--SISTER ROSA: A BALLAD
by Percy Bysshe Shelley 1. The death-bell beats!-- The mountain repeats The echoing sound of the knell; And the dark Monk now Wraps the cowl round his brow, _5 As he sits in his lonely cell. 2. And the cold hand of death Chills his shuddering breath, As he lists to the fearful lay Which the ghosts of the sky, _10 As they sweep wildly by, Sing to departed day. And they sing of the hour When the stern fates had power To resolve Rosa's form to its clay. _15 3. But that hour is past; And that hour was the last Of peace to the dark Monk's brain. Bitter tears, from his eyes, gushed silent and fast; And he strove to suppress them in vain. _20 4. Then his fair cross of gold he dashed on the floor, When the death-knell struck on his ear.-- 'Delight is in store For her evermore; But for me is fate, horror, and fear.' _25 5. Then his eyes wildly rolled, When the death-bell tolled, And he raged in terrific woe. And he stamped on the ground,-- But when ceased the sound, _30 Tears again began to flow. 6. And the ice of despair Chilled the wild throb of care, And he sate in mute agony still; Till the night-stars shone through the cloudless air, _35 And the pale moonbeam slept on the hill. 7. Then he knelt in his cell:-- And the horrors of hell Were delights to his agonized pain, And he prayed to God to dissolve the spell, _40 Which else must for ever remain. 8. And in fervent pray'r he knelt on the ground, Till the abbey bell struck One: His feverish blood ran chill at the sound: A voice hollow and horrible murmured around-- _45 'The term of thy penance is done!' 9. Grew dark the night; The moonbeam bright Waxed faint on the mountain high; And, from the black hill, _50 Went a voice cold and still,-- 'Monk! thou art free to die.' 10. Then he rose on his feet, And his heart loud did beat, And his limbs they were palsied with dread; _55 Whilst the grave's clammy dew O'er his pale forehead grew; And he shuddered to sleep with the dead. 11. And the wild midnight storm Raved around his tall form, _60 As he sought the chapel's gloom: And the sunk grass did sigh To the wind, bleak and high, As he searched for the new-made tomb. 12. And forms, dark and high, _65 Seemed around him to fly, And mingle their yells with the blast: And on the dark wall Half-seen shadows did fall, As enhorrored he onward passed. _70 13. And the storm-fiends wild rave O'er the new-made grave, And dread shadows linger around. The Monk called on God his soul to save, And, in horror, sank on the ground. _75 14. Then despair nerved his arm To dispel the charm, And he burst Rosa's coffin asunder. And the fierce storm did swell More terrific and fell, _80 And louder pealed the thunder. 15. And laughed, in joy, the fiendish throng, Mixed with ghosts of the mouldering dead: And their grisly wings, as they floated along, Whistled in murmurs dread. _85 16. And her skeleton form the dead Nun reared Which dripped with the chill dew of hell. In her half-eaten eyeballs two pale flames appeared, And triumphant their gleam on the dark Monk glared, As he stood within the cell. _90 17. And her lank hand lay on his shuddering brain; But each power was nerved by fear.-- 'I never, henceforth, may breathe again; Death now ends mine anguished pain.-- The grave yawns,--we meet there.' _95 18. And her skeleton lungs did utter the sound, So deadly, so lone, and so fell, That in long vibrations shuddered the ground; And as the stern notes floated around, A deep groan was answered from hell. NOTE: 3.--Sister Rosa: Ballad, 1811.
Image Source: Brandy Anderson. Shelley’s Window. Oxford University.