Ode to Shelley

By George Sterling

Lift trumpets, silver trumpets, to the light!
Lift trumpets, Fame, to the revealing day!
            For he it is whose way
Goes forth forever in the great sun's sight.
            O singer, fled afar!
The erected darkness shall but isle the star
            That was your voice to men,
            Till morning come again
And of the night that song alone remain.
            O you whose holy pain
Pierced the world's heart with music of that woe,
            Now is our sorrow made
As deep as theirs who lost you long ago.
Human it is that every rose shall fade,
But not on its first morning. Many lands
Knew many griefs that day, but could not know
What loss was theirs, when, by the shoaling jade,
Your ashes, like grey snow, were on the sands.
It is of wounds like this that Time has scars,
And tears are of the eternal, and our hands
Are lifted to inexorable stars.
Ah! Fled forever, past atonement's word!
Gone to the timelessness where sleep is long!
Lost, like the music of an unborn bird,
            Or your unwritten song!
Mute, though the given song awhile impart
Beauty's inherent sorrow to the heart!

Lift silver trumpets, Fame, for this is he
Whose joy was in the silver of the sea-
The shudder of the wave-crest on the light,
The foam of oceans desolate and pure,
            Snows that might not endure,
And waters riven on the windy height.
            O singer, winged from birth!
Spirit of light, impatient of this earth
And its old bonds that chafe the star-lured wings!
            How great your love
For restless wind and cloud, for dews and star!-
All clean and crystalline and radiant things-
            All clarities that are
Beyond man's soilure and intolerance-
            All azure bent above
The long-lost Islands of the lost romance.
For you the lyric heavens no more are dumb,
And Beauty, moulded by the cancelled Past,
            Touched by your light shall cast
Her shadow on the mighty years to come.
The noblest heart that ever slept in Rome
            Finds in our hearts a home.

Wherefore when winter skies are sheerest blue-
            When fallen waters chime-
When silvern rains are on the lucid lake,
            Ah! Then the thought of you,
            The clearest voice of Time,
Is born like music when the shore-winds wake
The old regret that sleeps in pine and wave.
            And yet it is not grief
            That murmurs in the breast
Because the Fates at Spezia would not save,
But drew the silence on you, till men found
The song immortal and the singing brief.
It is not sorrow: every heart must rest.
But at your lustral trumpets' argent sound
            Far dreams come back,
And we are homesick for those Isles you sought
   Beyond the sunset's track.
            We too have caught
An echo of that singing, and would find
  The vision you have seen:
Youth, in a land of heights and ocean-wind,
In the morning of the world, when blood was clean-
Beauty, whose lips no message had defiled-
            The star-song of the Muse,
            As innocently wild
As when one hears the laughter of a child
Over the year's first blossom and her dews.

O dream unverified, dreamt long ago!
            Not thus Anarchs rule:
Time, that shall put us all to school,
Shows us that Land but in his afterglow-
            A realm too far to know
Save in the dream that was so real to you.
But Pain cries from her darkness: "I am true!"
And war and greed and ignorance and sin
Leave us no Paradise to wander in,
Beyond the world's exaction and its scorn.
            You too have worn
  Illusion's rose and thorn,
Finding the petal all too swift to fall,
The thorn, impeding and perpetual.

But never in your heart, forever boy,
  Could the world's voice destroy
The vision of those Islands lost in mist
  Of rainbows and their foam-
Edens of Time, altars of amethyst,
Beautiful in the sunset, and your home.
                        We too
In youth have known the clarion and gleam;
We too have dared, unwounded then, to roam
            The wind and sacred blue
            Of heavens lost to you,
But know them lost, and found but in the dream.
            Now even in our youth
            The bitter voice of Truth
Is clear in challenge, bidding that we rise,
            Putting aside dismay,
And grapple with that angel, in whose eyes
All mystery is buried till its day.
            Now is the Question come
On all our Dreams, nor may their lips be dumb,
But each shall tell its country and its king-
            Whether its gift be lies,
Remembered from that strain the sirens sing,
Or if a road to light be hidden there,
Or if there be enigma in the tale.
            One finds no Paradise
            That all ask not to share.
There is no victory if a brother fail;
            There is no secret place
Where one shall tryst with Beauty, face to face;
But in the sounding street and press of men
Shall we entreat her, that she lift her veil
And show us that she roams the world again.
            There is no isle so lone,
              Nor snows so high,
That man shall hear not there his brother's moan,
Nor seek an answer to that mystery,
Our eyes have seen too little and too much;
Our hearts are hungry past Elysium's food;
            Our brows have felt the touch
Of winds from the Beyond; a final Good
Has set a star within us and without,
Drawing the gaze to skies of cleanly doubt,
And giving us no peace in solitude.
O singer, there are lions in the way!
But though your roses of mirage decay,
Leaving the desert empty to the day,
Yet there shall be our garden and its flowers,
Where lark and nightingale divide the hours.
            Then shall your Isle be found,
            And there a wiser race,
            The children of the noon ,
            Shall rear the Happy Place ,
With dust of dreams that crowned our brows too soon-
With seed of hopes that fell on stony ground-
With rain of all the unrecorded tears
            Wept in those early years.
            Diviner for the Past,
The Vision that you saw shall gleam at last-
The wise and beautiful that yet shall be,
Though we, as you, be wakened not to see.

            Oh! is that too a dream
            Of hue and form that seem-
Of happiness forever just beyond
            These hearts so swiftly fond?
We know the night must be before the day,
The dream before the moulding of the clay.
What though your song was born of your own pain-
Your flight cut short so distant from the goal?
The shadows and the echoes that remain
Are wings and voices for the groping soul,
            In gulfs it cannot cross;
And though the arraigning music cry our loss,
To strive, it says, is more than to attain.
Still, though your flight was ever skyward, still,
The granite affirmation of man's will
            Was made more strong,
More far-enduring for the intrepid song,
And you were of the fearless and their strain,
            That find no night too long.
O choric heart, that found the flesh a cage!
O panther-soul, at bay against your age!
Unfitly are your ashes housed in Rome ,
'Mid orange-blossom fragrance and the dust
            That knew the Caesars' lust.
For we would make their solitary home
            On some white mountain-peak
            That few, or none, dare seek-
Some throne to Death, deep in the holy West,
An eyrie of great winds and ancient snow,
            Whence foaming rivers flow
And but the shadow of the eagle falls
            Upon the frozen crest
            And everlasting halls
Of granite open to the highest star.
There might Polaris be your lamp afar-
The northern star, that wanders not the night,
O you a Vision's wanderer from birth!
There might the living sun pour down his flood
            On an exultant earth,
O you whose heart and home were deathless light-
              Whose very blood
            Ached for the crystal ray
And isolating azures of the day!
But who are we, that we should choose your tomb?-
            We in whose hearts have stirred
Your music made immutable, your word
Which cries that man is greater than his doom.
Whether you sleep in Rome or in the West,
Great is the sleeper, great the enduring rest.
And though your silver trumpets never cease,
            Uplifted to that flame
That is your immortality of fame,
            And though their voice increase,
You shall not hear, who hold within your breast
The silence and the unconditioned peace.

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