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Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

In Aeschylus’ play Prometheus Unbound there is the imagery of fire as enlightenment and industrial progress which the titan steals from the gods in order to make the life of humans more bearable. Here, Shelley contrasts the forces of nature (some like the earthquake are destructive of human civilization) with the sunlight of liberty which, in the optimistic spirit of the early 19th century romantics, he concludes “From billow and mountain and exhalation, The sunlight is darted through vapour and blast; From spirit to spirit, from nation to nation, From city to hamlet thy dawning is cast,— And tyrants and slaves are like shadows of night in the van of the morning light.”

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17 July, 2006

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In Percy Shelley’s poem Liberty liberty is compared to a force of nature sweeping the globe, where “tyrants and slaves are like shadows of night” which will disappear in “the van of the morning light” (1824)

Read the full quote in context here.

In a collection of his posthumously published poems there is this little gem about Liberty which likens it to a force of nature sweeping the globe:

LIBERTY.

The fiery mountains answer each other;
Their thunderings are echoed from zone to zone;
The empestuous oceans awake one another,
And the ice-rocks are shaken round winter’s zone
When the clarion of the Typhoon is blown.

From a single cloud the lightning flashes,
Whilst a thousand isles are illumined around,
Earthquake is trampling one city to ashes,
An hundred are shuddering and tottering; the sound
Is bellowing underground.

But keener thy gaze than the lightning’s glare,
And swifter thy step than the earthquake’s tramp;
Thou deafenest the rage of the ocean; thy stare
Makes blind the volcanos; the sun’s bright lamp
To thine is a fen-fire damp.

From billow and mountain and exhalation
The sunlight is darted through vapour and blast;
From spirit to spirit, from nation to nation,
From city to hamlet thy dawning is cast,—
And tyrants and slaves are like shadows of night
In the van of the morning light.

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

LIBERTY.

The fiery mountains answer each other;
Their thunderings are echoed from zone to zone;
The empestuous oceans awake one another,
And the ice-rocks are shaken round winter’s zone
When the clarion of the Typhoon is blown.

From a single cloud the lightning flashes,
Whilst a thousand isles are illumined around,
Earthquake is trampling one city to ashes,
An hundred are shuddering and tottering; the sound
Is bellowing underground.

But keener thy gaze than the lightning’s glare,
And swifter thy step than the earthquake’s tramp;
Thou deafenest the rage of the ocean; thy stare
Makes blind the volcanos; the sun’s bright lamp
To thine is a fen-fire damp.

From billow and mountain and exhalation
The sunlight is darted through vapour and blast;
From spirit to spirit, from nation to nation,
From city to hamlet thy dawning is cast,—
And tyrants and slaves are like shadows of night
In the van of the morning light.

[More works by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822)]