This week’s Featured Poem celebrates one of the central members of the Romantic movement, Percy Bysshe Shelley, on the anniversary of his death. Shelley died aged 29 in Italy on July 8th, 1822, and though he did not attain recognition for his work during his lifetime, his work has since become to be regarded as some of the finest and most influential in English literature.
The following is an extract from a work Shelley considered to be his ‘least imperfect’, and is an ode to his contemporary John Keats, written just weeks after Shelley had heard of Keats’ death. A fitting tribute to both poets who live on through their words on this anniversary.
Peace, peace! He is not dead, he doth not sleep –
He hath awakened from the dream of life –
‘Tis we who, lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.
He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
From the contagion of the world’s slow satain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown grey in vain;Nor, when the spirit’s self has ceased to burn,
With sparkless ashes load and unlamented urn.
He lives, he wakes – ’tis Death is dead, not he;
Mourn not for Adonais. Thou young Dawn
Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
The spirit thou lamentest is not gone;
Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan!
Cease ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air
Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown
O’er the abandoned Earth, now leave it bare
Even to the joyous stars which smile on its despair!
He is made one with Nature: there is heard
His voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the song of night’s sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
Spreading itself where’er that Power may move
Which has withdrawn his being to its own,
Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
from Adonais is featured in Minted: Practical Poetry for Life, The Reader Organisation’s latest anthology of four centuries of poems edited by Brian Nellist. Delve into a treasury of classic poetry – purchase a copy from our website.