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170 POEMS OF 1S17—MXS SHELLEY'S NOTE,
And men who rail, like thee;
They are not coy like me.
Or seek some slave of power and gold
To be thy dear heart's mate;
Sooner than me thy hate.
A passion like the one I prove
Cannot divided be;
NOTE ON POEMS OF 1817, BY MRS. SHELLEY.
Thk very illness that oppressed, and the aspect of death which had approached so near, Shelley, appear to have kindled to yet keener life the Spirit of Poetry in his heart. The restless thoughts kept awake by pain clothed themselves in verse. Much was composed during this year. The Revolt ofIslam, written and printed, was a great effort—Rosalind and Helen was begun—and the fragments and poems I can trace to the same period show how full of passion and reflection were his solitary hours.
In addition to such poems as have an intelligible aim and shape, many a stray idea and transitory emotion found imperfect and abrupt expression, and then again lost themselves in silence. As he never wandered without a book and without implements of writing, I find many such, in his manuscript books, that scarcely bear record; while some of them, broken and vague as they are, will appear valuable to those who love Shelley's mind, and desire to trace its workings.
He projected also translating the Hymns of Homer; his version of several of the shorter ones remains, as well as that to M ercury already published in the Posthumous Poems. His readings this year were chiefly Greek. Besides the Hymns of Homer and the Iliad, he read the Dramas of iEschylus and Sophocles, the Symposium of Plato, and Arrian's Historia Indica. In Latin, Apulcius alone is named. In English, the Bible was his constant study ; he read a great portion of it aloud in the evening. Among these evening readings, I find also mentioned the Faery Queen; and other modern works, the production of his contemporaries, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Moore, and Byron.
His life was now spent more in thought than action—he had lost the eager spirit which believed it could achieve what it projected for the benefit of mankind. And yet in the converse of daily life Shelley was far from being a melancholy man. He was eloquent when philosophy or politics or taste were the subjects of conversation. He was playful; and indulged in the wild spirit that mocked itself and others—not in bitterness, but in sport. The author of Nightmare Abbey seized on some points of his character and some habits of his life when he painted Scythrop. He was not addicted to "port or madeira," but in youth he had read of " Illuminati and Eleutherarchs," and believed that he possessed the power of operating an immediate change in the minds of men and the state of society. These wild dreams had faded; sorrow and adversity had struck home; but he struggled with despondency as he did with physical pain. There are few who remember him sailing paper boats, and watching the navigation of his tiny craft with eagerness—or repeating with wild energy The Ancient Mariner, and Southcy's Old Woman of Berheley; but those who do will recollect that it was in such, and in the creations of his own fancy when that was most daring and ideal, that he sheltered himself from the storms and disappointments, the pain and sorrow, that beset his life. No words can express the anguish he felt when his elder children were torn from him. In his first resentment against the Chancellor, on the passing of the decree, he had written a curse, in which there breathes, besides haughty indignation, all the tenderness of a father's love, which could imagine and fondly 'dwell upon its loss and the consequences.
At one time, while the question was still pending, the Chancellor had said some words that seemed to intimate that Shelley should not be permitted the care of any of his children, and for a moment he feared that our infant son would be torn from us. He did not hesitate to resolve, if such were menaced, to abandon country, fortune, everything, and to escape with his child ; and I find some unfinished stanzas addressed to this son, whom afterwards we lost at Rome, written under the idea that we might suddenly be forced to cross the sea, so to preserve him. This poem, as well as the one previously quoted, were not written to exhibit the pangs of distress to the public ; they were the spontaneous outbursts of a man who brooded over his wrongs and woes, and was impelled to shed the grace of his genius over the uncontrollable emotions of his heart. I ought to observe that the fourth verse of this effusion is introduced in Rosalind and Helen. When afterwards this child died at Rome, he wrote, apropos of the English burying-ground in that city; "This spot is the repository of a sacred loss, of which the yearnings of a parent's heart are now prophetic; he is rendered immortal by love, as his memory is by death. My beloved child lies buried here. 1 envy death the body far less than the oppressors the minds of those whom they have torn from me. The one%an only kill the body, the other crushes the affections."
FOEMS WRITTEN IN 1818.
PASSAGE OF THE APENNINES.
Listen, listen, Mary mine,
To the whisper of the Apennine.
It hursts on the roof like the thunder's roar;
Or like the sea on a northern shore,
Heard in its ragingj ebb and flow By the captives pent in the cave below. The Apennine in the light of day Is a mighty mountain dim and grey Which between the earth and sky doth lay; But, when night comes, a chaos dread On the dim starlight then is spread, And the Apennine walks abroad with the storm. 4 May 1818.
ON A DEAD VIOLET.
The odour from the flower is gone
Which like thy kisses breathed on me;
The colour from the flower is flown
Which glowed of thee and only thee!
A shrivelled, lifeless, vacant form,
It lies on my abandoned breast;
I weep—my tears revive it not;
I sigh—it breathes no more on me:
Wjlt thou forget the happy hours
Forget the dead, the past? Oh yet
That joy, once lost, is pain. . .. —
Lipt not the painted veil which those who live .
Call Life; though unreal shapes be pictured there,
With colours idly spread. Behind, lurk Fear
Their shadows o'er the chasm sightless and drear.
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
The world contains the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
Upon this gloomy scene, a spirit that strove
LINES WRITTEN AMONG THE EUGANEAN HILLS.
Many a green isle needs must be
Death from the o'er-brimming deep,
And sinks down, down, like that sleep
When the dreamer seems to be
Weltering through eternity,—
And the dim low line before
Of a dark and distant shore
Still recedes, as—ever still
Longing with divided will,
But no power to seek or shun—
He is ever drifted on
O'er the unreposing wave
To the haven of the grave.
What if there no friends will greet?
What if there no heart will meet
His with love's impatient beat?
Wander wheresoe'er he may,
Can he dream before that day
To find refuge from distress
In friendship's smile, in love's caress?
Then 'twill wreak him little woe
Whether such there be or no.
Senseless is the breast, and cold,
Which relenting love would fold;
Bloodless are the veins, and chill,
Which the pulse of pain did fill;
Every little living nerve
That from bitter words did swerve
Round the tortured lips and brow
Is like a sapless leaflet now
Frozen upon December's bough.
On the beach of a northern sea