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Best Famous Percy Bysshe Shelley Poems

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by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

Ozymandias of Egypt

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said:  "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains.  Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

To a Skylark

HAIL to thee, blithe spirit! 
Bird thou never wert, 
That from heaven, or near it, 
Pourest thy full heart 
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art. 5 

Higher still and higher 
From the earth thou springest, 
Like a cloud of fire 
The blue deep thou wingest, 
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest. 10 

In the golden lightning 
Of the sunken sun, 
O'er which clouds are bright'ning, 
Thou dost float and run, 
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun. 15 

The pale purple even 
Melts around thy flight; 
Like a star of heaven 
In the broad daylight, 
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight¡ª 20 

Keen as are the arrows 
Of that silver sphere, 
Whose intense lamp narrows 
In the white dawn clear 
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there. 25 

All the earth and air 
With thy voice is loud¡ª 
As, when night is bare, 
From one lonely cloud 
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflow'd. 30 

What thou art we know not; 
What is most like thee?¡ª 
From rainbow clouds there flow not 
Drops so bright to see 
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody: 35 

Like a poet hidden 
In the light of thought, 
Singing hymns unbidden, 
Till the world is wrought 
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not: 40 

Like a high-born maiden 
In a palace tower, 
Soothing her love-laden 
Soul in secret hour 
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower: 45 

Like a glow-worm golden 
In a dell of dew, 
Scattering unbeholden 
Its aerial hue 
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view: 50 

Like a rose embower'd 
In its own green leaves, 
By warm winds deflower'd, 
Till the scent it gives 
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-wing¨¨d thieves. 55 

Sound of vernal showers 
On the twinkling grass, 
Rain-awaken'd flowers¡ª 
All that ever was 
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass. 60 

Teach us, sprite or bird, 
What sweet thoughts are thine: 
I have never heard 
Praise of love or wine 
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine. 65 

Chorus hymeneal, 
Or triumphal chaunt, 
Match'd with thine, would be all 
But an empty vaunt¡ª 
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want. 70 

What objects are the fountains 
Of thy happy strain? 
What fields, or waves, or mountains? 
What shapes of sky or plain? 
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain? 75 

With thy clear keen joyance 
Languor cannot be; 
Shadow of annoyance 
Never came near thee: 
Thou lovest; but ne'er knew love's sad satiety. 80 

Waking or asleep, 
Thou of death must deem 
Things more true and deep 
Than we mortals dream, 
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream? 85 

We look before and after, 
And pine for what is not: 
Our sincerest laughter 
With some pain is fraught; 
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought. 90 

Yet if we could scorn 
Hate, and pride, and fear; 
If we were things born 
Not to shed a tear, 
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near. 95 

Better than all measures 
Of delightful sound, 
Better than all treasures 
That in books are found, 
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground! 100 

Teach me half the gladness 
That thy brain must know¡ª 
Such harmonious madness 
From my lips would flow, 
The world should listen then, as I am listening now! 105 


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

A Dream of the Unknown

I DREAM'D that as I wander'd by the way 
Bare winter suddenly was changed to spring, 
And gentle odours led my steps astray, 
Mix'd with a sound of waters murmuring 
Along a shelving bank of turf, which lay 5 
Under a copse, and hardly dared to fling 
Its green arms round the bosom of the stream, 
But kiss'd it and then fled, as thou mightest in dream. 

There grew pied wind-flowers and violets, 
Daisies, those pearl'd Arcturi of the earth, 10 
The constellated flower that never sets; 
Faint oxlips; tender bluebells, at whose birth 
The sod scarce heaved; and that tall flower that wets¡ª 
Like a child, half in tenderness and mirth¡ª 
Its mother's face with heaven-collected tears, 15 
When the low wind, its playmate's voice, it hears. 

