by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Canto 4
Canto 6

Canto 5

 Over the utmost hill at length I sped, A snowy steep:-the moon was hanging low Over the Asian mountains, and outspread The plain, the City, and the Camp below, Skirted the midnight Ocean's glimmering flow; The City's moonlit spires and myriad lamps, Like stars in a sublunar sky did glow, And fires blazed far amid the scattered camps, Like springs of flame, which burst where'er swift Earthquake stamps. 
 All slept but those in watchful arms who stood, And those who sate tending the beacon's light, And the few sounds from that vast multitude Made silence more profound.-Oh, what a might Of human thought was cradled in that night! How many hearts impenetrably veiled Beat underneath its shade, what secret fight Evil and good, in woven passions mailed, Waged through that silent throng-a war that never failed! 
 And now the Power of Good held victory. So, through the labyrinth of many a tent, Among the silent millions who did lie In innocent sleep, exultingly I went; The moon had left Heaven desert now, but lent From eastern morn the first faint lustre showed An armed youth-over his spear he bent His downward face.-'A friend!' I cried aloud, And quickly common hopes made freemen understood. 
 I sate beside him while the morning beam Crept slowly over Heaven, and talked with him Of those immortal hopes, a glorious theme! Which led us forth, until the stars grew dim: And all the while, methought, his voice did swim As if it drowned in remembrance were Of thoughts which make the moist eyes overbrim: At last, when daylight 'gan to fill the air, He looked on me, and cried in wonder-'Thou art here!' 
 Then, suddenly, I knew it was the youth In whom its earliest hopes my spirit found; But envious tongues had stained his spotless truth, And thoughtless pride his love in silence bound, And shame and sorrow mine in toils had wound, Whilst he was innocent, and I deluded; The truth now came upon me, on the ground Tears of repenting joy, which fast intruded, Fell fast, and o'er its peace our mingling spirits brooded. 
 Thus, while with rapid lips and earnest eyes We talked, a sound of sweeping conflict spread As from the earth did suddenly arise; From every tent roused by that clamour dread, Our bands outsprung and seized their arms-we sped Towards the sound: our tribes were gathering far. Those sanguine slaves amid ten thousand dead Stabbed in their sleep, trampled in treacherous war The gentle hearts whose power their lives had sought to spare. 
 Like rabid snakes, that sting some gentle child Who brings them food, when winter false and fair Allures them forth with its cold smiles, so wild They rage among the camp;-they overbear The patriot hosts-confusion, then despair, Descends like night-when 'Laon!' one did cry; Like a bright ghost from Heaven that shout did scare The slaves, and widening through the vaulted sky, Seemed sent from Earth to Heaven in sign of victory. 
 In sudden panic those false murderers fled, Like insect tribes before the northern gale: But swifter still, our hosts encompassed Their shattered ranks, and in a craggy vale, Where even their fierce despair might nought avail, Hemmed them around!-and then revenge and fear Made the high virtue of the patriots fail: One pointed on his foe the mortal spear- I rushed before its point, and cried 'Forbear, forbear!' 
 The spear transfixed my arm that was uplifted In swift expostulation, and the blood Gushed round its point: I smiled, and-'Oh! thou gifted With eloquence which shall not be withstood, Flow thus!' I cried in joy, 'thou vital flood, Until my heart be dry, ere thus the cause For which thou wert aught worthy be subdued- Ah, ye are pale,-ye weep,-your passions pause,- 'Tis well! ye feel the truth of love's benignant laws. 
 'Soldiers, our brethren and our friends are slain. Ye murdered them, I think, as they did sleep! Alas, what have ye done? the slightest pain Which ye might suffer, there were eyes to weep, But ye have quenched them-there were smiles to steep Your hearts in balm, but they are lost in woe; And those whom love did set his watch to keep Around your tents, truth's freedom to bestow, Ye stabbed as they did sleep-but they forgive ye now. 
 'Oh wherefore should ill ever flow from ill, And pain still keener pain for ever breed? We all are brethren-even the slaves who kill For hire, are men; and to avenge misdeed On the misdoer, doth but Misery feed With her own broken heart! O Earth, O Heaven! And thou, dread Nature, which to every deed And all that lives, or is, to be hath given, Even as to thee have these done ill, and are forgiven! 
