[Sections 8 and 9 of "Queen Mab" rehandled by Shelley. First printed in 1876 by Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B., by whose kind permission it is here reproduced. See Editor's Introductory Note to "Queen Mab".]
O happy Earth! reality of Heaven! To which those restless powers that ceaselessly Throng through the human universe aspire; Thou consummation of all mortal hope! Thou glorious prize of blindly-working will! Whose rays, diffused throughout all space and time, Verge to one point and blend for ever there: Of purest spirits thou pure dwelling-place! Where care and sorrow, impotence and crime, Languor, disease, and ignorance dare not come: O happy Earth, reality of Heaven!
Genius has seen thee in her passionate dreams, And dim forebodings of thy loveliness, Haunting the human heart, have there entwined Those rooted hopes, that the proud Power of Evil Shall not for ever on this fairest world Shake pestilence and war, or that his slaves With blasphemy for prayer, and human blood For sacrifice, before his shrine for ever In adoration bend, or Erebus With all its banded fiends shall not uprise To overwhelm in envy and revenge The dauntless and the good, who dare to hurl Defiance at his throne, girt tho' it be With Death's omnipotence. Thou hast beheld His empire, o'er the present and the past; It was a desolate sight—now gaze on mine, Futurity. Thou hoary giant Time, Render thou up thy half-devoured babes,— And from the cradles of eternity, Where millions lie lulled to their portioned sleep By the deep murmuring stream of passing things, Tear thou that gloomy shroud.—Spirit, behold Thy glorious destiny!
The Spirit saw The vast frame of the renovated world Smile in the lap of Chaos, and the sense Of hope thro' her fine texture did suffuse Such varying glow, as summer evening casts On undulating clouds and deepening lakes. Like the vague sighings of a wind at even, That wakes the wavelets of the slumbering sea And dies on the creation of its breath, And sinks and rises, fails and swells by fits, Was the sweet stream of thought that with wild motion Flowed o'er the Spirit's human sympathies. The mighty tide of thought had paused awhile, Which from the Daemon now like Ocean's stream Again began to pour.—
To me is given The wonders of the human world to keep— Space, matter, time and mind—let the sight Renew and strengthen all thy failing hope. All things are recreated, and the flame Of consentaneous love inspires all life: The fertile bosom of the earth gives suck To myriads, who still grow beneath her care, Rewarding her with their pure perfectness: The balmy breathings of the wind inhale Her virtues, and diffuse them all abroad: Health floats amid the gentle atmosphere, Glows in the fruits, and mantles on the stream; No storms deform the beaming brow of heaven, Nor scatter in the freshness of its pride The foliage of the undecaying trees; But fruits are ever ripe, flowers ever fair, And Autumn proudly bears her matron grace, Kindling a flush on the fair cheek of Spring, Whose virgin bloom beneath the ruddy fruit Reflects its tint and blushes into love.
The habitable earth is full of bliss; Those wastes of frozen billows that were hurled By everlasting snow-storms round the poles, Where matter dared not vegetate nor live, But ceaseless frost round the vast solitude Bound its broad zone of stillness, are unloosed; And fragrant zephyrs there from spicy isles Ruffle the placid ocean-deep, that rolls Its broad, bright surges to the sloping sand, Whose roar is wakened into echoings sweet To murmur through the heaven-breathing groves And melodise with man's blest nature there.
The vast tract of the parched and sandy waste Now teems with countless rills and shady woods, Corn-fields and pastures and white cottages; And where the startled wilderness did hear A savage conqueror stained in kindred blood, Hymmng his victory, or the milder snake Crushing the bones of some frail antelope Within his brazen folds—the dewy lawn, Offering sweet incense to the sunrise, smiles To see a babe before his mother's door, Share with the green and golden basilisk That comes to lick his feet, his morning's meal.
Those trackless deeps, where many a weary sail Has seen, above the illimitable plain, Morning on night and night on morning rise, Whilst still no land to greet the wanderer spread Its shadowy mountains on the sunbright sea, Where the loud roarings of the tempest-waves So long have mingled with the gusty wind In melancholy loneliness, and swept The desert of those ocean solitudes, But vocal to the sea-bird's harrowing shriek, The bellowing monster, and the rushing storm, Now to the sweet and many-mingling sounds Of kindliest human impulses respond: Those lonely realms bright garden-isles begem, With lightsome clouds and shining seas between, And fertile valleys resonant with bliss, Whilst green woods overcanopy the wave, Which like a toil-worn labourer leaps to shore, To meet the kisses of the flowerets there.
