Alfred Austin

(30 May 1835 – 2 June 1913 / Headingley)

At Shelley’s Grave - Poem by Alfred Austin

Beneath this marble, mute of praise,
Is hushed the heart of One
Who, whilst it beat, had eagle's gaze
To stare upon the sun.
Equal in flight
To any height,
He lies where they that crawl but come,
Sleeping most sound,-Cor Cordium.

No rippling notes announcing spring,
No bloom-evoking breeze,
No fleecy clouds that earnest bring
Of summer on the seas,
Avail to wake
The heart whose ache
Was to be tender overmuch
To Nature's every tone and touch.

The insolence of stranger drum,
Vexing the broad blue air,
To smite a nation's clamour dumb,
Or spur a rash despair,
Which once had wrung
That prophet tongue
To challenge force or cheer the slave,
Rolls unrebuked around his grave.

The cruel clarion's senseless bray,
The lamb's half-human bleat,
Patter of shower on sward or spray,
Or clang of mailèd feet,
Are weak alike
To stir or strike
The once swift voice that now is dumb
To war's reveil, cicala's hum.

Oh wake, dead heart! come back! indeed
Come back! Thy thunderous brow
And levin shafts the world did need
Never so much as now.
The chain, the rack,
The hopes kept back
By those whom serfs are forced to trust,
Might well reanimate thy dust.

Nay, Poet, rest thou quiet there,
'Neath sunshine, wind, and rain;
At least if thou canst scarce repair,
Thou dost not share our pain.
It is enough
That cold rebuff
And calumny of knave and dunce
Did vex thy tender spirit once.

Where was the marvel, though thy corse
Submitted to the pyre,
Thy heart of hearts should foil the force
Of the sea-wind-blown fire?
It was but just
That what was dust
Should own the cradle whence it came-
But when did flame e'er feed on flame?

Or rather say the sacred torch,
The while it did illume
Thy heart, did also so far scorch,
Was nought left to consume?
That ardent zeal
For human weal
Had searched and parched it o'er and o'er,
Till, lava like, 'twould burn no more.

I snatch the banner from thy grave,
I wave the torch on high;
'Spite smiling tyrant, crouching slave,
The Cause shall never die!
Sceptre and cowl
May smite or scowl,
Serfs hug the chains they half deserve-
Right cannot miss, howe'er it swerve!

Alas! you failed, who were so strong:
Shall I succeed, so weak?
Life grows still shorter, art more long;
You sang-I scarce can speak.
Promethean fire
Within your lyre
Made manly words with music mate,
Whilst I am scarce articulate.

He sang too early to be heard;
The world is drowsy still;
And only those whose sleep is stirred
By lines that streak the hill,
Or the first notes
Of matin throats,
Have heard his strain 'mid hush of night,
And known it harbinger of Light.

But when the Day shall come whose dawn
He early did forbode,
When men by Knowledge shall be drawn,
Not driven by the goad,
This spot apart,
Where sleeps his heart,
Deaf to all clamour, wrong, or rage,
Shall be their choicest pilgrimage.


Comments about At Shelley’s Grave by Alfred Austin

  • Fabrizio Frosini (2/27/2016 1:52:00 PM)


    Percy Bysshe Shelley drowned in 1822 in Italy, while returning from a visit to Byron and Leigh Hunt at Livorno (Tuscany) , 'cause his schooner was caught in a violent summer storm.
    When Shelley's body washed ashore, days later, it was cremated on the beach at Viareggio. Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt and Edward Trelawny were present. But his heart remained unburnt, For this reason it was given by Hunt to Mary Shelley. When she died, in 1851, Shelley's heart was found amongst her belongings, apparently wrapped in one of the sheets of Adonais (Shelley's elegy to Keats) . It now lies in St Peter's Churchyard, Bournemouth (Dorset) .
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  • Fabrizio Frosini (2/27/2016 1:42:00 PM)


    Shelley is buried in the Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome (close to Keat's grave) . (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 8, 2010



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