Epipsychidion

Original Text: 
Epipsychidion, 1821: together with Shelley's manuscript draft (Menston: Scolar Press, 1970). PR 5409 A1 1970 ROBA.
408A ship is floating in the harbour now,
409A wind is hovering o'er the mountain's brow;
410There is a path on the sea's azure floor,
411No keel has ever plough'd that path before;
412The halcyons brood around the foamless isles;
413The treacherous Ocean has forsworn its wiles;
414The merry mariners are bold and free:
415Say, my heart's sister, wilt thou sail with me?
416Our bark is as an albatross, whose nest
417Is a far Eden of the purple East;
418And we between her wings will sit, while Night,
419And Day, and Storm, and Calm, pursue their flight,
420Our ministers, along the boundless Sea,
421Treading each other's heels, unheededly.
423Beautiful as a wreck of Paradise,
424And, for the harbours are not safe and good,
425This land would have remain'd a solitude
426But for some pastoral people native there,
427Who from the Elysian, clear, and golden air
428Draw the last spirit of the age of gold,
429Simple and spirited; innocent and bold.
430The blue Aegean girds this chosen home,
431With ever-changing sound and light and foam,
432Kissing the sifted sands, and caverns hoar;
433And all the winds wandering along the shore
434Undulate with the undulating tide:
435There are thick woods where sylvan forms abide;
436And many a fountain, rivulet and pond,
437As clear as elemental diamond,
438Or serene morning air; and far beyond,
439The mossy tracks made by the goats and deer
440(Which the rough shepherd treads but once a year)
441Pierce into glades, caverns and bowers, and halls
442Built round with ivy, which the waterfalls
443Illumining, with sound that never fails
444Accompany the noonday nightingales;
445And all the place is peopled with sweet airs;
446The light clear element which the isle wears
447Is heavy with the scent of lemon-flowers,
448Which floats like mist laden with unseen showers,
449And falls upon the eyelids like faint sleep;
450And from the moss violets and jonquils peep
451And dart their arrowy odour through the brain
452Till you might faint with that delicious pain.
453And every motion, odour, beam and tone,
454With that deep music is in unison:
455Which is a soul within the soul--they seem
456Like echoes of an antenatal dream.
457It is an isle 'twixt Heaven, Air, Earth and Sea,
458Cradled and hung in clear tranquillity;
460Wash'd by the soft blue Oceans of young air.
461It is a favour'd place. Famine or Blight,
462Pestilence, War and Earthquake, never light
463Upon its mountain-peaks; blind vultures, they
464Sail onward far upon their fatal way:
465The wingèd storms, chanting their thunder-psalm
466To other lands, leave azure chasms of calm
467Over this isle, or weep themselves in dew,
468From which its fields and woods ever renew
469Their green and golden immortality.
470And from the sea there rise, and from the sky
471There fall, clear exhalations, soft and bright,
472Veil after veil, each hiding some delight,
473Which Sun or Moon or zephyr draw aside,
474Till the isle's beauty, like a naked bride
475Glowing at once with love and loveliness,
476Blushes and trembles at its own excess:
477Yet, like a buried lamp, a Soul no less
478Burns in the heart of this delicious isle,
479An atom of th' Eternal, whose own smile
480Unfolds itself, and may be felt not seen
481O'er the gray rocks, blue waves and forests green,
482Filling their bare and void interstices.
483But the chief marvel of the wilderness
484Is a lone dwelling, built by whom or how
485None of the rustic island-people know:
486'Tis not a tower of strength, though with its height
487It overtops the woods; but, for delight,
488Some wise and tender Ocean-King, ere crime
489Had been invented, in the world's young prime,
490Rear'd it, a wonder of that simple time,
491An envy of the isles, a pleasure-house
492Made sacred to his sister and his spouse.
493It scarce seems now a wreck of human art,
495Of Earth having assum'd its form, then grown
496Out of the mountains, from the living stone,
497Lifting itself in caverns light and high:
498For all the antique and learned imagery
499Has been eras'd, and in the place of it
500The ivy and the wild-vine interknit
501The volumes of their many-twining stems;
502Parasite flowers illume with dewy gems
503The lampless halls, and when they fade, the sky
504Peeps through their winter-woof of tracery
505With moonlight patches, or star atoms keen,
506Or fragments of the day's intense serene;
507Working mosaic on their Parian floors.
508And, day and night, aloof, from the high towers
509And terraces, the Earth and Ocean seem
510To sleep in one another's arms, and dream
511Of waves, flowers, clouds, woods, rocks, and all that we
512Read in their smiles, and call reality.
513     This isle and house are mine, and I have vow'd
514Thee to be lady of the solitude.
515And I have fitted up some chambers there
516Looking towards the golden Eastern air,
517And level with the living winds, which flow
518Like waves above the living waves below.
519I have sent books and music there, and all
520Those instruments with which high Spirits call
521The future from its cradle, and the past
522Out of its grave, and make the present last
523In thoughts and joys which sleep, but cannot die,
524Folded within their own eternity.
525Our simple life wants little, and true taste
526Hires not the pale drudge Luxury to waste
527The scene it would adorn, and therefore still,
528Nature with all her children haunts the hill.
529The ring-dove, in the embowering ivy, yet
530Keeps up her love-lament, and the owls flit
531Round the evening tower, and the young stars glance
532Between the quick bats in their twilight dance;
533The spotted deer bask in the fresh moonlight
534Before our gate, and the slow, silent night
535Is measur'd by the pants of their calm sleep.
536Be this our home in life, and when years heap
537Their wither'd hours, like leaves, on our decay,
538Let us become the overhanging day,
539The living soul of this Elysian isle,
540Conscious, inseparable, one. Meanwhile
541We two will rise, and sit, and walk together,
542Under the roof of blue Ionian weather,
543And wander in the meadows, or ascend
544The mossy mountains, where the blue heavens bend
545With lightest winds, to touch their paramour;
546Or linger, where the pebble-paven shore,
547Under the quick, faint kisses of the sea,
548Trembles and sparkles as with ecstasy--
549Possessing and possess'd by all that is
550Within that calm circumference of bliss,
551And by each other, till to love and live
552Be one: or, at the noontide hour, arrive
553Where some old cavern hoar seems yet to keep
554The moonlight of the expir'd night asleep,
555Through which the awaken'd day can never peep;
556A veil for our seclusion, close as night's,
557Where secure sleep may kill thine innocent lights;
558Sleep, the fresh dew of languid love, the rain
559Whose drops quench kisses till they burn again.
560And we will talk, until thought's melody
561Become too sweet for utterance, and it die
562In words, to live again in looks, which dart
563With thrilling tone into the voiceless heart,
564Harmonizing silence without a sound.
565Our breath shall intermix, our bosoms bound,
566And our veins beat together; and our lips
567With other eloquence than words, eclipse
568The soul that burns between them, and the wells
569Which boil under our being's inmost cells,
570The fountains of our deepest life, shall be
571Confus'd in Passion's golden purity,
572As mountain-springs under the morning sun.
573We shall become the same, we shall be one
574Spirit within two frames, oh! wherefore two?
575One passion in twin-hearts, which grows and grew,
576Till like two meteors of expanding flame,
577Those spheres instinct with it become the same,
578Touch, mingle, are transfigur'd; ever still
579Burning, yet ever inconsumable:
580In one another's substance finding food,
581Like flames too pure and light and unimbu'd
582To nourish their bright lives with baser prey,
583Which point to Heaven and cannot pass away:
584One hope within two wills, one will beneath
585Two overshadowing minds, one life, one death,
586One Heaven, one Hell, one immortality,
587And one annihilation. Woe is me!
588The winged words on which my soul would pierce
589Into the height of Love's rare Universe,
590Are chains of lead around its flight of fire--