Man chief perceives the change, his being notes The gradual renovation, and defines Each movement of its progress on his mind. Man, where the gloom of the long polar night Lowered o'er the snow-clad rocks and frozen soil, Where scarce the hardiest herb that braves the frost Basked in the moonlight's ineffectual glow, Shrank with the plants, and darkened with the night; Nor where the tropics bound the realms of day With a broad belt of mingling cloud and flame, Where blue mists through the unmoving atmosphere Scattered the seeds of pestilence, and fed Unnatural vegetation, where the land Teemed with all earthquake, tempest and disease, Was man a nobler being; slavery Had crushed him to his country's blood-stained dust.
Even where the milder zone afforded man A seeming shelter, yet contagion there, Blighting his being with unnumbered ills, Spread like a quenchless fire; nor truth availed Till late to arrest its progress, or create That peace which first in bloodless victory waved Her snowy standard o'er this favoured clime: There man was long the train-bearer of slaves, The mimic of surrounding misery, The jackal of ambition's lion-rage, The bloodhound of religion's hungry zeal.
Here now the human being stands adorning This loveliest earth with taintless body and mind; Blest from his birth with all bland impulses, Which gently in his noble bosom wake All kindly passions and all pure desires. Him, still from hope to hope the bliss pursuing, Which from the exhaustless lore of human weal Dawns on the virtuous mind, the thoughts that rise In time-destroying infiniteness gift With self-enshrined eternity, that mocks The unprevailing hoariness of age, And man, once fleeting o'er the transient scene Swift as an unremembered vision, stands Immortal upon earth: no longer now He slays the beast that sports around his dwelling And horribly devours its mangled flesh, Or drinks its vital blood, which like a stream Of poison thro' his fevered veins did flow Feeding a plague that secretly consumed His feeble frame, and kindling in his mind Hatred, despair, and fear and vain belief, The germs of misery, death, disease and crime. No longer now the winged habitants, That in the woods their sweet lives sing away, Flee from the form of man; but gather round, And prune their sunny feathers on the hands Which little children stretch in friendly sport Towards these dreadless partners of their play. All things are void of terror: man has lost His desolating privilege, and stands An equal amidst equals: happiness And science dawn though late upon the earth; Peace cheers the mind, health renovates the frame; Disease and pleasure cease to mingle here, Reason and passion cease to combat there; Whilst mind unfettered o'er the earth extends Its all-subduing energies, and wields The sceptre of a vast dominion there.
Mild is the slow necessity of death: The tranquil spirit fails beneath its grasp, Without a groan, almost without a fear, Resigned in peace to the necessity, Calm as a voyager to some distant land, And full of wonder, full of hope as he. The deadly germs of languor and disease Waste in the human frame, and Nature gifts With choicest boons her human worshippers. How vigorous now the athletic form of age! How clear its open and unwrinkled brow! Where neither avarice, cunning, pride, or care, Had stamped the seal of grey deformity On all the mingling lineaments of time. How lovely the intrepid front of youth! How sweet the smiles of taintless infancy.
Within the massy prison's mouldering courts, Fearless and free the ruddy children play, Weaving gay chaplets for their innocent brows With the green ivy and the red wall-flower, That mock the dungeon's unavailing gloom; The ponderous chains, and gratings of strong iron, There rust amid the accumulated ruins Now mingling slowly with their native earth: There the broad beam of day, which feebly once Lighted the cheek of lean captivity With a pale and sickly glare, now freely shines On the pure smiles of infant playfulness: No more the shuddering voice of hoarse despair Peals through the echoing vaults, but soothing notes Of ivy-fingered winds and gladsome birds And merriment are resonant around.
