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Mont Blanc ll. 1-11(1817)

Percy Bysshe Shelley

The everlasting universe of things
MeterThe everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
MeterFlows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark–now glittering–now reflecting gloom–
MeterNow dark–now glittering–now reflecting gloom–

Note on line 3: The word “now” occurs three times in this line, and again at the head of the next. You might stress it each time, and not just the once it acquires stress from the underlying iambic meter. But doing so would slow up with increasingly tired spondees a passage whose great wealth of sound is borne on a swiftness of motion that mimics the watercourse it describes.

Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
MeterNow lending splendour, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings
MeterThe source of human thought its tribute brings
Of waters,–with a sound but half its own,
MeterOf waters,–with a sound but half its own,
Such as a feeble brook will oft assume
MeterSuch as a feeble brook will oft assume
In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,
MeterIn the wild woods, among the mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,
MeterWhere waterfalls around it leap for ever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
MeterWhere woods and winds contend, and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.
MeterOver its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.

Note on line 11: This line, as splashy as anything in English poetry, gets terrific mileage out of just two trochaic substitutions. Among Shelley’s secrets are the comparatively tame rhythm of the foregoing lines, the toboganning double bump he gets by spacing his trochees out with an iambic foot in between, and the reinforcement effected by all the slippage of s and v sounds in stressed positions, where they deflect the stream of a reader’s breath yet make it feel unstoppable.


Rhyme
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