Lines Written among the Euganean Hills

Original Text: 
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Rosalind and Helen (London: C. and J. Ollier, 1819). D-10 3264 Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
2In the deep wide sea of Misery,
3Or the mariner, worn and wan,
4Never thus could voyage on
5Day and night, and night and day,
6Drifting on his dreary way,
7With the solid darkness black
8Closing round his vessel's track;
9Whilst above, the sunless sky,
10Big with clouds, hangs heavily,
11And behind, the tempest fleet
12Hurries on with lightning feet,
13Riving sail, and cord, and plank,
14Till the ship has almost drank
15Death from the o'er-brimming deep;
16And sinks down, down, like that sleep
17When the dreamer seems to be
18Weltering through eternity;
19And the dim low line before
20Of a dark and distant shore
21Still recedes, as ever still
22Longing with divided will,
23But no power to seek or shun,
24He is ever drifted on
25O'er the unreposing wave
26To the haven of the grave.
27What, if there no friends will greet;
28What, if there no heart will meet
29His with love's impatient beat;
30Wander wheresoe'er he may,
31Can he dream before that day
32To find refuge from distress
33In friendship's smile, in love's caress?
34Then 'twill wreak him little woe
35Whether such there be or no:
36Senseless is the breast and cold
37Which relenting love would fold;
38Bloodless are the veins and chill
39Which the pulse of pain did fill;
40Every little living nerve
41That from bitter words did swerve
42Round the tortur'd lips and brow,
43Are like sapless leaflets now
44Frozen upon December's bough.
45On the beach of a northern sea
46Which tempests shake eternally,
47As once the wretch there lay to sleep,
48Lies a solitary heap,
49One white skull and seven dry bones,
50On the margin of the stones,
51Where a few gray rushes stand,
52Boundaries of the sea and land:
53Nor is heard one voice of wail
54But the sea-mews, as they sail
55O'er the billows of the gale;
56Or the whirlwind up and down
57Howling, like a slaughter'd town,
58When a king in glory rides
59Through the pomp of fratricides:
60Those unburied bones around
61There is many a mournful sound;
62There is no lament for him,
63Like a sunless vapour, dim,
64Who once cloth'd with life and thought
65What now moves nor murmurs not.
66Ay, many flowering islands lie
67In the waters of wide Agony:
68To such a one this morn was led
69My bark, by soft winds piloted:
70'Mid the mountains Euganean
71I stood listening to the paean
72With which the legion'd rooks did hail
73The sun's uprise majestical;
74Gathering round with wings all hoar,
75Through the dewy mist they soar
76Like gray shades, till the eastern heaven
77Bursts, and then, as clouds of even,
78Fleck'd with fire and azure, lie
79In the unfathomable sky,
80So their plumes of purple grain,
81Starr'd with drops of golden rain,
82Gleam above the sunlight woods,
83As in silent multitudes
84On the morning's fitful gale
85Through the broken mist they sail,
86And the vapours cloven and gleaming
87Follow, down the dark steep streaming,
88Till all is bright, and clear, and still,
89Round the solitary hill.
90Beneath is spread like a green sea
91The waveless plain of Lombardy,
92Bounded by the vaporous air,
93Islanded by cities fair;
94Underneath Day's azure eyes
96A peopled labyrinth of walls,
98Which her hoary sire now paves
99With his blue and beaming waves.
100Lo! the sun upsprings behind,
101Broad, red, radiant, half-reclin'd
102On the level quivering line
103Of the water crystalline;
104And before that chasm of light,
105As within a furnace bright,
106Column, tower, and dome, and spire,
107Shine like obelisks of fire,
108Pointing with inconstant motion
109From the altar of dark ocean
110To the sapphire-tinted skies;
111As the flames of sacrifice
112From the marble shrines did rise,
113As to pierce the dome of gold
114Where Apollo spoke of old.
116Ocean's child, and then his queen;
117Now is come a darker day,
118And thou soon must be his prey,
119If the power that rais'd thee here
120Hallow so thy watery bier.
121A less drear ruin then than now,
122With thy conquest-branded brow
124From thy throne, among the waves
125Wilt thou be, when the sea-mew
126Flies, as once before it flew,
127O'er thine isles depopulate,
128And all is in its ancient state,
129Save where many a palace gate
130With green sea-flowers overgrown
131Like a rock of Ocean's own,
132Topples o'er the abandon'd sea
133As the tides change sullenly.
134The fisher on his watery way,
135Wandering at the close of day,
136Will spread his sail and seize his oar
137Till he pass the gloomy shore,
138Lest thy dead should, from their sleep
139Bursting o'er the starlight deep,
140Lead a rapid masque of death
141O'er the waters of his path.
