On This Day in 1815: the Shelleys and ‘Mutability’

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By Anna Mercer

Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, from portraits in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

The ‘On This Day’ blog continues with a short piece by Anna Mercer on the winter of 1815, discussing P B Shelley’s ‘Mutability’ and the inclusion of this poem in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. To contribute to this blog series, please contact anna.mercer@york.ac.uk (we are currently seeking posts for next year that relate to literary/historical events in 1816).

Percy Bysshe and Mary Shelley, from portraits in the Bodleian Library, Oxford.

We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;

How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,

Streaking the darkness radiantly! – yet soon

Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings

Give various response to each varying blast,

To whose frail frame no second motion brings

One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest. —A dream has power to poison sleep;

We rise. —One wandering thought pollutes the day;

We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;

Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same! —For, be it joy or sorrow,

The path of its departure still is free:

Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow;

Nought may endure but Mutability.

P B Shelley’s ‘Mutability’ is an example of his extraordinary poetic talent; in particular these lines …read more

Source:: http://www.bars.ac.uk/blog/?p=966