THE RECOLLECTION – POEM- PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
Updated: Aug 19, 2020
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets born on August 4, 1792, at Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, England. He was widely regarded as one of the greatest lyric and philosophical poet in English language. He attended Eton College for six years beginning from 1804, and then went on to Oxford University. He began writing poetry while at Eton, but his first publication was a Gothic novel, Zastrozzi (1810). In this novel he voiced his own heretical and atheistic opinions through the villain Zastrozzi.
At the age of twenty one, he published his first long serious work, Queen Mab: A Philosophical poem-with Notes (1813). This poem emerged from Shelley’s friendship with the British philosopher William Godwin, and it expressed Godwin’s freethinking Socialist philosophy. Shelley spent a great deal of time with George Gordon, Lord Byron, sailing on Lake Geneva and discussing poetry and other topics, including ghosts and spirits, into the night. During one of these ghostly “seances”, Byron proposed that each person presented there should write a ghost story. Mary’s (Shelley’s second wife after Harriet Westbrook) contribution to the contest gave birth to the novel Frankenstein. That same year, Shelley produced the verse allegory Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude.
In 1817, Shelley produced Laon and Cythna, a long narrative poem that contained references to incest as well as attacks on religion, later edited and reissued as The Revolt of Islam (1818). At this time, he also wrote “The Hermit of Marlow”. During the remaining four years of his life, Shelley produced all his major works, including Prometheus Unbound (1820). Shelley is best known for classic poems such as Ozymandias, Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, Music, When Soft Voices Die, The Cloud and The Masque of Anarchy. His major works include a verse drama, The Cenci (1819) and Hellas: A Lyrical Drama (1821) and his final, unfinished work, The Triumph of Life (1822). Matthew Arnold famously described Shelley as a “beautiful and ineffectual angel”.
On July 8, 1822, shortly before his thirtieth birthday, Shelley was drowned in a storm while attempting to sail from Leghorn to La Spezia, Italy, in his yacht, the Don Juan.
To Jane: The Recollection poem by Shelley was published by Mrs. Shelley in Poetical Works, 1839. It was written in February 1822 in the final years of Shelley’s life. He expressed his strong attraction to Jane Williams, who was married to Shelley’s friend, Edward Williams. The first poem about Jane “The Invitation” was about Shelley asking her to run away with him. In “The Recollection” Jane is about to leave Shelley. He recollected a time with her that they spent together in a calm state of tranquility under Pine Forest. The Invitation and The Recollection appeared as one composition under the title, The Pine Forest of the Cascine near Pisa. Shelley was a pantheist and believed that Nature or a divine spirit of beauty, runs through everything in the universe. This force can be the root of human joy and goodness which can change people to beautify the world.
POEM: Now the last day of many days, All beautiful and bright as thou, The loveliest and the last, is dead, Rise, Memory, and write its praise! Up,—to thy wonted work! come, trace The epitaph of glory fled,— For now the Earth has changed its face, A frown is on the Heaven's brow. We wandered to the Pine Forest That skirts the Ocean's foam, The lightest wind was in its nest, The tempest in its home. The whispering waves were half asleep, The clouds were gone to play, And on the bosom of the deep The smile of Heaven lay; It seemed as if the hour were one Sent from beyond the skies, Which scattered from above the sun A light of Paradise.
We paused amid the pines that stood The giants of the waste, Tortured by storms to shapes as rude As serpents interlaced; And, soothed by every azure breath, That under Heaven is blown, To harmonies and hues beneath, As tender as its own, Now all the tree-tops lay asleep, Like green waves on the sea, As still as in the silent deep The ocean woods may be. How calm it was!—the silence there By such a chain was bound That even the busy woodpecker Made stiller by her sound The inviolable quietness; The breath of peace we drew With its soft motion made not less The calm that round us grew. There seemed from the remotest seat Of the white mountain waste, To the soft flower beneath our feet, A magic circle traced,— A spirit interfused around A thrilling, silent life,— To momentary peace it bound Our mortal nature's strife; And still I felt the centre of The magic circle there Was one fair form that filled with love The lifeless atmosphere.