 'Join then your hands and hearts, and let the past Be as a grave which gives not up its dead To evil thoughts.'-A film then overcast My sense with dimness, for the wound, which bled Freshly, swift shadows o'er mine eyes had shed. When I awoke, I lay mid friends and foes, And earnest countenances on me shed The light of questioning looks, whilst one did close My wound with balmiest herbs, and soothed me to repose; 
 And one whose spear had pierced me, leaned beside With quivering lips and humid eyes;-and all Seemed like some brothers on a journey wide Gone forth, whom now strange meeting did befall In a strange land, round one whom they might call Their friend, their chief, their father, for assay Of peril, which had saved them from the thrall Of death, now suffering. Thus the vast array Of those fraternal bands were reconciled that day. 
 Lifting the thunder of their acclamation, Towards the City then the multitude, And I among them, went in joy-a nation Made free by love;-a mighty brotherhood Linked by a jealous interchange of good; A glorious pageant, more magnificent Than kingly slaves arrayed in gold and blood, When they return from carnage, and are sent In triumph bright beneath the populous battlement. 
 Afar, the city-walls were thronged on high, And myriads on each giddy turret clung, And to each spire far lessening in the sky Bright pennons on the idle winds were hung; As we approached, a shout of joyance sprung At once from all the crowd, as if the vast And peopled Earth its boundless skies among The sudden clamour of delight had cast, When from before its face some general wreck had passed. 
 Our armies through the City's hundred gates Were poured, like brooks which to the rocky lair Of some deep lake, whose silence them awaits, Throng from the mountains when the storms are there And, as we passed through the calm sunny air A thousand flower-inwoven crowns were shed, The token flowers of truth and freedom fair, And fairest hands bound them on many a head, Those angels of love's heaven that over all was spread. 
 I trod as one tranced in some rapturous vision: Those bloody bands so lately reconciled, Were, ever as they went, by the contrition Of anger turned to love, from ill beguiled, And every one on them more gently smiled, Because they had done evil:-the sweet awe Of such mild looks made their own hearts grow mild, And did with soft attraction ever draw Their spirits to the love of freedom's equal law. 
 And they, and all, in one loud symphony My name with Liberty commingling, lifted, 'The friend and the preserver of the free! The parent of this joy!' and fair eyes gifted With feelings, caught from one who had uplifted The light of a great spirit, round me shone; And all the shapes of this grand scenery shifted Like restless clouds before the steadfast sun,- Where was that Maid? I asked, but it was known of none. 
 Laone was the name her love had chosen, For she was nameless, and her birth none knew: Where was Laone now?-The words were frozen Within my lips with fear; but to subdue Such dreadful hope, to my great task was due, And when at length one brought reply, that she To-morrow would appear, I then withdrew To judge what need for that great throng might be, For now the stars came thick over the twilight sea. 
 Yet need was none for rest or food to care, Even though that multitude was passing great, Since each one for the other did prepare All kindly succour-Therefore to the gate Of the Imperial House, now desolate, I passed, and there was found aghast, alone, The fallen Tyrant!-Silently he sate Upon the footstool of his golden throne, Which, starred with sunny gems, in its own lustre shone. 
 Alone, but for one child, who led before him A graceful dance: the only living thing Of all the crowd, which thither to adore him Flocked yesterday, who solace sought to bring In his abandonment!-She knew the King Had praised her dance of yore, and now she wove Its circles, aye weeping and murmuring Mid her sad task of unregarded love, That to no smiles it might his speechless sadness move. 
 She fled to him, and wildly clasped his feet When human steps were heard:-he moved nor spoke, Nor changed his hue, nor raised his looks to meet The gaze of strangers-our loud entrance woke The echoes of the hall, which circling broke The calm of its recesses,-like a tomb Its sculptured walls vacantly to the stroke Of footfalls answered, and the twilight's gloom Lay like a charnel's mist within the radiant dome. 