And in the warm hedge grew lush eglantine, 
Green cow-bind and the moonlight-colour'd may, 
And cherry-blossoms, and white cups, whose wine 
Was the bright dew yet drain'd not by the day; 20 
And wild roses, and ivy serpentine 
With its dark buds and leaves, wandering astray; 
And flowers azure, black, and streak'd with gold, 
Fairer than any waken'd eyes behold. 

And nearer to the river's trembling edge 25 
There grew broad flag-flowers, purple prank'd with white, 
And starry river-buds among the sedge, 
And floating water-lilies, broad and bright, 
Which lit the oak that overhung the hedge 
With moonlight beams of their own watery light; 30 
And bulrushes, and reeds of such deep green 
As soothed the dazzled eye with sober sheen. 

Methought that of these visionary flowers 
I made a nosegay, bound in such a way 
That the same hues, which in their natural bowers 35 
Were mingled or opposed, the like array 
Kept these imprison'd children of the Hours 
Within my hand,¡ªand then, elate and gay, 
I hasten'd to the spot whence I had come 
That I might there present it¡ªoh! to Whom? 40 


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

Music when soft voices die

MUSIC when soft voices die  
Vibrates in the memory; 
Odours when sweet violets sicken  
Live within the sense they quicken; 

Rose leaves when the rose is dead 5 
Are heap'd for the belov¨¨d's bed: 
And so thy thoughts when thou art gone  
Love itself shall slumber on. 


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

A widow bird sate mourning for her Love

A WIDOW bird sate mourning for her Love 
Upon a wintry bough; 
The frozen wind crept on above  
The freezing stream below. 

There was no leaf upon the forest bare. 5 
No flower upon the ground  
And little motion in the air 
Except the mill-wheel's sound. 


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

Loves Philosophy

THE fountains mingle with the river 
And the rivers with the ocean  
The winds of heaven mix for ever 
With a sweet emotion; 
Nothing in the world is single 5 
All things by a law divine 
In one another's being mingle¡ª 
Why not I with thine? 

See the mountains kiss high heaven  
And the waves clasp one another; 10 
No sister-flower would be forgiven 
If it disdain'd its brother; 
And the sunlight clasps the earth  
And the moonbeams kiss the sea¡ª 
What are all these kissings worth 15 
If thou kiss not me?


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

The Flight of Love

WHEN the lamp is shatter'd 
The light in the dust lies dead¡ª 
When the cloud is scatter'd  
The rainbow's glory is shed. 
When the lute is broken 5 
Sweet tones are remember'd not; 
When the lips have spoken  
Lov'd accents are soon forgot. 

As music and splendour 
Survive not the lamp and the lute 10 
The heart's echoes render 
No song when the spirit is mute¡ª 
No song but sad dirges  
Like the wind through a ruin'd cell  
Or the mournful surges 15 
That ring the dead seaman's knell. 

When hearts have once mingl'd  
Love first leaves the well-built nest; 
The weak one is singl'd 
To endure what it once possesst. 20 
O Love! who bewailest 
The frailty of all things here  
Why choose you the frailest 
For your cradle your home and your bier? 

Its passions will rock thee 25 
As the storms rock the ravens on high; 
Bright reason will mock thee 
Like the sun from a wintry sky. 
From thy nest every rafter 
Will rot and thine eagle home 30 
Leave thee naked to laughter  
When leaves fall and cold winds come. 


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

Written among the Euganean Hills North Italy

MANY a green isle needs must be 
In the deep wide sea of Misery, 
Or the mariner, worn and wan, 
Never thus could voyage on 
Day and night, and night and day, 5 
Drifting on his dreary way, 
With the solid darkness black 
Closing round his vessel's track; 
Whilst above, the sunless sky 
Big with clouds, hangs heavily, 10 
And behind the tempest fleet 
Hurries on with lightning feet, 
Riving sail, and cord, and plank, 
Till the ship has almost drank 
Death from the o'er-brimming deep, 15 
And sinks down, down, like that sleep 
When the dreamer seems to be 
Weltering through eternity; 
And the dim low line before 
Of a dark and distant shore 20 
Still recedes, as ever still 
Longing with divided will, 
But no power to seek or shun, 
He is ever drifted on 
O'er the unreposing wave, 25 
To the haven of the grave. 

