Hellas "The World Is Weary Of The Past"

Percy Bysshe Shelley

"The World Is Weary Of The Past"

Context: In Hellas, Shelley catalogues some of the early battles of the Greek war for independence from Turkey that began in 1821. Because the war was still in progress, Shelley could not conclude his poem with an account of victory for either Greeks or Turks. In the poem affairs seem to be going in favor of the Turks, but the chorus of captive Greek women looks into the future in the concluding choral passage. Although Shelley said that the concluding chorus is indistinct and obscure, it is perhaps the clearest and most distinct part of the whole poem. The chorus prophesies that a great age of the world is beginning and that the golden age will return. A brighter Greece will arise, with a new Argo to cut the waves with a cargo different from the golden fleece; a new Orpheus will sing once again; a new Ulysses will travel the seas on his way home. A new Athens will arise. Worshipers will strew tears and flowers on the altars of Saturn, the ruler of the world before the beginning of the reign of Jupiter and Love. The chorus pleads for no more war. Why must men kill and die? The world is weary of its long past of hate and death. May it die or be at rest and peace!

Another Athens shall arise,
And to remoter time
Bequeath, like sunset to the skies,
The splendour of its prime;
And leave, if nought so bright may live,
All earth can take or Heaven can give.
Saturn and Love their long repose
Shall burst, more bright and good
Than all who fell, than One who rose,
Than many unsubdued:
Not gold, not blood, their altar dowers,
But votive tears and symbol flowers.
Oh, cease! must hate and death return?
Cease! must men kill and die?
Cease! drain not to its dregs the urn
Of bitter prophecy.
The world is weary of the past,
Oh, might it die or rest at last!