 The little child stood up when we came nigh; Her lips and cheeks seemed very pale and wan, But on her forehead, and within her eye Lay beauty, which makes hearts that feed thereon Sick with excess of sweetness; on the throne She leaned;-the King, with gathered brow, and lips Wreathed by long scorn, did inly sneer and frown With hue like that when some great painter dips His pencil in the gloom of earthquake and eclipse. 
 She stood beside him like a rainbow braided Within some storm, when scarce its shadows vast From the blue paths of the swift sun have faded; A sweet and solemn smile, like Cythna's, cast One moment's light, which made my heart beat fast, O'er that child's parted lips-a gleam of bliss, A shade of vanished days,-as the tears passed Which wrapped it, even as with a father's kiss I pressed those softest eyes in trembling tenderness. 
 The sceptred wretch then from that solitude I drew, and, of his change compassionate, With words of sadness soothed his rugged mood. But he, while pride and fear held deep debate, With sullen guile of ill-dissembled hate Glared on me as a toothless snake might glare: Pity, not scorn I felt, though desolate The desolator now, and unaware The curses which he mocked had caught him by the hair. 
 I led him forth from that which now might seem A gorgeous grave: through portals sculptured deep With imagery beautiful as dream We went, and left the shades which tend on sleep Over its unregarded gold to keep Their silent watch.-The child trod faintingly, And as she went, the tears which she did weep Glanced in the starlight; wildered seemed she, And, when I spake, for sobs she could not answer me. 
 At last the tyrant cried, 'She hungers, slave! Stab her, or give her bread!'-It was a tone Such as sick fancies in a new-made grave Might hear. I trembled, for the truth was known; He with this child had thus been left alone, And neither had gone forth for food,-but he In mingled pride and awe cowered near his throne, And she a nursling of captivity Knew nought beyond those walls, nor what such change might be. 
 And he was troubled at a charm withdrawn Thus suddenly; that sceptres ruled no more- That even from gold the dreadful strength was gone, Which once made all things subject to its power- Such wonder seized him, as if hour by hour The past had come again; and the swift fall Of one so great and terrible of yore, To desolateness, in the hearts of all Like wonder stirred, who saw such awful change befall. 
 A mighty crowd, such as the wide land pours Once in a thousand years, now gathered round The fallen tyrant;-like the rush of showers Of hail in spring, pattering along the ground, Their many footsteps fell, else came no sound From the wide multitude: that lonely man Then knew the burden of his change, and found, Concealing in the dust his visage wan, Refuge from the keen looks which through his bosom ran. 
 And he was faint withal: I sate beside him Upon the earth, and took that child so fair From his weak arms, that ill might none betide him Or her;-when food was brought to them, her share To his averted lips the child did bear, But, when she saw he had enough, she ate And wept the while;-the lonely man's despair Hunger then overcame, and of his state Forgetful, on the dust as in a trance he sate. 
 Slowly the silence of the multitudes Passed, as when far is heard in some lone dell The gathering of a wind among the woods- 'And he is fallen!' they cry, 'he who did dwell Like famine or the plague, or aught more fell Among our homes, is fallen! the murderer Who slaked his thirsting soul as from a well Of blood and tears with ruin! he is here! Sunk in a gulf of scorn from which none may him rear!' 
 Then was heard-'He who judged let him be brought To judgement! blood for blood cries from the soil On which his crimes have deep pollution wrought! Shall Othman only unavenged despoil? Shall they who by the stress of grinding toil Wrest from the unwilling earth his luxuries, Perish for crime, while his foul blood may boil, Or creep within his veins at will?-Arise! And to high justice make her chosen sacrifice!' 
 'What do ye seek? what fear ye,' then I cried, Suddenly starting forth, 'that ye should shed The blood of Othman?-if your hearts are tried In the true love of freedom, cease to dread This one poor lonely man-beneath Heaven spread In purest light above us all, through earth- Maternal earth, who doth her sweet smiles shed For all, let him go free; until the worth Of human nature win from these a second birth. 
 'What call ye "justice"? Is there one who ne'er In secret thought has wished another's ill?- Are ye all pure? Let those stand forth who hear And tremble not. Shall they insult and kill, If such they be? their mild eyes can they fill With the false anger of the hypocrite? Alas, such were not pure!-the chastened will Of virtue sees that justice is the light Of love, and not revenge, and terror and despite.' 
