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Like troops of ghosts on the dry wind passed ;
Their whistling noise made the birds aghast.

And the gusty winds waked the winged seeds
Out of their birthplace of ugly weeds,
Till they clung round many a sweet flower's stem,
Which rotted into the earth with them.

The water-blooms under the rivulet
Fell from the stalks on which they were set;
And the eddies drove them here and there,
As the winds did those of the upper air.

Then the rain came down, and the broken stalks
Were bent and tangled across the walks ;
And the leafless network of parasite bowers
Massed into ruin, and all sweet flowers.

Between the time of the wind and the snow
All loathliest weeds began to grow,
Whose coarse leaves were splashed with many a

speck, Like the water-snake's belly and the toad's back.

And thistles, and nettles, and darnels rank,
And the dock, and henbane, and hemlock dank,
Stretched out its long and hollow shank,
And stifled the air till the dead wind stank.

And plants, at whose names the verse feels loath, Filled the place with a monstrous undergrowth, Prickly, and pulpous, and blistering, and blue, Livid, and starred with a lurid dew.

And agarics and fungi, with mildew and mould,
Started like mist from the wet ground cold ;
Pale, fleshy, as if the decaying dead
With a spirit of growth had been animated !

Spawn, weeds, and filth, a leprous scum,
Made the running rivulet thick and dumb,
And at its outlet flags huge as stakes
Dammed it up with roots knotted like water-


And hour by hour, when the air was still,
The vapors arose which have strength to kill ;
At morn they were seen, at noon they were felt,
At night they were darkness no star could melt.

And unctuous meteors from spray to

Crept and flitted in broad noonday
Unseen ; every branch on which they alit
By a venomous blight was burned and bit.

The Sensitive Plant, like one forbid,
Wept, and the tears within each lid
Of its folded leaves, which together grew,
Were changed to a blight of frozen glue.

For the leaves soon fell, and the branches soon
By the heavy axe of the blast were hewn ;

63 mists, Harvard MS.
66 :

Their moss rotted off them, flake by flake,
Till the thick stalk stuck like a murderer's stake,
Where rags of loose flesh yet tremble on high,
Infecting the winds that wander by.

Shelley, 1820, Harvard MS. cancelled, omit, Mrs. Shelley, 18391.

The sap shrank to the root through every pore,
As blood to a heart that will beat no more.

For Winter came; the wind was his whip;
One choppy finger was on his lip;
He had torn the cataracts from the hills
And they clanked at his girdle like manacles;

His breath was a chain which without a sound
The earth, and the air, and the water bound;
He came, fiercely driven, in his chariot-throne,
By the tenfold blasts of the Arctic zone.

Then the weeds which were forms of living death
Fled from the frost to the earth beneath.
Their decay and sudden flight from frost
Was but like the vanishing of a ghost !

And under the roots of the Sensitive Plant
The moles and the dormice died for want ;
The birds dropped stiff from the frozen air
And were caught in the branches naked and


First there came down a thawing rain,
And its dull drops froze on the boughs again ;
Then there steamed up a freezing dew
Which to the drops of the thaw-rain grew ;

And a northern whirlwind, wandering about
Like a wolf that had smelt a dead child out,

96 and their sudden flight from the, Harvard MS. 98 And, omit, Harvard MS.

Shook the boughs thus laden and heavy and

stiff, And snapped them off with his rigid griff.

When Winter had gone and Spring came back,
The Sensitive Plant was a leafless wreck;
But the mandrakes, and toadstools, and docks, and

Rose like the dead from their ruined charnels.


Whether the Sensitive Plant, or that
Which within its boughs like a spirit sat,
Ere its outward form had known decay,
Now felt this change, I cannot say.

Whether that lady's gentle mind,
No longer with the form combined
Which scattered love, as stars do light,
Found sadness where it left delight,

I dare not guess; but in this life
Of error, ignorance and strife,
Where nothing is, but all things seem,
And we the shadows of the dream,

It is a modest creed, and yet
Pleasant, if one considers it,
To own that death itself must be,
Like all the rest, a mockery.

114 Whether || And if, Harvard MS. 118 Whether || Or if, Harvard MS.

That garden sweet, that lady fair,
And all sweet shapes and odors there,
In truth have never passed away :
'Tis we, 'tis ours, are changed; not they.

For love, and beauty, and delight,
There is no death nor change: their might
Exceeds our organs, which endure
No light, being themselves obscure.


'Tis the terror of tempest. The rags of the sail Are flickering in ribbons within the fierce gale ; From the stark night of vapors the dim rain is

driven, And, when lightning is loosed, like a deluge from

heaven, She sees the black trunks of the waterspouts

spin And bend, as if heaven was ruining in, Which they seemed to sustain with their terrible


As if ocean had sunk from beneath them; they

pass To their graves in the deep with an earthquake of

sound, And the waves and the thunders, made silent

around, A Vision of the Sea. Published with Prometheus Unbound, 1820. Composed at Pisa, and dated, in the Harvard MS., April, 1820.

6 ruining, Harvard MS. Mrs. Shelley, 18391 || raining, Shelley, 1820.

8 sunk, Harvard MS., Mrs. Shelley, 18391 || sank, Shelley, 1820.

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