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‘Mutability’ is a poem written by Percy Bysshe Shelley. It brings out how nothing is permanent in the world except for change.
About the Poet:
Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was a prominent English poet. The recognition he did not achieve in his lifetime was rewarded after his death. Famous works of his include ‘Ode to the West Wind’, ‘Adonais’, and ‘To A Skylark’.
The theme of this poem is transience of human life and human emotions. Humans, in the vast spectrum of life, are nothing but mere specks.
This poem is divided into four stanzas consisting of four lines each. It follows the simple rhyme scheme ‘abab cdcd efef ghgh’.
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:
The poem beings with the collective pronoun ‘we’, wherein he refers to himself and the human race as a whole. He calls all of humans to be clouds that concealed the moon, restless and quivering as they delight in streaking across the darkness of the night. Yet, as soon as night ends, they disappear. This shows how human life is impermanent as opposed to the might of nature.
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.
In this stanza, humans are compared to ‘forgotten lyres’. Each string of a lyre produces a different music with no two being the same, just like how the course of a human life is constantly differing.
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:
This stanza delves into the routine life of humans. Humans sleep, they wake, and go through the same emotions of happiness and sadness, to worry and not to everyday.
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.
The emotions of the previous stanza, according to the poem, are all the same, even though they appear to be different. In the end, nothing lasts forever except mutability or frequent change, the change that humans go through every day. It ultimately leads to nothing but death, the only sure thing in life.
This is a poem that explores life. It sheds light on how it seemingly changes but, in reality, is unchanging in nature.