Poetry: Shelley – Music, When Soft Voices Die

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 belovèd’s bed;

And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone,

Love itself shall slumber on.

Considered a poetic fragment, I find these two verses by Shelley complete in their simplicity. Unlike most poems of the Romantics, this one lightly dances upon the subjects of love, memory, and death without the typically overbearing touch. In this poem, we all hear a song whose tune has long since escaped us, flitting in the moments between childhood and adolescence. We smell the warmed summer grass upon the knoll behind our homes and catch glimpses on a walk among the new streets we occupy. But these things lie dead, either physically or in time. And in those moments, we are made alive again, not as though we are physically dead, but we are brought t back to the moments of youth and made to be that which we have not felt since then. Their remnants are left with us beyond their withering moments.

But in this poem, we hear not only music, nor merely smell the places we’ve been, nor simply relive childhood vigor. We hear, once more, a grandfather’s voice, smell a mother’s hairspray, find ourselves in the times that have since found themselves buried between the pages of an album. And I have wondered in days past, of all the things that I have written, how many will I have left unsaid? Yet I know it is not my writing that leaves a legacy, nor the fragile things that I create. My love, my memory, these metaphysical things that make us more than our sum of parts will slumber on, awakened in the memories and moments and meanings in those who carry on after us.

Blessings to you and yours,

~Madelyn Rose Craig

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