Imágenes de páginas

And others, too, thought he was wise to see, In pain, and fear, and hate, something divine; In love and beauty—no divinity.— Now with a bitter smile, whose light did shine Like a fiend's hope upon his lips and eyne, He said, and the persuasion of that sneer Rallied his trembling comrades—" Is it mine To stand alone, when kings and soldiers fear A woman i Heaven has sent its other victim here."

"Were it not impious," said the King, " to break
Our holy oath!"—" Impious to keep it, say!"
Shrieked the exulting Priest:—" Slaves, to the
Bind her, and on my head the burthen lay [stake
Of her just torments :—at the Judgment Day
Will I stand up before the golden throne
Of Heaven, and cry, to thee I did betray
An infidel! but for me she would have known
Another moment's joy !—the glory be thine own."

They trembled, but replied not, nor obeyed,
Pausing in breathless silence. Cythna sprung
From her gigantic steed, who, like a shade
Chased by the winds, those vacant streets among
Fled tameless, as the brazen rein she flung
Upon his neck, and kissed his mooned brow.
A piteous sight, that one so fair and young,
The clasp of such a fearful death should woo
With smiles of tender joy as beamed from Cythna

The warm tears burst in spite of faith and fear,
From many a tremulous eye, but, like soft dews
Which feed spring's earliest buds, hung gathered

there, Frozen by doubt,—alas ! they could not choose But weep; for when her faint limbs did refuse To climb the pyre, upon the mutes she smiled; And with her eloquent gestures, and the hues Of her quick lips, even as a weary child Wins sleep from some fond nurse with its caresses



She won them, though unwilling, her to bind
Near me, among the stakes. When then had fled
One soft reproach that was most thrilling kind,
She smiled on me, and nothing then we said,
But each upon the other's countenance fed
Looks of insatiate love; the mighty veil
Which doth divide the living and the dead
Was almost rent, the world grew dim and pale,—
All light in Heaven or Earth beside our love did


Yet,—yet—one brief relapse, like the last beam
Of dying flames, the stainless air around
Hung silent and serene.—A blood-red gleam
Burst upwards, hurling fiercely from the ground
The globed smoke.—I beard the mighty sound
Of its uprise, like a tempestuous ocean;
And, through its chasms I saw, as in a swound,
The Tyrant's child fall without life or motion
Before his throne, subdued by some unseen

And is this death t The pyre has disappeared, The Pestilence, the Tyrant, and the throng; The flames grow silent—slowly there is heard The music of a breath-suspending song, Which, like the kiss of love when life is young, Steeps the faint eyes in darkness sweet and deep; With ever-changing notes it floats along, Till on my passive soul there seemed to creep A melody, like waves on wrinkled sands that leap.

The warm touch of a soft and tremulous hand Wakened me then ; lo, Cythna sate reclined Beside me, on the waved and golden sand Of a clear pool, upon a bank o'ertwined [wind With strange and star-bright flowers, which to the Breathed divine odour; high above, was spread The emerald heaven of trees of unknown kind, Whose moonlike blooms and bright fruit overhead A shadow, which was light, upon the waters shed.

And round about sloped many a lawny mountain With incense-bearing forests, and vast caves Of marble radiance to that mighty fountain; And where the flood its own bright margin laves, Their echoes talk with its eterual waves, Which, from the depths whose jagged caverns Their unreposing strife, it lifts and heaves, [breed Till through a chasm of hills they roll, and feed A river deep, which flies with smooth but arrowy speed.


As we sate gazing in a trance of wonder,
A boat approached, borne by the musical air
Along the waves, which sung and sparkled

Its rapid keel—a winged shape sate there,
A child with silver-shining wings, so fair,
That as her bark did through the waters glide,
The shadow of the lingering waves did wear
Light, as from starry beams ; from side to side,

While veering to the wind, her plumes the bark did guide.

xxi. The boat was one curved shell of hollow pearl, Almost translucent with the light divine Of her within; the prow and stern did curl, Horned on high, like the young moon supine, When, o'er dim twilight mountains dark with pine, It floats upon the sunset's sea of beams, Whose golden waves in many a purple line Fade fast, till, borne on sunlight's ebbing streams,

Dilating, on earth's verge the sunken meteor gleams.


Its keel has struck the sands beside our feet ;— Then Cythna turned to me, and from her eyes Which swam with unshed tears, a look more sweet Than happy love, a wild and glad surprise, Glanced as she spake : " Aye, this is Paradise And not a dream, and we are all united! Lo, that is mine own child, who, in the guise Of madness, came like day to one benighted In lonesome woods: my heart is now too well requited!"

