The Indian Serenade by Percy Bysshe Shelley – A video montage by LeScintilla
Read by LeScintilla
“The Indian Serenade”
I arise from dreams of thee
In the first sweet sleep of night,
When the winds are breathing low,
And the stars are shining bright.
I arise from dreams of thee,
And a spirit in my feet
Has led me -who knows how?
To thy chamber-window, Sweet!
The wandering airs they faint
On the dark, the silent stream –
The champak odours fail
Like sweet thoughts in a dream;
The nightingale’s complaint,
It dies upon her heart,
As I must die on thine,
O beloved as thou art!
Oh lift me from the grass!
I die! I faint! I fail!
Let thy love in kisses rain
On my lips and eyelids pale.
My cheek is cold and white, alas!
My heart beats loud and fast;
Oh press it close to thine again,
Where it will break at last!
This charming short lyric is one of Shelley’s finest, simplest, and most exemplary love poems. It tells a simple story of a speaker who wakes, walks through the beautiful Indian night to his beloved’s window, then falls to the ground, fainting and overcome with emotion. The lush sensual language of the poem evokes an atmosphere of nineteenth-century exoticism and Orientalism, with the “Champak odours” failing as “The wandering airs they faint / On the dark, the silent stream,” as “the winds are breathing low, / And the stars are shining bright.” The poet employs a subtle tension between the speaker’s world of inner feeling and the beautiful outside world; this tension serves to motivate the poem, as the inner dream gives way to the journey, imbuing “a spirit in my feet”; then the outer world becomes a mold or model for the speaker’s inner feeling (“The nightingale’s complaint / It dies upon her heart, / As I must die on thine…”), and at that moment the speaker is overwhelmed by his powerful emotions, which overcome his body: “My cheek is cold and white, alas! / My heart beats loud and fast…”
Read more about Shelley’s poem here