 The murmur of the people, slowly dying, Paused as I spake, then those who near me were, Cast gentle looks where the lone man was lying Shrouding his head, which now that infant fair Clasped on her lap in silence;-through the air Sobs were then heard, and many kissed my feet In pity's madness, and to the despair Of him whom late they cursed, a solace sweet His very victims brought-soft looks and speeches meet. 
 Then to a home for his repose assigned, Accompanied by the still throng, he went In silence, where, to soothe his rankling mind, Some likeness of his ancient state was lent; And if his heart could have been innocent As those who pardoned him, he might have ended His days in peace; but his straight lips were bent, Men said, into a smile which guile portended, A sight with which that child like hope with fear was blended. 
 'Twas midnight now, the eve of that great day Whereon the many nations at whose call The chains of earth like mist melted away, Decreed to hold a sacred Festival, A rite to attest the equality of all Who live. So to their homes, to dream or wake All went. The sleepless silence did recall Laone to my thoughts, with hopes that make The flood recede from which their thirst they seek to slake. 
 The dawn flowed forth, and from its purple fountains I drank those hopes which make the spirit quail, As to the plain between the misty mountains And the great City, with a countenance pale, I went:-it was a sight which might avail To make men weep exulting tears, for whom Now first from human power the reverend veil Was torn, to see Earth from her general womb Pour forth her swarming sons to a fraternal doom: 
 To see, far glancing in the misty morning, The signs of that innumerable host; To hear one sound of many made, the warning Of Earth to Heaven from its free children tossed, While the eternal hills, and the sea lost In wavering light, and, starring the blue sky The city's myriad spires of gold, almost With human joy made mute society- Its witnesses with men who must hereafter be. 
 To see, like some vast island from the Ocean, The Altar of the Federation rear Its pile i' the midst; a work, which the devotion Of millions in one night created there, Sudden as when the moonrise makes appear Strange clouds in the east; a marble pyramid Distinct with steps: that mighty shape did wear The light of genius; its still shadow hid Far ships: to know its height the morning mists forbid! 
 To hear the restless multitudes for ever Around the base of that great Altar flow, As on some mountain-islet burst and shiver Atlantic waves; and solemnly and slow As the wind bore that tumult to and fro, To feel the dreamlike music, which did swim Like beams through floating clouds on waves below Falling in pauses, from that Altar dim, As silver-sounding tongues breathed an aerial hymn. 
 To hear, to see, to live, was on that morn Lethean joy! so that all those assembled Cast off their memories of the past outworn; Two only bosoms with their own life trembled, And mine was one,-and we had both dissembled; So with a beating heart I went, and one, Who having much, covets yet more, resembled; A lost and dear possession, which not won, He walks in lonely gloom beneath the noonday sun. 
 To the great Pyramid I came: its stair With female choirs was thronged: the loveliest Among the free, grouped with its sculptures rare; As I approached, the morning's golden mist, Which now the wonder-stricken breezes kissed With their cold lips, fled, and the summit shone Like Athos seen from Samothracia, dressed In earliest light, by vintagers, and one Sate there, a female Shape upon an ivory throne: 
 A Form most like the imagined habitant Of silver exhalations sprung from dawn, By winds which feed on sunrise woven, to enchant The faiths of men: all mortal eyes were drawn, As famished mariners through strange seas gone Gaze on a burning watch-tower, by the light Of those divinest lineaments-alone With thoughts which none could share, from that fair sight I turned in sickness, for a veil shrouded her countenance bright. 
 And neither did I hear the acclamations, Which from brief silence bursting, filled the air With her strange name and mine, from all the nations Which we, they said, in strength had gathered there From the sleep of bondage; nor the vision fair Of that bright pageantry beheld,-but blind And silent, as a breathing corpse did fare, Leaning upon my friend, till like a wind To fevered cheeks, a voice flowed o'er my troubled mind. 
 Like music of some minstrel heavenly gifted, To one whom fiends enthral, this voice to me; Scarce did I wish her veil to be uplifted, I was so calm and joyous.-I could see The platform where we stood, the statues three Which kept their marble watch on that high shrine, The multitudes, the mountains, and the sea; As when eclipse hath passed, things sudden shine To men's astonished eyes most clear and crystalline. 
