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A Summer Evening Churchyard
Percy Bysshe Shelley

 Lechlade, Gloucestershire

The wind has swept from the wide atmosphere
  Each vapor that obscured the sunset’s ray;
And pallid Evening twines its beaming hair
  In duskier braids around the languid eyes of Day.
Silence and Twilight, unbeloved of men,
Creep hand in hand from yon obscurest glen.
They breathe their spells toward the departing day,
  Encompassing the earth, air, stars, and sea;
Light, sound, and motion own the potent sway,
  Responding to the charm with its own mystery.
The winds are still, or the dry church-tower grass
Knows not their gentle motions as they pass.
Thou too, aerial pile, whose pinnacles
  Point from one shrine like pyramids of fire,
Obeyest in silence their sweet solemn spells,
  Clothing in hues of heaven thy dim and distant spire,
Around whose lessening and invisible height
Gather among the stars the clouds of night.
The dead are sleeping in their sepulchres;
  And, mouldering as they sleep, a thrilling sound,
Half sense, half thought, among the darkness stirs,
  Breathed from their wormy beds all living things around;
And, mingling with the still night and mute sky,
Its awful hush is felt inaudibly.
Thus solemnized and softened, death is mild
  And terrorless as this serenest night;
Here could I hope, like some inquiring child
  Sporting on graves, that death did hide from human sight
Sweet secrets, or beside its breathless sleep
That loveliest dreams perpetual watch did keep.

This poem is in the public domain.


Post New Comment:
Victorians used to picnic in graveyardsa fine Sunday outing for the whole family!
Posted 06/29/2021 11:53 PM
While the idea of a "child sporting on graves" is rather macabre! it also triumphant in that the human show goes on, with those strong last three lines about death hiding sweet secrets.
Posted 06/29/2021 11:27 AM
Surprise Reading Teacher:
I'm going for the irreverent comment: I heard this poem spoken in Vincent Price's voice as in Thriller. You are so right when you say Shelley has inspired many, both in thought and words.
Posted 06/29/2021 10:44 AM
Janet Leahy:
I did not know this poem, had to reread and reread for the rhythm and rhyme beautifully done. Thank you Jayne for introducing me to this poem.
Posted 06/29/2021 10:39 AM
Gilbert Allen:
I find the wishful thinking in that final stanza very moving.
Posted 06/29/2021 09:32 AM
Percy. You had me at "the languid eyes of Day"!!! Love this poem.
Posted 06/29/2021 09:16 AM
I am now thinking of the wind's awful hush felt inaudibly.
Posted 06/29/2021 08:55 AM
michael escoubas:
Shelley's poetic skills are timeless; we contemporary poets owe a debt to Shelley and poets of his era for what they have to teach us. Thank you, Jayne, for a great post.
Posted 06/29/2021 08:27 AM
Larry Schug:
Magnificent. I have always liked the Romantics. Thanks, Jayne.
Posted 06/29/2021 07:48 AM

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