142Those who alone thy towers behold
143Quivering through a{:e}real gold,
144As I now behold them here,
145Would imagine not they were
146Sepulchres, where human forms,
147Like pollution-nourish'd worms,
148To the corpse of greatness cling,
149Murder'd, and now mouldering:
150But if Freedom should awake
151In her omnipotence, and shake
153All the keys of dungeons cold,
154Where a hundred cities lie
155Chain'd like thee, ingloriously,
156Thou and all thy sister band
157Might adorn this sunny land,
158Twining memories of old time
159With new virtues more sublime;
160If not, perish thou and they,
161Clouds which stain truth's rising day
162By her sun consum'd away--
163Earth can spare ye! while like flowers,
164In the waste of years and hours,
165From your dust new nations spring
166With more kindly blossoming.
167Perish--let there only be
168Floating o'er thy hearthless sea
169As the garment of thy sky
170Clothes the world immortally,
171One remembrance, more sublime
172Than the tatter'd pall of time,
173Which scarce hides thy visage wan:
175Of the sons of Albion,
176Driven from his ancestral streams
177By the might of evil dreams,
179Welcom'd him with such emotion
180That its joy grew his, and sprung
181From his lips like music flung
182O'er a mighty thunder-fit,
183Chastening terror: what though yet
184Poesy's unfailing river,
185Which through Albion winds forever
186Lashing with melodious wave
187Many a sacred Poet's grave,
188Mourn its latest nursling fled!
189What though thou with all thy dead
190Scarce can for this fame repay
191Aught thine own, oh, rather say
192Though thy sins and slaveries foul
193Overcloud a sunlike soul!
194As the ghost of Homer clings
196As divinest Shakespeare's might
197Fills Avon and the world with light
198Like omniscient power which he
199Imag'd 'mid mortality;
200As the love from Petrarch's urn
201Yet amid yon hills doth burn,
202A quenchless lamp by which the heart
203Sees things unearthly; so thou art,
204Mighty spirit: so shall be
205The City that did refuge thee.
206Lo, the sun floats up the sky
207Like thought-winged Liberty,
208Till the universal light
209Seems to level plain and height;
210From the sea a mist has spread,
211And the beams of morn lie dead
212On the towers of Venice now,
213Like its glory long ago.
214By the skirts of that gray cloud
215Many-domed Padua proud
216Stands, a peopled solitude,
217'Mid the harvest-shining plain,
218Where the peasant heaps his grain
219In the garner of his foe,
220And the milk-white oxen slow
221With the purple vintage strain,
222Heap'd upon the creaking wain,
223That the brutal Celt may swill
224Drunken sleep with savage will;
225And the sickle to the sword
226Lies unchang'd though many a lord,
227Like a weed whose shade is poison,
228Overgrows this region's foison,
229Sheaves of whom are ripe to come
230To destruction's harvest-home:
231Men must reap the things they sow,
232Force from force must ever flow,
233Or worse; but 'tis a bitter woe
234That love or reason cannot change
235The despot's rage, the slave's revenge.
236Padua, thou within whose walls
237Those mute guests at festivals,
239Play'd at dice for Ezzelin,
240Till Death cried, 'I win, I win!'
241And Sin curs'd to lose the wager,
242But Death promis'd, to assuage her,
243That he would petition for
244Her to be made Vice-Emperor,
245When the destin'd years were o'er,
246Over all between the Po
247And the eastern Alpine snow,
248Under the mighty Austrian.
249Sin smil'd so as Sin only can,
250And since that time, ay, long before,
251Both have rul'd from shore to shore,
252That incestuous pair, who follow
253Tyrants as the sun the swallow,
254As Repentance follows Crime,
256In thine halls the lamp of learning,
257Padua, now no more is burning;
258Like a meteor, whose wild way
259Is lost over the grave of day,
260It gleams betray'd and to betray:
261Once remotest nations came
262To adore that sacred flame,
263When it lit not many a hearth
264On this cold and gloomy earth:
265Now new fires from antique light
266Spring beneath the wide world's might;
267But their spark lies dead in thee,
268Trampled out by Tyranny.
269As the Norway woodman quells,
270In the depth of piny dells,
271One light flame among the brakes,
272While the boundless forest shakes,
273And its mighty trunks are torn
274By the fire thus lowly born:
275The spark beneath his feet is dead,
276He starts to see the flames it fed
277Howling through the darken'd sky
278With myriad tongues victoriously,
279And sinks down in fear: so thou,
280O Tyranny, beholdest now
281Light around thee, and thou hearest
282The loud flames ascend, and fearest:
283Grovel on the earth; ay, hide
284In the dust thy purple pride!
