Front Page Titles (by Subject) THE BOAT ON THE SERCHIO. - Posthumous Poems
THE BOAT ON THE SERCHIO. - Percy Bysshe Shelley, Posthumous Poems 
Posthumous Poems (London: John and Henry L. Hunt, 1824).
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ON THE SERCHIO.
- Our boat is asleep in Serchio’s stream,
- Its sails are folded like thoughts in a dream,
- The helm sways idly, hither and thither;
- Dominic, the boat-man, has brought the mast,
- And the oars and the sails; but ’tis sleeping fast,
- Like a beast, unconscious of its tether.
- The stars burnt out in the pale blue air,
- And the thin white moon lay withering there,
- To tower, and cavern, and rift and tree,
- The owl and the bat fled drowsily.
- Day had kindled the dewy woods,
- And the rocks above and the stream below,
- And the vapours in their multitudes,
- And the Apennine’s shroud of summer snow,
- And clothed with light of aery gold
- The mists in their eastern caves uprolled.
- Day had awakened all things that be,
- The lark and the thrush and the swallow free,
- And the milkmaid’s song and the mower’s scythe,
- And the matin-bell and the mountain bee:
- Fire-flies were quenched on the dewy corn,
- Glow-worms went out on the river’s brim,
- Like lamps which a student forgets to trim:
- The beetle forgot to wind his horn,
- The crickets were still in the meadow and hill:
- Like a flock of rooks at a farmer’s gun
- Night’s dreams and terrors, every one,
- Fled from the brains which are their prey,
- From the lamp’s death to the morning ray:
- All rose to do the task He set to each,
- Who shaped us to his ends and not our own;
- The million rose to learn, and one to teach
- What none yet ever knew or can be known;
- And many rose
- Whose woe was such that fear became desire;—
- Melchior and Lionel were not among those;
- They from the throng of men had stepped aside,
- And made their home under the green hill side.
- It was that hill, whose intervening brow
- Screens Lucca from the Pisan’s envious eye,
- Which the circumfluous plain waving below,
- Like a wide lake of green fertility,
- With streams and fields and marshes bare,
- Divides from the far Apennines—which lie
- Islanded in the immeasurable air.
- “What think you, as she lies in her green cove,
- Our little sleeping boat is dreaming of?
- If morning dreams are true, why I should guess
- That she was dreaming of our idleness,
- And of the miles of watery way
- We should have led her by this time of day?”—
- —“Never mind,” said Lionel,
- “Give care to the winds, they can bear it well
- About yon poplar tops; and see
- The white clouds are driving merrily,
- And the stars we miss this morn will light
- More willingly our return to-night.—
- List, my dear fellow, the breeze blows fair;
- How it scatters Dominic’s long black hair,
- Singing of us, and our lazy motions,
- If I can guess a boat’s emotions.—”
- The chain is loosed, the sails are spread,
- The living breath is fresh behind,
- As with dews and sunrise fed,
- Comes the laughing morning wind;—
- The sails are full, the boat makes head
- Against the Serchio’s torrent fierce,
- Then flags with intermitting course,
- And hangs upon the wave, [[ ]]
- Which fervid from its mountain source
- Shallow, smooth and strong doth come,—
- Swift as fire, tempestuously
- It sweeps into the affrighted sea;
- In morning’s smile its eddies coil,
- Its billows sparkle, toss and boil,
- Torturing all its quiet light
- Into columns fierce and bright.
- The Serchio, twisting forth
- Between the marble barriers which it clove
- At Ripafratta, leads through the dread chasm
- The wave that died the death which lovers love,
- Living in what it sought; as if this spasm
- Had not yet past, the toppling mountains cling,
- But the clear stream in full enthusiasm
- Pours itself on the plain, until wandering,
- Down one clear path of effluence chrystalline
- Sends its clear waves, that they may fling
- At Arno’s feet tribute of corn and wine,
- Then, through the pestilential desarts wild
- Of tangled marsh and woods of stunted fir,
- It rushes to the Ocean.