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ON THE SERCHIO.
Our boat is asleep on Serchio's stream,
The stars burnt out in the pale blue air,
And the thin white moon lay withering there,
To tower, and cavern, and rift, and tree,
The owl and the bat fled drowsily.
Day had kindled the dewy woods
And the rocks above and the stream below,
And the vapours in their multitudes,
And the Apennines' shroud of summer snow,
And clothed with light of aery gold
The mists in their eastern caves uprolled.
Day had awakened all things that be,
All rose to do the task He set to each,
And many rose
"What think you, as she lies in her green cove,
Our little sleeping boat is dreaming of?
If morning dreams are true, why I should guess
That she was dreaming of our idleness,
And of the miles of watery way
We should have led her by this time of day."—
-" Never mind," said Lionel,
List, my dear fellow, the breeze blows fair;
The chain is loosed, the sails are spread,
The living breath is fresh behind,
As, with dews and sunrise fed,
Comes the laughing morning wind ;—
The sails are full, the boat makes head
Against the Serchio's torrent fierce,
Then flags with intermitting course,
And hangs upon the wave,
Which fervid from its mountain source
Shallow, smooth, and strong, doth come,—
Swift as fire, tempestuously
It sweeps into the affrighted sea;
In morning's smile its eddies coil,
Its billows sparkle, toss, and boil,
Torturing all its quiet light
Into columns fierce and bright.
The Serchio, twisting forth Between the marble barriers which it clove At Ripafratta, leads through the dread chasm The wave that died the death which lovers love. Living in what it sought; as if this spasm Had not yet past, the toppling mountains cling, But the clear stream in full enthusiasm Pours itself on the plain, until wandering, Down one clear path of effluence crystalline Sends its clear waves, that they may fling At Arno's feet tribute of corn and wine: Then, through the pestilential deserts wild Of tangled marsh and woods of stunted fir, It rushes to the Ocean.
"Give care to the winds, they can bear it well
"Do you not hear the Aziola cry I Methinks she must be nigh,"
Said Mary, as we sate
And I, who thought
ABked, " Who is Aziola!" How elate
No mockery of myself to fear and hate!
And Mary saw my soul.
'Tis nothing but a little downy owl."
Sad Aziola! many an eventide
Thy music I had heard By wood and stream, meadow and mountain side. And fields and marshes wide,—
Such as nor voice, nor lute, nor wind, nor bird.
The soul ever stirred;
Thet were two cousins, almost like two twins,
O.ne word is too often profaned
For me to profane it,
For thee to disdain it.
For prudence to smother, And Pity from thee more dear
Than that from another.
I can give not what men call love,
But wilt thou accept not
And the Heavens reject not:
Of the night for the morrow, The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow!
Good-night? ah! no ; the hour is ill
Let us remain together still,
How can I call the lone night good,
Be it not said, thought, understood,
To hearts which near each other move
The night is good ; because, my love,
LINES TO AN INDIAN AIR.
I Arise from dreams of thee
The wandering airs they faint
0 lift me from the grass I
1 die, I faint, I fail!
Let thy love in kisses rain
I Pant for the music which is divine,
Pour forth the sound like enchanted wine.
Like a herbless plain for the gentle rain,
I gasp, I faint, till they wake again.
Let me drink of the spirit of that sweet sound,
It loosens the serpent which care has bound
The dissolving strain, through every vein,
Passes into my heart and brain.
As the scent of a violet withered up,
Which grew by the brink of a silver lake,
When the hot noon has drained its dewy cup, And mist there was none its thirst to slake—
And the violet lay dead while the odour flew
On the wings of the wind o'er the waters blue—
As one who drinks from a charmed cup
Whom, a mighty Enchantress filling up,
The serpent is shut out from paradise.
The wounded deer must seek the herd no more
In which its heart-cure lies:
Fled in the April hour.
Of hatred I am proud,—with scorn content;
The miserable one
Therefore if now I see you seldomer,
Dear friends, dear friend! know that I only fly
Your looks because they stir
I scarce can bear; yet I,
When I return to my cold home, you ask
You spoil mo for the task
Of author, great or mean,
"She loves me, loves me not *."
And if this meant a vision long since fled—
If it meant fortune, fame, or peace of thought—
If it meant—but I dread
The crane o'er seas and forests seeks her home;
When it no more would roam;
And thus, at length, find rest:
I asked her, yesterday, if she believed
Would ne'er have thus relieved
These verses are too sad
O World 1 O life! 0 time!
Trembling at that where I had stood before;
Out of the day and night
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar. Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight No more—Oh, never more!
Nor happiness, nor majesty, nor fame,
DIRGE FOR THE YEAR.
Orphan hours, the year is dead.
Merry hours, smile instead,
See, it smiles as it is sleeping,
Mocking your untimely weeping.
As an earthquake rocks a corse
In its coffin in the clay,
Rocks the dead-cold year to-day;
As the wild air stirs and sways
So the breath of these rude days
Trembling hours; she will arise
With new love within her eyes.
January grey is here,
Like a sexton by her grave;
February bears the bier,
March with grief doth howl and rave.
And April weeps—but, 0 ye hours!
Follow with May's fairest flowers.
Mv task becomes Inexpressibly painful as the year draws near that which sealed our earthly late; and each poem and each event it records, has a real or mysterious connexion with the fatal catastrophe. I feel that I am incapable of putting on paper the history of those times. The heart of the man, abhorred of the poet,
Who could peep and botanize upon his mother's grave.
does not appear to me less inexplicably framed than that of one who can dissect and probe past woes, and repeat to the public ear the groans drawn from them in the throes of their agony.
