Shelley Sunday: ‘On an Icicle that Clung to the Grass of a Grave’

ON AN ICICLE THAT CLUNG TO THE GRASS OF A GRAVE

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

[Published (without title) by Hogg, “Life of Shelley”, 1858; dated
1809-10. The poem, with title as above, is included in the Esdaile
manuscript book.]

1.
Oh! take the pure gem to where southerly breezes,
Waft repose to some bosom as faithful as fair,
In which the warm current of love never freezes,
As it rises unmingled with selfishness there,
Which, untainted by pride, unpolluted by care,
Might dissolve the dim icedrop, might bid it arise,
Too pure for these regions, to gleam in the skies.

2.
Or where the stern warrior, his country defending,
Dares fearless the dark-rolling battle to pour,
Or o’er the fell corpse of a dread tyrant bending,
Where patriotism red with his guilt-reeking gore
Plants Liberty’s flag on the slave-peopled shore,
With victory’s cry, with the shout of the free,
Let it fly, taintless Spirit, to mingle with thee.

3.
For I found the pure gem, when the daybeam returning,
Ineffectual gleams on the snow-covered plain,
When to others the wished-for arrival of morning
Brings relief to long visions of soul-racking pain;
But regret is an insult–to grieve is in vain:
And why should we grieve that a spirit so fair
Seeks Heaven to mix with its own kindred there?

4.
But still ’twas some Spirit of kindness descending
To share in the load of mortality’s woe,
Who over thy lowly-built sepulchre bending
Bade sympathy’s tenderest teardrop to flow.
Not for THEE soft compassion celestials did know,
But if ANGELS can weep, sure MAN may repine,
May weep in mute grief o’er thy low-laid shrine.

5.
And did I then say, for the altar of glory,
That the earliest, the loveliest of flowers I’d entwine,
Though with millions of blood-reeking victims ’twas gory,
Though the tears of the widow polluted its shrine,
Though around it the orphans, the fatherless pine?
Oh! Fame, all thy glories I’d yield for a tear
To shed on the grave of a heart so sincere.

***

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Image Source: gopixpic.winter.com

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