"Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude"
by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)



Nondum amabam, et amare amabam, quaerebam quid amarem, amans amare. 
---Confess. St. August. 


1   Earth , ocean, air, belovèd brotherhood! 
2   If our great Mother has imbued my soul 
3   With aught of natural piety to feel 
4   Your love, and recompense the boon with mine; 
5   If dewy morn, and odorous noon, and even, 
6   With sunset and its gorgeous ministers, 
7   And solemn midnight's tingling silentness; 
8   If autumn's hollow sighs in the sere wood, 
9   And winter robing with pure snow and crowns 
10   Of starry ice the grey grass and bare boughs; 
11   If spring's voluptuous pantings when she breathes 
12   Her first sweet kisses, have been dear to me; 
13   If no bright bird, insect, or gentle beast 
14   I consciously have injured, but still loved 
15   And cherished these my kindred; then forgive 
16   This boast, belovèd brethren, and withdraw 
17   No portion of your wonted favour now! 

18   Mother of this unfathomable world! 
19   Favour my solemn song, for I have loved 
20   Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched 
21   Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps, 
22   And my heart over gazes on the depth 
23   Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed 
24   In charnels and on coffins, where black death 
25   Keeps record of the trophies won from thee, 
26   Hoping to still these obstinate questionings 
27   Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost 
28   Thy messenger, to render up the tale 
29   Of what we are. In lone and silent hours, 
30   When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness, 
31   Like an inspired and desperate alchymist 
32   Staking his very life on some dark hope, 
33   Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks 
34   With my most innocent love, until strange tears 
35   Uniting with those breathless kisses, made 
36   Such magic as compels the charmèd night 
37   To render up thy charge: . . . and, though ne'er yet 
38   Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary, 
39   Enough from incommunicable dream, 
40   And twilight phantasms, and deep noon-day thought, 
41   Has shone within me, that serenely now 
42   And moveless, as a long-forgotten lyre 
43   Suspended in the solitary dome 
44   Of some mysterious and deserted fane, 
45   I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain 
46   May modulate with murmurs of the air, 
47   And motions of the forests and the sea, 
48   And voice of living beings, and woven hymns 
49   Of night and day, and the deep heart of man. 

50   There was a Poet whose untimely tomb 
51   No human hands with pious reverence reared, 
52   But the charmed eddies of autumnal winds 
53   Built o'er his mouldering bones a pyramid 
54   Of mouldering leaves in the waste wilderness:--- 
55   A lovely youth,---no mourning maiden decked 
56   With weeping flowers, or votive cypress wreath, 
57   The lone couch of his everlasting sleep:--- 
58   Gentle, and brave, and generous,---no lorn bard 
59   Breathed o'er his dark fate one melodious sigh: 
60   He lived, he died, he sung, in solitude. 
61   Strangers have wept to hear his passionate notes, 
62   And virgins, as unknown he passed, have pined 
63   And wasted for fond love of his wild eyes. 
64   The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn, 
65   And Silence, too enamoured of that voice, 
66   Locks its mute music in her rugged cell. 

67   By solemn vision, and bright silver dream, 
68   His infancy was nurtured. Every sight 
69   And sound from the vast earth and ambient air, 
70   Sent to his heart its choicest impulses. 
71   The fountains of divine philosophy 
72   Fled not his thirsting lips, and all of great, 
73   Or good, or lovely, which the sacred past 
74   In truth or fable consecrates, he felt 
75   And knew. When early youth had passed, he left 
76   His cold fireside and alienated home 
77   To seek strange truths in undiscovered lands. 
78   Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness 
79   Has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought 
80   With his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, 
81   His rest and food. Nature's most secret steps 
82   He like her shadow has pursued, where'er 
83   The red volcano overcanopies 
84   Its fields of snow and pinnacles of ice 
85   With burning smoke, or where bitumen lakes 
86   On black bare pointed islets ever beat 
87   With sluggish surge, or where the secret caves 
88   Rugged and dark, winding among the springs 
89   Of fire and poison, inaccessible 
90   To avarice or pride, their starry domes 
91   Of diamond and of gold expand above 
92   Numberless and immeasurable halls, 
93   Frequent with crystal column, and clear shrines 
94   Of pearl, and thrones radiant with chrysolite. 
95   Nor had that scene of ampler majesty 
96   Than gems or gold, the varying roof of heaven 
97   And the green earth lost in his heart its claims 
98   To love and wonder; he would linger long 
99   In lonesome vales, making the wild his home, 
100   Until the doves and squirrels would partake 
101   From his innocuous hand his bloodless food. 
102   Lured by the gentle meaning of his looks, 
103   And the wild antelope, that starts whene'er 
104   The dry leaf rustles in the brake, suspend 
105   Her timid steps to gaze upon a form 
106   More graceful than her own. 

