Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Percy Bysshe Shelley

English Romantic Lyric Poet

"Death will come when thou art dead, Soon, too soon — Sleep will come when thou art fled; Of neither would I ask the boon I ask of thee, beloved Night — Swift be thine approaching flight, Come soon, soon!"

"Every fanatic or enemy of virtue is not at liberty to misrepresent the greatest geniuses and most heroic defenders of all that is valuable in this mortal world. History, to gain any credit, must contain some truth, and that truth shall thus be made a sufficient indication of prejudice and deceit."

"Every man, in proportion to his virtue, considers himself, with respect to the great community of mankind, as the steward and guardian of their interests in the property which he chances to possess. Every man, in proportion to his wisdom, sees the manner in which it is his duty to employ the resources which the consent of mankind has entrusted to his discretion."

"Fame, power, and gold, are loved for their own sakes — are worshipped with a blind, habitual idolatry. The pageantry of empire, and the fame of irresistible might, are contemplated by the possessor with unmeaning complacency, without a retrospect to the properties which first made him consider them of value. It is from the cultivation of the most contemptible properties of human nature that discord and torpor and indifference, by which the moral universe is disordered, essentially depend. So long as these are the ties by which human society is connected, let it not be admitted that they are fragile."

"Familiar acts are beautiful through love."

"First our pleasures die - and then our hopes, and then our fears - and when these are dead, the debt is due dust claims dust - and we die too."

"Fate, Time, Occasion, Chance, and Change? To these all things are subject but to eternal love."

"For love and beauty and delight, there is no death nor change. "

"Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance, These are the seals of that most firm assurance Which bars the pit over Destruction’s strength; And if, with infirm hand, Eternity, Mother of many acts and hours, should free The serpent that would clasp her with his length; These are the spells by which to reassume An empire o’er the disentangled doom."

"Forget the dead, the past? O yet there are ghosts that may take revenge for it, memories that make the heart a tomb, regrets which gild thro’ the spirit’s gloom, and with ghastly whispers tell that joy, once lost, is pain. "

"God is a model through which the excellence of man is to be estimated, whilst the abstract perfection of the human character is the type of the actual perfection of the divine."

"God is represented as infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; he is contained under every predicate in non that the logic of ignorance could fabricate. "

"Gold is a living god and rules in scorn, All earthly things but virtue."

"Government has no rights; it is a delegation from several individuals for the purpose of securing their own. It is therefore just, only so far as it exists by their consent, useful only so far as it operates to their well-being."

"Government is an evil; it is only the thoughtlessness and vices of men that make it a necessary evil. When all men are good and wise, government will of itself decay."

"He lives, he wakes — 'tis Death is dead, not he; Mourn not for Adonais. — Thou young Dawn, Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee The spirit thou lamentest is not gone. The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly; Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity... He is made one with Nature: there is heard His voice in all her music, from the moan Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird. He is a portion of the loveliness Which once he made more lovely. The One remains, the many change and pass; Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly; Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass, Stains the white radiance of Eternity, Until Death tramples it to fragments. The soul of Adonais, like a star, Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are."

"Heaven's ebon vault, Studded with stars unutterably bright, Through which the moon's unclouded grandeur rolls, Seems like a canopy which love has spread To curtain her sleeping world."

"History is a cyclic poem written by time upon the memories of man."

"Human pride is skillful to invent most serious names to hide its ignorance."

"I am the daughter of Earth and Water, And the nursling of the Sky; I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores; I change, but I cannot die. For after the rain when with never a stain The pavilion of Heaven is bare, And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams Build up the blue dome of air, I silently laugh at my own cenotaph, And out of the caverns of rain, Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb, I arise and unbuild it again. "

"I Fall upon the thorns of life. "

"I have drunken deep of joy, And I will taste no other wine tonight."

"How wonderful is Death, Death and his brother Sleep!"

"I have sent books and music there, and all / Those instruments with which high spirits call / The future from its cradle, and the past / Out of its grave, and make the present last / In thoughts and joys which sleep, but cannot die, / Folded within their own eternity. "

"I love all waste And solitary places; where we taste The pleasure of believing what we see Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be."

"If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has filled with weaknesses? If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them? If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him? If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable? If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? If he has spoken, why is the universe not convinced? If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest? "

"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"

"I think that the leaf of a tree, the meanest insect on which we trample, are in themselves arguments more conclusive than any which can be adduced that some vast intellect animates Infinity."

