A Selection from the Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley

On Lfe

"Life, the great miracle, we admire not because it is so miraculous. [...] It is well that we are thus shielded by the familiarity of what is at once so certain and so unfathomable, from an astonishment which would otherwise absorb and overawe the functions of that which is its object."


The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it’s fragments - Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled! – Rome’s azure sky,
Flowers, ruins statues, music, words are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak

The Chorus from Hallas (1921)

    Worlds on worlds are rolling ever
         From creation to decay,
    Like the bubbles on a river
         Sparkling, bursting, borne away.
         But they are still immortal
         Who, through birth's orient portal
And death's dark chasm hurrying to and fro,
         Clothe their unceasing flight
         In the brief dust and light
Gathered around their chariots as they go;
         New shapes they still may weave,
         New Gods, new laws receive,
Bright or dim are they as the robes they last
         On Death's bare ribs had cast.

Prometheus Unbound

 MY soul is like an enchanted boat,
  Which, like a sleeping swan, doth float
Upon the silver waves of thy sweet singing;
  And thine doth like an angel sit
  Beside a helm conducting it,
Whilst all the winds with melody are ringing.
  It seems to float ever, for ever,
  Upon that many-winding river,
  Between mountains, woods, abysses,
  A paradise of wildernesses!
Till, like one in slumber bound,
Borne to the ocean, I float down, around,
Into a sea profound, of ever-spreading sound:

  Meanwhile thy spirit lifts its pinions
  In music’s most serene dominions;
Catching the winds that fan that happy heaven.
  And we sail on, away, afar,
  Without a course, without a star,
But, by the instinct of sweet music driven;
  Till through Elysian garden islets
  By thee, most beautiful of pilots,
  Where never mortal pinnace glided,
  The boat of my desire is guided:
Realms where the air we breathe is love,
Which in the winds and on the waves doth move,
Harmonizing this earth with what we feel above.

  We have pass’d Age’s icy caves,
  And Manhood’s dark and tossing waves,
And Youth’s smooth ocean, smiling to betray:
  Beyond the glassy gulfs we flee
  Of shadow-peopled Infancy,
Through Death and Birth, to a diviner day;
  A paradise of vaulted bowers,
  Lit by downward-gazing flowers,
  And watery paths that wind between
  Wildernesses calm and green,
Peopled by shapes too bright to see,
And rest, having beheld; somewhat like thee:
Which walk upon the sea, and chant melodiously.