal sister still;
To the intense, the deep, the imperishable—
Not mine, but me—henceforth be thou united,        65
Even as a bride, delighting and delighted.
The hour is come:—the destined star has risen
Which shall descend upon a vacant prison.
The walls are high, the gates are strong, thick set
The sentinels—but true Love never yet        70
Was thus constrained. It overleaps all fence:
Like lightning, with invisible violence
Piercing its continents; like heaven’s free breath,
Which he who grasps can hold not; liker Death,
Who rides upon a thought, and makes his way        75
Through temple, tower, and palace, and the array
Of arms. More strength has Love than he or they;
For it can burst his charnel, and make free
The limbs in chains, the heart in agony,
The soul in dust and chaos.
A ship is floating in the harbour now;
A wind is hovering o’er the mountain’s brow;
There is a path on the sea’s azure floor,—
No keel has ever ploughed that path before;
The halcyons brood around the foamless isles;        85
The treacherous ocean has forsworn its wiles;
The merry mariners are bold and free:
Say, my heart’s sister, wilt thou sail with me?
Our bark is as an albatross whose nest
Is a far Eden of the purple east;        90
And we between her wings will sit, while Night
And Day and Storm and Calm pursue their flight,
Our ministers, along the boundless sea,
Treading each other’s heels, unheededly.
It is an isle under Ionian skies,        95
Beautiful as a wreck of paradise;
And, for the harbours are not safe and good,
This land would have remained a solitude
But for some pastoral people native there,
Who from the elysian, clear, and golden air        100
Draw the last spirit of the age of gold,—
Simple and spirited, innocent and bold.
The blue Ægean girds this chosen home,
With ever-changing sound and light and foam
Kissing the sifted sands and caverns hoar;        105
And all the winds wandering along the shore
Undulate with the undulating tide.
There are thick woods where sylvan forms abide;
And many a fountain, rivulet, and pond,
As clear as elemental diamond,        110
Or serene morning air. And far beyond,
The mossy tracks made by the goats and deer
(Which the rough shepherd treads but once a year)
Pierce into glades, caverns, and bowers, and halls
Built round with ivy, which the waterfalls        115
Illumining, with sound that never fails,
Accompany the noonday nightingales;
And all the place is peopled with sweet airs.
The light clear element which the isle wears
Is heavy with the scent of lemon-flowers,        120
Which floats like mist laden with unseen showers,
And falls upon the eyelids like faint sleep;
And from the moss violets and jonquils peep,
And dart their arrowy odour through the brain,
Till you might faint with that delicious pain.        125
And every motion, odour, beam, and tone,
With that deep music is in unison:
Which is a soul within the soul,—they seem
Like echoes of an antenatal dream.
It is an isle ’twixt heaven, air, earth, and sea,        130
Cradled, and hung in clear tranquillity;
Bright as that wandering Eden, Lucifer,
Washed by the soft blue oceans of young air.
It is a favoured place. Famine or blight,
Pestilence, war, and earthquake, never light        135
Upon its mountain-peaks; blind vultures, they
Sail onward far upon their fatal way.
The wingèd storms, chaunting their thunder-psalm
To other lands, leave azure chasms of calm
Over this isle, or weep themselves in dew,        140
From which its fields and woods ever renew
Their green and golden immortality.
And from the sea there rise, and from the sky
There fall, clear exhalations, soft and bright,
Veil after veil, each hiding some delight:        145
Which sun or moon or zephyr draw aside,
Till the isle’s beauty, like a naked bride
Glowing at once with love and loveliness,
Blushes and trembles at its own excess.
Yet, like a buried lamp, a soul no less        150
Burns in the heart of this delicious isle,
An atom of the Eternal, whose own smile
Unfolds itself, and may be felt not seen
O’er the grey rocks, blue waves, and forests green,
Filling their bare and void interstices.
*        *        *        *        *
This isle and house are mine, and I have vowed
Thee to be lady of the solitude.
And I have fitted up some chambers there
Looking towards the golden eastern air,
And level with the living winds which flow        160
Like waves above the living waves below.
I have sent books and music there, and all
Those instruments with which high spirits call
The future from its cradle, and the past
Out of its grave, and make the present last        165
In thoughts and joys which sleep but cannot die,
Folded within their own eternity.
Our simple life wants little, and true taste
Hires not the pale drudge Luxury to waste
The scene it would adorn; and therefore still        170
Nature with all her children haunts the hill.
The ringdove in the embowering ivy yet
Keeps up her love-lament; and the owls flit
Round the evening tower; and the young stars glance
Between the quick bats in their twilight dance;        175
The spotted deer bask in the fresh moonlight
Before our gate; and the slow silent night
Is measured by the pants of their calm sleep.
Be this our home in life; and, when years heap
Their withered hours like leaves on our decay,        180
Let us become the overhanging day,
The living soul, of this elysian isle—
Conscious, inseparable, one. Meanwhile
We two will rise and sit and walk together
Under the roof of blue Ionian weather;        185
And wander in the meadows; or ascend
The mossy mountains, where the blue heavens bend
With lightest winds to touch their paramour;
Or linger where the pebble-paven shore
Under the quick faint kisses of the sea        190
Trembles and sparkles as with ecstasy;—
Possessing and possessed by all that is
Within that calm circumference of bliss,
And by each other, till to love and live
Be one;—or at the noontide hour arrive        195
Where some old cavern hoar seems yet to keep
The moonlight of the expired Night asleep,
Through which the awakened Day can never peep;
A veil for our seclusion, close as Night’s,
Where secure sleep may kill thine innocent lights—        200
Sleep, the fresh dew of languid love, the rain
Whose drops quench kisses till they burn again.
And we will talk, until thought’s melody
Become too sweet for utterance, and it die
In words, to live again in looks, which dart        205
With thrilling tone into the voiceless heart,
Harmonising silence without a sound.
Our breath shall intermix, our bosoms bound,
And our veins beat together; and our lips,
With other eloquence than words, eclipse        210
The soul that burns between them; and the wells
Which boil under our being’s inmost cells,
The fountains of our deepest life, shall be
Confused in passion’s golden purity,
As mountain-springs under the morning sun.        215
We shall become the same, we shall be one
Spirit within two frames, oh wherefore two?
One passion in twin hearts, which grows and grew
Till, like two meteors of expanding flame,
Those spheres instinct with it become the same,        220
Touch, mingle, are transfigured; ever still
Burning, yet ever inconsumable;
In one another’s substance finding food,
Light flames too pure and light and unimbued
To nourish their bright lives with baser prey,        225
Which point to heaven and cannot pass away:
One hope within two wills, one will beneath
Two overshadowing minds, one life, one death,
One heaven, one hell, one immortality,
And one annihilation!

                        Woe is me!
The wingèd words on which my soul would pierce
Into the height of Love’s rare universe
Are chains of lead around its flight of fire—
I pant, I sink, I tremble, I expire!

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