Percy Bysshe Shelley
on the death of his wife
The cold earth slept below;
Above the cold sky shone;
And all around,
With a chilling sound,
From caves of ice and fields of snow
The breath of night like death did flow
Under the sinking moon.
The wintry hedge was black,
The brown grass was not seen;
The birds did rest
In the dark thorn's breast,
Whose roots, beside the pathway track,
Bound hard the soil and many a crack
The black frost made between.
Thine eyes glowed in the gleam
Of the departing light;
As a starry beam
On a deep dark stream
Shines dimly — so the moon shone there,
And it shone through the strings of thy tangled hair,
That shook in the blast of night.
The moon made thy lips pale, beloved;
The wind made thy bosom chill;
The night did shed
On thy dear head
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky
Might visit thee at will.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley
Note: this version of the poem comes from Louise Boas's biography, Harriet Shelley: Five Long Years (1962). It differs considerably from the standard version as printed in Shelley: Poetical Works, edited by Thomas Hutchinson.*
In an endnote Boas comments: “The text of this poem
(pp. 200-201) is that of Ingpen's careful transcript from the MS. on
which Shelley crossed out the variant readings frequently printed. From
the Ingpen Papers.”
* At the head of the poem Hutchinson writes: “Published in Hunt's
Literary Pocket-Book, 1823, where it is headed November, 1815.
Reprinted in the Posthumous Poems,
1824. See Editor's Note.” The Editor's Note states: “These
[lines] appear to be antedated by a year, as they evidently allude to
the death of Harriet Shelley in November, 1816.” Since the
manuscript examined by Roger Ingpen shows a date of December 1816, the
date must have been deliberately changed, presumably by Mary Shelley,
to give the false impression that the poem was written before, rather
than after and in response to, the death of Harriet Shelley.