Notes

407] Sub-titled "verses addressed to the noble and unfortunate lady Emilia V-- now emprisoned in the Convent of --." Composed at Pisa early in 1821 and published anonymously the following summer in an edition of one hundred copies. In December 1820, Shelley met Emilia Viviani, daughter of the governor of Pisa. Placed in a convent against her will, she was being forced by her parents into a marriage of convenience. Shelley was indignant at her misfortunes and enchanted by her as a person. While the brief spell lasted, he addressed Epipsychidion to her, but by June 22, 1822, he was writing to John Gisborne: "the Epipsychidion I cannot look at; the person whom it celebrates was a cloud instead of a Juno, and poor Ixion starts from the centaur that was the offspring of his own embrace .... I think one is always in love with something or other; the error, and I confess it is not easy for spirits encased in flesh and blood to avoid it, consists in seeking in a mortal image the likeness of what is, perhaps, eternal." Shelley called the poem a "mystery" and compared it to Dante's Vita Nuova; Mary Shelley called it "Shelley's Italian Platonics." After celebrating Emilia as "Youth's vision thus made perfect" and as the culmination of what he later called "an idealized history of my life and feelings," Shelley, in the final section of the poem (407-591), invites Emilia to union with him on an imaginary island in the Ionian sea. Back to Line
422] The grammar is inconsistent: "which" is the object of "illumining," but has lost its function as the subject of "accompany" to "waterfalls." Back to Line
459] Lucifer: the Morning Star. Back to Line
494] Titanic. The Titans were buried in caverns under mountains by their conquerors, the Olympian gods. Back to Line
591] This line is followed by a brief envoy, despatching the verses to Emilia, Mrs. Shelley, and Shelley's friends Edward and Jane Williams. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1821
Publication Notes: 
Published anonymously
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.583.
Form: