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The Daemon of the World   By: (1792-1822)

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By Percy Bysshe Shelley


Nec tantum prodere vati, Quantum scire licet. Venit aetas omnis in unam Congeriem, miserumque premunt tot saecula pectus. LUCAN, Phars. v. 176.

How wonderful is Death, Death and his brother Sleep! One pale as yonder wan and horned moon, With lips of lurid blue, The other glowing like the vital morn, 5 When throned on ocean's wave It breathes over the world: Yet both so passing strange and wonderful!

Hath then the iron sceptred Skeleton, Whose reign is in the tainted sepulchres, 10 To the hell dogs that couch beneath his throne Cast that fair prey? Must that divinest form, Which love and admiration cannot view Without a beating heart, whose azure veins Steal like dark streams along a field of snow, 15 Whose outline is as fair as marble clothed In light of some sublimest mind, decay? Nor putrefaction's breath Leave aught of this pure spectacle But loathsomeness and ruin? 20 Spare aught but a dark theme, On which the lightest heart might moralize? Or is it but that downy winged slumbers Have charmed their nurse coy Silence near her lids To watch their own repose? 25 Will they, when morning's beam Flows through those wells of light, Seek far from noise and day some western cave, Where woods and streams with soft and pausing winds A lulling murmur weave? 30 Ianthe doth not sleep The dreamless sleep of death: Nor in her moonlight chamber silently Doth Henry hear her regular pulses throb, Or mark her delicate cheek 35 With interchange of hues mock the broad moon, Outwatching weary night, Without assured reward. Her dewy eyes are closed; On their translucent lids, whose texture fine 40 Scarce hides the dark blue orbs that burn below With unapparent fire, The baby Sleep is pillowed: Her golden tresses shade The bosom's stainless pride, 45 Twining like tendrils of the parasite Around a marble column.

Hark! whence that rushing sound? 'Tis like a wondrous strain that sweeps Around a lonely ruin 50 When west winds sigh and evening waves respond In whispers from the shore: 'Tis wilder than the unmeasured notes Which from the unseen lyres of dells and groves The genii of the breezes sweep. 55 Floating on waves of music and of light, The chariot of the Daemon of the World Descends in silent power: Its shape reposed within: slight as some cloud That catches but the palest tinge of day 60 When evening yields to night, Bright as that fibrous woof when stars indue Its transitory robe. Four shapeless shadows bright and beautiful Draw that strange car of glory, reins of light 65 Check their unearthly speed; they stop and fold Their wings of braided air: The Daemon leaning from the ethereal car Gazed on the slumbering maid. Human eye hath ne'er beheld 70 A shape so wild, so bright, so beautiful, As that which o'er the maiden's charmed sleep Waving a starry wand, Hung like a mist of light. Such sounds as breathed around like odorous winds 75 Of wakening spring arose, Filling the chamber and the moonlight sky. Maiden, the world's supremest spirit Beneath the shadow of her wings Folds all thy memory doth inherit 80 From ruin of divinest things, Feelings that lure thee to betray, And light of thoughts that pass away... Continue reading book >>

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