 At first Laone spoke most tremulously: But soon her voice the calmness which it shed Gathered, and-'Thou art whom I sought to see, And thou art our first votary here,' she said: 'I had a dear friend once, but he is dead!- And of all those on the wide earth who breathe, Thou dost resemble him alone-I spread This veil between us two that thou beneath Shouldst image one who may have been long lost in death. 
 'For this wilt thou not henceforth pardon me? Yes, but those joys which silence well requite Forbid reply;-why men have chosen me To be the Priestess of this holiest rite I scarcely know, but that the floods of light Which flow over the world, have borne me hither To meet thee, long most dear; and now unite Thine hand with mine, and may all comfort wither From both the hearts whose pulse in joy now beat together, 
 'If our own will as others' law we bind, If the foul worship trampled here we fear; If as ourselves we cease to love our kind!'- She paused, and pointed upwards-sculptured there Three shapes around her ivory throne appear; One was a Giant, like a child asleep On a loose rock, whose grasp crushed, as it were In dream, sceptres and crowns; and one did keep Its watchful eyes in doubt whether to smile or weep; 
 A Woman sitting on the sculptured disk Of the broad earth, and feeding from one breast A human babe and a young basilisk; Her looks were sweet as Heaven's when loveliest In Autumn eves. The third Image was dressed In white wings swift as clouds in winter skies; Beneath his feet, 'mongst ghastliest forms, repressed Lay Faith, an obscene worm, who sought to rise, While calmly on the Sun he turned his diamond eyes. 
 Beside that Image then I sate, while she Stood, mid the throngs which ever ebbed and flowed, Like light amid the shadows of the sea Cast from one cloudless star, and on the crowd That touch which none who feels forgets, bestowed; And whilst the sun returned the steadfast gaze Of the great Image, as o'er Heaven it glode, That rite had place; it ceased when sunset's blaze Burned o'er the isles. All stood in joy and deep amaze- -When in the silence of all spirits there Laone's voice was felt, and through the air Her thrilling gestures spoke, most eloquently fair:- 
 'Calm art thou as yon sunset! swift and strong As new-fledged Eagles, beautiful and young, That float among the blinding beams of morning; And underneath thy feet writhe Faith, and Folly, Custom, and Hell, and mortal Melancholy- Hark! the Earth starts to hear the mighty warning Of thy voice sublime and holy; Its free spirits here assembled See thee, feel thee, know thee now,- To thy voice their hearts have trembled Like ten thousand clouds which flow With one wide wind as it flies!- Wisdom! thy irresistible children rise To hail thee, and the elements they chain And their own will, to swell the glory of thy train. 
 'O Spirit vast and deep as Night and Heaven! Mother and soul of all to which is given The light of life, the loveliness of being, Lo! thou dost re-ascend the human heart, Thy throne of power, almighty as thou wert In dreams of Poets old grown pale by seeing The shade of thee;-now, millions start To feel thy lightnings through them burning: Nature, or God, or Love, or Pleasure, Or Sympathy the sad tears turning To mutual smiles, a drainless treasure, Descends amidst us;-Scorn and Hate, Revenge and Selfishness are desolate- A hundred nations swear that there shall be Pity and Peace and Love, among the good and free! 
 51.3. 'Eldest of things, divine Equality! Wisdom and Love are but the slaves of thee, The Angels of thy sway, who pour around thee Treasures from all the cells of human thought, And from the Stars, and from the Ocean brought, And the last living heart whose beatings bound thee: The powerful and the wise had sought Thy coming, thou in light descending O'er the wide land which is thine own Like the Spring whose breath is blending All blasts of fragrance into one, Comest upon the paths of men!- Earth bares her general bosom to thy ken, And all her children here in glory meet To feed upon thy smiles, and clasp thy sacred feet. 