106                                             His wandering step 
107   Obedient to high thoughts, has visited 
108   The awful ruins of the days of old: 
109   Athens, and Tyre, and Balbec, and the waste 
110   Where stood Jerusalem, the fallen towers 
111   Of Babylon, the eternal pyramids, 
112   Memphis and Thebes, and whatsoe'er of strange 
113   Sculptured on alabaster obelisk, 
114   Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphynx, 
115   Dark Æthiopia in her desert hills 
116   Conceals. Among the ruined temples there, 
117   Stupendous columns, and wild images 
118   Of more than man, where marble daemons watch 
119   The Zodiac's brazen mystery, and dead men 
120   Hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around, 
121   He lingered, poring on memorials 
122   Of the world's youth, through the long burning day 
123   Gazed on those speechless shapes, nor, when the moon 
124   Filled the mysterious halls with floating shades 
125   Suspended he that task, but ever gazed 
126   And gazed, till meaning on his vacant mind 
127   Flashed like strong inspiration, and he saw 
128   The thrilling secrets of the birth of time. 

129   Meanwhile an Arab maiden brought his food, 
130   Her daily portion, from her father's tent, 
131   And spread her matting for his couch, and stole 
132   From duties and repose to tend his steps:--- 
133   Enamoured, yet not daring for deep awe 
134   To speak her love:---and watched his nightly sleep, 
135   Sleepless herself, to gaze upon his lips 
136   Parted in slumber, whence the regular breath 
137   Of innocent dreams arose: then, when red morn 
138   Made paler the pale moon, to her cold home 
139   Wildered, and wan, and panting, she returned. 

140   The Poet wandering on, through Arabie 
141   And Persia, and the wild Carmanian waste, 
142   And o'er the aërial mountains which pour down 
143   Indus and Oxus from their icy caves, 
144   In joy and exultation held his way; 
145   Till in the vale of Cashmire, far within 
146   Its loneliest dell, where odorous plants entwine 
147   Beneath the hollow rocks a natural bower, 
148   Beside a sparkling rivulet he stretched 
149   His languid limbs. A vision on his sleep 
150   There came, a dream of hopes that never yet 
151   Had flushed his cheek. He dreamed a veilèd maid 
152   Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones. 
153   Her voice was like the voice of his own soul 
154   Heard in the calm of thought; its music long, 
155   Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held 
156   His inmost sense suspended in its web 
157   Of many-coloured woof and shifting hues. 
158   Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme, 
159   And lofty hopes of divine liberty, 
160   Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy, 
161   Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood 
162   Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame 
163   A permeating fire: wild numbers then 
164   She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs 
165   Subdued by its own pathos: her fair hands 
166   Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp 
167   Strange symphony, and in their branching veins 
168   The eloquent blood told an ineffable tale. 
169   The beating of her heart was heard to fill 
170   The pauses of her music, and her breath 
171   Tumultuously accorded with those fits 
172   Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose, 
173   As if her heart impatiently endured 
174   Its bursting burthen: at the sound he turned, 
175   And saw by the warm light of their own life 
176   Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil 
177   Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare, 
178   Her dark locks floating in the breath of night, 
179   Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips 
180   Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly. 
181   His strong heart sunk and sickened with excess 
182   Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs and quelled 
183   His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet 
184   Her panting bosom: . . . she drew back a while, 
185   Then, yielding to the irresistible joy, 
186   With frantic gesture and short breathless cry 
187   Folded his frame in her dissolving arms. 
188   Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night 
189   Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep, 
190   Like a dark flood suspended in its course, 
191   Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain. 

