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The snow upon my lifeless mountains
Is loosened into living fountains, 11* solid oceans flow, and sing, and shine:
A spirit from my heart bursts forth,
It clothes with unexpected birth
Gazing on thee I feel, I know,
Ureen stalks burst forth, and bright flowers grow, And living shapes upon my bosom move:
Music is in the sea and air,
Winged clouds soar here and there,
It interpenetrates my granite mass,
Through tangled roots and trodden clay doth pass,
Into the utmost leaves and delicatest flowers; Upon the winds, among the clouds 'tis spread, It wakes a life in the forgotten dead, [bowers.
They breathe a spirit up from their obscurest
And like a storm bursting its cloudy prison With thunder, and with whirlwind, has arisen Out of the lampless caves of unimagined being: With earthquake shock and swiftness making
ihiver Thought's stagnant chaos, unremoved for ever, Till hate, and fear, and pain, light-vanquished shadows, fleeing,
Leave Man, who was a many-sided mirror, Which could distort to many a shape of error,
This true fair world of things, a sea reflecting love; Which over all his kind, as the sun's heaven Gliding o'er ocean, smooth, serene, and even
Darting from starry depths radiance and light, doth move,
Leave Man, even as a leprous child is left,
Of rocks, through which the might of healing
It is a spirit, then, weeps on her child restored.
Man, oh, not men! a chain of linked thought,
Compelling the elements with adamantine stress;
Of planets, struggling fierce towards heaven's free
Man, one harmonious soul of many a soul,
Whose nature is its own divine control, Where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea;
Familiar acts are beautiful through love;
Labour, and pain, and grief, in life's green grove Sjiort like tame beasts, none knew how gentle they could be!
His will, with all mean passions, bad delights, And selfish cares, its trembling satellites, A spirit ill to guide, but mighty to obey, Is as a tempest-winged ship, whose helm [whelm, Love rules, through waves which dare not overForcing life's wildest shores to own its sovereign sway
All things confess his strength. Through the cold Of marble and of colour his dreams pass; [mass Bright threads whence mothers weave the robes their children wear; Language is a perpetual Orphic song, Which rules with Daedal harmony a throng Of thoughts and forms, which else senseless and shapeless were.
The lightning is his slave; heaven's utmost deep
Gives up her stars, and like a flock of sheep They pass before his eye, are numbered, and roll on!
The tempest is his steed, he strides the air;
And the abyss shouts from her depth laid bare, Heaven, hast thou secrets I Man unveils me; I have none.
The shadow of white death has past
From my path in heaven at last,
And through my newly-woven bowers,
Wander happy paramours,
As the dissolving warmth of dawn may fold
And crystalline, till it becomes a winged mist.
Hangs o'er the sea, a fleece of fire and amethyst.
Thou art folded, thou art lying
In the light which is undying
All suns and constellations shower
On thee a light, a life, a power Which doth array thy sphere; thou pourest thine On mine, on mine!
I spin beneath my pyramid of night,
Which points into the heavens dreaming delight,
Murmuring victorious joy in my enchanted sleep; As a youth lulled in love-dreams faintly sighing, Under the shadow of his beauty lying,
Which round his rest a watch of light and warmth doth keep.
As in tbe soft and sweet eclipse,
When soul meets soul on lovers' lips, High hearts are calm, and brightest eyes are dull;
So, when thy shadow falls on me,
Then am I mute and still, by thee
Thou art speeding round the sun,
1, a most enamoured maiden,
Whose weak brain is overladen
With the pleasure of her love,
Maniac-like around thee move
Gazing, an insatiate bride,
On thy form from every side,
Like a Maenad, round the cup
Which Agave lifted up
In the weird Cadmcean forest.
Brother, wheresoe'er thou sourest
I must hurry, whirl and follow
Through the heavens wide and hollow,
Sheltered by the warm embrace
Of thy soul from hungry space,
Drinking from thy sense and sight
Beauty, majesty, and might,
As a lover or cameleon
Grows like what it looks upon,
As a violet's gentle eye
Gazes on the azure sky
As a grey and watery mist
Glows like solid amethyst
When the sunset sleeps
And the weak day weeps
Through isles for ever calm;
Made wounds which need thy balm.
I rise as from a bath of sparkling water, A bath of azure light, among dark rocks, , Out of the stream of sound.
Ah me! sweet sister, The stream of sound has ebbed away from us, And you pretend to rise out of its wave, Because your words fall like the clear soft dew Shaken from a bathing wood-nymph's limbs and hair.