 'My brethren, we are free! the plains and mountains, The gray sea-shore, the forests and the fountains, Are haunts of happiest dwellers;-man and woman, Their common bondage burst, may freely borrow From lawless love a solace for their sorrow; For oft we still must weep, since we are human. A stormy night's serenest morrow, Whose showers are pity's gentle tears, Whose clouds are smiles of those that die Like infants without hopes or fears, And whose beams are joys that lie In blended hearts, now holds dominion; The dawn of mind, which upwards on a pinion Borne, swift as sunrise, far illumines space, And clasps this barren world in its own bright embrace! 
 'My brethren, we are free! The fruits are glowing Beneath the stars, and the night-winds are flowing O'er the ripe corn, the birds and beasts are dreaming- Never again may blood of bird or beast Stain with its venomous stream a human feast, To the pure skies in accusation steaming; Avenging poisons shall have ceased To feed disease and fear and madness, The dwellers of the earth and air Shall throng around our steps in gladness, Seeking their food or refuge there. Our toil from thought all glorious forms shall cull, To make this Earth, our home, more beautiful, And Science, and her sister Poesy, Shall clothe in light the fields and cities of the free! 
 'Victory, Victory to the prostrate nations! Bear witness Night, and ye mute Constellations Who gaze on us from your crystalline cars! Thoughts have gone forth whose powers can sleep no more! Victory! Victory! Earth's remotest shore, Regions which groan beneath the Antarctic stars, The green lands cradled in the roar Of western waves, and wildernesses Peopled and vast, which skirt the oceans Where morning dyes her golden tresses, Shall soon partake our high emotions: Kings shall turn pale! Almighty Fear, The Fiend-God, when our charmed name he hear, Shall fade like shadow from his thousand fanes, While Truth with Joy enthroned o'er his lost empire reigns!' 
 Ere she had ceased, the mists of night entwining Their dim woof, floated o'er the infinite throng; She, like a spirit through the darkness shining, In tones whose sweetness silence did prolong, As if to lingering winds they did belong, Poured forth her inmost soul: a passionate speech With wild and thrilling pauses woven among, Which whoso heard was mute, for it could teach To rapture like her own all listening hearts to reach. 
 Her voice was as a mountain stream which sweeps The withered leaves of Autumn to the lake, And in some deep and narrow bay then sleeps In the shadow of the shores; as dead leaves wake, Under the wave, in flowers and herbs which make Those green depths beautiful when skies are blue, The multitude so moveless did partake Such living change, and kindling murmurs flew As o'er that speechless calm delight and wonder grew. 
 Over the plain the throngs were scattered then In groups around the fires, which from the sea Even to the gorge of the first mountain-glen Blazed wide and far: the banquet of the free Was spread beneath many a dark cypress-tree, Beneath whose spires, which swayed in the red flame,[1] Reclining, as they ate, of Liberty, And Hope, and Justice, and Laone's name, Earth's children did a woof of happy converse frame. 
 Their feast was such as Earth, the general mother, Pours from her fairest bosom, when she smiles In the embrace of Autumn;-to each other As when some parent fondly reconciles Her warring children, she their wrath beguiles With her own sustenance, they relenting weep: Such was this Festival, which from their isles And continents, and winds, and oceans deep, All shapes might throng to share, that fly, or walk or creep,- 
 Might share in peace and innocence, for gore Or poison none this festal did pollute, But, piled on high, an overflowing store Of pomegranates and citrons, fairest fruit, Melons, and dates, and figs, and many a root Sweet and sustaining, and bright grapes ere yet Accursed fire their mild juice could transmute Into a mortal bane, and brown corn set In baskets; with pure streams their thirsting lips they wet. 
 Laone had descended from the shrine, And every deepest look and holiest mind Fed on her form, though now those tones divine Were silent as she passed; she did unwind Her veil, as with the crowds of her own kind She mixed; some impulse made my heart refrain From seeking her that night, so I reclined Amidst a group, where on the utmost plain A festal watchfire burned beside the dusky main. 
 And joyous was our feast; pathetic talk, And wit, and harmony of choral strains, While far Orion o'er the waves did walk That flow among the isles, held us in chains Of sweet captivity which none disdains Who feels; but when his zone grew dim in mist Which clothes the Ocean's bosom, o'er the plains The multitudes went homeward, to their rest, Which that delightful day with its own shadow blessed. 
[1]

flame→light edition 1818.