192   Roused by the shock he started from his trance--- 
193   The cold white light of morning, the blue moon 
194   Low in the west, the clear and garish hills, 
195   The distinct valley and the vacant woods, 
196   Spread round him where he stood. Whither have fled 
197   The hues of heaven that canopied his bower 
198   Of yesternight? The sounds that soothed his sleep, 
199   The mystery and the majesty of Earth, 
200   The joy, the exultation? His wan eyes 
201   Gaze on the empty scene as vacantly 
202   As ocean's moon looks on the moon in heaven. 
203   The spirit of sweet human love has sent 
204   A vision to the sleep of him who spurned 
205   Her choicest gifts. He eagerly pursues 
206   Beyond the realms of dream that fleeting shade; 
207   He overleaps the bounds. Alas! Alas! 
208   Were limbs, and breath, and being intertwined 
209   Thus treacherously? Lost, lost, for ever lost, 
210   In the wide pathless desert of dim sleep, 
211   That beautiful shape! Does the dark gate of death 
212   Conduct to thy mysterious paradise, 
213   O Sleep? Does the bright arch of rainbow clouds, 
214   And pendent mountains seen in the calm lake, 
215   Lead only to a black and watery depth, 
216   While death's blue vault, with loathliest vapours hung, 
217   Where every shade which the foul grave exhales 
218   Hides its dead eye from the detested day, 
219   Conducts, O Sleep, to thy delightful realms? 
220   This doubt with sudden tide flowed on his heart, 
221   The insatiate hope which it awakened, stung 
222   His brain even like despair. 

222                                             While daylight held 
223   The sky, the Poet kept mute conference 
224   With his still soul. At night the passion came, 
225   Like the fierce fiend of a distempered dream, 
226   And shook him from his rest, and led him forth 
227   Into the darkness.---As an eagle grasped 
228   In folds of the green serpent, feels her breast 
229   Burn with the poison, and precipitates 
230   Through night and day, tempest, and calm, and cloud, 
231   Frantic with dizzying anguish, her blind flight 
232   O'er the wide aëry wilderness: thus driven 
233   By the bright shadow of that lovely dream, 
234   Beneath the cold glare of the desolate night, 
235   Through tangled swamps and deep precipitous dells, 
236   Startling with careless step the moonlight snake, 
237   He fled. Red morning dawned upon his flight, 
238   Shedding the mockery of its vital hues 
239   Upon his cheek of death. He wandered on 
240   Till vast Aornos seen from Petra's steep 
241   Hung o'er the low horizon like a cloud; 
242   Through Balk, and where the desolated tombs 
243   Of Parthian kings scatter to every wind 
244   Their wasting dust, wildly he wandered on, 
245   Day after day a weary waste of hours, 
246   Bearing within his life the brooding care 
247   That ever fed on its decaying flame. 
248   And now his limbs were lean; his scattered hair 
249   Sered by the autumn of strange suffering 
250   Sung dirges in the wind; his listless hand 
251   Hung like dead bone within its withered skin; 
252   Life, and the lustre that consumed it, shone 
253   As in a furnace burning secretly 
254   From his dark eyes alone. The cottagers, 
255   Who ministered with human charity 
256   His human wants, beheld with wondering awe 
257   Their fleeting visitant. The mountaineer, 
258   Encountering on some dizzy precipice 
259   That spectral form, deemed that the Spirit of wind 
260   With lightning eyes, and eager breath, and feet 
261   Disturbing not the drifted snow, had paused 
262   In its career: the infant would conceal 
263   His troubled visage in his mother's robe 
264   In terror at the glare of those wild eyes, 
265   To remember their strange light in many a dream 
266   Of after-times; but youthful maidens, taught 
267   By nature, would interpret half the woe 
268   That wasted him, would call him with false names 
269   Brother, and friend, would press his pallid hand 
270   At parting, and watch, dim through tears, the path 
271   Of his departure from their father's door. 

