Shelley Sunday: A Summer Evening Churchyard. . .

A Summer Evening Churchyard, Lechlade, Gloucestershire


Percy Bysshe Shelley

THE wind has swept from the wide atmosphere
Each vapour that obscured the sunset’s ray,
And pallid Evening twines its beaming hair
In duskier braids
around the languid eyes of Day:
Silence and Twilight, unbeloved of
Creep hand in hand from yon obscurest glen.

They breathe their
spells towards the departing day,
Encompassing the earth, air, stars, and
Light, sound, and motion, own the potent sway,
Responding to the
charm with its own mystery.
The winds are still, or the dry church-tower
Knows not their gentle motions as they pass.

Thou too, aerial
pile, whose pinnacles
Point from one shrine like pyramids of fire,
I in silence their sweet solemn spells,
Clothing in hues of heaven thy dim and distant spire,
Around whose lessening and invisible height
among the stars the clouds of night.

The dead are sleeping in their
And, mouldering as they sleep, a thrilling sound,
Half sense
half thought, among the darkness stirs,
Breathed from their wormy beds all
living things around,
And, mingling with the still night and mute sky,
awful hush is felt inaudibly.

Thus solemnized and softened, death is
And terrorless as this serenest night.
Here could I hope, like some
enquiring child
Sporting on graves, that death did hide from human
Sweet secrets, or beside its breathless sleep
That loveliest dreams
perpetual watch did keep.


2 thoughts on “Shelley Sunday: A Summer Evening Churchyard. . .

  1. I enjoyed this poem. It brought to mind the poem below by one of my favorite poets, and how in ancient times, people used to talk metaphorically of someone dying, as falling asleep. I think that’s referring to the phrase/idea “at rest with one’s ancestors”, referring to the grave, and how families were often entombed together after death, and how over time as burial practices have evolved culturally, we bury our dead next to each other.

    All in all a wonderful poem you have shared. Thank you for posting it, it gave me another interesting perspective to see the poem below from, that I already really liked, and like even more now! 🙂

    “Aedh Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven”
    by William Butler Yeats

    Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
    Enwrought with golden and silver light,
    The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
    Of night and light and the half-light,
    I would spread the cloths under your feet:
    But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
    I have spread my dreams under your feet;
    Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

    • Lovely! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

      I really like Yeats, too! I was lucky and was able to view a number of Yeats’ manscripts in Dublin a few years back. I don’t know if I’ve read this one before, though, but it’s lovely. Reading this, and then thinking of the last stanza of Shelley’s “Summer Evening…”, instantly brings to my mind Whitman’s line from “Song of Myself”: “And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier”.

      Oh! You’ve made my evening. I love making these literary connections! Cheers! 🙂

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