Featured Poem: The Invitation by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Bunnies, chocolate eggs and bank holidays abound; it is Easter time again. For some of us it means a chance to get some much needed rest and relaxation – it’s been far too long since Christmas after all – for others, the break can be just as busy as any other time, if not more chaotic as there are Easter feasts to prepare, egg hunts to attend or that bit of neglected D.I.Y work to finally get around to doing. Whatever happens, there’s an almost certain chance of being caught in an April shower; well, it is a bank holiday after all, it’s customary to witness at least a bit of rain.

Even if you’re not completely carefree over this extended weekend, I do hope you get some opportunity to stop, take a breath and some time out, be it five minutes or five hours. I offer an invitation – or rather an Invitation from Shelley – to ease you into a holiday state of mind. This poem appeals to our need to get away from the stresses and strains of a working environment into something far more enjoyable, even if it is just for a singular day. There’s also a juxtaposition of moods and means of entertainment apparent in here, with Shelley speaking of quite differing desires. For those of us who prefer a little peace and quiet – and at Easter, some time for reflection does seem rather appropriate – ‘the silent wilderness’ seems most attractive, with the soul’s unrepressed music echoing throughout. Then comes a jump from the wilderness to the wild; there’s more than one reference to the ‘wild woods’, where free time can be spent adventuring and frolicking through nature and all its delights, and given it’s longer description this seems to be how Shelley believes we should be spending our days unshackled from our desks. If you’re stuck for something to do – and don’t mind getting a little bit sodden – then why not take some inspiration from Shelley, leave a note on your door (or rather, let your phone go to voicemail) and get outdoors to see what you can find. But however you choose to spend your Easter bank holiday, I hope it’s a pleasant one.

The Invitation

Best and brightest, come away!
Fairer far than this fair Day,
Which, like thee to those in sorrow,
Comes to bid a sweet good-morrow
To the rough Year just awake
In its cradle on the brake.
The brightest hour of unborn Spring,
Through the winter wandering,
Found, it seems, the halcyon Morn
To hoar February born.
Bending from heaven, in azure mirth,
It kiss’d the forehead of the Earth;
And smiled upon the silent sea;
And bade the frozen streams be free;
And waked to music all their fountains;
And breathed upon the frozen mountains;
And like a prophetess of May
Strew’d flowers upon the barren way,
Making the wintry world appear
Like one on whom thou smilest, dear.

Away, away, from men and towns,
To the wild wood and the downs—
To the silent wilderness
Where the soul need not repress
Its music lest it should not find
An echo in another’s mind,
While the touch of Nature’s art
Harmonizes heart to heart.

I leave this notice on my door
For each accustom’d visitor:—
‘I am gone into the fields
To take what this sweet hour yields.
Reflection, you may come to-morrow;
Sit by the fireside with Sorrow.
You with the unpaid bill, Despair,—
You, tiresome verse-reciter, Care,—
I will pay you in the grave,—
Death will listen to your stave.
Expectation too, be off!
To-day is for itself enough.
Hope, in pity mock not Woe
With smiles, nor follow where I go;
Long having lived on your sweet food,
At length I find one moment’s good
After long pain: with all your love,
This you never told me of.’

Radiant Sister of the Day,
Awake! arise! and come away!
To the wild woods and the plains;
And the pools where winter rains
Image all their roof of leaves;
Where the pine its garland weaves
Of sapless green and ivy dun
Round stems that never kiss the sun;
Where the lawns and pastures be,
And the sandhills of the sea;
Where the melting hoar-frost wets
The daisy-star that never sets,
And wind-flowers, and violets
Which yet join not scent to hue,
Crown the pale year weak and new;
When the night is left behind
In the deep east, dun and blind,
And the blue noon is over us,
And the multitudinous
Billows murmur at our feet
Where the earth and ocean meet,
And all things seem only one
In the universal sun.

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

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