Manuscript of 'Mont Blanc' and other poems by P B Shelley


This notebook dating from 1816, contains Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poems 'Hymn to Intellectual Beauty', 'Mont Blanc' and two sonnets, one beginning 'Upon the wandering winds that through the sky' and the other entitled ‘To Laughter’. 'Mont Blanc' is in Shelley’s handwriting, and the other poems are fair copies in the hand of Mary Godwin. In the case of the two sonnets this is the only manuscript, though drafts of the other two poems survive. 

The text of ‘Hymn’ in this manuscript differs considerably from that first printed in the Examiner 19 January 1817; and the text of ‘Mont Blanc’ is different from that printed in History of a Six Weeks Tour (1817). A correction almost certainly in Shelley’s hand in line 5 of 'Hymn' suggests that he looked over Mary's transcripts before copying out 'Mont Blanc' himself.


Upon the wandering winds that thro’ the sky
Still speed or slumber; on the waves of Ocean,
The forest depths that when the storm is nigh
Toss their grey pines with an inconstant motion
The breath of evening that awakes no sound
But sends its spirit into all, the hush
Which, nurse of thought, old midnight pours
A world whose pulse then beats not, o’er the
Of dawn, & whate’er else is musical
My thoughts have swept until they have
xx ^ Like lutes inforced by the divinest thrall
Of some sweet lady’s voice that which ^ my mind
(did not superior grace in others shewn
Forbid such pride) would dream were all its

                      To Laughter –

Thy friends were never mine thou heartless
Silence and solitude & calm & storm,
Hope, before whose veiled shrine all
                                spirits bend
In worship, to the rainbow vested form
Of concience, that within thy hollow heart
Can find no throne - the love of such great
Which haves requited mine in many hours
Of loneliness, thou ne’er hast felt; depart!
Thou canst not bear the moons great eye, thou
A fair child clothed in smiles - aught that is high
Or good or beautiful. - Thy voice is dearest
To those who mock at truth & Innocency
I, now alone, weep without shame to see
How many broken hearts lie bare to thee.

                  Hymn to Intellectual Beauty

The Lovely shadow of some awful Power
           Walks though unseen amongst us, visiting
           This peopled world, with as inconstant wing
As summer winds that creep from flower to flower,
As ^ Like moonbeams that behind some piny moun-
                                                               [tain shower
           It visits with a wavering glance
           Each human heart & countenance; -
Like hues and harmonies of evening -
           Like clouds in starlight widely spread
           Like memory of music fled
           Like aught that for its grace might be
Dear, & yet dearer for its mystery.

Shadow of Beauty! - that doth consecrate
          With thine own hues all thou dost fall upon
          Of human thought or form, Where art thou gone
Why dost thou pass away & leave our state
A dark deep vale of tears, vacant & desolate?
          Ask why the sun light not forever
          Weaves rain-bows o’er yon mountain river
Ask why aught fades away that once is shewn
          Ask wherefore dream & death & birth
          Cast on the daylight of this earth
Such gloom, - why man has such a scope
For love & joy despondency & hope.

No voice from some sublimer world hath ever
        To wisest poets these responses given
        Therefore the name of God & Ghosts & Heaven
Remain yet records of their vain Endeavour -
Frail spells, whose uttered charm might not
                                                             [avail to sever
         From what we feel & what we see
         Doubt, Chance & mutability.
Thy shade alone like mists from ^ o’er mountains driv-
         Or Music by the night-wind sent
         Thro’ strings of some mute instrument
Or Moonlight on a forest stream
Gives truth & grace to life’s tumultuous dream

Love, hope & self-esteem like clouds depart -
         And come, for some uncertain moments lent. -
         Man were immortal & omnipotent
Didst thou, unknown & awful as thou art
Keep with this glorious train firm state within
                                                              [his heart.
          Thou messageg^enger of sympathies
          That wax & wane in lover’s eyes
Thou that to the poets thought art nourishment
          As darkness to a dying flame
          Depart not as thy shadow came!
Depart not! - Lest the grave should be
Like life & fear a dark reality

