August 1 1812: Harriet's Birthday

On August 1, 1812, Percy Bysshe Shelley, at Lynmouthon on the Devon coast with ever changing sea, celebrates the birthday of his wife, Harriet Westbrook, with a sonnet. She is turning 17. The poem is prematurely confident that their love will extend into their old age. Shelley imagines Harriet when her hair is grey writing that they will still love each other. Indeed, he writes "I must love thee more than this." Percy's poem reads: 

O thou, whose radiant eyes and beamy smile
Yet even a sweeter somewhat indexing
Have known full many an hour of mine to guile
Which else would only bitter memories bring.
O ever thus, thus! as on this natal day, 
Tho' age's frost may blight those tender eyes, 
Destroy that kindling cheek's transparent dyes
And those luxuriant tresses change to grey, 
Ever as now with Love an Virtue's glow
May thy unwithering soul not cease to burn. 
Still may thine heart with those pure thoughts o'everflow
Which force from mine such quick and warm return,
And I must love thee ever more than this
Nor doubt that Thou and I part but to meet in bliss.

Shelley's notebooks also contain an earlier and longer poem from this period addressed to Harriet and reproduced below. 
To Harriet. 

It is not blasphemy to hope that Heaven 
More perfectly will give those nameless joys 
Which throb within the pulses of the blood 
And sweeten all that bitterness which Earth 
Infuses in the heaven-born soul. O thou 
Whose dear love gleamed upon the gloomy path
Which this lone spirit travelled, drear and cold,
Yet swiftly leading to those awful limits
Which mark the bounds of time and of the space
When Time shall be no more; wilt thou not turn
Those spirit-beaming eyes and look on me,
Until I be assured that Earth is Heaven
And Heaven is Earth ? —will not thy glowing cheek,
Glowing with soft suffusion, rest on mine,
And breathe magnetio sweetness thro' the frame
Of my corporeal nature, thro' the soul
Now knit with these fine fibres? I would give
The longest and the happiest day that fate
Has marked on my existence but to feel
One. soul-reviving kiss. ... 0 thou most dear,
'Tis an assurance that this Earth is Heaven,
And Heaven the flower of that untainted seed
Which springeth here beneath such love as ours.
Harriet! let death all mortal ties dissolve,
But ours shall not be mortal! The cold hand
Of Time may chill the love of earthly minds
Half frozen now; the frigid intercourse
Of common souls lives but a summer's day;
It dies, where it arose, upon this earth.
But ours! oh, 'tis the stretch of fancy's hope
To portray its continuance as now,
Warm, tranquil, spirit-healing; nor when age
Has tempered these wild extasies, and given
A soberer tinge to the luxurious glow
Which blazing on devotion's pinnacle
Makes virtuous passion supersede the power
Of reason; nor when life's aestival sun
To deeper manhood shall have ripened me;
Nor when some years have added judgment's store
To all thy woman sweetness, all the fire
Which throbs in thine enthusiast heart; not then
Shall holy friendship (for what other name
May love like ours assume?), not even then
Shall custom so corrupt, or the cold forms
Of this desolate world so harden us,
As when we think of the dear love that hinds
Onr souls in soft communion, while we know 
Each other's thoughts and feelings, can we say 
Unblushingly a heartless compliment, 
Praise, hate, or love with the unthinking world, 
Or dare to cut the unrelaxing nerve 
That knits our love to Virtue. Can those eyes, 
Beaming with mildest radiance on my heart 
To purify its purity, e'er bend 
To soothe its vice or consecrate its fears? 
Never, thou second self! Is confidence 
So vain in virtue that I learn to doubt 
The mirror even of Truth? Dark flood of Time, 
Boll as it listeth thee; I measure not 
By months or moments thy ambiguous course. 
Another may stand by me on thy brink 
And watch the bubble whirled beyond his ken, 
Which pauses at my feet. The sense of love, 
The thirst for action, and the impassioned thought 
Prolong my being; if I wake no more, 
My life more actual living will contain 
Than some grey veterans of the world's cold school, 
Whose listless hours unprofitably roll 
By one enthusiast feeling unredeemed. 
Virtue and Love! unbending Fortitude, 
Freedom, Devotedness, and Purity! 
That life my spirit consecrates to you.  

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