"In a drama of the highest order there is little food for censure or hatred; it teaches rather self-knowledge and self-respect."

"If we reason we would be understood; if we imagine we would that the airy children of our brain were born anew within another's; if we feel we would that another's nerves should vibrate to our own, that the beams of their eyes should kindle at once and mix and melt into our own; that lips of motionless ice should not reply to lips quivering and burning with the heart's best blood. This is love. "

"I'm... like a poet hidden In the light of thought Singing hymns unbidden, Till the world is wrought To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not. "

"In each human heart terror survives The ravin it has gorged: the loftiest fear All that they would disdain to think were true: Hypocrisy and custom make their minds The fanes of many a worship, now outworn. They dare not devise good for man’s estate, And yet they know not that they do not dare."

"In proportion as mankind becomes wise — yes, in exact proportion to that wisdom — should be the extinction of the unequal system under which they now subsist. Government is, in fact, the mere badge of their depravity. They are so little aware of the inestimable benefits of mutual love as to indulge, without thought, and almost without motive, in the worst excesses of selfishness and malice. Hence, without graduating human society into a scale of empire and subjection, its very existence has become impossible. It is necessary that universal benevolence should supersede the regulations of precedent and prescription, before these regulations can safely be abolished. Meanwhile, their very subsistence depends on the system of injustice and violence, which they have been devised to palliate."

"It is found easier by the shortsighted victims of disease, to palliate their torments by medicine, than to prevent them by regimen."

"It is our will That thus enchains us to permitted ill. We might be otherwise, we might be all We dream of happy, high, majestical. Where is the love, beauty and truth we seek, But in our mind? and if we were not weak, Should we be less in deed than in desire?"

"It is only by softening and disguising dead flesh by culinary preparation, that it is rendered susceptible of mastication or digestion; and that the sight of its bloody juices and raw horror does not excite intolerable loathing and disgust."

"Joy, once lost, is pain. "

"Know what it is to be a child? It is to be something very different from the man of today. It is to have a spirit yet streaming from the waters of Baptism; it is to believe in belief; it is to be so little that elves can reach to whisper in your ear; it is to turn pumpkins into coaches, and mice into horses, lowness into loftiness, and nothing into everything, for each child had its fairy godmother in its soul. "

"Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse that he does so in uniform: he only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder."

"Mankind, transmitting from generation to generation the legacy of accumulated vengeances, and pursuing with the feelings of duty the misery of their fellow-beings, have not failed to attribute to the Universal Cause a character analogous with their own. The image of this invisible, mysterious Being is more or less excellent and perfect — resembles more or less its original — in proportion to the perfection of the mind on which it is impressed."

"Man, who wert once a despot and a slave, A dupe and a deceiver! a decay, A traveller from the cradle to the grave Through the dim night of this immortal day."

"Life and the world, or whatever we call that which we are and feel, is an astonishing thing. The mist of familiarity obscures from us the wonder of our being. We are struck with admiration at some of its transient modifications, but it is itself the great miracle. "

"Life may change, but it may fly not; Hope may vanish, but can die not; Truth be veiled, but still it burneth; Love repulsed, — but it returneth!"

"Music, when soft voices die, Vibrates in the memory, Odours, when sweet violets sicken, Live within the sense they quicken. Rose leaves, when the rose is dead, Are heaped for the beloved's bed; And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone, Love itself shall slumber on. "

"Man's yesterday may never be like his morrow; Nought may endure but Mutability."

"Nature rejects the monarch, not the man; The subject, not the citizen; for kings And subjects, mutual foes, forever play A losing game into each other's hands, Whose stakes are vice and misery. The man Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys. Power, like a desolating pestilence, Pollutes whate'er it touches; and obedience, Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth, Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame A mechanized automaton."

"No mistake is more to be deplored than the conception that a system of morals and religion should derive any portion of its authority either from the circumstance of its novelty or its antiquity, that it should be judged excellent, not because it is reasonable or true, but because no person has ever thought of it before, or because it has been thought of from the beginning of time."

"Nothing is more obviously false than that the remedy for the inequality among men consists in their return to the condition of savages and beasts. Philosophy will never be understood if we approach the study of its mysteries with so narrow and illiberal conceptions of its universality."

"No man has a right to disturb the public peace, by personally resisting the execution of a law however bad. He ought to acquiesce, using at the same time the utmost powers of his reason, to promote its repeal."

"Nothing wilts faster than laurels that have been rested upon."