And then she wept aloud, and in her arms Clasped that bright Shape, less marvellously fair Than her own human hues and living charms; Which, as she leaned in passion's silence there, Breathed warmth on the cold bosom of the air, Which seemed to blush and tremble with delight; The glossy darkness of her streaming hair Fell o'er that snowy child, and wrapt from sight The fond and long embrace which did their hearts unite.


Then the bright child, the plumed Seraph, came,
And fixed its blue and beaming eyes on mine,
And said, " I was disturbed by tremulous shame
When once we met, yet knew that I was thine
From the same hour in which thy lips divine
Kindled a clinging dream within my brain,
Which ever waked when I might sleep, to twine
Thine image with her memory dear—again
We meet; exempted now from mortal fear or pain.

« When the consuming flames had wrapt ye round,
The hope which I had cherished went away;
I fell in agony on the senseless ground,
And hid mine eyes in dust, and far astray
My mind was gone, when bright, like dawning day,
The Spectre of the Plague before me flew,
And breathed upon my lips, and seemed to say,
'They wait for thee, beloved !'—then I knew
The death-mark on my breast, and became calm

« It was the calm of love—for I was dying.
I saw the black and half-extinguished pyre
In its own grey and shrunken ashes lying;
The pitchy smoke of the departed fire
Still hung in many a hollow dome and spire
Above the towers, like night; beneath whose shade,
Awed by the ending of their own desire,
The armies stood ; a vacancy was made
In expectation's depth, and so they stood dismayed.

"The frightful silence of that altered mood,
The tortures of the dying clove alone,
TUJ one uprose among the multitude,
And said—' The flood of time is rolling on,
We stand upon its brink, whilst they are gone
To glide in peace down death's mysterious

Have ye done well! They moulder flesh and bone,
Whomighthave made this life's envenomed dream
A sweeter draught than ye will ever taste, I deem.

"' These perish as the good and great of yore
Have perished, and their murderers will repent.
Yes, vain and barren tears shall flow before
Yon smoke has faded from the firmament
Even for this cause, that ye, who must lament
The death of those that made this world so fair,
Cannot recall them now ; but then is lent
To man the wisdom of a high despair,
When such can die, and he live on and linger here.

"' Aye, ye may fear not now the Pestilence,
From fabled hell as by a charm withdrawn;
All power and faith must pass, since calmly hence
In pain and tire have unbelievers gone;
And ye must sadly turn away, and moan
In secret, to his home each one returning;
And to long ages shall this hour be known;
And slowly shall its memory, ever burning,

Fill this dark night of things with an eternal morning.

xxx. i' For me the world is grown too void and cold, Since hope pursues immortal destiny With steps thus slow—therefore shall ye behold How those who love, yet fear not, dare to die; Tell to your children this!' then suddenly He sheathed a dagger in his heart, and fell; My brain grew dark in death, and yet to me There came a murmur from the crowd to tell

Of deep and mighty change which suddenly befell.

■ Then suddenly I stood a winged Thought
Before the immortal Senate, and the seat
Of that star-shining spirit, whence is wrought
The strength of its dominion, good and great,
The better Genius of this world's estate.
His realm around one mighty Fane is spread,
Elysian islands bright and fortunate,
Calm dwellings of the free and happy dead,
Where I am sent to lead I" These winged words
she said,

And with the silence of her eloquent smile, Bade us embark in her divine canoe; Then at the helm we took our seat, the while Above her head those plumes of dazzling hue Into the winds' invisible stream she threw, Sitting beside the prow: like gossamer, On the swift breath of morn, the vessel flew O'er the bright whirlpools of that fountain fair. Whose shores receded fast, while we seemed lingering there;


Till down that mighty stream dark, calm, and fleet, Between a chasm of cedar mountains riven, Chased by the thronging winds, whose viewless feet As swift as twinkling beams, had, under Heaven, From woods and waves wild sounds and odours

driven, The boat flew visibly—three nights and days, Borne like a cloud through morn, and noon, and We sailed along the winding watery ways [even, Of the vast stream, a long and labyrinthine maze.

xxxiv. A scene of joy and wonder to behold That river's shapes and shadows changing ever. Where the broad sunrise filled with deepenmg gold Its whirlpools, where all hues didspread and quiver, And where melodious falls did burst and shiver Amongrocksclad with flowers, the foam and spray Sparkled like stars upon the sunny river, Or when the moonlight poured a holier day, One vast and glittering lake around green islands lay.