While yet a boy I sought for ghosts, & sped
          Thro’ many a lonely chamber, vault & ruin
          And starlight wood, with fearful step pursuing
Hopes of strange converse with the storied dead.
I called on that false name with which our youth is
           He heard me not - I saw them not -
           When musing deeply on the lot
Of Life, at that sweet time when winds are wake^ooing
           All vocal things that live to bring
           News of buds & blossoming -
           Sudden thy shadow fell on me
I shrieked & clasped my hands in extasy.

I vowed that I would dedicate my powers
        To thee & thine - have I not kept the vow?
        With streaming eyes & panting heart even now
I call the spectres of a thousand hours
Each from his voiceless grave, who have invisioned
        Of studious zeal or love’s delight
        but watched with me the waning night.
To tell that never joy illumed my brow
        Unlinked with hope that thou wouldst
        This world from its dark slavery
        That thou, O, awful Loveliness!
Would give whate’er these words cannot express.

The day becomes more solemn & serene
           When noon is past - there is a harmony

          In Autumn & a lustre in the sky
Which thro’ the summer is not heard or seen.
As if it could not be - as if it had not been -
          Thus let thy shade - which like the truth
          Of Nature on my passive youth
Descended, to my out ^ on ward life supply
          Its hues, as ^on to one that worships thee
          And every form containing thee
          Whom fleeting power! thy spells did bind
To fear himself & love I all human Kind.
            Scene - Pont Pellisier in the vale of Servox

In day the eternal universe of things
Flows through the mind, & rolls its rapid waves
Now dark, now glittering; now reflecting gloom
Now lending splendour, when, from secret caves
The source of human thought its tribute brings -
Of waters, with a sound not all it’s own:
Such as a feeble brook will oft assume
In the wild woods among the mountains lone
Where waterfalls around it leap forever
Where winds & woods contend, & a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves

Thus thou Ravine of Arve, dark deep ravine,
Thou many coloured, many voiced vale!
Over whose rocks & pines & caverns sail
Fast cloud shadows & sunbeams - awful scene,
Where Power in likeness of the Arve comes down
From the ice gulphs that gird his secret throne

Bursting through these dark mountains like the flame,
Of lightning thro the tempest - thou dost lie
Thy giant brood of pines around thee clinging
Children of elder time, in whose devotion
The charmed winds still come, & ever came
To drink thier odours, & thier mighty swinging
To hear, an old and solemn harmony;
Thine earthly rainbows stretched across the sweep
Of the aerial watersfall, whose veil
Robes some unsculptured image; even the sleep
The sudden pause that does inhabit thee
Which when the voices of the desart fail
And its hues wane, doth blend them all & steep
Thier periods in its own eternity;
Thy caverns echoing to the Arve’s commotion
A loud lone sound no other sound can tame:
Thou art pervaded with such ceaseless motion
Thou art the path of that unresting sound
Ravine of Arve! & when I gaze on thee
I seem as in a vision deep & strange
To muse in my own various phantasy

My own, my human mind . . which passively
Now renders & recieves fast influencings
Holding an unforeseeing interchange
With the clear universe of things around:-
A legion of swift thoughts, whose wandering wings
Now float above thy darkness, & now rest
Near the still cave of the witch Poesy
Seeking among the shadows that pass by,
Ghosts of the things that are, some form like thee,
Some spectre, some faint image; till the breast
From which they fled recalls them - thou art there

Some say that gleams of a remoter world
Visit the soul in sleep - that death is slumber
And that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber
Of those who wake & live. I look on high
Has some unknown omnipotence unfurled
The vail of life & death? or do I lie
In dream, & does the mightier world of sleep
Spread far around, & inaccessibly
Its circles? - for the very spirit fails
Driven like a homeless cloud from steep to steep

That vanishes among the viewless gales. -
Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky
Mont Blanc appears, still, snowy & serene,
Its subject mountains thier unearthly forms
Pile round it - ice & rock - broad chasms between
Of frozen waves, unfathomable deeps
Blue as the overhanging Heaven, that spread
And wind among the accumulated steeps,
Vast desarts, peopled by the storms alone
Save when the eagle brings some hunter’s bone
And the wolf watches her - how hideously
Its rocks are heaped around, made bare & high
Ghastly & scarred & riven! - is this the scene
Where the old Earthquake demon taught her
Ruin? were these thier toys? or did a sea
Of fire envelope once this silent snow?
None can reply - all seems eternal now.
This wilderness has a mysterious tongue
Which teaches awful doubt, or faith so mild
So simple, so serene that man may be
In such a faith with Nature reconciled.

Ye have a larg doctrine Mountains to repeal
Large codes of fraud & woe - not understood
By all, but which the wise & great & good
Interpret, or make felt, or deeply feel.

The fields, the lakes, the forests & the streams
Ocean, & all the living things that dwell
Within the dædal Earth, lightning & rain,
Earthquake, & lava flood, & hurricane -
The torpor of the year, when feeble dreams
Visit the hidden buds, or dreamless h sleep
Holds every future leaf & flower - the bound
With which from that detested trance they
The works & ways of man, thier death & birth
And that of him, & all that his may be,
All things that move & breathe with toil & sound
Are born & die, revolve subside & swell -
Power dwells apart in deep tranquillity,
Remote, sublime, & inaccessible,
And this, the naked countenance of Earth,
On which I gaze - even these primæval mountain[s]

Teach the adverting mind. - the Glaciers creep
Like snakes that watch thier prey, from thier far
Slow rolling on: - there, many a precipice
Frost & the Sun in scorn of human power
Have piled: dome, pyramid & pinnacle
A city of death, distinct with many a tower
And wall impregnable of shining ice....
A city’s spectre ^ phantom . . but a flood of ruin
Is there, that from the boundaries of the sky
Rolls its eternal stream .. vast pines are struing strewing
Its destined path, or in the mangled soil
Branchless & shattered stand - the rocks drawn down
From yon remotest waste have overthrown
The limits of the dead & living world
Never to be reclaimed - the dwelling place
Of insects beasts & birds becomes its spoil,
Thier food & thier retreat for ever gone
So much of life & joy is lost - the race
Of man flies far in dread, his work & dwelling
Vanish like smoke before the tempests stream
And thier place is not known - below, vast caves

Shine in the gushing torrents’ restless gleam
Which from those secret chasms in tumult welling
Meet in the vale - & one majestic river
The breath & blood of distant lands, forever
Rolls its loud waters to the Ocean waves
Breathes its swift vapours to the circling air.

Mont Blanc yet gleams on high - the Power is there
The still & solemn Power of many sights
And many sounds, & much of life & death.
In the calm darkness of the moonless nights
Or the lone light of day the snows descend
Upon that mountain - none beholds them the[re] -
Nor when the sunset wraps their flakes in fire
Or the star beams dart thro them - winds contend
Silently there, & heap the snows, with breath
Blasting & swift - but silently - its home
The voiceless lightning in these solitudes
Keeps innocently, & like vapour broods
Over the snow. The secret strength of things
Which governs thought, & to the infinite dome
Of Heaven is as a column, rests on thee,

And what were thou & Earth & stars & Sea
If to the human minds imaginings
Silence & solitude were vacancy

Full title:
'Hymn to Intellectual Beauty', 'Mont Blanc' and two sonnets, one beginning 'Upon the wandering winds that through the sky' and the other entitled 'To Laughter'
Manuscript / Fair copy
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Mary Shelley
© Estate of Percy Bysshe Shelley & Harriet Shelley, Barclays Group Archives
Usage terms
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial licence
Held by
British Library
Loan MS 70/8

Full catalogue details

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