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Featured Poem: Mutability by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Written by Rachael Norris, 11th May 2020

This week in our special series of poems to help us through the testing times ahead, Michelle Barrett, The Reader's Liverpool Hub Leader, shares her thoughts on Mutability by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

I've never before read Mutability. I discovered the poem flicking through some old poetry collections, wanting a break from the book I'm currently reading. Some poems possess that strange power of finding their way onto your lap at a time when words seem to fail your feelings. These poems have the power to bolden newly ordered thoughts.

The concept of 'change' has been on my mind for a while, but more-so, as we spend an increasing amount of time in isolation- this paradoxical world of being rooted whilst the world seemingly shifts.
Spring is my favourite time of the year and I had been excitedly anticipating change- the clocks going forward, being able to catch sunrise and sunset outside of working hours, the buzz filled, sweet scented air of beaches and beer gardens. Then of course the severity of the pandemic dawned and we entered lockdown and suddenly my concept of change 'changed'!
This change can feel out of control, pressurised and uncertain as we await the outcome of decisions made on our behalf, as we ponder our strange new life from a queue to enter the supermarket.
However the world continues to turn and spring in it's own chaotic sense- continues to prevail amidst the uncertainty. And although spring comes as predicted every year- the change feels transformative and new. There is power in change and may we be bold enough to peer into the future with hope for real mutability.
Mutability
                                         I.
We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
    How restlessly they speed and gleam and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly! yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:—
                                         II.
Or like forgotten lyres whose dissonant strings
    Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
    One mood or modulation like the last.
                                        III.
We rest—a dream  has power to poison sleep;
    We rise—one wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep,
Embrace fond woe, or cast our cares away:—
                                       IV.
It is the same!—For, be it joy or sorrow,
    The path of its departure still is free;
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
    Nought may endure but Mutability.
By Percy Bysshe Shelley

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