Morn, noon, and even, that boat of pearl outran The streams which bore it, like the arrowy cloud Of tempest, or the speedier thought of man, Which flieth forth and cannot make abode; Sometimes through forests, deep like night, we

glode, Between the walls of mighty mountains crowned With Cyclopean piles, whose turrets proud, The homes of the departed, dimly frowned O'er the bright waves which girt their dark foundations round.


Sometimes between the wide and flowering mea-
Mile after mile we sailed, and 'twas delight
To see far off the sunbeams chase the shadows
Over the grass; sometimes beneath the night
Of wide and vaulted caves, whose roofs were bright
With starry gems, we fled, whilst from their deep
And dark green chasms, shades beautiful and white,
Amid sweet sounds across our path would sweep
Like swift and lovely dreams that walk the waves
of sleep.

And ever as we sailed, our minds were full
Of love and wisdom, which would overflow
In converse wild, and sweet, and wonderful;
And in quick smiles whose light would come and
Like music o'er wide waves, and in the flow [go,
Of sudden tears, and in the mute caress—
For a deep shade was cleft, and we did know,
That virtue, though obscured on Earth, not less
Survives all mortal change in lasting loveliness.

Three days and nights we sailed, as thought and

feeling Number delightful hours—for through the sky The sphered lamps of day and night, revealing New changes and new glories, rolled on high,

Sun, Moon, and moonlike lamps, the progeny Of a diviner Heaven, serene and fair: On the fourth day, wild as a wind-wrought sea, The stream became, and fast and faster bare The spirit-winged boat, steadily speeding there.


Steadily and swift, where the waves rolled like

mountains Within the vast ravine, whose rifts did pour Tumultuous floods from their ten thousand founThe thunder of whose earth-uplifting roar [tains, Made the air sweep in whirlwinds from the shore, Calm as a shade, the boat of that fair child Securely fled, that rapid stress before, Amid the topmost spray, and sunbows wild, Wreathed in the silver mist: in joy and pride we


The torrent of that wide and raging river
Is passed, and our aerial speed suspended.
We look behind; a golden mist did quiver
When its wild surges with the lake were blended:
Our bark hung there, as one line suspended
Between two heavens, that windless wavelesslake;
Which four great cataracts from four vales,

attended By mists, aye feed, from rocks and clouds they And of that azure sea a silent refuge make, [break,

Motionless resting on the lake awhile,
I saw its marge of snow-bright mountains rear
Their peaks aloft, I saw each radiant isle,
And in the midst, afar, even like a sphere
Hung in one hollow sky, did there appear
The Temple of the Spirit; on the sound
Which issued thence,drawnnearerandmore near,
Like the swift moon this glorious earth around,

The charmed boat approached, and there its haven found.



Shelley possessed two remarkable qualities of intellect—a brilliant imagination and a logical exactness of reason. His inclinations led him (he fancied) almost alike to poetry and metaphysical discussions. I say " he fancied," because I believe the former to have been paramount, and that it would have gained the mastery even had he struggled against it. However, he said that he deliberated at one time whether he should dedicate himself to poetry or metaphysics, and resolving on the former, he educated himself for it, discarding in a great measure his philosophical pursuits, and engaging himself in the study of the poets of Greece, Italy, and England. To these may be added a constant perusal of portions of the Old Testament—the Psalms, the book of Job, the Prophet Isaiah, and others, the sublime poetry of which filled him with delight.

As a poet, his intellect and compositions were powerfully influenced by exterior circumstances, and especially by his place of abode. He was very fond of travelling, and ill health increased this restlessness. The sufferings occasioned by a cold English winter, made him pine, especially when our colder spring arrived, for a more genial climate. In 1816 he again visited Switzerland, and rented a house on the banks of the lake of Geneva ; and many a day, in cloud or sunshine, was passed alone in his boat—sailing as the wind listed, or weltering on the calm waters. The majestic aspect of nature ministered such thoughts as he afterwards enwove in verse. His lines on the Bridge of the Arve, and his Hymn to Intellectual Beauty, were written at this time. Perhaps during this summer his genius was checked by association with another poet whose nature was utterly dissimilar to his own, yet who, in the poem he wrote at that time, gave tokens that he shared for a period the more abstract and etherialised inspiration of Shelley. The saddest events awaited his return to England; but such was his fear to wound the feelings of others, that he never expressed the anguish he felt, and seldom gave vent to the indignation roused by the persecutions he underwent; while the course of deep unexpressed passion, and the sense of injury, engendered the desire to embody themselves in forms defecated of all the weakness and evil which cling to real life.

