Shelley Sunday: ‘A Dialogue (Death & Mortal)’

A DIALOGUE

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

DEATH:
For my dagger is bathed in the blood of the brave,
I come, care-worn tenant of life, from the grave,
Where Innocence sleeps 'neath the peace-giving sod,
And the good cease to tremble at Tyranny's nod;
I offer a calm habitation to thee,--                                 _5
Say, victim of grief, wilt thou slumber with me?
My mansion is damp, cold silence is there,
But it lulls in oblivion the fiends of despair;
Not a groan of regret, not a sigh, not a breath,
Dares dispute with grim Silence the empire of Death.                 _10
I offer a calm habitation to thee,--
Say, victim of grief, wilt thou slumber with me?

MORTAL:
Mine eyelids are heavy; my soul seeks repose,
It longs in thy cells to embosom its woes,
It longs in thy cells to deposit its load,                           _15
Where no longer the scorpions of Perfidy goad,--
Where the phantoms of Prejudice vanish away,
And Bigotry's bloodhounds lose scent of their prey.
Yet tell me, dark Death, when thine empire is o'er,
What awaits on Futurity's mist-covered shore?                        _20

DEATH:
Cease, cease, wayward Mortal! I dare not unveil
The shadows that float o'er Eternity's vale;
Nought waits for the good but a spirit of Love,
That will hail their blest advent to regions above.
For Love, Mortal, gleams through the gloom of my sway,               _25
And the shades which surround me fly fast at its ray.
Hast thou loved?--Then depart from these regions of hate,
And in slumber with me blunt the arrows of fate.
I offer a calm habitation to thee.--
Say, victim of grief, wilt thou slumber with me?                     _30

MORTAL:
Oh! sweet is thy slumber! oh! sweet is the ray
Which after thy night introduces the day;
How concealed, how persuasive, self-interest's breath,
Though it floats to mine ear from the bosom of Death!
I hoped that I quite was forgotten by all,                           _35
Yet a lingering friend might be grieved at my fall,
And duty forbids, though I languish to die,
When departure might heave Virtue's breast with a sigh.
O Death! O my friend! snatch this form to thy shrine,
And I fear, dear destroyer, I shall not repine.                      _40

NOTE:
_22 o'er Esdaile manuscript; on 1858.


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