To Jane: (The Keen Stars Were Twinkling) by P. B. Shelley

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The keen stars were twinkling
And the fair moon was rising among them,
Dear Jane!
The guitar was tinkling
But the notes were not sweet till you sung thd'm

As the moon's soft splendour
O'er the faint cold starlight of Heaven
Is thrown,
So your voice most tender
To the strings without soul had then given
Its own.

The stars will awaken,
Though the moon sleep a full hour later,
No leaf will be shaken
Whilst the dews of your melody scatter

Though the sound overpowers,
Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
A tone
Of some world far from ours,'
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one.

Summary & Analysis

      To Jane, is one of Shelley's last poems, written probably in 1822, and addressed to Mrs. Jane Williams, wife of Shelley's friend, Edward Williams. It was first published in 1832.

      The poet delights only in Jane's music. He tells her that the stars are twinkling and the fair moon shines among them. In the moonlight the guitar is twinkling, but its notes do not sound sweet till Jane sings them. Just as the moon spreads its rays of light on the faint and cold starlight in the sky, Jane's tender and melodious voice gives a soul to the strings that they do not possess of their own.

      On this particular night, even though the moon sleeps an hour more, the stars will awake, and no leaves will shake and they remain still lost in the melodious scattered voice of Jane. Though her music overpowers the poet, yet he begs her to sing again, for her voice reveals a tone of a far off world where music, moonlight and feeling are one.

      Shelley was always susceptible to feminine music makers. Shelley admits the delight he found with Jane Williams: "Williams is captain, and we drive along this delightful bay in the evening wind, under the summer moon, until earth appears another world. Jane brings her guitar, and if the past and future could be obliterated, the present would content me so well that I could say with Faust till the passing moment: 'Remain, thou, thou are so beautiful."

      One of the most delicate and ethereal of all Shelley's poems, its form and movement are obviously influenced by the music of the guitar which Mrs. Williams used to play. The Stanza is one of Shelley's most brilliant and daring metrical inventions. It consists of six lines, of which the first and fourth have two accents, the second and fifth, three, and the third and sixth, one. The rhyme scheme is abc, abc, the first and second rhymes being double in each Stanza.


      L. 1. The keen stars—the glowing stars; L. 2. fair moon—the moon is fair because of its white radiance; LI. 3-4 Dear...tinkling—Jane Williams, friend of Shelley, is strumming the guitar; L.7. soft splendour—soft light; LI. 10-12. So your voice...Its own—the strumming of guitar seems soulless to the poet unless Jane enlivens it up with her melodious song; LI. 13- 18. The stars...Delight—the melodious songs of Jane will enchant surrounding atmosphere. The heavenly bodies of the sky will forget their sleep only to listen keenly the beautiful song. Her melodious voice will drench the surrounding like the dew drops that fall in night; LI. 19-25. Though...Are one—the song overwhelms the poet but still he craves for it since the strain of music will carry him to that world of fancy where music, moonlight (i.e. Nature's beauty) and emotions mingle into one another making it a sublime experience.

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