Percy Bysshe Shelley

(1792-1822 / Horsham / England)

Marenghi


I.
Let those who pine in pride or in revenge,
Or think that ill for ill should be repaid,
Who barter wrong for wrong, until the exchange
Ruins the merchants of such thriftless trade,
Visit the tower of Vado, and unlearn
Such bitter faith beside Marenghi’s urn.

II.
A massy tower yet overhangs the town,
A scattered group of ruined dwellings now...

...

III.
Another scene are wise Etruria knew
Its second ruin through internal strife
And tyrants through the breach of discord threw
The chain which binds and kills. As death to life,
As winter to fair flowers (though some be poison)
So Monarchy succeeds to Freedom’s foison.

IV.
In Pisa’s church a cup of sculptured gold
Was brimming with the blood of feuds forsworn:
A Sacrament more holy ne’er of old
Etrurians mingled mid the shades forlorn
Of moon-illumined forests, when...

V.
And reconciling factions wet their lips
With that dread wine, and swear to keep each spirit
Undarkened by their country’s last eclipse...

...

VI.
Was Florence the liberticide? that band
Of free and glorious brothers who had planted,
Like a green isle mid Aethiopian sand,
A nation amid slaveries, disenchanted
Of many impious faiths—wise, just—do they,
Does Florence, gorge the sated tyrants’ prey?

VII.
O foster-nurse of man’s abandoned glory,
Since Athens, its great mother, sunk in splendour;
Thou shadowest forth that mighty shape in story,
As ocean its wrecked fanes, severe yet tender:—
The light-invested angel Poesy
Was drawn from the dim world to welcome thee.

VIII.
And thou in painting didst transcribe all taught
By loftiest meditations; marble knew
The sculptor’s fearless soul—and as he wrought,
The grace of his own power and freedom grew.
And more than all, heroic, just, sublime,
Thou wart among the false...was this thy crime?

IX.
Yes; and on Pisa’s marble walls the twine
Of direst weeds hangs garlanded—the snake
Inhabits its wrecked palaces;—in thine
A beast of subtler venom now doth make
Its lair, and sits amid their glories overthrown,
And thus thy victim’s fate is as thine own.

X.
The sweetest flowers are ever frail and rare,
And love and freedom blossom but to wither;
And good and ill like vines entangled are,
So that their grapes may oft be plucked together;--
Divide the vintage ere thou drink, then make
Thy heart rejoice for dead Marenghi’s sake.

Xa.

[Albert] Marenghi was a Florentine;
If he had wealth, or children, or a wife
Or friends, [or farm] or cherished thoughts which twine
The sights and sounds of home with life’s own life
Of these he was despoiled and Florence sent...

...

XI.
No record of his crime remains in story,
But if the morning bright as evening shone,
It was some high and holy deed, by glory
Pursued into forgetfulness, which won
From the blind crowd he made secure and free
The patriot’s meed, toil, death, and infamy.

XII.
For when by sound of trumpet was declared
A price upon his life, and there was set
A penalty of blood on all who shared
So much of water with him as might wet
His lips, which speech divided not—he went
Alone, as you may guess, to banishment.

XIII.
Amid the mountains, like a hunted beast,
He hid himself, and hunger, toil, and cold,
Month after month endured; it was a feast
Whene’er he found those globes of deep-red gold
Which in the woods the strawberry-tree doth bear,
Suspended in their emerald atmosphere.

XIV.
And in the roofless huts of vast morasses,
Deserted by the fever-stricken serf,
All overgrown with reeds and long rank grasses,
And hillocks heaped of moss-inwoven turf,
And where the huge and speckled aloe made,
Rooted in stones, a broad and pointed shade,--

XV.
He housed himself. There is a point of strand
Near Vado’s tower and town; and on one side
The treacherous marsh divides it from the land,
Shadowed by pine and ilex forests wide,
And on the other, creeps eternally,
Through muddy weeds, the shallow sullen sea.

XVI.
Here the earth’s breath is pestilence, and few
But things whose nature is at war with life--
Snakes and ill worms—endure its mortal dew.
The trophies of the clime’s victorious strife--
And ringed horns which the buffalo did wear,
And the wolf’s dark gray scalp who tracked him there.

XVII.
And at the utmost point...stood there
The relics of a reed-inwoven cot, 95
Thatched with broad flags. An outlawed murderer
Had lived seven days there: the pursuit was hot
When he was cold. The birds that were his grave
Fell dead after their feast in Vado’s wave.

XVIII.
There must have burned within Marenghi’s breast
That fire, more warm and bright than life and hope,
(Which to the martyr makes his dungeon...
More joyous than free heaven’s majestic cope
To his oppressor), warring with decay,--
Or he could ne’er have lived years, day by day.

XIX.
Nor was his state so lone as you might think.
He had tamed every newt and snake and toad,
And every seagull which sailed down to drink
Those freshes ere the death-mist went abroad.
And each one, with peculiar talk and play,
Wiled, not untaught, his silent time away.

XX.
And the marsh-meteors, like tame beasts, at night
Came licking with blue tongues his veined feet;
And he would watch them, as, like spirits bright,
In many entangled figures quaint and sweet
To some enchanted music they would dance--
Until they vanished at the first moon-glance.

XXI.
He mocked the stars by grouping on each weed
The summer dew-globes in the golden dawn;
And, ere the hoar-frost languished, he could read
Its pictured path, as on bare spots of lawn
Its delicate brief touch in silver weaves
The likeness of the wood’s remembered leaves.

XXII.
And many a fresh Spring morn would he awaken--
While yet the unrisen sun made glow, like iron
Quivering in crimson fire, the peaks unshaken
Of mountains and blue isles which did environ
With air-clad crags that plain of land and sea,--
And feel ... liberty.

XXIII.
And in the moonless nights when the dun ocean
Heaved underneath wide heaven, star-impearled,
Starting from dreams...
Communed with the immeasurable world;
And felt his life beyond his limbs dilated,
Till his mind grew like that it contemplated.

XXIV.
His food was the wild fig and strawberry;
The milky pine-nuts which the autumn-blast
Shakes into the tall grass; or such small fry
As from the sea by winter-storms are cast;
And the coarse bulbs of iris-flowers he found
Knotted in clumps under the spongy ground.

XXV.
And so were kindled powers and thoughts which made
His solitude less dark. When memory came
(For years gone by leave each a deepening shade),
His spirit basked in its internal flame,--
As, when the black storm hurries round at night,
The fisher basks beside his red firelight.

XXVI.
Yet human hopes and cares and faiths and errors,
Like billows unawakened by the wind,
Slept in Marenghi still; but that all terrors,
Weakness, and doubt, had withered in his mind.
His couch...

...

XXVII.
And, when he saw beneath the sunset’s planet
A black ship walk over the crimson ocean,--
Its pennon streaming on the blasts that fan it,
Its sails and ropes all tense and without motion,
Like the dark ghost of the unburied even
Striding athwart the orange-coloured heaven,--

XXVIII.
The thought of his own kind who made the soul
Which sped that winged shape through night and day,--
The thought of his own country...

...

Submitted: Thursday, April 01, 2010

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