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
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Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is regarded by critics as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. more…

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