Poetry Sunday: Lines: The cold earth slept below by Percy Bysshe Shelley

This melancholy poem by the Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley is evocative of winter and loss. He was inspired to write it in response to the death of his beloved wife. I feel the cold and his sadness just from reading it.

Lines: The cold earth slept below

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

The cold earth slept below; 
         Above the cold sky shone; 
                And all around, 
                With a chilling sound, 
From caves of ice and fields of snow 
The breath of night like death did flow 
                Beneath the sinking moon. 

The wintry hedge was black; 
         The green grass was not seen; 
                The birds did rest 
                On the bare thorn’s breast, 
Whose roots, beside the pathway track, 
Had bound their folds o’er many a crack 
                Which the frost had made between. 

Thine eyes glow’d in the glare 
         Of the moon’s dying light; 
                As a fen-fire’s beam 
                On a sluggish stream 
Gleams dimly—so the moon shone there, 
And it yellow’d the strings of thy tangled hair, 
                That shook in the wind of night. 

The moon made thy lips pale, beloved; 
         The wind made thy bosom chill; 
                The night did shed 
                On thy dear head 
Its frozen dew, and thou didst lie 
Where the bitter breath of the naked sky 
                Might visit thee at will. 


  1. So sad yes. But the construction of the lines and rhymes is what got me. I don't know the types, rules, etc of poetry but this one just sings. I felt like dancing.

  2. You are on a roll lately with sad poems. I hope you are not feeling gloomy. ;-)

  3. Replies
    1. No, I'm not feeling especially gloomy. At least no more so than usual. I try to pick the poems that fit the season and sometimes the current events, and wintry poems do often have a gloomy feel to them.

    2. You are right; winter poems do have that gloomy feel.


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