Ay, many flowering islands lie 
In the waters of wide Agony: 
To such a one this morn was led 
My bark, by soft winds piloted. 30 
¡ª'Mid the mountains Euganean 
I stood listening to the p?an 
With which the legion'd rooks did hail 
The Sun's uprise majestical: 
Gathering round with wings all hoar, 35 
Through the dewy mist they soar 
Like gray shades, till the eastern heaven 
Bursts; and then¡ªas clouds of even 
Fleck'd with fire and azure, lie 
In the unfathomable sky¡ª 40 
So their plumes of purple grain 
Starr'd with drops of golden rain 
Gleam above the sunlight woods, 
As in silent multitudes 
On the morning's fitful gale 45 
Through the broken mist they sail; 
And the vapours cloven and gleaming 
Follow down the dark steep streaming, 
Till all is bright, and clear, and still 
Round the solitary hill. 50 

Beneath is spread like a green sea 
The waveless plain of Lombardy, 
Bounded by the vaporous air, 
Islanded by cities fair; 
Underneath day's azure eyes, 55 
Ocean's nursling, Venice lies,¡ª 
A peopled labyrinth of walls, 
Amphitrite's destined halls, 
Which her hoary sire now paves 
With his blue and beaming waves. 60 
Lo! the sun upsprings behind, 
Broad, red, radiant, half-reclined 
On the level quivering line 
Of the waters crystalline; 
And before that chasm of light, 65 
As within a furnace bright, 
Column, tower, and dome, and spire, 
Shine like obelisks of fire, 
Pointing with inconstant motion 
From the altar of dark ocean 70 
To the sapphire-tinted skies; 
As the flames of sacrifice 
From the marble shrines did rise 
As to pierce the dome of gold 
Where Apollo spoke of old. 75 

Sun-girt City! thou hast been 
Ocean's child, and then his queen; 
Now is come a darker day, 
And thou soon must be his prey, 
If the power that raised thee here 80 
Hallow so thy watery bier. 
A less drear ruin then than now, 
With thy conquest-branded brow 
Stooping to the slave of slaves 
From thy throne among the waves 85 
Wilt thou be¡ªwhen the sea-mew 
Flies, as once before it flew, 
O'er thine isles depopulate, 
And all is in its ancient state, 
Save where many a palace-gate 90 
With green sea-flowers overgrown, 
Like a rock of ocean's own, 
Topples o'er the abandon'd sea 
As the tides change sullenly. 
The fisher on his watery way, 95 
Wandering at the close of day, 
Will spread his sail and seize his oar 
Till he pass the gloomy shore, 
Lest thy dead should, from their sleep, 
Bursting o'er the starlight deep, 100 
Lead a rapid masque of death 
O'er the waters of his path. 

Noon descends around me now: 
'Tis the noon of autumn's glow, 
When a soft and purple mist 105 
Like a vaporous amethyst, 
Or an air-dissolv¨¨d star 
Mingling light and fragrance, far 
From the curved horizon's bound 
To the point of heaven's profound, 110 
Fills the overflowing sky, 
And the plains that silent lie 
Underneath; the leaves unsodden 
Where the infant Frost has trodden 
With his morning-wing¨¨d feet 115 
Whose bright print is gleaming yet; 
And the red and golden vines 
Piercing with their trellised lines 
The rough, dark-skirted wilderness; 
The dun and bladed grass no less, 120 
Pointing from this hoary tower 
In the windless air; the flower 
Glimmering at my feet; the line 
Of the olive-sandall'd Apennine 
In the south dimly islanded; 125 
And the Alps, whose snows are spread 
High between the clouds and sun; 
And of living things each one; 
And my spirit, which so long 
Darken'd this swift stream of song,¡ª 130 
Interpenetrated lie 
By the glory of the sky; 
Be it love, light, harmony, 
Odour, or the soul of all 
Which from heaven like dew doth fall, 135 
Or the mind which feeds this verse, 
Peopling the lone universe. 