The year 1821 was spent in Pisa, or at the baths of San Giuliano. We were not, as our wont had been, alone—friends had gathered round us. Nearly all are dead ; and when memory recurs to the past, she wanders among tombs : the genius with all his blighting errors and mighty powers; the companion of Shelley's ocean-wanderings, and the sharer of his fate, than whom no man ever existed more gentle, generous, and fearless ; and others, who found in Shelley's society, and in his great knowledge and warm sympathy, delight, instruction and solace, have joined him beyond the grave. A few survive who have felt life a desert since he left it. What misfortune can equal death'! Change can convert every other into a blessing, or heal its sting—death alone has no cure ; it shakes the foundations of the earth on which we tread, it destroys its beauty, it casts down our shelter, it exposes us bare to desolation; when those we love have passed into eternity, "life is the desert and the solitude," in which we are forced to linger— bat never find comfort more.
There is much in the Adonais which seems now more applicable to Shelley himself, than to the young and gifted poet whom he mourned. The poetic view he takes of death, and the lofty scorn he displays towards his calumniators, are as a
prophecy on his own destiny, when received among immortal names, and the poisonous breath of critics has vanished into emptiness before the fame he inherits.
Shelley's favourite taste was boating; when living near the Thames, or by the lake of Geneva, much of his life was spent on the water. On the shore of every lake, or stream, or sea, near which he dwelt, he had a boat moored. He had latterly enjoyed this pleasure again. There are no pleasure-boats on the Arno, and the shallowness of its waters except in winter time, when the stream is too turbid and impetuous for boating, rendered it difficult to get any skiff light enough to float. Shelley, however, overcame the difficulty; he, together with a friend, contrived a boat such as the huntsmen carry about with them in the Maremma, to cross the sluggish but deep streams that intersect the forests, a boat of laths and pitched canvas; it held three persons, and he was often seen on the Arno in it, to the horror of the Italians, who remonstrated on the danger, and could not understand how any one could take pleasure in an exorcise that risked life. '" Ma va per la vita !" they exclaimed. I little thought how true their words would prove. He once ventured with a friend, on the glassy sea of a calm day, down the Arno and round the coast, to Leghorn, which by keeping close in shore was very practicable. They returned to Pisa by the canal, when, missing the direct cut, they got entangled among weeds, and the boat upset; a wetting was all the harm done, except that the intense cold of his drenched clothes made Shelley faint. Once I went down with him to the mouth of the Arno, where the stream, then high and swift, met the tideless sea and disturbed its sluggish waters ; it was a waste and dreary scene ; the desert sand stretched into a point surrounded by waves that broke idly though perpetually around ; it was a scene very similar to Lido, of which he had said,—
I love all waste
Our little boat was of greater use, unaccompanied by any danger, when wo removed to the baths. Some friends lived at the village of Pugnano, four miles off, and we went to and fro to see them, in our boat, by the canal; which, fed by the Serchio,was, though an artificial, a full and picturesque stream, making its way under verdant banks sheltered, by trees that dipped their boughs into the murmuring waters. By day, multitudes of ephemera darted to and fro on the surface ; at night, the fire-flies came out among the shrubs on the banks; the cicale at noon day kept up their hum ; the aziola cooed in the quiet evening. It was a pleasant summer, bright in all but Shelley's health and inconstant spirits ; yet he enjoyed himself greatly, and became more and more attached to the part of the country where chance appeared to cast us. Sometimes he projected taking a farm, situated on the height of one of the near hills, surrounded by chesnut and pine woods, and overlooking a wide extent of country ; or of settling still further in the maritime Apennines, at Massa. Several of his slighter and unfinished poems were inspired by these scenes, and by the companions around us. It is the nature of that poetry however which overflows from the soul oftencr to express sorrow and regret than joy ; for it is when oppressed by the weight of life, and away from those he loves, that the poet has recourse to the solace of expression in verse.
Still Shelley's passion was the ocean ; and he wished that our summers, instead of being passed among the hills near Pisa, should be spent on the
shores of the sea. It was very difficult to find a spot. We shrank from Naples from a fear that the heats would disagree with Percy; Leghorn had lost its only attraction, since our friends who had resided there were returned to England; and Monte Nero being the resort of many English, we did not wish to find ourselves in the midst of a colony of chance travellers. No one then thought it possible to reside at Via Reggio, which latterly has become a summer resort. The low lands and bad air of Maremma stretch the whole length of the western shoresof the Mediterranean, till broken by the rocks and hills of Spezia. It was a vague idea; but Shelley suggested an excursion to Spezia, to see whether it would be feasible to spend a summer there. The beauty of the bay enchanted him—we saw no house to suit us—but the notion took root, and many circumstances, enchained as by fatality, occurred to urge him to execute it.
He looked forward this autumn with great pleasure to the prospect of a visit from Leigh Hunt. When Shelley visited Lord Byron at Ravenna, the latter had suggested his coming out, together with the plan of a periodical work, in which they should all join. Shelley saw a prospect of good for the fortunes of his friend, and pleasure in his society, and instantly exerted himself to have the plan executed. He did not intend himself joining in the work; partly from pride, not wishing to have the air of acquiring readers for his poetry by associating it with the compositions of more popular writers ; and, also, because he might feel shackled in the free expression of his opinions, if any friends were to be compromised; by those opinions, carried even to their utmost extent, he wished to live and die, as being in his conviction not only true, but such as alone would conduce to the moral improvement and happiness of mankind. The sale of the work might, meanwhile, either really or supposedly, be injured by the free expression of his thoughts, and this evil he resolved to avoid.