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To the Moon -- Percy Bysshe Shelley

Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1741) To the Moon
 Art thou pale for weariness
 Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth,
 Wandering companionless
 Among the stars that have a different birth,—
 And ever-changing, like a joyless eye
 That finds no object worth its constancy?
-- Percy Bysshe Shelley
Every time I look through the Minstrels archive, I'm always saddened to see
how poorly represented Shelley is on the site (yes, Martin, I know you don't
much care for him, but still). All right, so he tends to get a little
carried away; yes, he doesn't have quite the ear that Keats does, or Byron;
fine, his images tend to pile one upon the other until they become
suffocating, almost annoying (What was it Shakespeare said: "give me excess
of it, that surfeiting / The appetite may sicken and so die."); true, he
could have used a good editor. All of that does not detract from the fact
that Shelley is, IMHO, one of the most visionary and passionate of poets to
grace the English language, one of its most strident and lyrical voices; a
young man capable, at his best, of such burning purity of image that few
poets before or since could match him.  Certainly a poet who deserves to be
better represented on the site than he currently is.

This poem is the first step towards achieving that representation. It's a
brilliant little gem of a poem, a glorious example of just how stunning
Shelley could be when he didn't overdo it. The double image of the moon
roaming disconsolate through the night sky and Youth searching restlessly
for spiritual beauty is both crystal clear and oddly compelling. To read
this poem aloud is to experience the sadness and the despair of the speaker
- no mean feat for a poem that is all of six lines long. This is a
quintessentially romantic poem: it combines a sense of haunting lyricism
with one of the most spectacularly visual closing lines in all of poetry:
'Ever changing like a joyless eye / That finds no object worth its
constancy'. (The failure of the last line to rhyme only heightens the
overall impact of the stanza in my view - it sharpens the ending, makes it,
somehow, more fragile).

It's always seemed to me that Shelley, with his restless, tormented, uneven
poems, with his visions of political and lyrical grandeur combined with
periods of dark depression, is truly a poet of a 'different birth'. The
least we can do is make sure he has all his best poems with him, to keep him


[Martin adds]

While it is true that I dislike the majority of Shelley's work, I have never
denied his essential genius, and I have ever urged readers who *are* fans of
his poetry to fill up the lacuna. I heartily agree that he deserves to be
better represented in the archives, but my primary criterion for selecting a
poem has always been my enjoyment of said poem; therefore, I leave the
Shelley poems to people like Aseem, who has done a far better job of writing
about him than I could have. (I believe that I speak for Thomas too in this


39 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Dinesh Sairam said...

"And ever-changing, like a joyless eye"

Shelley always was good at choosing his metaphors!

Anonymous said...

Very good, but kinda depressing.

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