by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Buona Notte
Fiordispina

Orpheus

Published by Dr. Garnett, "Relics of Shelley", 1862; revised and enlarged by Rossetti, "Complete Poetical Works of P. B. S.", 1870.

 A: Not far from hence. From yonder pointed hill, Crowned with a ring of oaks, you may behold A dark and barren field, through which there flows, Sluggish and black, a deep but narrow stream, Which the wind ripples not, and the fair moon  Gazes in vain, and finds no mirror there. Follow the herbless banks of that strange brook Until you pause beside a darksome pond, The fountain of this rivulet, whose gush Cannot be seen, hid by a rayless night  That lives beneath the overhanging rock That shades the pool-an endless spring of gloom, Upon whose edge hovers the tender light, Trembling to mingle with its paramour,- But, as Syrinx fled Pan, so night flies day,  Or, with most sullen and regardless hate, Refuses stern her heaven-born embrace. On one side of this jagged and shapeless hill There is a cave, from which there eddies up A pale mist, like aereal gossamer,  Whose breath destroys all life-awhile it veils The rock-then, scattered by the wind, it flies Along the stream, or lingers on the clefts, Killing the sleepy worms, if aught bide there. Upon the beetling edge of that dark rock  There stands a group of cypresses; not such As, with a graceful spire and stirring life, Pierce the pure heaven of your native vale, Whose branches the air plays among, but not Disturbs, fearing to spoil their solemn grace;  But blasted and all wearily they stand, One to another clinging; their weak boughs Sigh as the wind buffets them, and they shake Beneath its blasts-a weatherbeaten crew! 
 CHORUS: What wondrous sound is that, mournful and faint,  But more melodious than the murmuring wind Which through the columns of a temple glides? 
 A: It is the wandering voice of Orpheus' lyre, Borne by the winds, who sigh that their rude king Hurries them fast from these air-feeding notes;  But in their speed they bear along with them The waning sound, scattering it like dew Upon the startled sense. 
 CHORUS: Does he still sing? Methought he rashly cast away his harp When he had lost Eurydice. 
 A: Ah, no!  Awhile he paused. As a poor hunted stag A moment shudders on the fearful brink Of a swift stream-the cruel hounds press on With deafening yell, the arrows glance and wound,- He plunges in: so Orpheus, seized and torn  By the sharp fangs of an insatiate grief, Maenad-like waved his lyre in the bright air, And wildly shrieked 'Where she is, it is dark!' And then he struck from forth the strings a sound Of deep and fearful melody. Alas!  In times long past, when fair Eurydice With her bright eyes sat listening by his side, He gently sang of high and heavenly themes. As in a brook, fretted with little waves By the light airs of spring-each riplet makes  A many-sided mirror for the sun, While it flows musically through green banks, Ceaseless and pauseless, ever clear and fresh, So flowed his song, reflecting the deep joy And tender love that fed those sweetest notes,  The heavenly offspring of ambrosial food. But that is past. Returning from drear Hell, He chose a lonely seat of unhewn stone, Blackened with lichens, on a herbless plain. Then from the deep and overflowing spring  Of his eternal ever-moving grief There rose to Heaven a sound of angry song. 'Tis as a mighty cataract that parts Two sister rocks with waters swift and strong,  And casts itself with horrid roar and din Adown a steep; from a perennial source It ever flows and falls, and breaks the air With loud and fierce, but most harmonious roar, And as it falls casts up a vaporous spray Which the sun clothes in hues of Iris light.  Thus the tempestuous torrent of his grief Is clothed in sweetest sounds and varying words Of poesy. Unlike all human works, It never slackens, and through every change Wisdom and beauty and the power divine  Of mighty poesy together dwell, Mingling in sweet accord. As I have seen A fierce south blast tear through the darkened sky, Driving along a rack of winged clouds, Which may not pause, but ever hurry on,  As their wild shepherd wills them, while the stars, Twinkling and dim, peep from between the plumes. Anon the sky is cleared, and the high dome Of serene Heaven, starred with fiery flowers, Shuts in the shaken earth; or the still moon  Swiftly, yet gracefully, begins her walk, Rising all bright behind the eastern hills. I talk of moon, and wind, and stars, and not Of song; but, would I echo his high song, Nature must lend me words ne'er used before,  Or I must borrow from her perfect works, To picture forth his perfect attributes. He does no longer sit upon his throne Of rock upon a desert herbless plain, For the evergreen and knotted ilexes,  And cypresses that seldom wave their boughs, And sea-green olives with their grateful fruit, And elms dragging along the twisted vines, Which drop their berries as they follow fast, And blackthorn bushes with their infant race  Of blushing rose-blooms; beeches, to lovers dear, And weeping willow trees; all swift or slow, As their huge boughs or lighter dress permit, Have circled in his throne, and Earth herself Has sent from her maternal breast a growth  Of starlike flowers and herbs of odour sweet, To pave the temple that his poesy Has framed, while near his feet grim lions couch, And kids, fearless from love, creep near his lair. Even the blind worms seem to feel the sound.  The birds are silent, hanging down their heads, Perched on the lowest branches of the trees; Not even the nightingale intrudes a note In rivalry, but all entranced she listens. 
 NOTES: _16, _17, _24 1870 only. _45-_55 Ah, no!... melody 1870 only. _66 1870 only. _112 trees 1870; too 1862. _113 huge 1870; long 1862. _116 starlike 1870; starry 1862. odour 1862; odours 1870.