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Who rather than pay any rent,
No bailiff dared within that space,
A man would bear upon his face,
For fifteen months in any case,
Seven miles above—below—around— This pest of dulness holds its sway;
A ghastly life without a sound;
To Peter's soul the spell is bound—
LETTER TO MARIA GISBORNE.1
Leghorn, July 1, 1820. The spider spreads her webs, whether she be In poet's tower, cellar, or barn, or tree; The silk-worm in the dark green mulberry leaves His winding sheet and cradle ever weaves; So I, a thing whom moralists call worm, Sit spinning still round this decaying form, From the fine threads of rare and subtle
thought— No net of words in garish colours wrought To catch the idle buzzers of the day— But a soft cell, where when that fades away, i0 Memory may clothe in wings my living name And feed it with the asphodels of fame, Which in those hearts which must remember
me Grow, making love an immortality.
Whoever should behold me now, I wist, Would think I were a mighty mechanist, Bent with sublime Archimedean art To breathe a soul into the iron heart Of some machine portentous, or strange gin, Which by the force of figured spells might win 20
Its way over the sea, and sport therein;
1 See vol. i, pages xliii, xlvii, and xlix.
For round the walls are hung dread engines,
such As Vulcan never wrought for Jove to clutch Ixion or the Titan :—or the quick Wit of that man of God, St. Dominic, To convince Atheist, Turk or Heretic, Or those in philanthropic council met, Who thought to pay some interest for the debt They owed to Jesus Christ for their salvation, By giving a faint foretaste of damnation 30 To Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser and the rest Who made our land an island of the bless'd, When lamp-like Spain, who now relumes her
lire On Freedom's hearth, grew dim with Empire:— With thumbscrews, wheels, with tooth and
spike and jag,
Satiated with destroyed destruction, lay
Magical forms the brick floor overspread
Proteus transformed to metal did not make More figures, or more strange; nor did he
To puzzle Tubal Cain and all his brood:
The elements of what will stand the shocks
drink When at their subterranean toil they swink, Pledging the daemons of the earthquake, who 60 Reply to them in lava—cry halloo! And call out to the cities o'er their head,— Roofs, towers and shrines, the dying and the
dead, Crash through the chinks of earth—and then
all quaff Another rouse, and hold their sides and laugh. This quicksilver no gnome has drunk—within The walnut bowl it lies, veined and thin, In colour like the wake of light that stains The Tuscan deep, when from the moist moon
rains The inmost shower of its white fire—the
Is still—blue heaven smiles over the pale seas.
Traced over them in blue and yellow paint.
Instruments, for plans nautical and statical;
be. Near that a dusty paint-box, some odd hooks, A half-burnt match, an ivory block, three
With lead in the middle—I'm conjecturing
And here like some weird Archimage sit I, Plotting dark spells, and devilish enginery, The self-impelling steam-wheels of the mind
1 If Shelley had acquired in his boyhood and carried into maturity the ordinary schoolboy's pronunciation lograthirns, this couplet would be less impeachable on the score of rhyme than it must remain on the supposition that he pronounced the word properly. To the eye and the punctilious ear the rhyme is absolutely indefensible.—Ed.