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Poem by Edmund Clarence Stedman


In Memory of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Born on the Fourth of August, 
a. d. 1792

⁠Wert thou on earth to-day, immortal one,
⁠How wouldst thou, in the starlight of thine eld,
⁠The likeness of that morntide look upon
⁠Which men beheld?
⁠How might it move thee, imaged in time's glass,
⁠As when the tomb has kept
⁠Unchanged the face of one who slept
Too soon, yet moulders not, though seasons come and pass?

⁠Has Death a wont to stay the soul no less?
⁠And art thou still what Shelley was erewhile,
⁠A feeling born of music's restlessness
⁠A child's swift smile
⁠Between its sobsa wandering mist that rose
⁠At dawna cloud that hung
⁠The Euganéan hills among;
Thy voice, a wind-harp's strain in some enchanted close?

⁠Thyself the wild west wind, O boy divine,
⁠Thou fain wouldst be,the spirit which in its breath
⁠Wooes yet the seaward ilex and the pine
⁠That wept thy death?
⁠Or art thou still the incarnate child of song
⁠Who gazed, as if astray
⁠From some uncharted stellar way,
With eyes of wonder at our world of grief and wrong?

⁠Yet thou wast Nature's prodigal; the last
⁠Unto whose lips her beauteous mouth she bent
⁠An instant, ere thy kinsmen, fading fast,
⁠Their lorn way went.
⁠What though the faun and oread had fled?
⁠A tenantry thine own,
⁠Peopling their leafy coverts lone,
With thee still dwelt as when sweet Fancy was not dead;

⁠Not dead as now, when we the visionless,
⁠In nature's alchemy more woeful wise,
⁠Say that no thought of us her depths possess,
⁠No love, her skies.
⁠Not ours to parley with the whispering June,
⁠The genii of the wood,
⁠The shapes that lurk in solitude,
The cloud, the mounting lark, the wan and waning moon.

⁠For thee the last time Hellas tipped her hills
⁠With beauty; India breathed her midnight moan,
⁠Her sigh, her ecstasy of passion's thrills,
⁠To thee alone.
⁠Such rapture thine, and the supremer gift
⁠Which can the minstrel raise,
⁠Above the myrtle and the bays,
To watch the sea of pain whereon our galleys drift.

⁠Therefrom arose with thee that lyric cry,
⁠Sad cadence of the disillusioned soul
⁠That asks of heaven and earth its destiny,
⁠Or joy or dole.
⁠Wild requiem of the heart whose vibratings,
⁠With laughter fraught, and tears,
⁠Beat through the century's dying years
While for one more dark round the old Earth plumes her wings.

⁠No answer came to thee; from ether fell
⁠No voice, no radiant beam; and in thy youth
⁠How were it else, when still the oracle
⁠Withholds its truth?
⁠We sit in judgment,we, above thy page
⁠Judge thee and such as thee,
⁠Pale heralds, sped too soon to see
The marvels of our late yet unanointed age!

⁠The slaves of air and light obeyed afar
⁠Thy summons, Ariel; their elf-horns wound
⁠Strange notes which all uncapturable are
⁠Of broken sound.
⁠That music thou alone couldst rightly hear
⁠(O rare impressionist!)
⁠And mimic. Therefore still we list
To its ethereal fall in this thy cyclic year.

⁠Be then the poet's poet still! for none
⁠Of them whose minstrelsy the stars have blessed
⁠Has from expression's wonderland so won
⁠The unexpressed,
⁠So wrought the charm of its elusive note
⁠On us, who yearn in vain
⁠To mock the pæan and the plain
Of tides that rise and fall with sweet mysterious rote.

⁠Was it not well that the prophetic few,
⁠So long inheritors of that high verse,
⁠Dwelt in the mount alone, and haply knew
⁠What stars rehearse?
⁠But now with foolish cry the multitude
⁠Awards at last the throne,
⁠And claims thy cloudland for its own
With voices all untuned to thy melodious mood.

⁠What joy it was to haunt some antique shade
⁠Lone as thine echo, and to wreak my youth
⁠Upon thy song,to feel the throbs which made
⁠Thy bliss, thy ruth,
⁠And thrill I knew not why, and dare to feel
⁠Myself an heir unknown
⁠To lands the poet treads alone
Ere to his soul the gods their presence quite reveal!

⁠Even then, like thee, I vowed to dedicate
⁠My powers to beauty; ay, but thou didst keep
⁠The vow, whilst I knew not the afterweight
⁠That poets weep,
⁠The burthen under which one needs must bow,
⁠The rude years envying
⁠My voice the notes it fain would sing
For men belike to hear, as still they hear thee now.

⁠Oh, the swift wind, the unrelenting sea!
⁠They loved thee, yet they lured thee unaware
⁠To be their spoil, lest alien skies to thee
⁠Should seem more fair;
⁠They had their will of thee, yet aye forlorn
⁠Mourned the lithe soul's escape,
⁠And gave the strand thy mortal shape
To be resolved in flame whereof its life was born.

⁠Afloat on tropic waves, I yield once more
⁠In age that heart of youth unto thy spell.
⁠The century wanes: thy voice thrills as of yore
⁠When first it fell.
⁠Would that I too, so had I sung a lay
⁠The least upborne of thine,
⁠Had shared thy pain! Not so divine
Our light, as faith to chant the far auroral day.

⁠On the Caribbean Sea
⁠(Revisited 1892)

Edmund Clarence Stedman

Edmund Clarence Stedman's other poems:
  1. The Dukes Exequy
  2. Meridian
  3. Yale Ode for Commencement Day
  4. Custer
  5. Ad Vatem

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Sylvia Plath Ariel ("Stasis in darkness")

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