And now for something completely different...
(Poem #399) The Indian Serenade
I arise from dreams of thee In the first sweet sleep of night, When the winds are breathing low, And the stars are shining bright I arise from dreams of thee, And a spirit in my feet Hath led me -- who knows how? -- To thy chamber window, Sweet! The wandering airs they faint On the dark, the silent stream -- The champak odors fail Like sweet thoughts in a dream; The nightingale's complaint, It dies upon her heart; As I must on thine, Oh, beloved as thou art! O lift me from the grass! I die! I faint! I fail! Let thy love in kisses rain On my lips and eyelids pale. My cheek is cold and white, alas! My heart beats loud and fast;-- Oh! press it to thine own again, Where it will break at last.
I really dislike this poem. I don't care much for Percy Shelley at the best of times - I find his philosophy irritatingly vague, his verse overly melodramatic, and his politics utterly naive. The second complaint is the most telling - it's hard to take a poet seriously if he tries to cultivate his image at the expense of his art. Of course, Shelley has written some good poems ('Ozymandias' springs to mind), but he's also written some shockers. In that respect he reminds of Belloc's Jemima: 'When she was good, she was very very good, but when she was bad she was DREADFUL'. And today's poem is one of the dreadful ones. Hmm, how do I loathe it? Let me count the ways: The verse is trite. Technically sound, but utterly unmemorable - the last thing I'd expect from a self-professed champion of individual expression and poetic inspiration. The gratuitous insertion of 'local colour' in the form of the champak and the nightingale makes me wince. As do the frequent apostrophes - "Oh beloved as thou art!", "Oh lift me from the grass!", "Oh press it to thine own again" - which sound like a bad actor hamming it up for the pits. The sentiments are... well, sentimental. Verses like this one: "My cheek is cold and white, alas! My heart beats loud and fast; -- Oh! press it to thine own again, Where it will break at last. " seem to embody the worst excesses of Romanticism - specifically, the substitution of indiscriminate tearjerking for genuine emotion. And it's not as if any of it were true, is it? Most of all, though, I'm irritated by the sheer melodrama of the whole thing. It's as if Shelley were consciously playing to the galleries of his reading public (a reading public completely sold on the entire phenomenon of the Romantic Image), shamelessly tugging at their heartstrings. This one line says it all: "I die! I faint! I fail!" Ugh. thomas. PS. To be taken with a pinch of salt <grin>. But boy, that was fun - maybe I should run poems I dislike more often... what do you say?