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    Mont Blanc

    by Percy Bysshe Shelley
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    (Lines written in the Vale of Chamouni)


    The everlasting universe of things
    Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
    Now dark - now glittering - now reflecting gloom -
    Now lending splendor, where from secret springs
    The source of human thought its tribute brings
    Of waters, - with a sound but half its own,
    Such as a feeble brook will oft assume
    In the wild woods, amon the mountains lone,
    Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,
    Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
    Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.


    Thus thou, Ravine of Arve - dark, deep Ravine-
    Thou many-colored, many voiced vale,
    Over whose pines, and crags, and caverns sail
    Fast cloud-shadows and sunbeams: awful scene,
    Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down
    From the ice-gulfs that gird his secret throne,
    Bursting through these dark mountains like the flame
    Of lightning through the tempest; -thou dost lie,
    Thy giant brood of pines around thee clinging,
    Children of elder time, in whose devotion
    The chainless winds still come and ever came
    To drink their odors, and their mighty swinging
    To hear - an old and solemn harmony;
    Thine earthly rainbows stretched across the sweep
    Of the ethereal waterfall, whose veil
    Robes some unsculptured image; the strange sleep
    Which when the voices of the desert fail
    Wraps all in its own deep eternity;-
    Thy caverns echoing to the Arve's commotion,
    A loud, lone sound no other sound can tame;
    Thou art pervaded with that ceaseless motion,
    Thou art the path of that unresting sound-
    Dizzy Ravine! and when I gaze on thee
    I seem as in a trance sublime and strange
    To muse on my own separate fantasy,
    My own, my human mind, which passively
    Now renders and receives fast influencings,
    Holding an unremitting interchange
    With the clear universe of things around;
    One legion of wild thoughts, whose wandering wings
    Now float above thy darkness, and now rest
    Where that or thou art no unbidden guest,
    In the still cave of the witch Poesy,
    Seeking among the shadows that pass by
    Ghosts of all things that are, some shade of thee,
    Some phantom, some faint image; till the breast
    From which they fled recalls them, thou art there!


    Some say that gleams of a remoter world
    Visit the soul in sleep,-that death is slumber,
    And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber
    Of those who wake and live. -I look on high;
    Has some unknown omnipotence unfurled
    The veil of life and death? or do I lie
    In dream, and does the mightier world of sleep
    Spread far and round and inaccessibly
    Its circles? For the very spirit fails,
    Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep
    That vanishes amon the viewless gales!
    Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,
    Mont Blanc appears,-still snowy and serene-
    Its subject mountains their unearthly forms
    Pile around it, ice and rock; broad vales between
    Of frozen floods, unfathomable deeps,
    Blue as the overhanging heaven, that spread
    And wind among the accumulated steeps;
    A desert peopled by the storms alone,
    Save when the eagle brings some hunter's bone,
    And the wolf tracks her there - how hideously
    Its shapes are heaped around! rude, bare, and high,
    Ghastly, and scarred, and riven. -Is this the scene
    Where the old Earthquake-demon taught her young
    Ruin? Were these their toys? or did a sea
    Of fire envelop once this silent snow?
    None can reply - all seems eternal now.
    The wilderness has a mysterious tongue
    Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild,
    So solemn, so serene, that man may be,
    But for such faith, with nature reconciled;
    Thou hast a voice, great Mountain, to repeal
    Large codes of fraud and woe; not understood
    By all, but which the wise, and great, and good
    Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.


    The fields, the lakes, the forests, and the streams,
    Ocean, and all the living things that dwell
    Within the daedal earth; lightning, and rain,
    Earthquake, and fiery flood, and hurricane,
    The torpor of the year when feeble dreams
    Visit the hidden buds, or dreamless sleep
    Holds every future leaf and flower; -the bound
    With which from that detested trance they leap;
    The works and ways of man, their death and birth,
    And that of him, and all that his may be;
    All things that move and breathe with toil and sound
    Are born and die; revolve, subside, and swell.
    Power dwells apart in its tranquility,
    Remote, serene, and inaccessible:
    And this, the naked countenance of earth,
    On which I gaze, even these primeval mountains
    Teach the adverting mind. The glaciers creep
    Like snakes that watch their prey, from their far fountains,
    Slow rolling on; there, many a precipice,
    Frost and the Sun in scorn of mortal power
    Have piled: dome, pyramid, and pinnacle,
    A city of death, distinct with many a tower
    And wall impregnable of beaming ice.
    Yet not a city, but a flood of ruin
    Is there, that from the boundaries of the sky
    Rolls its perpetual stream; vast pines are strewing
    Its destined path, or in the mangled soil
    Branchless and shattered stand; the rocks, drawn down
    From yon remotest waste, have overthrown
    The limits of the dead and living world,
    Never to be reclaimed. The dwelling-place
    Of insects, beasts, and birds, becomes its spoil
    Their food and their retreat for ever gone,
    So much of life and joy is lost. The race
    Of man flies far in dread; his work and dwelling
    Vanish, like smoke before the tempest's stream,
    And their place is not known. Below, vast caves
    Shine in the rushing torrents' restless gleam,
    Which from those secret chasms in tumult welling
    Meet in the vale, and one majestic River,
    The breath and blood of distant lands , for ever
    Rolls its loud waters to the ocean-waves,
    Breathes its swift vapors to the circling air.


    Mont Blanc yet gleams on high:-the power is there,
    The still and solemn power of many sights,
    And many sounds, and much of life and death.
    In the calm darkness of the moonless nights,
    In the lone glare of day, the snows descend
    Upon that mountain; none beholds them there,
    Nor when the flakes burn in the sinking sun,
    Or the star-beams dart through them:-Winds contend
    Silently there, and heap the snow with breath
    Rapid and strong, but silently! Its home
    The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
    Keeps innocently, and like vapor broods
    Over the snow. The secret Strength of things
    Which governs thought, and to the infinite dome
    Of Heaven is as a law, inhabits thee!
    And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea,
    If to the human mind's imaginings
    Silence and solitude were vacancy?
    If you're writing a Mont Blanc essay and need some advice, post your Percy Bysshe Shelley essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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