Poem of the day

Hymn to Intellectual Beauty
by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)


The awful shadow of some unseen Power
⁠      Floats though unseen among us,—visiting
⁠      This various world with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,—
Like moonbeams that behind some piny mountain shower,⁠
⁠      It visits with inconstant glance
⁠      Each human heart and countenance;
Like hues and harmonies of evening,—
⁠      Like clouds in starlight widely spread,—
⁠      Like memory of music fled,—⁠
⁠      Like aught that for its grace may be
Dear, and yet dearer for its mystery.


Spirit of BEAUTY, 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?
⁠      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
⁠      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,
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,
⁠      Or music by the night-wind sent
⁠      Through strings of some still instrument,
⁠      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,
Didst thou, unknown and awful as thou art,⁠
Keep with thy glorious train firm state within his heart.
⁠      Thou messenger of sympathies,
⁠      That wax and wane in lovers’ eyes—
Thou—that to human thought art nourishment,
⁠      Like darkness to a dying flame!⁠
⁠      Depart not as thy shadow came,
⁠      Depart not—lest the grave should be,
Like life and fear, a dark reality.


While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, and sped
⁠      Through many a listening chamber, cave and ruin,⁠
⁠      And starlight wood, with fearful steps pursuing
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 that sweet time when winds are wooing
⁠      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
⁠      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 visioned bowers⁠
⁠      Of studious zeal or love’s delight
⁠      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,⁠
⁠      That thou—O awful LOVELINESS,
Wouldst give whate’er these words cannot express.


The day becomes more solemn and serene
⁠      When noon is past—there is a harmony
⁠      In autumn, and a lustre in its sky,⁠
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!
⁠      Thus let thy power, which like the truth
⁠      Of nature on my passive youth
⁠Descended, to my onward life supply⁠
⁠      Its calm—to one who worships thee,
⁠      And every form containing thee,
⁠      Whom, SPIRIT fair, thy spells did bind
⁠To fear himself, and love all human kind.

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