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Contemporary with Schopenhauer is the English Romantic Poet Percy Shelley.


The flower that smiles to-day

To-morrow dies;

All that we wish to stay

Tempts and then flies.

What is this world’s delight?

Lightning that mocks the night,

Brief even as bright.


This first stanza comes closet to Schopenhauer’s pessimism. The flower “dies”. Those things we desire “tempt” and then they “fly”. He speaks of the world as purposefully causing this pain. Delight in this world “mocks” and has as much permanence as lightning at night.


But there is a hint here of something else: The flower “smiles”. That temptation is of a “delight”. Lightning may mock, but it is bright.


The final line “brief even as bright”.



Virtue, how frail it is!

Friendship how rare!

Love, how it sells poor bliss

For proud despair!

But we, though soon they fall,

Survive their joy, and all

Which ours we call.


He moves from the physical to the moral world. Virtue is “frail”. Friendship is “rare”. Love turns to “despair”. Again, there is another side to these things: Virtue and friendship are good things, hence, the trouble of their loss. Love entails “bliss”. And these things all pertain to “joy”. They are lost, but they are good.



Whilst skies are blue and bright,

Whilst flowers are gay,

Whilst eyes that change ere night

Make glad the day;

Whilst yet the calm hours creep,

Dream thou—and from thy sleep

Then wake to weep.


At this point, Shelley offers a very different take than Schopenhauer. The philosopher will caution against any joy or good; he will seek no bliss, no delight. He will protect himself from loss by cutting off the elation and thus avoiding the loss.


Shelley offers a different solution: to enjoy these things now. He marks the time in a series of three lines “whilst”:


Whilst skies are blue and bright,

Whilst flowers are gay,

Whilst eyes that change ere night


While these good things last, do not reject them like (as Schopenhauer counsels), rather:


Make glad the day;


This is an interesting line, because until now the joys have been received. But here he gives counsel: you actively make the day glad, you drink in this joy.


He then turns to a resolution:


Whilst yet the calm hours creep,

Dream thou


Drink in this joy, but know that this is a “dream”. It is a joy which will not last. But even that passion is not to be lost:


and from thy sleep

Then wake to weep.


This in the Romantic vein of drinking in all passion. In the Prelude, Wordsworth refers to the poet



By love and feeling, and internal though

Protracted among endless solitudes (V, 145-147)


Both Shelley and Shakespeare have looked directly into change and loss. But they provide a model of using the loss as the basis for passionately holding onto what will last.