Heehose therefore for his hero a youth nourished in dreams of liberty, some of whose actions are in direct opposition to the opinions of the world ; but who is animated throughout by an ardent love of virtue, and a resolution to confer the boons of political and intellectual freedom on his fellowcreatures. He created for this youth a woman such as he delighted to imagine—full of enthusiasm for the same objects ; and they both, with will uovanquished and the deepest sense of the justice of their cause, met adversity and death. There exist* in this poem a memorial of a friend of his youth. The character of the old man who liberates Laos from his tower-prison, and tends on him in sickness, is founded on that of Doctor Lind, who, when Shelley was at Eton, had often stood by to befriend and support him, and whose name he never mentioned without love and veneration.

During the year 1817, we were established at Marlow, in Buckinghamshire. Shelley's choice of abode was fixed chiefly by this town being at Do great distance from London, and its neighbourhood to the Thames. The poem was written in his boat, as it floated under the beech groves of Bisham, or during wanderings in the neighbouring country, which is distinguished for peculiar beauty. The chalk hills break into cliffs that overhang the Thames, or form valleys clothed with beech ; the wilder portion of the country is rendered beautiful by exuberant vegetation ; and the cultivated part is peculiarly fertile. With all this wealth of nature which, either in the form of gentlemen's parks or soil dedicated to agriculture, flourishes around, Marlow was inhabited (I hope it is altered now) by a very poor population. The women are lacemakers, and lose their health by sedentary labour, for which they were very ill paid. The poor-laws ground to the dust not only the paupers, but those who had risen just above that state, and were obliged to pay poor-rates. The changes produced by peace following a long war, and a bad harvest, brought with them the most heart-rending evils to the poor. Shelley afforded what alleviation he could. In the winter, while bringing out his poem, he had a severe attack of ophthalmia, caught while visiting the poor cottages. I mention these things, —for this minute and active sympathy with bis fellow-creatures gives a thousand-fold interest to his speculations, and stamps with reality his pleadings for the human race.

The poem, bold in its opinions and uncompromising in their expression, met with many censurers, not only among those who allow of no virtue but such as supports the cause they espouse, but even among those whose opinions were similar to his own. I extract a portion of a letter written in answer to one of these friends ; it best details the impulses of Shelley's mind and his motives: it was written with entire unreserve; and is therefore a precious monument of his own opinion of his powers, of the purity of his designs, and the ardour with which he clung, in adversity and through the valley of the shadow of death, to views from which be believed the permanent happiness of mankind must eventually spring.

"MarloK, Dec. 11.1817. "I have read and considered all that you say about my general powers, and the particular instance of the Poem in which I have attempted to develop them. Nothing can be more satisfactory to me than the interest which your admonitions express. Bat I think yon are mistaken in some points with regard to the peculiar nature of my powers, whatever be their amount. I listened with deference and self-suspicion to your censures of' the Revolt of Islam ;' but the productions of mine which you commend hold a very low place in my own esteem; and this reassured me, in some degree at least. The poem was produced by a series of thoughts which filled my mind with unbounded and sustained enthusiasm. I felt the precariousness of my life, and I engaged in this task, resolved to leave some record of myself. Much of what the volume contains was written with the same feeling, as real, though not so prophetic, as the communications of i dying man. I never presumed indeed to consider it anything approaching to faultless; but

when I consider contemporary productions of the same apparent pretensions, I own I was filled with confidence. 1 felt that it was in many respects a genuine picture of my own mind. I felt that the sentiments were true, not assumed. And in this have I long believed that my power consists ; in sympathy and that part of the imagination which relates to sentiment and contemplation. I am formed, if for anything not in common with the herd of mankind, to apprehend minute and remote distinctions of feeling, whether relative to external nature or the living beings which surround us, and to communicate the conceptions which result from considering either the moral or the material universe as a wholo. Of course, I believe these faculties, which perhaps comprehend all that is sublime in man, to exist very imperfectly in my own mind. But when you advert to my chancery paper, a cold, forced, unimpassioned, insignificant piece of cramped and cautious argument; and to the little scrap about Mandeville, which expressed my feelings indeed, but cost scarcely two minutes' thought to express, as specimens of my powers, more favourable than that which grew as it were from ' the agony and bloody sweat' of intellectual travail; surely I must feel that in some manner, either I am mistaken in believing that I have any talent at all, or you in the selection of the specimens of it.

"Yet after all, I cannot but be conscious in much of what I write, of an absence of that tranquillity which is the attribute and accompaniment of power. This feeling alone would make your most kind and wise admonitions, on the subject of the economy of intellectual force, valuable to me. And if I live, or if I see any trust in coming years, doubt not but that I shall do something, whatever it may be, which a serious and earnest estimate of my powers will suggest to me, and which will be in every respect accommodated to their utmost limits."


« AnteriorContinuar »