Nox Oculis


Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Poète anglais, qui fut considéré comme l'un des plus grands poètes de son temps mais aussi comme la figure la plus influente et la plus emblématique du mouvement romantique.

Percy Bysshe Shelley naquit le 4 août 1792 à Field Place, près de Horsham, dans le Sussex, au sein d'une famille de vieille noblesse. Il fit ses études à Eton, puis à l'université d'Oxford, d'où il fut renvoyé au bout d'un an. Avec un autre étudiant, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, il avait en effet - entre autres manifestations d'insoumission - écrit et fait circuler un pamphlet, la Nécessité de l'athéisme (1811), qui choqua naturellement les dirigeants de l'université. Peu après son expulsion, Shelley, âgé de 19 ans, épousa la jeune Harriet Westbrook et partit s'installer dans la région des Lacs pour y étudier et y écrire.

Deux années plus tard, il publia son premier véritable ouvrage, la Reine Mab (1813), poème philosophique en neuf chants mêlant vers blancs et vers lyriques. La rédaction de ce poème n'était pas sans rapport avec l'amitié qui liait le poète au philosophe William Godwin, puisque Shelley y développait les idées socialistes de ce libre-penseur. Cette amitié eut également pour conséquence la rencontre de Shelley avec la fille de Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, qui le fascina par sa culture et sa grande liberté de pensée, traits inhabituels chez les jeunes filles de l'époque.

En 1814, après avoir quitté sa femme, Shelley s'enfuit avec Mary pour l'Europe. Pendant l'été 1816, le couple rencontra lord Byron, lui aussi exilé de sa terre natale. En décembre de la même année, trois semaines après le suicide de sa femme, dont le corps fut retrouvé dans un parc de Londres, Shelley épousa Mary et, au début de l'année 1818, après plusieurs aller et retour entre l'Angleterre et le continent, ils quittèrent définitivement leur pays. Voyageant et résidant dans diverses villes d'Italie, le couple Shelley rencontra le poète britannique Leigh Hunt avec sa famille et retrouva Byron.

Peu de temps avant son 30e anniversaire, le 18 juillet 1822, Shelley se noya accidentellement près des rivages d'Italie, pris dans une tempête alors qu'il essayait de rejoindre La Spezia en bateau. Dix jours plus tard, son corps fut retrouvé et incinéré sur le rivage en présence de Byron.

Nombre de critiques considèrent Shelley comme l'un des plus grands poètes qu'ait connus l'Angleterre. Parmi ses premières œuvres, marquées par sa révolte contre les contraintes sociales autant que contre la condition faite à l'homme ici-bas, citons une allégorie en vers, Alastor (1816), annonciatrice de ses travaux ultérieurs, et, en 1817, un long poème, récit symbolique de la Révolution, qui fut réédité sous le titre de la Révolte de l'islam (1818). Shelley rédigea également un certain nombre de pamphlets et de tracts révolutionnaires, où s'exprimaient son anticonformisme et sa révolte.

C'est pendant les quatre dernières années de sa vie que Shelley produisit ses œuvres les plus remarquables. Parmi ces vers, où s'exprime toujours son insoumission, mais avec une tonalité lyrique, il convient de citer les célèbres odes intitulées À une alouette (1820), Ode au vent d'ouest (1819) et le Nuage (1820), où le poète s'essaye avec talent à l'harmonie imitative pour restituer telle quelle la voix de la nature. Sont également très admirés les courts poèmes qu'il consacra à l'amour, le poème platonicien Epipsychidion (1821) et Adonaïs (1821), élégie en strophes spensériennes sur la mort du poète John Keats.

Le lyrisme profond qui transparaît dans ces œuvres est également sensible dans les drames en vers de Shelley, tels que les Cenci (1819), tragédie qui relate un viol incestueux et un parricide dans la Rome du XVIe siècle, et Prométhée délivré (1820), drame en vers dédié à l'amour insoumis qui constitue aussi un appel à la révolution. Ces drames sont les œuvres d'un poète lyrique plus que d'un dramaturge, et ils sont réputés impossibles à mettre en scène. Shelley est également l'auteur d'œuvres brillantes en prose, parmi lesquelles une traduction du Symposium de Platon (1818) et un ouvrage critique inachevé, Défense de la poésie (1821), où il assigne au poète le rôle d'intermédiaire entre l'univers naturel et les hommes.

Certains critiques, notamment des antiromantiques, reprochèrent à Shelley le raffinement et la sentimentalité de son œuvre, soutenant que son influence fut moindre que celle d'autres poètes de la même période, tels que Byron, Keats ou William Wordsworth.


The Cloud

    I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
    From the seas and the streams ;
    I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
    In their noon-day dreams.
    From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
    The sweet buds every one,
    When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
    As she dances about the Sun.
    I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
    And whiten the green plains under,
    And then again I dissolve it in rain,
    And laugh as I pass in thunder.

    I sift the snow on the mountains below,
    And their great pines groan aghast ;
    And all the night 'tis my pillow white,
    While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
    Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
    Lightning my pilot sits ;
    In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
    It struggles and howls at fits ;
    Over Earth and Ocean, with gentle motion,
    This pilot is guiding me,
    Lured by the love of the genii that move
    In the depths of the purple sea ;
    Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
    Over the lakes and the plains,
    Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,
    The Spirit he loves remains ;
    And I all the while bask in Heaven's blue smile,
    Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

    The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
    And his burning plumes outspread,
    Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
    When the morning star shines dead ;
    As on the jag of a mountain crag,
    Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
    An eagle alit one moment may sit
    In the light of its golden wings.
    And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit Sea beneath,
    Its ardours of rest and of love,
    And the crimson pall of eve may fall
    From the depth of Heaven above,
    With wings folded I rest, on mine äery nest,
    As still as a brooding dove.

    That orbed maiden with white fire laden
    Whom mortals call the Moon,
    Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor
    By the midnight breezes strewn ;
    And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
    Which only the angels hear,
    May have broken the woof, of my tent's thin roof,
    The stars peep behind her, and peer ;
    And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
    Like a swarm of golden bees,
    When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
    Till the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,
    Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
    Are each paved with the moon and these.

    I bind the Sun's throne with a burning zone
    And the Moon's with a girdle of pearl ;
    The volcanos are dim and the stars reel and swim
    When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
    From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
    Over a torrent sea,
    Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof --
    The mountains its columns be !
    The triumphal arch, through which I march
    With hurricane, fire, and snow,
    When the Powers of the Air, are chained to my chair,
    Is the million-coloured Bow ;
    The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove
    While the moist Earth was laughing below.

    I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
    And the nursling of the Sky ;
    I pass through the pores, of the ocean and shores ;
    I change, but I cannot die --
    For after the rain, when with never a stain
    The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
    And the winds and sunbeams, with their convex gleams,
    Build up the blue dome of Air --
    I silently laugh at my own cenotaph
    And out of the caverns of rain,
    Like a child from the womb, live a ghost from the tomb,
    I arise, and unbuild it again. --

    Percy Bysshe Shelley


Hymn to Selene

    Daughters of Jove, whose voice is melody,
    Muses, who know and rule all minstrelsy,
    Sing the wide-winged Moon! Around the earth,
    From her immortal head in Heaven shot forth,
    Far light is scattered--boundless glory springs ;
    Where'er she spreads her many-beaming wings
    The lampless air glows round her golden crown.

    But when the Moon divine from Heaven is gone
    Under the sea, her beams within abide,
    Till, bathing her bright limbs in Ocean's tide,
    Clothing her form in garments glittering far,
    And having yoked to her immortal car
    The beam-invested steeds whose necks on high
    Curve back, she drives to a remoter sky
    A western Crescent, borne impetuously.
    Then is made full the circle of her light,
    And as she grows, her beams more bright and bright
    Are poured from Heaven, where she is hovering then,
    A wonder and a sign to mortal men.

    The Son of Saturn with this glorious Power
    Mingled in love and sleep--to whom she bore
    Pandeia, a bright maid of beauty rare
    Among the Gods, whose lives eternal are.

    Hail Queen, great Moon, white-armed Divinity,
    Fair-haired and favorable! thus with thee
    My song beginning, by its music sweet
    Shall make immortal many a glorious feat
    Of demigods, with lovely lips, so well
    Which minstrels, servants of the Muses, tell.

    Hymnes homériques, environ 7ième siècle av. J.-C.
    Traduit du grec par Percy Bysshe Shelley


To Jane

    The keen stars were twinkling,
    And the fair moon was rising among them,
    Dear Jane.
    The guitar was tinkling,
    But the notes were not sweet till you sung them
    Again.

    As the moon's soft splendour
    O'er the faint cold starlight of Heaven
    Is thrown,
    So your voice most tender
    To the strings without soul had then given
    Its own.

    The stars will awaken,
    Though the moon sleep a full hour later
    To-night ;
    No leaf will be shaken
    Whilst the dews of your melody scatter
    Delight.

    Though the sound overpowers,
    Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
    A tone
    Of some world far from ours,
    Where music and moonlight and feeling
    Are one.

    Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1822, dans Poetical Works (1839)


To Night

    Swiftly walk o'er the western wave,
    Spirit of Night !
    Out of the misty eastern cave,
    Where, all the long and lone daylight,
    Thou wovest dreams of joy and fear,
    Which make thee terrible and dear, --
    Swift be thy flight !

    Wrap thy form in a mantle gray,
    Star-inwrought !
    Blind with thine hair the eyes of Day ;
    Kiss her until she be wearied out,
    Then wander o'er city, and sea, and land,
    Touching all with thine opiate wand --
    Come, long-sought !

    When I arose and saw the dawn,
    I sighed for thee ;
    When light rode high, and the dew was gone,
    And noon lay heavy on flower and tree,
    And the weary Day turned to his rest,
    Lingering like an unloved guest.
    I sighed for thee.

    Thy brother Death came, and cried,
    Wouldst thou me ?
    Thy sweet child Sleep, the filmy-eyed,
    Murmured like a noontide bee,
    Shall I nestle near thy side ?
    Wouldst thou me ? -- And I replied,
    No, not thee !

    Death will come when thou art dead,
    Soon, too soon --
    Sleep will come when thou art fled ;
    Of neither would I ask the boon
    I ask of thee, belovèd Night --
    Swift be thine approaching flight,
    Come soon, soon !

    Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1821, dans Posthumous Poems (1824)


To ----

    One word is too often profaned
    For me to profane it,
    One feeling too falsely disdained
    For thee to disdain it ;
    One hope is too like despair
    For prudence to smother,
    And pity from thee more dear
    Than that from another.

    I can give not what men call love,
    But wilt thou accept not
    The worship the heart lifts above
    And the Heavens reject not, --
    The desire of the moth for the star,
    Of the night for the morrow,
    The devotion to something afar
    From the sphere of our sorrow ?

    Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1821, dans Posthumous Poems (1824)


To the Moon

    Art thou pale for weariness
    Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
    Wandering companionless
    Among the stars that have a different birth, --
    And ever changing, like a joyless eye
    That finds no object worth its constancy ?

    Thou chosen sister of the Spirit,
    That gazes on thee till in thee it pities...

    Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1820, dans Posthumous Poems (1824)


The Two Spirits : an allegory

    FIRST SPIRIT

    O thou, who plum'd with strong desire
    Wouldst float above the earth, beware !
    A Shadow tracks thy flight of fire --
    Night is coming !
    Bright are the regions of the air,
    And among the winds and beams
    It were delight to wander there --
    Night is coming !

    SECOND SPIRIT

    The deathless stars are bright above ;
    If I would cross the shade of night,
    Within my heart is the lamp of love,
    And that is day !
    And the moon will smile with gentle light
    On my golden plumes where'er they move ;
    The meteors will linger round my flight,
    And make night day.

    FIRST SPIRIT

    But if the whirlwinds of darkness waken
    Hail, and lightning, and stormy rain ;
    See, the bounds of the air are shaken --
    Night is coming !
    The red swift clouds of the hurricane
    Yon declining sun have overtaken,
    The clash of the hail sweeps over the plain --
    Night is coming !

    SECOND SPIRIT

    I see the light, and I hear the sound ;
    I'll sail on the flood of the tempest dark,
    With the calm within and the light around
    Which makes night day :
    And thou, when the gloom is deep and stark,
    Look from thy dull earth, slumber-bound,
    My moon-like flight thou then mayst mark
    On high, far away.

    Some say there is a precipice
    Where one vast pine is frozen to ruin
    O'er piles of snow and chasms of ice
    Mid Alpine mountains ;
    And that the languid storm pursuing
    That winged shape, for ever flies
    Round those hoar branches, aye renewing
    Its aëry fountains.

    Some say when nights are dry and dear,
    And the death-dews sleep on the morass,
    Sweet whispers are heard by the traveller,
    Which make night day :
    And a silver shape like his early love doth pass
    Upborne by her wild and glittering hair,
    And when he awakes on the fragrant grass,
    He finds night day.

    Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1820, dans Posthumous Poems (1824)


Prometheus Unbound (Act IV)


Untitled

    The splendours of the firmament of time
    May be eclipsed, but are extinguished not ;
    Like stars to their appointed height they climb,
    And death is a low mist which cannot blot
    The brightness it may veil. When lofty thought
    Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair,
    And love and life contend in it, for what
    Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there
    And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air.

    Percy Bysshe Shelley


Références :


| Poésie | Page d'accueil | Bibliographie | Glossaire | Hyperliens |

© 2002 Mario Tessier - Tous droits réservés.
Adresse URL : http://pages.infinit.net/noxoculi/shelley.html