Peace, peace! a mighty Power, which is as darkness,
There is a sense of words upon mine ear.
A universal sound like words: Oh, list!
Thou, Earth, calm empire of a happy soul,
Beautiful orb! gathering as thou dost roll
The love which paves thy path along the skies:
I hear: I am as a drop of dew that dies.
Thou Moon, which gazest on the nightly Earth With wonder, as it gazes upon thee;
Whilst each to men, and beasts, and the swift both Of birds, is beauty, love, calm, harmony:
I hear: I am a leaf shaken by thee!
Ye kings of suns and stars! Daemons and Gods,
Elysian, windless, fortunate abodes
A VOICE FROM ABOVE.
Our great Republic hears ; we are blest, and bless.
Ye happy dead! whom beams of brightest verse
Whether your nature is that universe
A VOICE FROM BENEATH.
Or as they Whom we have left, we change and pass away.
Ye elemental Genii, who have homes
Of sullen lead; from Heaven's star-fretted domes
A CONFUSED VOICE.
We hear: thy words waken Oblivion.
DEMOGORGON. Spirits! whose homes are flesh: ye beasts and birds,
Ye worms and fish ; ye living leaves and buds; Lightning and wind ; and ye untameable herds,
Meteors and mists, which throng air's solitudes.
Man, who wert once a despot and a slave;
A dupe and a deceiver; a decay;
Through the dim night of this immortal day:
Speak! thy strong words may never pass away.
This the day, which down the void abysm At the Earth-born's spell yawns for Heaven's despotism,
And Conquest is dragged captive through the deep; Love, from its awful throne of patient power In the wise heart, from the last giddy honr
Of dread endurance, from the slippery, steep, And narrow verge of crag-like agony, springs And folds over the world its healing wings.
Gentleness, Virtue, Wisdom, and Endurance, These are the seals of that most firm assurance
Which bars the pit over Destruction's strength; And if, with infirm hand, Eternity, Mother of many acts and hours, should free
The serpent that would clasp her with his length, These are the spells by which to re-assume An empire o'er the disentangled doom.
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
Neither to change, nor faulter, nor repent; This, like thy glory, Titan ! is to be Good, great and joyous, beautiful and'free; This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory I
NOTE ON THE PROMETHEUS UNBOUND.
BY THE EDITOR.
On the 12th of March, 1818, Shelley quitted England, never to return. His principal motive was the hope that his health would be improved by a milder climate ; he suffered very much during the winter previous to his emigration, and this decided his vacillating purpose. In December, 1817, he had written from Marlow to a friend, saying :—
"My health has been materially worse. My feelings at intervals are of a deadly and torpid kind, or awakened to such a state of unnatural and keen excitement, that only to instance the organ of sight, I find the very blades of grass and the Doughs of distant trees present themselves to me with microscopic distinctness. Towards evening I sink into a state of lethargy and inanimation, and often remain for hours on the sofa between sleep and waking, a prey to the most painful irritability of thought. Such, with little intermission, is my condition. The hours devoted to study are selected with vigilant caution from among these periods of endurance. It is not for this that I think of travelling to Italy, even if I knew that Italy would relieve me. But I have experienced a decisive pulmonary attack, and although at present it has passed away without any considerable vestige of its existence, yet this Bymptom sufficiently shows the true nature of my disease to be consumptive. It is to my advantage that this malady is in its nature slow, and, if one is sufficiently alive to its advances, is susceptible of cure from a warm climate. In the event of its assuming any decided shape, it would be my duly to go to Italy without delay. It is not mere health, but life, that I should seek, and that not for my own sake ; I feel
I am capable of trampling on all such weakness— but for the sake of those to whom my life may be a source of happiness, utility, security, and honour —and to some of whom my death might be all that is the reverse."
In almost every respect his journey to Italy was advantageous. He left behind friends to whom he was attached, but cares of a thousand kinds, many springing from his lavish generosity, crowded round him in his native country: and, except the society of one or two friends, he had no compensation. The climate caused him to consume half his existence in helpless suffering. His dearest pleasure, the free enjoyment of the scenes of nature, was marred by the same circumstance.
He went direct to Italy, avoiding even Paris, and did not make any pause till he arrived at Milan. The first aspect of Italy enchanted Shelley; it seemed a garden of delight placed beneath a clearer and brighter heaven than any he had lived under before. He wrote long descriptive letters during the first year of his residence in Italy, which, as compositions, are the most beautiful in the world, and show how truly he appreciated and studied the wonders of nature and art in that divine land.