We paused beside the pools that lie Under the forest bough,— Each seemed as 'twere a little sky Gulfed in a world below; A firmament of purple light Which in the dark earth lay, More boundless than the depth of night, And purer than the day— In which the lovely forests grew, As in the upper air, More perfect both in shape and hue Than any spreading there. There lay the glade and neighbouring lawn, And through the dark green wood The white sun twinkling like the dawn Out of a speckled cloud. Sweet views which in our world above Can never well be seen, Were imaged by the water's love Of that fair forest green. And all was interfused beneath With an Elysian glow, An atmosphere without a breath, A softer day below. Like one beloved the scene had lent To the dark water's breast, Its every leaf and lineament With more than truth expressed; Until an envious wind crept by, Like an unwelcome thought, Which from the mind's too faithful eye Blots one dear image out. Though thou art ever fair and kind, The forests ever green, Less oft is peace in Shelley's mind, Than calm in waters, seen.
After spending so many days with her, now it is their last day. Those days they spent together were beautiful and full of light just like her. Most of the sweet days he spent with her, visiting the Pine forest has ended. Finally, the last and best of all these days came to an end. He asked his memory to rise with all the loveliest reminiscence to write its glory and greatness and the last day of their togetherness. He wanted to mourn the loss of that glory and asked his memory to come and trace the disappearance of their good old days in the form of epitaph (a phrase or form of words written in memory of a person who has died). After their departure everything has changed, the earth is no longer as beautiful as before, and the sky wears a look of displeasure.
They both wandered slowly without any clear purpose around the pine forest which was situated virtually around the sea-shore. The agitated waves of the seawater produced foam in the sea. Winds were blowing softly by holding its breeze itself. There was no storm it was silent out there, all the hissing sounds of the waves were half asleep, clouds were moved out to play, all to emphasis the prevailing calmness . It felt like heaven smiled upon them with perfect calm everywhere. These moments were blessed with heavenly light scattered from beyond the sun, just like the Earth has been showered with the light of paradise. (The idea of nature runs in parallel with human nature implying that when they both were together everything in the world was perfect and lovely).
They moved among the pine that stood sharp and fine. Those trees grew in the wilderness of the forest crossed intricately like a number of serpents interwoven and got twisted by the heavy storm. Those trees were comforted by light breeze that blew under the blue sky. It stood young with all the music and colors inside it. All the top layers of the trees were in the state of stillness like the greens growing under the ocean during a spell of calm weather.
“How calm it was! The silence there”, all the chains were bounded with silence even the woodpecker stopped to move by listening her voice. There is a kind of quietness secured from all the trespass even their breathe was travelling in a soft motion. ‘The calm that round us grew’ nothing can violate it. Somewhere there seemed a most isolated island. All the things in the place were like mountain covered with snow, soft grown flower were surrounded with hidden magic. The whole scene was spread by an invisible Spirit which calmed the agitation in the heart of the both. It was ‘a thrilling silent life’ with peace bounded everywhere even in their day-to-day mortal struggle. Still now he feels the same magic ride with love. This atmosphere around him would have seemed lifeless without her. She was the one who filled it with love.
They both were passing near the pools which were lying under the branches of trees. The reflection in the water of the pools seemed like a little sky under the world below touched with heavenly glow. These lovely forest grew in the upper air were more perfect both in shape and hue. There were grassy meadows under the shade of deciduous tree. Through those dark green wood, sun beams twinkled like its first appearance. All was inter-fused beneath the blissful state. Every leaves and underlying landscape expressed something more than truth (magic). They both enjoyed all those things but until an envious wind (maybe Edward Williams-husband of Jane) began to blow closely like an unwelcome thought. This envious wind made Shelly’s image fade away from her life.
Shelley says that even though Jane was beautiful and kind as always, even the forests were green and calm and the whole place filled with peace, his mind was disturbed more than the water in the ocean. (As Jane is no more his own).
The loveliest and the last, is dead