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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 brightning,
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 road 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 overflowed.
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 aerial hue
Among the flowers and grass which screen it from the view:
Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves--
By warm winds deflowered--
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet those heavy-wingèd thieves:
Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awakened 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 or love or wine
That painted forth a flood of rapture so divine:
Chorus Hymenaeal*
Or triumphant chaunt
Matched with thine, would be all
But an empty vaunt,
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.
What object 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 my brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow,
The world should listen then - as I am listening now.

 Percy Bysshe Shelley


*Note: Chorus Hymenaeal = (classical) wedding song

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Powers of Literature home

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READINGS for Powers of Literature
(with Lesson numbers):

1. Genesis 1
Creation Story

1. Genesis 11
Babel Story

2. Odyssey 8
Odysseus' voyage 1

3. Iliad 1-2
Achilles' anger

4. Iliad 9
Mission to Achilles

4. Peleus & Thetis
ancient sources

5. Iliad 15 ff
Death of Patroklos

6. Iliad 20 ff
Burial of Hektor

7. Odyssey 13-18
Return of Odysseus

8. Odyssey 20-24
City of Dreams

9. Life of Alexander
the Homeric king

10. Origins of writing
ancient sources

11. Plato, Euthyphro
Socrates gets busted

12. Plato, Apology
Socrates on trial

13. Plato, Crito
Socrates in jail

14. Plato, Phaedo
Socrates in heaven

15. Luke, Acts
Paul does Christ

16. Saint Francis
gospel without text

17. Chretien, The Knight of the Cart
Sire Lance's genes

18. Virgil, Aeneid
Aeneas & Dido