The poetical spirit within him speedily revived with all the power and with more than all the beauty of his first attempts. He meditated three subjects as the groundwork for lyrical Dramas. One was the story of Tasso; of this a slight fragment of a song of Tasso remains. The other was one founded on the book of Job, which he never abandoned in idea, but of which no trace remains among his papers. The third was the "Prometheus Unbound." Tho Greek tragedians were now his most familiar companions in his wanderings, and the sublime majesty of ./Eschylus filled him with wonder and delight. The father of Greek tragedy does not possess the pathos of Sophocles, nor the variety and tenderness of Euripides ; the interest on which he founds his dramas is often elevated above human vicissitudes into the mighty passions and throes of gods and demigods—such fascinated the abstract imagination of Shelley.
We spent a month at Milan, visiting the Lake of Como during that interval. Thence we passed in succession to Pisa, Leghorn, the Baths of Lucca, Venice, Este, Rome, Naples, and back again to Rome, whither we returned early in March 1819. During all this time Shelley meditated the subject of his drama, and wrote portions of it. Other poems were composed during this interval, and while at the Bagni di Lucca he translated Plato's Symposium. But though he diversified his studies, his thoughts centred in the " Prometheus." At last, when at Rome, during a bright and beautiful spring, ho gave up his whole time to the composition. The spot selected for his study was, as he mentions in his preface, the mountainous ruins of the Baths of Caracal la. These arc little known to the ordinary visitor at Rome. He describes them in a letter, with that poetry, and delicacy, and truth of description, which render his narrated impressions of scenery of unequalled beauty and interest.
At first he completed the drama in three acts. It was not till several months after, when at Florence, that ho conceived that a fourth act, a sort of hymn of rejoicing in tho fulfilment of the prophecies with regard to Prometheus, ought to be added to completo the composition.
Tho prominent feature of Shelley's theory of the destiny of the human species was, that evil is not inherent in the system of the creation, but an accident that might be expelled. This also forms a portion of Christianity ; God made earth and man perfect, till he, by his fall,
"Brought death Into the world and all our woe"
Shelley believed that mankind had only to will that there should bo no evil, and there would be none. It iB not my part in these notes to notice the arguments that have been urged against this opinion, but to mention the fact that he entertained it, and was indeed attached to it with fervent enthusiasm. That man could be so perfeetionized as to be able tc expel evil from his own nature, and from the greater part of the creation, was the cardinal point of his system. And tho subject he
loved best to dwell on, was the image of Omwarring with the Evil Principle, oppressed not only by it, but by all, even the good, who were deluded into considering evil a necessary portion of humanity. A victim full of fortitude and hope, and the spirit of triumph emanating from a reliance in the ultimate omnipotence of good. Such he had depicted in his last poem, when he made Laon the enemy and the victim of tyrants. He now took a. more idealized image of the same subject. He followed certain classical authorities in figuring Saturn as the good principle, Jupiter the usurping evil one, and Prometheus as the regenerator, who, unable to bring mankind back to primitive innocence, used knowledge as a weapon to defeat eviL, by leading mankind beyond the state wherein they are sinless through ignorance, to that in whirh they are virtuous through wisdom. Jupiter punished the temerity of the Titan by chaining him to a rock of Caucasus, and causing a vulture to devour his still renewed heart. There was a prophecy afloat in heaven portending the fall of Jove, the secret of averting which was known only to Prometheus ; and the god offered freedom from torture on condition of its being communicated to him. According to the mythological story, this referred to the offspring of Thetis, who was destined to be greater than his father. Prometheus at last bought pardon for his crime of enriching mankind with his gifts, by revealing the prophecy. Hercules killed the vulture and set him free, and Thetis was married to Peleus, the father of Achilles.
Shelley adapted the catastrophe of this story to his peculiar views. The son, greater than his father, born of the nuptials of J upiter and Thetis, was to dethrone Evil, and bring back a happier reign than that of Saturn. Prometheus defies the power of his enemy, and endures centuries of torture, till the hour arrives when Jove, blind U tho real event, but darkly guessing that some great good to himself will flow, espouses Thetis. At the moment, the Primal Power of the world drives him from his usurped throne, and Strength, in the person of Hercules, liberates Humanity, typified in Prometheus, from the tortures generated by evil done or suffered. Asia, ono of the Oeeanidos, is the wife of Prometheus—she was, according to other mythological interpretations, the same as Venus and Nature. When the Benefactor of Mankind is liberated, Nature resumes the beauty of her prime, and is united to her husband, the emblem of the human race, in perfect and happy union. In the Fourth Act, the Poet gives further scope to his imagination, and idealizes the form*
of creation, such as we know them, instead of such as they appeared to the Greeks. Maternal Earth, the mighty Parent, is superseded by the Spirit of the Earth—the guide of our Planet through the realms of sky—while his fair and weaker companion and attendant, the Spirit of the Moon, receives bliss from the annihilation of Evil in the superior sphere.