272   At length upon the lone Chorasmian shore 
273   He paused, a wide and melancholy waste 
274   Of putrid marshes. A strong impulse urged 
275   His steps to the sea-shore. A swan was there, 
276   Beside a sluggish stream among the reeds. 
277   It rose as he approached, and with strong wings 
278   Scaling the upward sky, bent its bright course 
279   High over the immeasurable main. 
280   His eyes pursued its flight.---'Thou hast a home, 
281   Beautiful bird; thou voyagest to thine home, 
282   Where thy sweet mate will twine her downy neck 
283   With thine, and welcome thy return with eyes 
284   Bright in the lustre of their own fond joy. 
285   And what am I that I should linger here, 
286   With voice far sweeter than thy dying notes, 
287   Spirit more vast than thine, frame more attuned 
288   To beauty, wasting these surpassing powers 
289   In the deaf air, to the blind earth, and heaven 
290   That echoes not my thoughts?' A gloomy smile 
291   Of desperate hope wrinkled his quivering lips. 
292   For sleep, he knew, kept most relentlessly 
293   Its precious charge, and silent death exposed, 
294   Faithless perhaps as sleep, a shadowy lure, 
295   With doubtful smile mocking its own strange charms. 

296   Startled by his own thoughts he looked around. 
297   There was no fair fiend near him, not a sight 
298   Or sound of awe but in his own deep mind. 
299   A little shallop floating near the shore 
300   Caught the impatient wandering of his gaze. 
301   It had been long abandoned, for its sides 
302   Gaped wide with many a rift, and its frail joints 
303   Swayed with the undulations of the tide. 
304   A restless impulse urged him to embark 
305   And meet lone Death on the drear ocean's waste; 
306   For well he knew that mighty Shadow loves 
307   The slimy caverns of the populous deep. 

308   The day was fair and sunny, sea and sky 
309   Drank its inspiring radiance, and the wind 
310   Swept strongly from the shore, blackening the waves. 
311   Following his eager soul, the wanderer 
312   Leaped in the boat, he spread his cloak aloft 
313   On the bare mast, and took his lonely seat, 
314   And felt the boat speed o'er the tranquil sea 
315   Like a torn cloud before the hurricane. 

316   As one that in a silver vision floats 
317   Obedient to the sweep of odorous winds 
318   Upon resplendent clouds, so rapidly 
319   Along the dark and ruffled waters fled 
320   The straining boat.---A whirlwind swept it on, 
321   With fierce gusts and precipitating force, 
322   Through the white ridges of the chafèd sea. 
323   The waves arose. Higher and higher still 
324   Their fierce necks writhed beneath the tempest's scourge 
325   Like serpents struggling in a vulture's grasp. 
326   Calm and rejoicing in the fearful war 
327   Of wave ruining on wave, and blast on blast 
328   Descending, and black flood on whirlpool driven 
329   With dark obliterating course, he sate: 
330   As if their genii were the ministers 
331   Appointed to conduct him to the light 
332   Of those belovèd eyes, the Poet sate 
333   Holding the steady helm. Evening came on, 
334   The beams of sunset hung their rainbow hues 
335   High 'mid the shifting domes of sheeted spray 
336   That canopied his path o'er the waste deep; 
337   Twilight, ascending slowly from the east, 
338   Entwined in duskier wreaths her braided locks 
339   O'er the fair front and radiant eyes of day; 
340   Night followed, clad with stars. On every side 
341   More horribly the multitudinous streams 
342   Of ocean's mountainous waste to mutual war 
343   Rushed in dark tumult thundering, as to mock 
344   The calm and spangled sky. The little boat 
345   Still fled before the storm; still fled, like foam 
346   Down the steep cataract of a wintry river; 
347   Now pausing on the edge of the riven wave; 
348   Now leaving far behind the bursting mass 
349   That fell, convulsing ocean: safely fled--- 
350   As if that frail and wasted human form, 
351   Had been an elemental god. 

351                                             At midnight 
352   The moon arose: and lo! the ethereal cliffs 
353   Of Caucasus, whose icy summits shone 
354   Among the stars like sunlight, and around 
355   Whose caverned base the whirlpools and the waves 
356   Bursting and eddying irresistibly 
357   Rage and resound for ever.---Who shall save?--- 
358   The boat fled on,---the boiling torrent drove,--- 
359   The crags closed round with black and jaggèd arms. 
360   The shattered mountain overhung the sea, 
361   And faster still, beyond all human speed, 
362   Suspended on the sweep of the smooth wave, 
363   The little boat was driven. A cavern there 
364   Yawned, and amid its slant and winding depths 
365   Ingulfed the rushing sea. The boat fled on 
366   With unrelaxing speed.---'Vision and Love!' 
367   The Poet cried aloud, 'I have beheld 
368   The path of thy departure. Sleep and death 
369   Shall not divide us long!' 