The fanes of Fear and Falsehood hear no more The voice that once waked multitudes to war Thundering thro' all their aisles: but now respond To the death dirge of the melancholy wind: It were a sight of awfulness to see The works of faith and slavery, so vast, So sumptuous, yet withal so perishing! Even as the corpse that rests beneath their wall. A thousand mourners deck the pomp of death To-day, the breathing marble glows above To decorate its memory, and tongues Are busy of its life: to-morrow, worms In silence and in darkness seize their prey. These ruins soon leave not a wreck behind: Their elements, wide-scattered o'er the globe, To happier shapes are moulded, and become Ministrant to all blissful impulses: Thus human things are perfected, and earth, Even as a child beneath its mother's love, Is strengthened in all excellence, and grows Fairer and nobler with each passing year.
Now Time his dusky pennons o'er the scene Closes in steadfast darkness, and the past Fades from our charmed sight. My task is done: Thy lore is learned. Earth's wonders are thine own, With all the fear and all the hope they bring. My spells are past: the present now recurs. Ah me! a pathless wilderness remains Yet unsubdued by man's reclaiming hand.
Yet, human Spirit, bravely hold thy course, Let virtue teach thee firmly to pursue The gradual paths of an aspiring change: For birth and life and death, and that strange state Before the naked powers that thro' the world Wander like winds have found a human home, All tend to perfect happiness, and urge The restless wheels of being on their way, Whose flashing spokes, instinct with infinite life, Bicker and burn to gain their destined goal: For birth but wakes the universal mind Whose mighty streams might else in silence flow Thro' the vast world, to individual sense Of outward shows, whose unexperienced shape New modes of passion to its frame may lend; Life is its state of action, and the store Of all events is aggregated there That variegate the eternal universe; Death is a gate of dreariness and gloom, That leads to azure isles and beaming skies And happy regions of eternal hope. Therefore, O Spirit! fearlessly bear on: Though storms may break the primrose on its stalk, Though frosts may blight the freshness of its bloom, Yet spring's awakening breath will woo the earth, To feed with kindliest dews its favourite flower, That blooms in mossy banks and darksome glens, Lighting the green wood with its sunny smile.
Fear not then, Spirit, death's disrobing hand, So welcome when the tyrant is awake, So welcome when the bigot's hell-torch flares; 'Tis but the voyage of a darksome hour, The transient gulf-dream of a startling sleep. For what thou art shall perish utterly, But what is thine may never cease to be; Death is no foe to virtue: earth has seen Love's brightest roses on the scaffold bloom, Mingling with freedom's fadeless laurels there, And presaging the truth of visioned bliss. Are there not hopes within thee, which this scene Of linked and gradual being has confirmed? Hopes that not vainly thou, and living fires Of mind as radiant and as pure as thou, Have shone upon the paths of men—return, Surpassing Spirit, to that world, where thou Art destined an eternal war to wage With tyranny and falsehood, and uproot The germs of misery from the human heart. Thine is the hand whose piety would soothe The thorny pillow of unhappy crime, Whose impotence an easy pardon gains, Watching its wanderings as a friend's disease: Thine is the brow whose mildness would defy Its fiercest rage, and brave its sternest will, When fenced by power and master of the world. Thou art sincere and good; of resolute mind, Free from heart-withering custom's cold control, Of passion lofty, pure and unsubdued. Earth's pride and meanness could not vanquish thee, And therefore art thou worthy of the boon Which thou hast now received: virtue shall keep Thy footsteps in the path that thou hast trod, And many days of beaming hope shall bless Thy spotless life of sweet and sacred love. Go, happy one, and give that bosom joy Whose sleepless spirit waits to catch Light, life and rapture from thy smile.
The Daemon called its winged ministers. Speechless with bliss the Spirit mounts the car, That rolled beside the crystal battlement, Bending her beamy eyes in thankfulness. The burning wheels inflame The steep descent of Heaven's untrodden way. Fast and far the chariot flew: The mighty globes that rolled Around the gate of the Eternal Fane Lessened by slow degrees, and soon appeared Such tiny twinklers as the planet orbs That ministering on the solar power With borrowed light pursued their narrower way. Earth floated then below: The chariot paused a moment; The Spirit then descended: And from the earth departing The shadows with swift wings Speeded like thought upon the light of Heaven.
The Body and the Soul united then, A gentle start convulsed Ianthe's frame: Her veiny eyelids quietly unclosed; Moveless awhile the dark blue orbs remained: She looked around in wonder and beheld Henry, who kneeled in silence by her couch, Watching her sleep with looks of speechless love, And the bright beaming stars That through the casement shone.