by Percy Bysshe Shelley
Three Early Drafts of the Preface

Passages of the Poem, or Connected Therewith

 Here, my dear friend, is a new book for you; I have already dedicated two To other friends, one female and one male,- What you are, is a thing that I must veil; What can this be to those who praise or rail?  I never was attached to that great sect Whose doctrine is that each one should select Out of the world a mistress or a friend, And all the rest, though fair and wise, commend To cold oblivion-though 'tis in the code  Of modern morals, and the beaten road Which those poor slaves with weary footsteps tread Who travel to their home among the dead By the broad highway of the world-and so With one sad friend, and many a jealous foe,  The dreariest and the longest journey go. 
 Free love has this, different from gold and clay, That to divide is not to take away. Like ocean, which the general north wind breaks Into ten thousand waves, and each one makes  A mirror of the moon-like some great glass, Which did distort whatever form might pass, Dashed into fragments by a playful child, Which then reflects its eyes and forehead mild; Giving for one, which it could ne'er express,  A thousand images of loveliness. 
 If I were one whom the loud world held wise, I should disdain to quote authorities In commendation of this kind of love:- Why there is first the God in heaven above,  Who wrote a book called Nature, 'tis to be Reviewed, I hear, in the next Quarterly; And Socrates, the Jesus Christ of Greece, And Jesus Christ Himself, did never cease To urge all living things to love each other,  And to forgive their mutual faults, and smother The Devil of disunion in their souls. 
 ... 
 I love you!-Listen, O embodied Ray Of the great Brightness; I must pass away While you remain, and these light words must be  Tokens by which you may remember me. Start not-the thing you are is unbetrayed, If you are human, and if but the shade Of some sublimer spirit... 
 ... 
 And as to friend or mistress, 'tis a form;  Perhaps I wish you were one. Some declare You a familiar spirit, as you are; Others with a ... more inhuman Hint that, though not my wife, you are a woman; What is the colour of your eyes and hair?  Why, if you were a lady, it were fair The world should know-but, as I am afraid, The Quarterly would bait you if betrayed;[1] And if, as it will be sport to see them stumble[2] Over all sorts of scandals. hear them mumble  Their litany of curses-some guess right, And others swear you're a Hermaphrodite; Like that sweet marble monster of both sexes, Which looks so sweet and gentle that it vexes The very soul that the soul is gone  Which lifted from her limbs the veil of stone.[3]
 ... 
 It is a sweet thing, friendship, a dear balm, A happy and auspicious bird of calm, Which rides o'er life's ever tumultuous Ocean; A God that broods o'er chaos in commotion;  A flower which fresh as Lapland roses are, Lifts its bold head into the world's frore air, And blooms most radiantly when others die, Health, hope, and youth, and brief prosperity; And with the light and odour of its bloom,  Shining within the dun eon and the tomb; Whose coming is as light and music are 'Mid dissonance and gloom-a star Which moves not 'mid the moving heavens alone- A smile among dark frowns-a gentle tone  Among rude voices, a beloved light, A solitude, a refuge, a delight. If I had but a friend! Why, I have three Even by my own confession; there may be Some more, for what I know, for 'tis my mind  To call my friends all who are wise and kind,- And these, Heaven knows, at best are very few; But none can ever be more dear than you. Why should they be? My muse has lost her wings, Or like a dying swan who soars and sings,  I should describe you in heroic style, But as it is, are you not void of guile? A lovely soul, formed to be blessed and bless: A well of sealed and secret happiness; A lute which those whom Love has taught to play  Make music on to cheer the roughest day, And enchant sadness till it sleeps?... 
 ... 
 To the oblivion whither I and thou, All loving and all lovely, hasten now With steps, ah, too unequal! may we meet  In one Elysium or one winding-sheet! 
 If any should be curious to discover Whether to you I am a friend or lover, Let them read Shakespeare's sonnets, taking thence A whetstone for their dull intelligence  That tears and will not cut, or let them guess How Diotima, the wise prophetess, Instructed the instructor, and why he Rebuked the infant spirit of melody On Agathon's sweet lips, which as he spoke  Was as the lovely star when morn has broke The roof of darkness, in the golden dawn, Half-hidden, and yet beautiful. I'll pawn My hopes of Heaven-you know what they are worth - That the presumptuous pedagogues of Earth,  If they could tell the riddle offered here Would scorn to be, or being to appear What now they seem and are-but let them chide, They have few pleasures in the world beside; Perhaps we should be dull were we not chidden,  Paradise fruits are sweetest when forbidden. Folly can season Wisdom, Hatred Love. 
 ... 
 Farewell, if it can be to say farewell To those who 
 ... 
 I will not, as most dedicators do,  Assure myself and all the world and you, That you are faultless-would to God they were Who taunt me with your love! I then should wear These heavy chains of life with a light spirit, And would to God I were, or even as near it  As you, dear heart. Alas! what are we? Clouds Driven by the wind in warring multitudes, Which rain into the bosom of the earth, And rise again, and in our death and birth, And through our restless life, take as from heaven  Hues which are not our own, but which are given, And then withdrawn, and with inconstant glance Flash from the spirit to the countenance. There is a Power, a Love, a Joy, a God Which makes in mortal hearts its brief abode,  A Pythian exhalation, which inspires Love, only love-a wind which o'er the wires Of the soul's giant harp There is a mood which language faints beneath; You feel it striding, as Almighty Death  His bloodless steed... 
 ... 
 And what is that most brief and bright delight Which rushes through the touch and through the sight, And stands before the spirit's inmost throne, A naked Seraph? None hath ever known.  Its birth is darkness, and its growth desire; Untameable and fleet and fierce as fire, Not to be touched but to be felt alone, It fills the world with glory-and is gone. 
 ... 
 It floats with rainbow pinions o'er the stream  Of life, which flows, like a ... dream Into the light of morning, to the grave As to an ocean... 
 ... 
 What is that joy which serene infancy Perceives not, as the hours content them by,[4]  Each in a chain of blossoms, yet enjoys The shapes of this new world, in giant toys[5] Wrought by the busy ... ever new? Remembrance borrows Fancy's glass, to show These forms more ... sincere  Than now they are, than then, perhaps, they were. When everything familiar seemed to be Wonderful, and the immortality Of this great world, which all things must inherit, Was felt as one with the awakening spirit,  Unconscious of itself, and of the strange Distinctions which in its proceeding change It feels and knows, and mourns as if each were A desolation... 
 ... 
 Were it not a sweet refuge, Emily,  For all those exiles from the dull insane Who vex this pleasant world with pride and pain, For all that band of sister-spirits known To one another by a voiceless tone? 
 ... 
 If day should part us night will mend division  And if sleep parts us-we will meet in vision And if life parts us-we will mix in death Yielding our mite [?] of unreluctant breath Death cannot part us-we must meet again In all in nothing in delight in pain:  How, why or when or where-it matters not So that we share an undivided lot... 
 ... 
 And we will move possessing and possessed Wherever beauty on the earth's bare [?] breast Lies like the shadow of thy soul-till we  Become one being with the world we see... 
[1]

afraid The cj. A.C. Bradley.

[2]

And as cj. Rossetti, A.C. Bradley.

[3]

stone... cj. A.C. Bradley.

[4]

them → trip or troop cj. A.C. Bradley.

[5]

in → as cj. A.C. Bradley.