369                                             The boat pursued 
370   The windings of the cavern. Daylight shone 
371   At length upon that gloomy river's flow; 
372   Now, where the fiercest war among the waves 
373   Is calm, on the unfathomable stream 
374   The boat moved slowly. Where the mountain, riven. 
375   Exposed those black depths to the azure sky, 
376   Ere yet the flood's enormous volume fell 
377   Even to the base of Caucasus, with sound 
378   That shook the everlasting rocks, the mass 
379   Filled with one whirlpool all that ample chasm; 
380   Stair above stair the eddying waters rose, 
381   Circling immeasurably fast, and laved 
382   With alternating dash the gnarlèd roots 
383   Of mighty trees, that stretched their giant arms 
384   In darkness over it. I' the midst was left, 
385   Reflecting, yet distorting every cloud, 
386   A pool of treacherous and tremendous calm. 
387   Seized by the sway of the ascending stream, 
388   With dizzy swiftness, round, and round, and round, 
389   Ridge after ridge the straining boat arose, 
390   Till on the verge of the extremest curve, 
391   Where, through an opening of the rocky bank, 
392   The waters overflow, and a smooth spot 
393   Of glassy quiet mid those battling tides 
394   Is left, the boat paused shuddering.---Shall it sink 
395   Down the abyss? Shall the reverting stress 
396   Of that resistless gulf embosom it? 
397   Now shall it fall?---A wandering stream of wind, 
398   Breathed from the west, has caught the expanded sail, 
399   And, lo! with gentle motion, between banks 
400   Of mossy slope, and on a placid stream, 
401   Beneath a woven grove it sails, and, hark! 
402   The ghastly torrent mingles its far roar, 
403   With the breeze murmuring in the musical woods. 
404   Where the embowering trees recede, and leave 
405   A little space of green expanse, the cove 
406   Is closed by meeting banks, whose yellow flowers 
407   For ever gaze on their own drooping eyes, 
408   Reflected in the crystal calm. The wave 
409   Of the boat's motion marred their pensive task, 
410   Which nought but vagrant bird, or wanton wind, 
411   Or falling spear-grass, or their own decay 
412   Had e'er disturbed before. The Poet longed 
413   To deck with their bright hues his withered hair, 
414   But on his heart its solitude returned, 
415   And he forbore. Not the strong impulse hid 
416   In those flushed cheeks, bent eyes, and shadowy frame 
417   Had yet performed its ministry: it hung 
418   Upon his life, as lightning in a cloud 
419   Gleams, hovering ere it vanish, ere the floods 
420   Of night close over it. 

420                                             The noonday sun 
421   Now shone upon the forest, one vast mass 
422   Of mingling shade, whose brown magnificence 
423   A narrow vale embosoms. There, huge caves, 
424   Scooped in the dark base of their aëry rocks 
425   Mocking its moans, respond and roar for ever. 
426   The meeting boughs and implicated leaves 
427   Wove twilight o'er the Poet's path, as led 
428   By love, or dream, or god, or mightier Death, 
429   He sought in Nature's dearest haunt, some bank, 
430   Her cradle, and his sepulchre. More dark 
431   And dark the shades accumulate. The oak, 
432   Expanding its immense and knotty arms, 
433   Embraces the light beech. The pyramids 
434   Of the tall cedar overarching, frame 
435   Most solemn domes within, and far below, 
436   Like clouds suspended in an emerald sky, 
437   The ash and the acacia floating hang 
438   Tremulous and pale. Like restless serpents, clothed 
439   In rainbow and in fire, the parasites, 
440   Starred with ten thousand blossoms, flow around 
441   The grey trunks, and, as gamesome infants' eyes, 
442   With gentle meanings, and most innocent wiles, 
443   Fold their beams round the hearts of those that love. 
444   These twine their tendrils with the wedded boughs 
445   Uniting their close union; the woven leaves 
446   Make net-work of the dark blue light of day, 
447   And the night's noontide clearness, mutable 
448   As shapes in the weird clouds. Soft mossy lawns 
449   Beneath these canopies extend their swells, 
450   Fragrant with perfumed herbs, and eyed with blooms 
451   Minute yet beautiful. One darkest glen 
452   Sends from its woods of musk-rose, twined with jasmine, 
453   A soul-dissolving odour, to invite 
454   To some more lovely mystery. Through the dell, 
455   Silence and Twilight here, twin-sisters, keep 
456   Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades, 
457   Like vaporous shapes half seen; beyond, a well, 
458   Dark, gleaming, and of most translucent wave, 
459   Images all the woven boughs above, 
460   And each depending leaf, and every speck 
461   Of azure sky, darting between their chasms; 
462   Nor aught else in the liquid mirror laves 
463   Its portraiture, but some inconstant star 
464   Between one foliaged lattice twinkling fair, 
465   Or, painted bird, sleeping beneath the moon, 
466   Or gorgeous insect floating motionless, 
467   Unconscious of the day, ere yet his wings 
468   Have spread their glories to the gaze of noon. 

