Percy Bysshe Shelley

(1792-1822 / Horsham / England)

A Dialogue


DEATH:
For my dagger is bathed in the blood of the brave,
I come, care-worn tenant of life, from the grave,
Where Innocence sleeps 'neath the peace-giving sod,
And the good cease to tremble at Tyranny's nod;
I offer a calm habitation to thee,--
Say, victim of grief, wilt thou slumber with me?
My mansion is damp, cold silence is there,
But it lulls in oblivion the fiends of despair;
Not a groan of regret, not a sigh, not a breath,
Dares dispute with grim Silence the empire of Death.
I offer a calm habitation to thee,--
Say, victim of grief, wilt thou slumber with me?

MORTAL:
Mine eyelids are heavy; my soul seeks repose,
It longs in thy cells to embosom its woes,
It longs in thy cells to deposit its load,
Where no longer the scorpions of Perfidy goad,--
Where the phantoms of Prejudice vanish away,
And Bigotry's bloodhounds lose scent of their prey.
Yet tell me, dark Death, when thine empire is o'er,
What awaits on Futurity's mist-covered shore?

DEATH:
Cease, cease, wayward Mortal! I dare not unveil
The shadows that float o'er Eternity's vale;
Nought waits for the good but a spirit of Love,
That will hail their blest advent to regions above.
For Love, Mortal, gleams through the gloom of my sway,
And the shades which surround me fly fast at its ray.
Hast thou loved?--Then depart from these regions of hate,
And in slumber with me blunt the arrows of fate.
I offer a calm habitation to thee.--
Say, victim of grief, wilt thou slumber with me?

MORTAL:
Oh! sweet is thy slumber! oh! sweet is the ray
Which after thy night introduces the day;
How concealed, how persuasive, self-interest’s breath,
Though it floats to mine ear from the bosom of Death!
I hoped that I quite was forgotten by all,
Yet a lingering friend might be grieved at my fall,
And duty forbids, though I languish to die,
When departure might heave Virtue’s breast with a sigh.
O Death! O my friend! snatch this form to thy shrine,
And I fear, dear destroyer, I shall not repine.

Submitted: Thursday, April 01, 2010
Edited: Monday, May 09, 2011

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  • Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (5/20/2014 11:59:00 PM)

    The poem is great in its contents and meanings. Dares disputes with grim silence the empire of earth, and I fear dear destroyer I shall not repine..... The meaningful lines very interested. (Report) Reply

  • Max Segal (9/2/2012 12:02:00 PM)

    Wondrous! Sort of like Adonais, Shelley explains the multifaceted existence of life and death. At first Shelley disdains death as an enemy, but then begins to show its benevolence as an exit from a world no more better than death itself. But the human relents, despite his own persuasion into death's clutches, and decides to let the Earth savor his presence a bit longer. (Report) Reply

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