When the Lamp Is Shattered

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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"When The Cloud Is Scattered, The Rainbow's Glory Is Shed"

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Context: When the source dies, then the produce disappears. The destruction of the lamp and the lute extinguishes light and music; likewise, "The heart's echoes render/ No song when the spirit is mute . . . When hearts have once mingled,/ Love first leaves the well-built nest;/ The weak one is singled/ To endure what it once possessed." Love is frail and fleeting. By putting our faith in unstable emotions, we leave ourselves subject to abandonment and heart-break: "From thy nest every rafter/ Will rot, and thine eagle home/ Leave the naked to laughter,/ When leaves fall and cold winds come." The first stanza develops the theme symbolically:

When the lamp is shattered,
The light in the dust lies dead;
When the cloud is scattered,
The rainbow's glory is shed.
When the lute is broken,
Sweet tones are remembered not;
When the lips have spoken,
Loved accents are soon forgot.

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