469   Hither the Poet came. His eyes beheld 
470   Their own wan light through the reflected lines 
471   Of his thin hair, distinct in the dark depth 
472   Of that still fountain; as the human heart, 
473   Gazing in dreams over the gloomy grave, 
474   Sees its own treacherous likeness there. He heard 
475   The motion of the leaves, the grass that sprung 
476   Startled and glanced and trembled even to feel 
477   An unaccustomed presence, and the sound 
478   Of the sweet brook that from the secret springs 
479   Of that dark fountain rose. A Spirit seemed 
480   To stand beside him---clothed in no bright robes 
481   Of shadowy silver or enshrining light, 
482   Borrowed from aught the visible world affords 
483   Of grace, or majesty, or mystery;--- 
484   But, undulating woods, and silent well, 
485   And leaping rivulet, and evening gloom 
486   Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming, 
487   Held commune with him, as if he and it 
488   Were all that was,---only . . . when his regard 
489   Was raised by intense pensiveness, . . . two eyes, 
490   Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought, 
491   And seemed with their serene and azure smiles 
492   To beckon him. 

492                                             Obedient to the light 
493   That shone within his soul, he went, pursuing 
494   The windings of the dell.---The rivulet 
495   Wanton and wild, through many a green ravine 
496   Beneath the forest flowed. Sometimes it fell 
497   Among the moss with hollow harmony 
498   Dark and profound. Now on the polished stones 
499   It danced; like childhood laughing as it went: 
500   Then, through the plain in tranquil wanderings crept, 
501   Reflecting every herb and drooping bud 
502   That overhung its quietness.---'O stream! 
503   Whose source is inaccessibly profound, 
504   Whither do thy mysterious waters tend? 
505   Thou imagest my life. Thy darksome stillness, 
506   Thy dazzling waves, thy loud and hollow gulfs, 
507   Thy searchless fountain, and invisible course 
508   Have each their type in me: and the wide sky, 
509   And measureless ocean may declare as soon 
510   What oozy cavern of what wandering cloud 
511   Contains thy waters, as the universe 
512   Tell where these living thoughts reside, when stretched 
513   Upon thy flowers my bloodless limbs shall waste 
514   I' the passing wind!' 

514                                             Beside the grassy shore 
515   Of the small stream he went; he did impress 
516   On the green moss his tremulous step, that caught 
517   Strong shuddering from his burning limbs. As one 
518   Roused by some joyous madness from the couch 
519   Of fever, he did move; yet, not like him, 
520   Forgetful of the grave, where, when the flame 
521   Of his frail exultation shall be spent, 
522   He must descend. With rapid steps he went 
523   Beneath the shade of trees, beside the flow 
524   Of the wild babbling rivulet; and now 
525   The forest's solemn canopies were changed 
526   For the uniform and lightsome evening sky. 
527   Grey rocks did peep from the spare moss, and stemmed 
528   The struggling brook: tall spires of windlestrae 
529   Threw their thin shadows down the rugged slope, 
530   And nought but gnarled roots of ancient pines 
531   Branchless and blasted, clenched with grasping roots 
532   The unwilling soil. A gradual change was here, 
533   Yet ghastly. For, as fast years flow away, 
534   The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin 
535   And white, and where irradiate dewy eyes 
536   Had shone, gleam stony orbs:---so from his steps 
537   Bright flowers departed, and the beautiful shade 
538   Of the green groves, with all their odorous winds 
539   And musical motions. Calm, he still pursued 
540   The stream, that with a larger volume now 
541   Rolled through the labyrinthine dell; and there 
542   Fretted a path through its descending curves 
543   With its wintry speed. On every side now rose 
544   Rocks, which, in unimaginable forms, 
545   Lifted their black and barren pinnacles 
546   In the light of evening, and, its precipice 
547   Obscuring the ravine, disclosed above, 
548   Mid toppling stones, black gulfs and yawning caves, 
549   Whose windings gave ten thousand various tongues 
550   To the loud stream. Lo! where the pass expands 
551   Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks, 
552   And seems, with its accumulated crags, 
553   To overhang the world: for wide expand 
554   Beneath the wan stars and descending moon 
555   Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams, 
556   Dim tracts and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom 
557   Of leaden-coloured even, and fiery hills 
558   Mingling their flames with twilight, on the verge 
559   Of the remote horizon. The near scene, 
560   In naked and severe simplicity, 
561   Made contrast with the universe. A pine, 
562   Rock-rooted, stretched athwart the vacancy 
563   Its swinging boughs, to each inconstant blast 
564   Yielding one only response, at each pause 
565   In most familiar cadence, with the howl 
566   The thunder and the hiss of homeless streams 
567   Mingling its solemn song, whilst the broad river, 
568   Foaming and hurrying o'er its rugged path, 
569   Fell into that immeasurable void 
570   Scattering its waters to the passing winds. 

