Epipsychidion: Passages Of The Poem, Or Connected Therewith by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Here, my dear friend, is a new book for you,
I have already dedicated two
To other friends, one female and one male,–
What you are, is a thing that I must veil,
What can this be to those who praise or rail?
I never was attached to that great sect
Whose doctrine is that each one should select
Out of the world a mistress or a friend,
And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend
To cold oblivion-though ’tis in the code
Of modern morals, and the beaten road
Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread
Who travel to their home among the dead
By the broad highway of the world-and so
With one sad friend, and many a jealous foe,
The dreariest and the longest journey go.
Free love has this, different from gold and clay,
That to divide is not to take away.
Like ocean, which the general north wind breaks
Into ten thousand waves, and each one makes
A mirror of the moon — like some great glass,
Which did distort whatever form might pass,
Dashed into fragments by a playful child,
Which then reflects its eyes and forehead mild,
Giving for one, which it could ne’er express,
A thousand images of loveliness.
If I were one whom the loud world held wise,
I should disdain to quote authorities
In commendation of this kind of love:–
Why there is first the God in heaven above,
Who wrote a book called Nature, ’tis to be
Reviewed, I hear, in the next Quarterly,
And Socrates, the Jesus Christ of Greece,
And Jesus Christ Himself, did never cease
To urge all living things to love each other,
And to forgive their mutual faults, and smother
The Devil of disunion in their souls.
. . .
I love you!– Listen, O embodied Ray
Of the great Brightness, I must pass away
While you remain, and these light words must be
Tokens by which you may remember me.
Start not-the thing you are is unbetrayed,
If you are human, and if but the shade
Of some sublimer spirit . . .
. . .
And as to friend or mistress, ’tis a form,
Perhaps I wish you were one. Some declare
You a familiar spirit, as you are,
Others with a . . . more inhuman
Hint that, though not my wife, you are a woman,
What is the colour of your eyes and hair?
Why, if you were a lady, it were fair
The world should know-but, as I am afraid,
The Quarterly would bait you if betrayed,
And if, as it will be sport to see them stumble
Over all sorts of scandals, hear them mumble
Their litany of curses-some guess right,
And others swear you’re a Hermaphrodite,
Like that sweet marble monster of both sexes,
Which looks so sweet and gentle that it vexes
The very soul that the soul is gone
Which lifted from her limbs the veil of stone.
. . .
It is a sweet thing, friendship, a dear balm,
A happy and auspicious bird of calm,
Which rides o’er life’s ever tumultuous Ocean,
A God that broods o’er chaos in commotion,
A flower which fresh as Lapland roses are,
Lifts its bold head into the world’s frore air,
And blooms most radiantly when others die,
Health, hope, and youth, and brief prosperity,
And with the light and odour of its bloom,
Shining within the dungeon and the tomb,
Whose coming is as light and music are
‘Mid dissonance and gloom — a star
Which moves not ‘mid the moving heavens alone–
A smile among dark frowns-a gentle tone
Among rude voices, a belovèd light,
A solitude, a refuge, a delight.
If I had but a friend! Why, I have three
Even by my own confession, there may be
Some more, for what I know, for ’tis my mind
To call my friends all who are wise and kind,–
And these, Heaven knows, at best are very few,
But none can ever be more dear than you.
Why should they be? My muse has lost her wings,
Or like a dying swan who soars and sings,
I should describe you in heroic style,
But as it is, are you not void of guile?
A lovely soul, formed to be blessed and bless:
A well of sealed and secret happiness,
A lute which those whom Love has taught to play
Make music on to cheer the roughest day,
And enchant sadness till it sleeps? . . .
. . .
To the oblivion whither I and thou,
All loving and all lovely, hasten now
With steps, ah, too unequal! may we meet
In one Elysium or one winding-sheet!
If any should be curious to discover
Whether to you I am a friend or lover,
Let them read Shakespeare’s sonnets, taking thence
A whetstone for their dull intelligence
That tears and will not cut, or let them guess
How Diotima, the wise prophetess,
Instructed the instructor, and why he
Rebuked the infant spirit of melody
On Agathon’s sweet lips, which as he spoke
Was as the lovely star when morn has broke
The roof of darkness, in the golden dawn,
Half-hidden, and yet beautiful.
My hopes of Heaven-you know what they are worth–
That the presumptuous pedagogues of Earth,
If they could tell the riddle offered here
Would scorn to be, or being to appear
What now they seem and are — but let them chide,
They have few pleasures in the world beside,
Perhaps we should be dull were we not chidden,
Paradise fruits are sweetest when forbidden.
Folly can season Wisdom, Hatred Love.
. . .
Farewell, if it can be to say farewell
To those who . . .
. . .
I will not, as most dedicators do,
Assure myself and all the world and you,
That you are faultless — would to God they were
Who taunt me with your love! I then should wear
These heavy chains of life with a light spirit,
And would to God I were, or even as near it
As you, dear heart. Alas! what are we? Clouds
Driven by the wind in warring multitudes,
Which rain into the bosom of the earth,
And rise again, and in our death and birth,
And through our restless life, take as from heaven
Hues which are not our own, but which are given,
And then withdrawn, and with inconstant glance
Flash from the spirit to the countenance.
There is a Power, a Love, a Joy, a God
Which makes in mortal hearts its brief abode,
A Pythian exhalation, which inspires
Love, only love — a wind which o’er the wires
Of the soul’s giant harp
There is a mood which language faints beneath,
You feel it striding, as Almighty Death
His bloodless steed . . .
. . .
And what is that most brief and bright delight
Which rushes through the touch and through the sight,
And stands before the spirit’s inmost throne,
A naked Seraph? None hath ever known.
Its birth is darkness, and its growth desire,
Untameable and fleet and fierce as fire,
Not to be touched but to be felt alone,
It fills the world with glory — and is gone.
. . .
It floats with rainbow pinions o’er the stream
Of life, which flows, like a . . . dream
Into the light of morning, to the grave
As to an ocean . . .
. . .
What is that joy which serene infancy
Perceives not, as the hours content them by,
Each in a chain of blossoms, yet enjoys
The shapes of this new world, in giant toys
Wrought by the busy . . . ever new?
Remembrance borrows Fancy’s glass, to show
These forms more . . . sincere
Than now they are, than then, perhaps, they were.
When everything familiar seemed to be
Wonderful, and the immortality
Of this great world, which all things must inherit,
Was felt as one with the awakening spirit,
Unconscious of itself, and of the strange
Distinctions which in its proceeding change
It feels and knows, and mourns as if each were
A desolation . . .
. . .
Were it not a sweet refuge, Emily,
For all those exiles from the dull insane
Who vex this pleasant world with pride and pain,
For all that band of sister-spirits known
To one another by a voiceless tone?
. . .
If day should part us night will mend division
And if sleep parts us — we will meet in vision
And if life parts us — we will mix in death
Yielding our mite [?] of unreluctant breath
Death cannot part us — we must meet again
In all in nothing in delight in pain:
How, why or when or where-it matters not
So that we share an undivided lot . . .
. . .
And we will move possessing and possessed
Wherever beauty on the earth’s bare [?] breast
Lies like the shadow of thy soul — till we
Become one being with the world we see . . .