Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Sensitive Plant: Part First
By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)
A SENSITIVE PLANT in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew,
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night.
And the spring arose on the garden fair,        5
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
But none ever trembled and panted with bliss
In the garden, the field, or the wilderness,        10
Like a doe in the noontide with love’s sweet want,
As the companionless Sensitive Plant.
The snowdrop, and then the violet,
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed with fresh odor, sent        15
From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.
Then the pied wind-flowers and the tulip tall,
And narcissi, the fairest among them all,
Who gaze on their eyes in the stream’s recess,
Till they die of their own dear loveliness;        20
And the Naiad-like lily of the vale,
Whom youth makes so fair and passion so pale,
That the light of its tremulous bells is seen
Through their pavilions of tender green;
And the hyacinth, purple and white and blue,        25
Which flung from its bells a sweet peal anew
Of music so delicate, soft, and intense,
It was felt like an odor within the sense;
And the rose like a nymph to the bath addrest,
Which unveiled the depth of her glowing breast,        30
Till, fold after fold, to the fainting air
The soul of her beauty and love lay bare;
And the wand-like lily, which lifted up,
As a Mænad, its moonlight-colored cup,
Till the fiery star, which is its eye,        35
Gazed through clear dew on the tender sky;
And the jessamine faint, and the sweet tuberose,
The sweetest flower for scent that blows;
And all rare blossoms from every clime,—
Grew in that garden in perfect prime.        40
And on the stream whose inconstant bosom
Was prankt under boughs of embowering blossom,
With golden and green light, slanting through
Their heaven of many a tangled hue,
Broad water-lilies lay tremulously,        45
And starry river-buds glimmered by,
And around them the soft stream did glide and dance
With a motion of sweet sound and radiance.
And the sinuous paths of lawn and of moss,
Which led through the garden along and across,        50
Some open at once to the sun and the breeze,
Some lost among bowers of blossoming trees,
Were all paved with daisies and delicate bells,
As fair as the fabulous asphodels;
And flowrets which drooping as day drooped too        55
Fell into pavilions, white, purple, and blue,
To roof the glow-worm from the evening dew.
And from this undefiled Paradise
The flowers (as an infant’s awakening eyes
Smile on its mother, whose singing sweet        60
Can first lull, and at last must awaken it),
When heaven’s blithe winds had unfolded them,
As mine-lamps enkindle a hidden gem,
Shone smiling to heaven, and every one
Shared joy in the light of the gentle sun;        65
For each one was interpenetrated
With the light and the odor its neighbor shed;
Like young lovers whom youth and love make dear,
Wrapped and filled by their mutual atmosphere.
But the Sensitive Plant, which could give small fruit        70
Of the love which it felt from the leaf to the root,
Received more than all; it loved more than ever,
Where none wanted but it, could belong to the giver:
For the Sensitive Plant has no bright flower;
Radiance and odor are not its dower:        75
It loves even like Love, its deep heart is full;
It desires what it has not, the beautiful!
The light winds which from unsustaining wings
Shed the music of many murmurings;
The beams which dart from many a star        80
Of the flowers whose hues they bear afar;
The plumèd insects swift and free,
Like golden boats on a sunny sea,
Laden with light and odor, which pass
Over the gleam of the living grass;        85
The unseen clouds of the dew, which lie
Like fire in the flowers till the sun rides high,
Then wander like spirits among the spheres,
Each cloud faint with the fragrance it bears;
The quivering vapors of dim noontide,        90
Which like a sea o’er the warm earth glide,
In which every sound and odor and beam
Move, as reeds in a single stream,—
Each and all like ministering angels were
For the Sensitive Plant sweet joy to bear,        95
Whilst the lagging hours of the day went by
Like windless clouds o’er a tender sky.
And when evening descended from heaven above,
And the earth was all rest, and the air was all love,
And delight, though less bright, was far more deep,        100
And the day’s veil fell from the world of sleep,
And the beasts and the birds and the insects were drowned
In an ocean of dreams without a sound,—
Whose waves never mark, though they ever impress
The light sand which paves it, consciousness,—        105
(Only overhead the sweet nightingale
Ever sang more sweet as the day might fail,
And snatches of its Elysian chant
Were mixed with the dreams of the Sensitive Plant,)
The Sensitive Plant was the earliest        110
Upgathered into the bosom of rest;
A sweet child weary of its delight,
The feeblest and yet the favorite,
Cradled within the embrace of night.

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