571   Yet the grey precipice and solemn pine 
572   And torrent, were not all;---one silent nook 
573   Was there. Even on the edge of that vast mountain, 
574   Upheld by knotty roots and fallen rocks, 
575   It overlooked in its serenity 
576   The dark earth, and the bending vault of stars. 
577   It was a tranquil spot, that seemed to smile 
578   Even in the lap of horror. Ivy clasped 
579   The fissured stones with its entwining arms, 
580   And did embower with leaves for ever green, 
581   And berries dark, the smooth and even space 
582   Of its inviolated floor, and here 
583   The children of the autumnal whirlwind bore, 
584   In wanton sport, those bright leaves, whose decay, 
585   Red, yellow, or ethereally pale, 
586   Rivals the pride of summer. 'Tis the haunt 
587   Of every gentle wind, whose breath can teach 
588   The wilds to love tranquility. One step, 
589   One human step alone, has ever broken 
590   The stillness of its solitude:---one voice 
591   Alone inspired its echoes;---even that voice 
592   Which hither came, floating among the winds, 
593   And led the loveliest among human forms 
594   To make their wild haunts the depository 
595   Of all the grace and beauty that endued 
596   Its motions, render up its majesty, 
597   Scatter its music on the unfeeling storm, 
598   And to the damp leaves and blue cavern mould, 
599   Nurses of rainbow flowers and branching moss, 
600   Commit the colours of that varying cheek, 
601   That snowy breast, those dark and drooping eyes. 

602   The dim and hornèd moon hung low, and poured 
603   A sea of lustre on the horizon's verge 
604   That overflowed its mountains. Yellow mist 
605   Filled the unbounded atmosphere, and drank 
606   Wan moonlight even to fulness: not a star 
607   Shone, not a sound was heard; the very winds, 
608   Danger's grim playmates, on that precipice 
609   Slept, clasped in his embrace.---O, storm of death! 
610   Whose sightless speed divides this sullen night: 
611   And thou, colossal Skeleton, that, still 
612   Guiding its irresistible career 
613   In thy devastating omnipotence, 
614   Art king of this frail world, from the red field 
615   Of slaughter, from the reeking hospital, 
616   The patriot's sacred couch, the snowy bed 
617   Of innocence, the scaffold and the throne, 
618   A mighty voice invokes thee. Ruin calls 
619   His brother Death. A rare and regal prey 
620   He hath prepared, prowling around the world; 
621   Glutted with which thou mayst repose, and men 
622   Go to their graves like flowers or creeping worms, 
623   Nor ever more offer at thy dark shrine 
624   The unheeded tribute of a broken heart. 

