The collected poems of James Elroy Flecker/Fragments of an Ode to Shelley


Fragments of an Ode to Shelley


I

Since men have always crowned the tomb
With those sweet diadems of doom.
The twinings of memorial flowers,
So that their brother's first few hours
Of waiting in his lonely room
May pass in peace while Time devours
The body's brief and bitter bloom,
The last extortion of sad powers,
And downwards through the grudging soil
The piteous perfumes strain and toil,


II

Let the kind ritual remain:
We seek an emblem of our pain
The dry scant holly of the shore,
The grass upon the dunes—What more
Can sorrow bring? We cannot drain
The spacious Sea for his rich store
Of coloured weeds that shine in vain
Upon the wide inhuman floor,
The lonely yard where drowned men lie
And gaze through water to white sky.


III

Forgive, thou calm and godlike shade,
The drooping wreath, the flowers that fade,
This passionless pale offering
From one who scarcely dares to sing
His love and praises, being afraid
At the sweet brilliance of thy spring,
Seeing his lute is rudely made,
His thoughts too dull and weak of wing,
More fit for noons that lull and warm
Than for the stress of fire and storm.


IV

The slender boat that stretched her sail
To fly before the sultry gale,
That from her moorings leapt and sped
Before the forest leaves were red,
Before the purple noon was pale,
Round whom delight and fancy spread
Their guardian wings, without avail,
Is shipwrecked, and her captain dead.
The children of the stainless sea
Laid him ashore mysteriously.


V

O none of those who came to mourn
The body cold and water-worn,
Nor any of us in later days
Who walk at evening in soft ways
Could bring thee tribute of the morn
Or any music that repays
The soul of Adonais, borne
To heaven on thy fluted phrase.
Poets have wept; but which of them
Were fit to sing thy requiem?


VI

That song shall wait till delving time
Finds the lost treasures of earth's prime
When moil and tears and dire distress
Shall flee the dawn of joyousness,
When some new monarch of sweet rhyme
Or mild surprising poetess,
Some Sappho in a mood sublime
Or Pindar freed and fetterless,
In a far island in far seas
Shall send their sorrow down the breeze.

• • •

O shining servant of the evening star
Whom no soft footfall of Lethean song
Delighted, but a strong celestial war
To batter down the gates of earthly wrong,
To thee old Rhea yielded up her foison,
Thou rash knight-errant of heroic love,
That dreams and trances, being most vital poison
To whoso looks but dares not live above,
For thee, who wast more bold,
Might lead to earth along light chains of gold,
Lest some rebellious airs of spirit
Should blow each image into windy space
Nor leave it vocal, to inherit
The toil and triumph of our mortal race.
O thou hast shown us legions in the skies,
And passed the earth before us in review
Till shadows came and went before our eyes,
And shafts of dim desire pierced us through,
And draughts of joyous day
And winds that calmly blew
Swift strength and splendour in our dreams, and songs from far away.

• • •

Light and the subtler light of wizard fire,
And winds that strike forth hope on some grand lyre,
And spirits of blue air like April clouds,
And all the water-company that crowds
The river-spaces and dark open sea,
Conspired at his creation: Liberty,
Watching his prowess from her tower above,
Took to her side a royal-wingèd Love.
And when he died and they could do no more
To strengthen him who graced that southern shore
They bade a clearer, stronger sun arise
And drive old darkness from the Italian skies.

• • •

Many there be to-day whose foolish praise
Has dulled the roar of thy old fighting days,
So that thy hymns of intellectual joy
Seem but fine utterance of a wayward boy,
Thy call of war, thy thunderbolts of hate
A madman's cry, that rails against his fate;
Who find in them a vague and phantom truth
Or dim ideal of a lovelorn youth.

• • •

He was too beautiful; he died too young,
Before the mellow season of his prime;
Sweet songs he left, but sweeter songs unsung,
Whose thin ghosts wander out of space and time.
All his philosophy was Love and Hate,
His life a rainbow for the sun to fashion,
His thoughts most royally importunate,
Forged by the beats of elemental passion.
Like some young tressèd tree
That sighs to each . . . wind, so he
Stretched arms to welcome Love, who softly winging
Came down to earth from lands beyond the dawn;
Her strength and gentleness inspired his singing,
Until she stood amazed, from whom 'twas drawn.
Spirit of love, draw near this monument
And veil the ancient glory of thy head,
For he is dead, whose silver days were spent
In thy eternal service, he is dead
And borne aloft away
On gloomy wings outspread
More strong and sure than thy bright plumes,
O mistress of a day!

• • •


[EPODE]

Nothing of him is left us, save this scroll,
The fire-thrown shadow of his silent soul,
The glass whose even rondure is to keep
The immortal country of his mortal sleep.
Where terrors move and angry phantoms cry,
Titans and tyrants in a ragged sky,
Where in tall caves magicians read the rune,
And white limbs glitter in the plenilune;
And where a voice more human, more divine,
Commends a brother dead to Proserpine.
But now that Queen of undivided rest
Reopening the closures of her breast
Has taken our royal-wingèd child of light,
And bathed his forehead in the pool of night.

[Date uncertain, early]