On the Medusa of Leonardo Da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery
Published by Mrs. Shelley, "Posthumous Poems", 1824.
1. It lieth, gazing on the midnight sky, Upon the cloudy mountain-peak supine; Below, far lands are seen tremblingly; Its horror and its beauty are divine. Upon its lips and eyelids seems to lie Loveliness like a shadow, from which shine, Fiery and lurid, struggling underneath, The agonies of anguish and of death.
2. Yet it is less the horror than the grace Which turns the gazer's spirit into stone, Whereon the lineaments of that dead face Are graven, till the characters be grown Into itself, and thought no more can trace; 'Tis the melodious hue of beauty thrown Athwart the darkness and the glare of pain, Which humanize and harmonize the strain.
3. And from its head as from one body grow, As ... grass out of a watery rock, Hairs which are vipers, and they curl and flow And their long tangles in each other lock, And with unending involutions show Their mailed radiance, as it were to mock The torture and the death within, and saw The solid air with many a ragged jaw.
4. And, from a stone beside, a poisonous eft Peeps idly into those Gorgonian eyes; Whilst in the air a ghastly bat, bereft Of sense, has flitted with a mad surprise Out of the cave this hideous light had cleft, And he comes hastening like a moth that hies After a taper; and the midnight sky Flares, a light more dread than obscurity.
5. 'Tis the tempestuous loveliness of terror; For from the serpents gleams a brazen glare Kindled by that inextricable error, Which makes a thrilling vapour of the air Become a ... and ever-shifting mirror Of all the beauty and the terror there— A woman's countenance, with serpent-locks, Gazing in death on Heaven from those wet rocks.
NOTES: _5 seems 1839; seem 1824. _6 shine]shrine 1824, 1839. _26 those 1824; these 1839.