The Woodman and the Nightingale
Published in part (1-67) by Mrs. Shelley, "Posthumous Poems", 1824; the remainder (68-70) by Dr. Garnett, "Relics of Shelley", 1862.
A woodman whose rough heart was out of tune (I think such hearts yet never came to good) Hated to hear, under the stars or moon,
One nightingale in an interfluous wood Satiate the hungry dark with melody;— And as a vale is watered by a flood,
Or as the moonlight fills the open sky Struggling with darkness—as a tuberose Peoples some Indian dell with scents which lie
Like clouds above the flower from which they rose, The singing of that happy nightingale In this sweet forest, from the golden close
Of evening till the star of dawn may fail, Was interfused upon the silentness; The folded roses and the violets pale
Heard her within their slumbers, the abyss Of heaven with all its planets; the dull ear Of the night-cradled earth; the loneliness
Of the circumfluous waters,—every sphere And every flower and beam and cloud and wave, And every wind of the mute atmosphere,
And every beast stretched in its rugged cave, And every bird lulled on its mossy bough, And every silver moth fresh from the grave
Which is its cradle—ever from below Aspiring like one who loves too fair, too far, To be consumed within the purest glow
Of one serene and unapproached star, As if it were a lamp of earthly light, Unconscious, as some human lovers are,
Itself how low, how high beyond all height The heaven where it would perish!—and every form That worshipped in the temple of the night
Was awed into delight, and by the charm Girt as with an interminable zone, Whilst that sweet bird, whose music was a storm
Of sound, shook forth the dull oblivion Out of their dreams; harmony became love In every soul but one.
And so this man returned with axe and saw At evening close from killing the tall treen, The soul of whom by Nature's gentle law
Was each a wood-nymph, and kept ever green The pavement and the roof of the wild copse, Chequering the sunlight of the blue serene
With jagged leaves,—and from the forest tops Singing the winds to sleep—or weeping oft Fast showers of aereal water-drops
Into their mother's bosom, sweet and soft, Nature's pure tears which have no bitterness;— Around the cradles of the birds aloft
They spread themselves into the loveliness Of fan-like leaves, and over pallid flowers Hang like moist clouds:—or, where high branches kiss,
Make a green space among the silent bowers, Like a vast fane in a metropolis, Surrounded by the columns and the towers
All overwrought with branch-like traceries In which there is religion—and the mute Persuasion of unkindled melodies,
Odours and gleams and murmurs, which the lute Of the blind pilot-spirit of the blast Stirs as it sails, now grave and now acute,
Wakening the leaves and waves, ere it has passed To such brief unison as on the brain One tone, which never can recur, has cast, One accent never to return again.
The world is full of Woodmen who expel Love's gentle Dryads from the haunts of life, And vex the nightingales in every dell.
NOTE: _8 —or as a tuberose cj. A.C. Bradley.