Shelley’s Poem – The Flower that Smiles Today

by 21cstories

I was in my high school when I came across this famous poem by P.B. Shelley. It left some impression on me, and made my adolescent gloomy outlook on life even darker! Recently I revisited the verse with fresh eyes, and uplifted spirits, and saw the silver linings for the first time – that we could learn from the flowers.

I guess the poet himself felt the same way, and the verse tapers appears to taper off on an optimistic note, albeit with gravity –  enjoy the delights, then wake up to weep.

The poem begins with an analogy — a very terse statement. The flower that smiles today, tomorrow dies. It goes on to point out the transitory, ephemeral nature of the delights of this world, all so very tempting but momentary flashes of pleasure. And if pleasures are such, then equally so are even the higher value of life – love, friendship, virtue too, all beset by an inbuilt mortality. 

Soon, an optimistic note takes over. Let us enjoy the brief moments, when flowers spread their joy, and the skies are blue and clear, and the lover’s eye radiates love.

Yet, all this is transitory, and there seems to be no better choice than to preserve our beliefs, even though they may not last very long, like a dream. The end result would of course be the eventual waking up and realizing the true and transitory nature of this world.

Here is a positive off-take of the foregoing, and this really depends on which side of the glass you see: If we enjoy the this-worldly pleasures with true meaning, the end need not be a waking up to harsh reality. It may fill us with a warm, though sad feeling of having had good times, and having lived a good life.

Easy to write, difficult to practise!

Read the poem here

(First published at in 2007. Revised for this blog.)