Percy Bysshe Shelley

Here you will find the Long Poem Julian and Maddalo (excerpt) of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley

Julian and Maddalo (excerpt)

I rode one evening with Count Maddalo 
 Upon the bank of land which breaks the flow
 Of Adria towards Venice: a bare strand
 Of hillocks, heap'd from ever-shifting sand,
 Matted with thistles and amphibious weeds,
 Such as from earth's embrace the salt ooze breeds,
 Is this; an uninhabited sea-side,
 Which the lone fisher, when his nets are dried,
 Abandons; and no other object breaks
 The waste, but one dwarf tree and some few stakes
 Broken and unrepair'd, and the tide makes
 A narrow space of level sand thereon,
 Where 'twas our wont to ride while day went down.
 This ride was my delight. I love all waste
 And solitary places; where we taste
 The pleasure of believing what we see
 Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be:
 And such was this wide ocean, and this shore
 More barren than its billows; and yet more
 Than all, with a remember'd friend I love
 To ride as then I rode; for the winds drove
 The living spray along the sunny air
 Into our faces; the blue heavens were bare,
 Stripp'd to their depths by the awakening north;
 And, from the waves, sound like delight broke forth
 Harmonizing with solitude, and sent
 Into our hearts aëreal merriment.
 So, as we rode, we talk'd; and the swift thought,
 Winging itself with laughter, linger'd not,
 But flew from brain to brain--such glee was ours,
 Charg'd with light memories of remember'd hours,
 None slow enough for sadness: till we came
 Homeward, which always makes the spirit tame.
 This day had been cheerful but cold, and now
 The sun was sinking, and the wind also.
 Our talk grew somewhat serious, as may be
 Talk interrupted with such raillery
 As mocks itself, because it cannot scorn
 The thoughts it would extinguish: 'twas forlorn,
 Yet pleasing, such as once, so poets tell,
 The devils held within the dales of Hell
 Concerning God, freewill and destiny:
 Of all that earth has been or yet may be,
 All that vain men imagine or believe,
 Or hope can paint or suffering may achieve,
 We descanted, and I (for ever still
 Is it not wise to make the best of ill?)
 Argu'd against despondency, but pride
 Made my companion take the darker side.
 The sense that he was greater than his kind
 Had struck, methinks, his eagle spirit blind
 By gazing on its own exceeding light.
 Meanwhile the sun paus'd ere it should alight,
 Over the horizon of the mountains--Oh,
 How beautiful is sunset, when the glow
 Of Heaven descends upon a land like thee,
 Thou Paradise of exiles, Italy!
 Thy mountains, seas, and vineyards, and the towers
 Of cities they encircle! It was ours
 To stand on thee, beholding it: and then,
 Just where we had dismounted, the Count's men
 Were waiting for us with the gondola.
 As those who pause on some delightful way
 Though bent on pleasant pilgrimage, we stood
 Looking upon the evening, and the flood
 Which lay between the city and the shore,
 Pav'd with the image of the sky.... The hoar
 And aëry Alps towards the North appear'd
 Through mist, an heaven-sustaining bulwark rear'd
 Between the East and West; and half the sky
 Was roof'd with clouds of rich emblazonry
 Dark purple at the zenith, which still grew
 Down the steep West into a wondrous hue
 Brighter than burning gold, even to the rent
 Where the swift sun yet paus'd in his descent
 Among the many-folded hills: they were
 Those famous Euganean hills, which bear,
 As seen from Lido thro' the harbour piles,
 The likeness of a clump of peakèd isles--
 And then--as if the Earth and Sea had been
 Dissolv'd into one lake of fire, were seen
 Those mountains towering as from waves of flame
 Around the vaporous sun, from which there came
 The inmost purple spirit of light, and made
 Their very peaks transparent. "Ere it fade,"
 Said my companion, "I will show you soon
 A better station"--so, o'er the lagune
 We glided; and from that funereal bark
 I lean'd, and saw the city, and could mark
 How from their many isles, in evening's gleam,
 Its temples and its palaces did seem
 Like fabrics of enchantment pil'd to Heaven.
 I was about to speak, when--"We are even
 Now at the point I meant," said Maddalo,
 And bade the gondolieri cease to row.
 "Look, Julian, on the west, and listen well
 If you hear not a deep and heavy bell."
 I look'd, and saw between us and the sun
 A building on an island; such a one
 As age to age might add, for uses vile,
 A windowless, deform'd and dreary pile;
 And on the top an open tower, where hung
 A bell, which in the radiance sway'd and swung;
 We could just hear its hoarse and iron tongue:
 The broad sun sunk behind it, and it toll'd
 In strong and black relief. "What we behold
 Shall be the madhouse and its belfry tower,"
 Said Maddal