Percy Bysshe Shelley: Fragment 1

by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Fragment 2

Fragment 1

Prince Athanase had one beloved friend,
An old, old man, with hair of silver white,
And lips where heavenly smiles would hang and blend
With his wise words; and eyes whose arrowy light
Shone like the reflex of a thousand minds.
He was the last whom superstition's blight
Had spared in Greece—the blight that cramps and blinds,—
And in his olive bower at Oenoe
Had sate from earliest youth. Like one who finds
A fertile island in the barren sea,
One mariner who has survived his mates
Many a drear month in a great ship—so he
With soul-sustaining songs, and sweet debates
Of ancient lore, there fed his lonely being:—
'The mind becomes that which it contemplates,'—
And thus Zonoras, by for ever seeing
Their bright creations, grew like wisest men;
And when he heard the crash of nations fleeing
A bloodier power than ruled thy ruins then,
O sacred Hellas! many weary years
He wandered, till the path of Laian's glen
Was grass-grown—and the unremembered tears
Were dry in Laian for their honoured chief,
Who fell in Byzant, pierced by Moslem spears:—
And as the lady looked with faithful grief
From her high lattice o'er the rugged path,
Where she once saw that horseman toil, with brief
And blighting hope, who with the news of death
Struck body and soul as with a mortal blight,
She saw between the chestnuts, far beneath,[1]
An old man toiling up, a weary wight;
And soon within her hospitable hall
She saw his white hairs glittering in the light
Of the wood fire, and round his shoulders fall;
And his wan visage and his withered mien,
Yet calm and gentle and majestical.
And Athanase, her child, who must have been
Then three years old, sate opposite and gazed
In patient silence.

"beneath" [editions 1824, 1839]; "between" [Bodleian manuscript].