Verse > Anthologies > Robert Bridges, ed. > The Spirit of Man: An Anthology
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Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930).  The Spirit of Man: An Anthology.  1916.
 
From the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
 
.. Spirit of BEAUTY, 1 that dost consecrate
  With thine own hues all thou dost shine upon
  Of human thought or form,—where art thou gone?
Why dost thou pass away and leave our state,
This dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate?        5
    Ask why the sunlight not for ever
    Weaves rainbows o’er yon mountain river,
Why aught should fail and fade that once is shown,
    Why fear and dream and death and birth
    Cast on the daylight of this earth        10
    Such gloom,—why man has such a scope
For love and hate, despondency and hope?
 
No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
  To sage or poet these responses given—
  Therefore the names of Demon, Ghost, and Heaven,        15
Remain the records of their vain endeavour,
Frail spells—whose uttered charm might not avail to sever,
    From all we hear and all we see,
    Doubt, chance, and mutability.
Thy light alone—like mist o’er mountains driven,…        20
    Or moonlight on a midnight stream,
Gives grace and truth to life’s unquiet dream.
 
Love, Hope, and Self-esteem, like clouds depart
  And come, for some uncertain moments lent:
  Man were immortal, and omnipotent,        25
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart …
 
While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
  Thro’ many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,
  And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing        30
Hopes of high talk with the departed dead.
I called on poisonous names with which our youth is fed;
    I was not heard—I saw them not—
    When musing deeply on the lot
Of life, at the sweet time when winds are wooing        35
    All vital things that wake to bring
    News of birds and blossoming,—
    Sudden, thy shadow fell on me;
I shrieked, and clasped my hands in ecstasy!
 
I vowed that I would dedicate my powers        40
  To thee and thine—have I not kept the vow?
  With beating heart and streaming eyes, even now
I call the phantoms of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave: they have in vision’d bow’rs
    Of studious zeal or love’s delight        45
    Outwatched with me the envious night—
They know that never joy illumed my brow
    Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst free
    This world from its dark slavery …
 
Note 1. Shelley. From the Hymn to Intellectual Beauty. [back]
 
 
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