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THE WITCH OF ATLAS.

TO MARY,

ON HER OBJECTING TO THE FOLLOWING POEM, UPON THE SCORE OF ITS CONTAINING

NO HUMAN INTEREST.

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How, my dear Mary, are you critic-bitten, (For vipers kill, though dead,) by some

review, That you condemn these verses I have written,

Because they tell no story, false or true! What, though no mice are caught by a young

kitten, May it not leap and play as grown cats do, Till its claws come? Prithee, for this one time, Content thee with a visionary rhyme.

II. What hand would crush the silken-winged fly,

The youngest of inconstant April's minions, . Because it cannot climb the purest sky, Where the swan sings, amid the sun's

dominions ? Not thine. Thou knowest 'tis its doom to die, When day shall hide within her twilight

pinions

200 LINES TO MARY ON THE WITCH OF ATLAS.

The lucent eyes and the eternal smile,
Serene as thine, which lent it life awhile.

III. To thy fair feet a winged Vision came, Whose date should have been longer than a

day, And o'er thy head did beat its wings for fame,

And in thy sight its fading plumes display; The watery bow burned in the evening flame, But the shower fell, the swift sun went his

wayAnd that is dead.- 0, let me not believe That any thing of mine is fit to live!

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Wordsworth informs us he was nineteen years

Considering and retouching Peter Bell; . Watering his laurels with the killing tears

Of slow, dull care, so that their roots to hell Might pierce, and their wide branches blot the

spheres Of heaven, with dewy leaves and flowers ;

this well May be, for Heaven and Earth conspire to foil The over-busy gardener's blundering toil.

v. My Witch indeed is not so sweet a creature

As Ruth or Lucy, whom his graceful praise Clothes for our grandsons--but she matches

Peter,
Though he took nineteen years, and she three

days In dressing. Light the vest of flowing metre

| Laon and Cythna, also dedicated to Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.-ED.

She wears; he, proud as dandy with his stays, Has hung upon his wiry limbs a dress Like King Lear's “ looped and windowed

raggedness.”

VI.

If you strip Peter, you will see a fellow,

Scorched by Hell's hyperequatorial climate Into a kind of a sulphureous yellow :

A lean mark, hardly fit to fling a rhyme at; In shape a Scaramouch, in hue Othello.

If you unveil my Witch, no priest nor primate Can shrive you of that sin,-if sin there be In love, when it becomes idolatry.

THE WITCH OF ATLAS.

I.

BEFORE those cruel Twins, whom at one birth

Incestuous Change bore to her father Time, Error and Truth, had hunted from the Earth All those bright natures which adorned its

prime, And left us nothing to believe in, worth

The pains of putting into learnèd rhyme, A lady-witch there lived on Atlas' mountain Within a cavern, by a secret fountain.

II.

Her mother was one of the Atlantides:

The all-beholding Sun had ne'er beholden In his wide voyage o'er continents and seas

So fair a creature, as she lay enfolden In the warm shadow of her loveliness ;

He kissed her with his beams, and made all

golden The chamber of grey rock in which she layShe, in that dream of joy, dissolved away.

III.

'Tis said she first was changed into a vapour,

And then into a cloud, such clouds as flit, Like splendour-winged moths about a taper,

Round the red west when the sun dies in it: And then into a meteor, such as caper

On hill-tops when the moon is in a fit: Then, into one of those mysterious stars Which hide themselves between the Earth and

Mars.

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Ten times the Mother of the Months had bent

Her bow beside the folding-star, and bidden With that bright sign the billows to indent

The sea-deserted sand-like children chidden, At her command they ever came and went

Since in that cave a dewy splendour hidden Took shape and motion : with the living form Of this embodied Power, the cave grew warm.

A lovely lady garmented in light

From her own beauty-deep her eyes, as are Two openings of unfathomable night Seen through a Temple's cloven roof-her

hair Dark—the dim brain whirls dizzy with delight, Picturing her form ; her soft smiles shone

afar, And her low voice was heard like love, and

drew All living things towards this wonder new.

VI.

And first the spotted cameleopard' came,

And then the wise and fearless elephant; Then the sly serpent, in the golden flame

Of his own volumes intervolved ;-all gaunt And sanguine beasts her gentle looks made.

tame.
They drank before her at her sacred fount;
And every beast of beating heart grew bold,
Such gentleness and power even to behold.

VII.
The brinded lioness led forth her young,
That she might teach them how they should

forego
Their inborn thirst of death; the pard un-

strung
His sinews at her feet, and sought to know
With looks whose motions spoke without a

tongue
How he might be as gentle as the doe.
The magic circle of her voice and eyes
All savage natures did imparadise.

VIII.

And old Silenus, shaking a green stick

Of lilies, and the wood-gods in a crew, Came, blithe as in the olive copses thick

Cicadæ are, drunk with the noonday dew: And Dryope and Faunus followed quick,

i No doubt Shelley used this popular but incorrect form instead of the more classic camelopard, to express his conception of the word as a compound of camel and leopard. The same form occurs in line 240 of the Letter to Maria Gisborne, where also it is impossible to pronounce the word otherwise than camel-leopard. -ED.

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