Shelley develops, more particularly in the lyrics of this drama, his abstruse and imaginative theories with regard to the Creation. It requires a mind as subtle and penetrating as his own to understand the mystic meanings scattered throughout the poem. They elude the ordinary reader by their abstraction and delicacy of distinction, but they are far from vague. It was his design to write prose metaphysical essays on the nature of Man, which would have served to explain much of what is obscure in his poetry ; a few scattered fragments of observations and remarks alone remain. He considered these philosophical views of mind and nature to be instinct with the intensest spirit of poetry.
More popular poets clothe the ideal with familiar and sensible imagery. Shelley loved to idealize the real—to gift the mechanism of the material universe with a soul and a voice, and to bestow such also on the most delicate and abstract emotions and thoughts of the mind. Sophocles was his great master in this species of imagery.
I find in one of his manuscript books some remarks on a line in the CEdipus Tyrannus, which shows at once the critical subtlety of Shelley's mind, and explains his apprehension of those "minute and remote distinctions of feeling, whether relative to external nature or the living beings which surround us," which he pronounces, in the letter quoted in the note to the Revolt of Islam, to comprehend all that is sublime in man.
"In the Greek Shakspeare, Sophocles, we find the image,
IloAAaf 8' SSovs i\gima (ppovrlSos irAaeois.
A line of almost unfathomable depth of poetry, yet how simple are the images in which it is arrayed,
Coining to many ways In the wanderings of careful thought.
If the words oilovs and rAomis had not been used, the line might have been explained in a metaphorical, instead of an absolute sense, as we say ' ways and means,' and wanderings, for error and confusion; but they meant literally paths or roads,
such as we tread with our feet; and wanderings, such as a man makes when he loses himself in a desert, or roams from city to city, as (Edipus, the speaker of this verse, was destined to wander, blind and asking charity. What a picture does this line suggest of the mind as a wilderness of intricate paths, wide as the universe, which is here made its symbol, a world within a world, which he, who seeks some knowledge with respect to what he ought to do, searches throughout, as he would search the external universe for some valued thing which was hidden from him upon its surface."
In reading Shelley's poetry, we often find similar verses, resembling, but not imitating, the Greek in this species of imagery; for though he adopted the style, he gifted it with that originality of form and colouring which sprung from his own genius.
In the Prometheus Unbound, Shelley fulfils the promise quoted from a letter in the Note on the Revolt of Islam *.
The tone of the composition is calmer and more majestic, the poetry more perfect as a whole, and the imagination displayed at once more pleasingly beautiful and more varied and daring. The description of the Hours, as they arc seen in the cave of Demogorgon, is an instance of this—it fills the mind as the most charming picture—wc long to see an artist at work to bring to our view the
cars drawn by rainbow-winged steeds, Which trample the dim winds: in each there stands A wild-eyed charioteer, urging their flight. Some look behind, as fiends pursued them there, And yet I see no shapes but the keen Btars: Others, with burning eyes, lean forth, and drink With eager lips the wind of their own speed. As if the thing they loved fled on before. And now, even now, they clasped it. Their bright locks Stream like a comet's flashing hair: they all Sweep onwardThrough the whole Poem there reigns a sort of calm and holy spirit of love; it soothes the tortured, and is hope to the expectant, till the
* While correcting the proof-sheets of that Poem, it struck me that the Poet had indulged in an exaggerated view of the evils of restored despotism, which, howovor injurious and degrading, were leas openly sanguinary than the triumph of anarchy, such as it appeared in Prance at the close of the last century. But at this time a book, "Scenes of Spanish Life," translated by Lieutenant Crawford from the Gorman of Dr. Huber, of Rostock, fell into my hands. The account of tho triumph of the priests and the scrviles, after the French invasion of Spain in 1823, bears a strong and frightful resemblance to somo of the descriptions of the massacre of the patriots in the Revolt of Islam.