Noon descends, and after noon 
Autumn's evening meets me soon, 
Leading the infantine moon 140 
And that one star, which to her 
Almost seems to minister 
Half the crimson light she brings 
From the sunset's radiant springs: 
And the soft dreams of the morn 145 
(Which like wing¨¨d winds had borne 
To that silent isle, which lies 
'Mid remember'd agonies, 
The frail bark of this lone being), 
Pass, to other sufferers fleeing, 150 
And its ancient pilot, Pain, 
Sits beside the helm again. 

Other flowering isles must be 
In the sea of Life and Agony: 
Other spirits float and flee 155 
O'er that gulf: ev'n now, perhaps, 
On some rock the wild wave wraps, 
With folding wings they waiting sit 
For my bark, to pilot it 
To some calm and blooming cove, 160 
Where for me, and those I love, 
May a windless bower be built, 
Far from passion, pain, and guilt, 
In a dell 'mid lawny hills 
Which the wild sea-murmur fills, 165 
And soft sunshine, and the sound 
Of old forests echoing round, 
And the light and smell divine 
Of all flowers that breathe and shine. 
¡ªWe may live so happy there, 170 
That the Spirits of the Air 
Envying us, may ev'n entice 
To our healing paradise 
The polluting multitude: 
But their rage would be subdued 175 
By that clime divine and calm, 
And the winds whose wings rain balm 
On the uplifted soul, and leaves 
Under which the bright sea heaves; 
While each breathless interval 180 
In their whisperings musical 
The inspir¨¨d soul supplies 
With its own deep melodies; 
And the Love which heals all strife 
Circling, like the breath of life, 185 
All things in that sweet abode 
With its own mild brotherhood:¡ª 
They, not it, would change; and soon 
Every sprite beneath the moon 
Would repent its envy vain, 190 
And the Earth grow young again! 


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

The Recollection

NOW the last day of many days, 
All beautiful and bright as thou, 
The loveliest and the last, is dead: 
Rise, Memory, and write its praise! 
Up¡ªto thy wonted work! come, trace 5 
The epitaph of glory fled, 
For now the earth has changed its face, 
A frown is on the heaven's brow. 

We wander'd to the Pine Forest 
That skirts the ocean's foam. 10 
The lightest wind was in its nest, 
The tempest in its home; 
The whispering waves were half asleep, 
The clouds were gone to play, 
And on the bosom of the deep 15 
The smile of heaven lay: 
It seem'd as if the hour were one 
Sent from beyond the skies 
Which scatter'd from above the sun 
A light of Paradise! 20 

We paused amid the pines that stood 
The giants of the waste, 
Tortured by storms to shapes as rude 
As serpents interlaced,¡ª 
And soothed by every azure breath 25 
That under heaven is blown, 
To harmonies and hues beneath, 
As tender as its own. 
Now all the tree-tops lay asleep 
Like green waves on the sea, 30 
As still as in the silent deep 
The ocean-woods may be. 

How calm it was!¡ªThe silence there 
By such a chain was bound, 
That even the busy woodpecker 35 
Made stiller by her sound 
The inviolable quietness; 
The breath of peace we drew 
With its soft motion made not less 
The calm that round us grew. 40 
There seem'd, from the remotest seat 
Of the wide mountain waste 
To the soft flower beneath our feet, 
A magic circle traced,¡ª 
A spirit interfused around 45 
A thrilling silent life; 
To momentary peace it bound 
Our mortal nature's strife;¡ª 
And still I felt the centre of 
The magic circle there 50 
Was one fair form that fill'd with love 
The lifeless atmosphere. 

