Shelley, Keats, and Hardy

Here are some poems by a few famous nature poets from back in the day: Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822, friend of Lord Byron) and John Keats (1795-1821, only 25 years), both Romantic poets. And Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), influenced by Romanticism, and especially the work of Wordsworth.


Percy Bysshe Shelley:

To A Skylark

        Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
                Bird thou never wert,
         That from Heaven, or near it,
                Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.


         Higher still and higher
                From the earth thou springest
         Like a cloud of fire;
                The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.


         In the golden lightning
                Of the sunken sun,
         O’er which clouds are bright’ning,
                Thou dost float and run;
Like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun.


         The pale purple even
                Melts around thy flight;
         Like a star of Heaven,
                In the broad day-light
Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight,


         Keen as are the arrows
                Of that silver sphere,
         Whose intense lamp narrows
                In the white dawn clear
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.


         All the earth and air
                With thy voice is loud,
         As, when night is bare,
                From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and Heaven is overflow’d.


         What thou art we know not;
                What is most like thee?
         From rainbow clouds there flow not
                Drops so bright to see
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.


         Like a Poet hidden
                In the light of thought,
         Singing hymns unbidden,
                Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not:


         Like a high-born maiden
                In a palace-tower,
         Soothing her love-laden
                Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower:


         Like a glow-worm golden
                In a dell of dew,
         Scattering unbeholden
                Its a{:e}real hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view:


         Like a rose embower’d
                In its own green leaves,
         By warm winds deflower’d,
                Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-winged thieves:


         Sound of vernal showers
                On the twinkling grass,
         Rain-awaken’d flowers,
                All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.


         Teach us, Sprite or Bird,
                What sweet thoughts are thine:
         I have never heard
                Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.


         Chorus Hymeneal,
                Or triumphal chant,
         Match’d with thine would be all
                But an empty vaunt,
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.


         What objects are the fountains
                Of thy happy strain?
         What fields, or waves, or mountains?
                What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? what ignorance of pain?


         With thy clear keen joyance
                Languor cannot be:
         Shadow of annoyance
                Never came near thee:
Thou lovest: but ne’er knew love’s sad satiety.


         Waking or asleep,
                Thou of death must deem
         Things more true and deep
                Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream?


         We look before and after,
                And pine for what is not:
         Our sincerest laughter
                With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.


         Yet if we could scorn
                Hate, and pride, and fear;
         If we were things born
                Not to shed a tear,
I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.


         Better than all measures
                Of delightful sound,
         Better than all treasures
                That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!


         Teach me half the gladness
                That thy brain must know,
         Such harmonious madness
                From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now.




I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’ 


John Keats:

Ode to Autumn

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cell.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir, the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft,
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


Thomas Hardy:

The Darkling Thrush

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.


The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.


At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.


So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.
Shelley’s Skylark
Somewhere afield here something lies
In Earth’s oblivious eyeless trust
That moved a poet to prophecies –
A pinch of unseen, unguarded dust
The dust of the lark that Shelley heard,
And made immortal through times to be; –
Though it only lived like another bird,
And knew not its immortality.Lived its meek life; then, one day, fell –
A little ball of feather and bone;
And how it perished, when piped farewell,
And where it wastes, are alike unknown.Maybe it rests in the loam I view,
Maybe it throbs in a myrtle’s green,
Maybe it sleeps in the coming hue
Of a grape on the slopes of yon inland scene.

Go find it, faeries, go and find
That tiny pinch of priceless dust,
And bring a casket silver-lined,
And framed of gold that gems encrust;

And we will lay it safe therein,
And consecrate it to endless time;
For it inspired a bard to win
Ecstatic heights in thought and rhyme.