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The Triumph Of Life
by [?]

Composed at Lerici on the Gulf of Spezzia in the spring and early summer of 1822–the poem on which Shelley was engaged at the time of his death. Published by Mrs. Shelley in the “Posthumous Poems” of 1824

Swift as a spirit hastening to his task
Of glory and of good, the Sun sprang forth
Rejoicing in his splendour, and the mask

Of darkness fell from the awakened Earth–
The smokeless altars of the mountain snows 5
Flamed above crimson clouds, and at the birth

Of light, the Ocean’s orison arose,
To which the birds tempered their matin lay.
All flowers in field or forest which unclose

Their trembling eyelids to the kiss of day, 10
Swinging their censers in the element,
With orient incense lit by the new ray

Burned slow and inconsumably, and sent
Their odorous sighs up to the smiling air;
And, in succession due, did continent, 15

Isle, ocean, and all things that in them wear
The form and character of mortal mould,
Rise as the Sun their father rose, to bear

Their portion of the toil, which he of old
Took as his own, and then imposed on them: 20
But I, whom thoughts which must remain untold

Had kept as wakeful as the stars that gem
The cone of night, now they were laid asleep
Stretched my faint limbs beneath the hoary stem

Which an old chestnut flung athwart the steep 25
Of a green Apennine: before me fled
The night; behind me rose the day; the deep

Was at my feet, and Heaven above my head,–
When a strange trance over my fancy grew
Which was not slumber, for the shade it spread 30

Was so transparent, that the scene came through
As clear as when a veil of light is drawn
O’er evening hills they glimmer; and I knew

That I had felt the freshness of that dawn
Bathe in the same cold dew my brow and hair, 35
And sate as thus upon that slope of lawn

Under the self-same bough, and heard as there
The birds, the fountains and the ocean hold
Sweet talk in music through the enamoured air,
And then a vision on my train was rolled. 40

As in that trance of wondrous thought I lay,
This was the tenour of my waking dream:–
Methought I sate beside a public way

Thick strewn with summer dust, and a great stream
Of people there was hurrying to and fro, 45
Numerous as gnats upon the evening gleam,

All hastening onward, yet none seemed to know
Whither he went, or whence he came, or why
He made one of the multitude, and so

Was borne amid the crowd, as through the sky 50
One of the million leaves of summer’s bier;
Old age and youth, manhood and infancy,