Percy Bysshe Shelley

(1792-1822 / Horsham / England)

Ode To Heaven


CHORUS OF SPIRITS:

FIRST SPIRIT:
Palace-roof of cloudless nights!
Paradise of golden lights!
Deep, immeasurable, vast,
Which art now, and which wert then
Of the Present and the Past,
Of the eternal Where and When,
Presence-chamber, temple, home,
Ever-canopying dome,
Of acts and ages yet to come!

Glorious shapes have life in thee,
Earth, and all earth’s company;
Living globes which ever throng
Thy deep chasms and wildernesses;
And green worlds that glide along;
And swift stars with flashing tresses;
And icy moons most cold and bright,
And mighty suns beyond the night,
Atoms of intensest light.

Even thy name is as a god,
Heaven! for thou art the abode
Of that Power which is the glass
Wherein man his nature sees.
Generations as they pass
Worship thee with bended knees.
Their unremaining gods and they
Like a river roll away:
Thou remainest such—alway!—

SECOND SPIRIT:
Thou art but the mind’s first chamber,
Round which its young fancies clamber,
Like weak insects in a cave,
Lighted up by stalactites;
But the portal of the grave,
Where a world of new delights
Will make thy best glories seem
But a dim and noonday gleam
From the shadow of a dream!

THIRD SPIRIT:
Peace! the abyss is wreathed with scorn
At your presumption, atom-born!
What is Heaven? and what are ye
Who its brief expanse inherit?
What are suns and spheres which flee
With the instinct of that Spirit
Of which ye are but a part?
Drops which Nature’s mighty heart
Drives through thinnest veins! Depart!

What is Heaven? a globe of dew,
Filling in the morning new
Some eyed flower whose young leaves waken
On an unimagined world:
Constellated suns unshaken,
Orbits measureless, are furled
In that frail and fading sphere,
With ten millions gathered there,
To tremble, gleam, and disappear.

CANCELLED FRAGMENTS OF THE ODE TO HEAVEN.
[Published by Mr. C.D. Locock, “Examination”, etc., 1903.]

The [living frame which sustains my soul]
Is [sinking beneath the fierce control]
Down through the lampless deep of song
I am drawn and driven along—

When a Nation screams aloud
Like an eagle from the cloud
When a...

...

When the night...

...

Watch the look askance and old—
See neglect, and falsehood fold...

Submitted: Thursday, April 01, 2010

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