625   When on the threshold of the green recess 
626   The wanderer's footsteps fell, he knew that death 
627   Was on him. Yet a little, ere it fled, 
628   Did he resign his high and holy soul 
629   To images of the majestic past, 
630   That paused within his passive being now, 
631   Like winds that bear sweet music, when they breathe 
632   Through some dim latticed chamber. He did place 
633   His pale lean hand upon the rugged trunk 
634   Of the old pine. Upon an ivied stone 
635   Reclined his languid head, his limbs did rest, 
636   Diffused and motionless, on the smooth brink 
637   Of that obscurest chasm;---and thus he lay, 
638   Surrendering to their final impulses 
639   The hovering powers of life. Hope and despair, 
640   The torturers, slept; no mortal pain or fear 
641   Marred his repose, the influxes of sense, 
642   And his own being unalloyed by pain, 
643   Yet feebler and more feeble, calmly fed 
644   The stream of thought, till he lay breathing there 
645   At peace, and faintly smiling:---his last sight 
646   Was the great moon, which o'er the western line 
647   Of the wide world her mighty horn suspended, 
648   With whose dun beams inwoven darkness seemed 
649   To mingle. Now upon the jaggèd hills 
650   It rests, and still as the divided frame 
651   Of the vast meteor sunk, the Poet's blood, 
652   That ever beat in mystic sympathy 
653   With nature's ebb and flow, grew feebler still: 
654   And when two lessening points of light alone 
655   Gleamed through the darkness, the alternate gasp 
656   Of his faint respiration scarce did stir 
657   The stagnate night:---till the minutest ray 
658   Was quenched, the pulse yet lingered in his heart. 
659   It paused---it fluttered. But when heaven remained 
660   Utterly black, the murky shades involved 
661   An image, silent, cold, and motionless, 
662   As their own voiceless earth and vacant air. 
663   Even as a vapour fed with golden beams 
664   That ministered on sunlight, ere the west 
665   Eclipses it, was now that wondrous frame--- 
666   No sense, no motion, no divinity--- 
667   A fragile lute, on whose harmonious strings 
668   The breath of heaven did wander---a bright stream 
669   Once fed with many-voicèd waves---a dream 
670   Of youth, which night and time have quenched for ever, 
671   Still, dark, and dry, and unremembered now. 

672   O, for Medea's wondrous alchemy, 
673   Which wheresoe'er it fell made the earth gleam 
674   With bright flowers, and the wintry boughs exhale 
675   From vernal blooms fresh fragrance! O, that God, 
676   Profuse of poisons, would concede the chalice 
677   Which but one living man has drained, who now, 
678   Vessel of deathless wrath, a slave that feels 
679   No proud exemption in the blighting curse 
680   He bears, over the world wanders for ever, 
681   Lone as incarnate death! O, that the dream 
682   Of dark magician in his visioned cave, 
683   Raking the cinders of a crucible 
684   For life and power, even when his feeble hand 
685   Shakes in its last decay, were the true law 
686   Of this so lovely world! But thou art fled 
687   Like some frail exhalation; which the dawn 
688   Robes in its golden beams,---ah! thou hast fled! 
689   The brave, the gentle, and the beautiful, 
690   The child of grace and genius. Heartless things 
691   Are done and said i' the world, and many worms 
692   And beasts and men live on, and mighty Earth 
693   From sea and mountain, city and wilderness, 
694   In vesper low or joyous orison, 
695   Lifts still its solemn voice:---but thou art fled--- 
696   Thou canst no longer know or love the shapes 
697   Of this phantasmal scene, who have to thee 
698   Been purest ministers, who are, alas! 
699   Now thou art not. Upon those pallid lips 
700   So sweet even in their silence, on those eyes 
701   That image sleep in death, upon that form 
702   Yet safe from the worm's outrage, let no tear 
703   Be shed---not even in thought. Nor, when those hues 
704   Are gone, and those divinest lineaments, 
705   Worn by the senseless wind, shall live alone 
706   In the frail pauses of this simple strain, 
707   Let not high verse, mourning the memory 
708   Of that which is no more, or painting's woe 
709   Or sculpture, speak in feeble imagery 
710   Their own cold powers. Art and eloquence, 
711   And all the shows o' the world are frail and vain 
712   To weep a loss that turns their lights to shade. 
713   It is a woe too 'deep for tears,' when all 
714   Is reft at once, when some surpassing Spirit, 
715   Whose light adorned the world around it, leaves 
716   Those who remain behind, not sobs or groans, 
717   The passionate tumult of a clinging hope; 
718   But pale despair and cold tranquillity, 
719   Nature's vast frame, the web of human things, 
720   Birth and the grave, that are not as they were.