Verse > Anthologies > Robert Bridges, ed. > The Spirit of Man: An Anthology

Robert Bridges, ed. (1844–1930).  The Spirit of Man: An Anthology.  1916.
From Mont Blanc

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
THE EVERLASTING 1 universe of things
Flows thro’ the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark, now glittering, now reflecting gloom,
Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings        5
Of waters, with a sound but half its own …
Thou art the path of that unresting sound,
Dizzy Ravine! and when I gaze on thee
I seem as in a trance sublime and strange
To muse on my own separate phantasy,        10
My own, my human mind, which passively
Now renders and receives fast influencings,
Holding an unremitting interchange
With the clear universe of things around;
One legion of wild thoughts, whose wandering wings        15
Now float above thy darkness, and now rest
Where that or thou art no unbidden guest,
In the still cave of the witch Poesy,
Seeking among the shadows that pass by,
Ghosts of all things that are, some shade of thee,        20
Some phantom, some faint image; till the breast
From which they fled recalls them, thou art there!
Some say that gleams of a remoter world
Visit the soul in sleep,—that death is slumber,
And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber        25
Of those who wake and live. I look on high;
Has some unknown omnipotence unfurled
The veil of life and death? or do I lie
In dream, and does the mightier world of sleep
Spread far around and inaccessibly        30
Its circles? For the very spirit fails,
Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep
That vanishes among the viewless gales!
Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,
Mont Blanc appears,—still, snowy, and serene:        35
Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
Pile around it, ice and rock …
                Is this the scene
Where the old Earthquake-dæmon taught her young
Ruin? Were these their toys? or did a sea        40
Of fire envelope once this silent snow?
None can reply: all seems eternal now.
The wilderness has a mysterious tongue
Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,
So solemn, so serene, that man may be        45
But for such faith with nature reconciled.
Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal
Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood
By all, but which the wise, and great, and good
Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.        50
The fields, the lakes, the forests, and the streams,
Ocean, and all the living things that dwell
Within the dædal earth; lightning, and rain,
Earthquake, and fiery flood, and hurricane;
The torpor of the year when feeble dreams        55
Visit the hidden buds, or dreamless sleep
Holds every future leaf and flower; the bound
With which from that detested trance they leap;
The works and ways of man, their death and birth,
And that of him, and all that his may be;—        60
All things that move and breathe with toil and sound
Are born and die; revolve, subside, and swell.
Power dwells apart in its tranquillity,
Remote, serene, and inaccessible …
Note 1. Shelley. From Mont Blanc. This poem is difficult and obscure. Briefly, the ‘dizzy ravine of the Arve’ is compared with the mind of man, wherethrough, as a river, the Power or the Universe of things flows. The human mind is ‘full of that unresting sound’, and the smaller streams that swell the torrent are likened to the spontaneous thoughts of the mind. Later (Some say that dreams) it is questioned whether there be not something great and exterior to the human mind, as M. Blanc is to the Arve ravine (cp. Prom. ii. 3); and M. Blanc is used to typify that Power. With this explanation my selection gives all that I need, and may perhaps be more easily intelligible than the whole poem. But for such faith seems to mean If only for. I have repunctuated Ghosts of all things that are. [back]

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