We paused beside the pools that lie 
Under the forest bough; 
Each seem'd as 'twere a little sky 55 
Gulf'd in a world below¡ª 
A firmament of purple light 
Which in the dark earth lay, 
More boundless than the depth of night 
And purer than the day¡ª 60 
In which the lovely forests grew 
As in the upper air, 
More perfect both in shape and hue 
Than any spreading there. 
There lay the glade and neighbouring lawn, 65 
And through the dark-green wood 
The white sun twinkling like the dawn 
Out of a speckled cloud. 
Sweet views which in our world above 
Can never well be seen 70 
Were imaged in the water's love 
Of that fair forest green; 
And all was interfused beneath 
With an Elysian glow, 
An atmosphere without a breath, 75 
A softer day below. 
Like one beloved, the scene had lent 
To the dark water's breast 
Its every leaf and lineament 
With more than truth exprest; 80 
Until an envious wind crept by, 
Like an unwelcome thought 
Which from the mind's too faithful eye 
Blots one dear image out. 
¡ªThough thou art ever fair and kind, 85 
The forests ever green, 
Less oft is peace in Shelley's mind 
Than calm in waters seen! 


by Percy Bysshe Shelley |

To a Lady with a Guitar

ARIEL to Miranda:¡ªTake 
This slave of music for the sake 
Of him who is the slave of thee; 
And teach it all the harmony 
In which thou canst and only thou 5 
Make the delighted spirit glow  
Till joy denies itself again 
And too intense is turn'd to pain. 
For by permission and command 
Of thine own Prince Ferdinand 10 
Poor Ariel sends this silent token 
Of more than ever can be spoken; 
Your guardian spirit Ariel who 
From life to life must still pursue 
Your happiness for thus alone 15 
Can Ariel ever find his own. 
From Prospero's enchanted cell  
As the mighty verses tell  
To the throne of Naples he 
Lit you o'er the trackless sea 20 
Flitting on your prow before  
Like a living meteor. 
When you die the silent Moon 
In her interlunar swoon 
Is not sadder in her cell 25 
Than deserted Ariel:¡ª 
When you live again on earth  
Like an unseen Star of birth 
Ariel guides you o'er the sea 
Of life from your nativity:¡ª 30 
Many changes have been run 
Since Ferdinand and you begun 
Your course of love and Ariel still 
Has track'd your steps and served your will. 
Now in humbler happier lot 35 
This is all remember'd not; 
And now alas the poor Sprite is 
Imprison'd for some fault of his 
In a body like a grave¡ª 
From you he only dares to crave 40 
For his service and his sorrow 
A smile to-day a song to-morrow. 

The artist who this viol wrought 
To echo all harmonious thought  
Fell'd a tree while on the steep 45 
The woods were in their winter sleep  
Rock'd in that repose divine 
On the wind-swept Apennine; 
And dreaming some of autumn past  
And some of spring approaching fast 50 
And some of April buds and showers  
And some of songs in July bowers  
And all of love; and so this tree ¡ª 
Oh that such our death may be!¡ª 
Died in sleep and felt no pain 55 
To live in happier form again: 
From which beneath heaven's fairest star  
The artist wrought this loved guitar; 
And taught it justly to reply 
To all who question skilfully 60 
In language gentle as thine own; 
Whispering in enamour'd tone 
Sweet oracles of woods and dells  
And summer winds in sylvan cells. 
For it had learnt all harmonies 65 
Of the plains and of the skies  
Of the forests and the mountains  
And the many-voic¨¨d fountains; 
The clearest echoes of the hills  
The softest notes of falling rills 70 
The melodies of birds and bees  
The murmuring of summer seas  
And pattering rain and breathing dew  
And airs of evening; and it knew 
That seldom-heard mysterious sound 75 
Which driven on its diurnal round  
As it floats through boundless day  
Our world enkindles on its way:¡ª 
All this it knows but will not tell 
To those who cannot question well 80 
The spirit that inhabits it: 
It talks according to the wit 
Of its companions; and no more 
Is heard than has been felt before 
By those who tempt it to betray 85 
These secrets of an elder day. 
But sweetly as its answers will 
Flatter hands of perfect skill  
It keeps its highest holiest tone 
For one beloved Friend alone. 90