Open Unwrapped – Percy Shelley’s ‘The serpent is shut out from paradise’.
The 3rd of our ‘Twelve days of Open’ is the digital scan of the letters and manuscript of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s ‘The serpent is shut out from paradise’.
Addressed to Edward Williams, the poem is one of eleven Percy wrote for Jane Williams. In the note included with this manuscript Percy writes that Edward may read the poem to Jane “but to no one else”.
The manuscript is from the Open Books collection at the University of Edinburgh compiled from readers’ orders for scans, principally in black and white and some in colour. They highlight the range of resources at the University’s Centre for Research Collections, from Herschel’s music manuscripts, to ‘An Essay on the Character and Cerebral Development of Robert Burns,’ to Charles Lyell’s handwritten notes.
The Open Books created by the University’s Digital Imaging Unit are freely accessible and the PDFs are supplied under a Creative Commons CC-BY License.
The serpent is shut out from paradise
To Edward Williams
The serpent is shut out from Paradise.
The wounded deer must seek the herb no more
In which its heart-cure lies:
The widowed dove must cease to haunt a bower
Like that from which its mate with feigned sighs
Fled in the April hour.
I too must seldom seek again
Near happy friends a mitigated pain.
Of hatred I am proud,–with scorn content;
Indifference, that once hurt me, now is grown
But, not to speak of love, pity alone
Can break a spirit already more than bent.
The miserable one
Turns the mind’s poison into food,–
Its medicine is tears,–its evil good.
Therefore, if now I see you seldomer,
Dear friends, dear FRIEND! know that I only fly
Your looks, because they stir
Griefs that should sleep, and hopes that cannot die:
The very comfort that they minister
I scarce can bear, yet I,
So deeply is the arrow gone,
Should quickly perish if it were withdrawn.
When I return to my cold home, you ask
Why I am not as I have ever been.
YOU spoil me for the task
Of acting a forced part in life’s dull scene,–
Of wearing on my brow the idle mask
Of author, great or mean,
In the world’s carnival. I sought
Peace thus, and but in you I found it not.
Full half an hour, to-day, I tried my lot
With various flowers, and every one still said,
‘She loves me–loves me not.’
And if this meant a vision long since fled–
If it meant fortune, fame, or peace of thought–
If it meant,–but I dread
To speak what you may know too well:
Still there was truth in the sad oracle.
The crane o’er seas and forests seeks her home;
No bird so wild but has its quiet nest,
When it no more would roam;
The sleepless billows on the ocean’s breast
Break like a bursting heart, and die in foam,
And thus at length find rest:
Doubtless there is a place of peace
Where MY weak heart and all its throbs will cease.
I asked her, yesterday, if she believed
That I had resolution. One who HAD
Would ne’er have thus relieved
His heart with words,—but what his judgement bade
Would do, and leave the scorner unrelieved.
These verses are too sad
To send to you, but that I know,
Happy yourself, you feel another’s woe.
We hope you enjoy our #OpenUnwrapped advent and feel encouraged to further explore the world and practice of ‘Open’.
Stephanie (Charlie) Farley
Open Educational Advisor, EDE