Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
Descriptive Poems: II. Nature and Art
To Ianthe, Sleeping
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
From “Queen Mab,” I.

      HOW wonderful is Death!
      Death and his brother Sleep!
    One, pale as yonder waning moon,
      With lips of lurid blue;
      The other, rosy as the morn        5
    When, throned on ocean’s wave,
      It blushes o’er the world:
    Yet both so passing wonderful!
      Hath then the gloomy Power,
Whose reign is in the tainted sepulchres,        10
      Seized on her sinless soul?
      Must then that peerless form
Which love and admiration cannot view
Without a beating heart, those azure veins
Which steal like streams along a field of snow,        15
  That lovely outline, which is fair
    As breathing marble, perish?
    Must putrefaction’s breath
  Leave nothing of this heavenly sight
    But loathsomeness and ruin?        20
  Spare nothing but a gloomy theme,
On which the lightest heart might moralize?
    Or is it only a sweet slumber
      Stealing o’er sensation,
  Which the breath of roseate morning        25
      Chaseth into darkness?
      Will Ianthe wake again,
    And give that faithful bosom joy,
  Whose sleepless spirit waits to catch
  Light, life, and rapture from her smile?        30
      Yes! she will wake again,
Although her glowing limbs are motionless,
      And silent those sweet lips,
      Once breathing eloquence
  That might have soothed a tiger’s rage,        35
Or thawed the cold heart of a conqueror.
      Her dewy eyes are closed,
    And on their lids, whose texture fine
    Scarce hides the dark blue orbs beneath,
      The baby Sleep is pillowed:        40
      Her golden tresses shade
      The bosom’s stainless pride,
    Curling like tendrils of the parasite
      Around a marble column.
*        *        *        *        *
  A gentle start convulsed Ianthe’s frame:        45
Her veiny eyelids quietly unclosed;
Moveless awhile the dark blue orbs remained.
She looked around in wonder, and beheld
Henry, who kneeled in silence by her couch,
Watching her sleep with looks of speechless love,        50
  And the bright-beaming stars
  That through the casement shone.

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