285Noon descends around me now:
286'Tis the noon of autumn's glow,
287When a soft and purple mist
288Like a vaporous amethyst,
289Or an air-dissolved star
290Mingling light and fragrance, far
291From the curv'd horizon's bound
292To the point of Heaven's profound,
293Fills the overflowing sky;
294And the plains that silent lie
295Underneath, the leaves unsodden
296Where the infant Frost has trodden
297With his morning-winged feet,
298Whose bright print is gleaming yet;
299And the red and golden vines,
300Piercing with their trellis'd lines
301The rough, dark-skirted wilderness;
302The dun and bladed grass no less,
303Pointing from his hoary tower
304In the windless air; the flower
305Glimmering at my feet; the line
306Of the olive-sandall'd Apennine
307In the south dimly islanded;
308And the Alps, whose snows are spread
309High between the clouds and sun;
310And of living things each one;
311And my spirit which so long
312Darken'd this swift stream of song,
313Interpenetrated lie
314By the glory of the sky:
315Be it love, light, harmony,
316Odour, or the soul of all
317Which from Heaven like dew doth fall,
318Or the mind which feeds this verse
319Peopling the lone universe.
320Noon descends, and after noon
321Autumn's evening meets me soon,
322Leading the infantine moon,
323And that one star, which to her
324Almost seems to minister
325Half the crimson light she brings
326From the sunset's radiant springs:
327And the soft dreams of the morn
328(Which like winged winds had borne
329To that silent isle, which lies
330Mid remember'd agonies,
331The frail bark of this lone being)
332Pass, to other sufferers fleeing,
333And its ancient pilot, Pain,
334Sits beside the helm again.
335Other flowering isles must be
336In the sea of Life and Agony:
337Other spirits float and flee
338O'er that gulf: even now, perhaps,
339On some rock the wild wave wraps,
340With folded wings they waiting sit
341For my bark, to pilot it
342To some calm and blooming cove,
343Where for me, and those I love,
344May a windless bower be built,
345Far from passion, pain and guilt,
346In a dell mid lawny hills,
347Which the wild sea-murmur fills,
348And soft sunshine, and the sound
349Of old forests echoing round,
350And the light and smell divine
351Of all flowers that breathe and shine:
352We may live so happy there,
353That the Spirits of the Air,
354Envying us, may even entice
355To our healing paradise
356The polluting multitude;
357But their rage would be subdu'd
358By that clime divine and calm,
359And the winds whose wings rain balm
360On the uplifted soul, and leaves
361Under which the bright sea heaves;
362While each breathless interval
363In their whisperings musical
364The inspired soul supplies
365With its own deep melodies,
366And the love which heals all strife
367Circling, like the breath of life,
368All things in that sweet abode
369With its own mild brotherhood:
370They, not it, would change; and soon
371Every sprite beneath the moon
372Would repent its envy vain,
373And the earth grow young again.


1] Subtitled "October, 1818," it was composed at Byron's villa at Este, near Venice, and published in the Rosalind and Helen volume of 1819, where Shelley speaks of it as "written after a day's excursion among those lovely mountains [the Euganean hills, 10 miles south-west of Padua] which surround what was once the retreat, and where is now the sepulchre, of Petrarch." What Shelley calls the "deep despondency" of the introductory sections may be partly due to the death in September of his two-year-old daughter, Clara. He says that lines 1-89 were retained in the poem at his wife's request. Back to Line
95] Shelley's account of Venice has much in common with lines 1-162 of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, IV, which he had just been reading in Byron's MS. See also Wordsworth's sonnet, On the Extinction of the Venetian Republic. Back to Line
97] Amphitrite: a sea-divinity, daughter of Neptune. Back to Line
115] In thus marrying the sun-girt city to the ocean, Shelley (like many others) reverses their traditional roles. After a great naval victory in 1177, the Pope gave the Doge of Venice a ring with which to wed the Adriatic, that the world might know that the sea is subject to Venice, "as a bride to her husband." Annually on Ascension Day the Doge used to cast a ring into the sea. Back to Line
123] Slave of slaves: the Austrian emperor, Francis I, who ruled Venice from 1797 to 1805 and again after 1814. Back to Line
152] Celtic Anarch: the Austrian. See the "brutal Celt" (123) and "the mighty Austrian" (248). Shelley uses "Celt" for the northern Germanic barbarian, as did the Romans formerly. The Celt is called an anarch in accordance with Shelley's usual association of anarchy and tyranny. Back to Line
174] Swan: Byron. This tribute (167-205) is a late interpolation, of which a separate manuscript survives. Back to Line
178] A reference to the address to Ocean at the end of Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, IV. Back to Line
195] Scamander: a river near Troy. Back to Line
238] Ezzelin: conqueror and tyrant of Padua (d. 1259), notorious for his cruelty. The dicing game between Sin and Death alludes both to Milton's Sin and Death in Paradise Lost and to Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, 196-97. Back to Line
255] The University of Padua was under political attack. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
M. T. Wilson
RPO Edition: 
3RP 2.565.