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rules the most absurd ;—so much for Theocritus and the Greeks.*
In spite of all your arguments, I wish your money were out of the funds. This middle course which you speak of, and which may probably have place, will amount to your losing not all your income, nor retaining all, hut have the half taken away. I feel intimately persuaded, whatever political forms may have place in England, that no party can continue many years, perhaps not many months, in the administration, without diminishing the interest of the national debt— And once having commenced—and having done so safely—where will it end?
Give Henry my kindest thanks for his most interesting letter, and bid him expect one from me by the next post.
Mary and the babe continue well.—Last night we had a magnificent thunder storm, with claps that shook the house like an earthquake. Both Mary and C unite with me in kindest remembrances to all.
Most faithfully yours obliged,
P. B. S.
Florence, Nott. 16tt, 1819.
* I subjoin here a fragment of a letter, I know not to whom addressed: It ifl to a woman—which shows how, worshipping as Shelley did the spirit of the literature of ancient Greece, he considered that this could be found only in its original language, and did not consider that time wasted which a person who had pretensions, intellectual culture, and enthusiasm, spent in acquiring them.
"It is probable that you will be earnest to employ the sacred talisman of language. To acquire these you are now necessitated to sacrifice many hours of the time, when, instead of being conversant with particles and verbs, your nature incites you to contemplation and inquiry concerning the objects which they conceal. You desire to enjoy the beauties of eloquence and poetry—to sympathise in the original language with the inBtitutora and martyrs of ancient freedom. The generous and inspiriting examples of philosophy and virtue, you desire intimately to know and feel; not as mere facts detailing names, and dates, and motions of the human body, but clothed in the very language of the actors,—that language dictated by and expressive of the passions and principles that governed their conduct. Facts are not what we want to know in poetry, in history, in the lives of individual men, in satire, or panegyric They are the mere divisions, the arbitrary points on which we hang, and to which we refer those delicate and evanescent hues of mind, which language delights and instructs us in precise proportion as it expresses. What is a translation of Homer into English? A person who is ignorant of Greek, need only look at Paradise Lost, or the tragedy of Lear translated into French, to obtain an analogical conception of its worthless and miserable inadequacy. Tacitus, or Livius, or Herodotus, are equally undelightful and unlnstructive in translation. You require to know and to be intimate with those persons who have acted a distinguished part to benefit, to enlighten, or even to pervert and injure humankind. Before you can do this, four years are yet to be consumed in the discipline of the ancient languages, and those of modern Europe, which you only imperfectly know, and which conceal from your intimacy such names Rj Ariosto, Tasso, Petrarch, and Macchiavelli; or Goethe, Schiller, Wieland, ate The French language you, like every other respectable woman, already know; and if the
To HENRY REYELET, Ea>
My Drab HefBT,—I was exceedufb sr^r by your letter, and I cannot but unci n -■ overcoming the inaptitude of a long diss i: request, for my pleasure. It is > pi C done, the successful casting of the crkfe-; it be a happy auspice for what is to fejs hope, in a few posts, to remit the necesa.-; for the completion. Meanwhile, at r. portions of the work which can be issr expense, saving time in their progress! I' think you lose much money or time by it- i
All that you say of the alteration in i± i the boat strikes me, though one of lis osr. in this, respect, as improvement- I 1«»•' aboard her, and be an unworthy partite: • glory of the astonishment of the Ijtotbx '• she returns from her cruise rcasd S-^ When do you think she will be fit fa set!
Your volcanic description of the fciri *: cylinder is very ch&racterisuc of you, is. * • One might imagine God, when he made^-*and saw the granite mountains and is?
great name of Rousseau did not redeem it, it *&been perhaps as well that you bad raosoel crignorant of it"
* I insert the extract alluded to fron Hi «"*
'< The event is now past—both the steam cp*^ air-pump were oast at three o'clock ttoi iftaw two o'clock this morning I repaired to tit oil -*J the preliminary operations, upon whicn ui'
success of a fount greatly depends, wen
taenia tcrculorum. I am now g
montories flow into their craggy forms, and the splendour of their fusion Ailing millions of miles of the void space, like the tail of a comet, so looking, Bo delighting in his work. God gees his machine spinning round the sun, and delights in its success, and has taken out patents to supply all the suns in space with the same manufacture. Your boat will be to the ocean of water, what this earth is to the ocean of other—a prosperous and swift royager.
When shall we see you all! You not, I suppose, till your boat is ready to sail—and then, if not before, I must, of course, come to Livorno. Our plans for the winter are yet scarcely denned; they tend towards our spending February and March at Pisa, where our communications will not
be so distant, nor so epistolary. C left us a
week ago, not without many lamentations, as all true lovers pay on such occasions. He is to write me an account of the Trieste steam-boat, which I will transmit to you.
Mrs. Shelley, and Miss C return you their
kindest salutations, with interest.
Most affectionately yours,
To LEIGH HUNT, Exj.
Florence, Kov. S3,181ft
Mt Dear Hdict,—Why don't you write to us? I was preparing to send you something for your "Indicator," but I have been a drone instead of a bee in this business, thinking that perhaps, as you did not acknowledge any of my late enclosures, it would not be welcome to you, whatever I might send.
What a state England is in 1 But you will never write politics. I don't wonder ; but I wish, then, that you would write a paper in the "Examiner" on the actual state of the country, and what, under all circumstances of the conflicting passions and interests of men, we are to expect. Not what we ought to expect, nor what, if so and so were to happen, we might expect;—but what, aa things are, there is reason to believe will come; —and send it me for my information. Every word a man has to say is valuable to the public now; and thus you will at once gratify your friend, nay, instruct, and either exhilarate him, or force him to be resigned, and awaken the minds of the people.
I have no spirits to write what I do not know whether you will care much about; I know well that if I were in great misery, poverty, &c, you would think of nothing else but how to amuse and relieve me. You omit me if I am prosperous.
I could laugh, if I found a joke, in order to put
you in good-humour with me after my scolding; in good humour enough to write to us. • • • Affectionate love to and from all. This ought not only to be the Vale of a letter, but a superscription over the gate of life.
Your sincere friend,
P. B. Shelley. I send you a sonnet. I don't expect you to publish it, but you nay show it to whom you please.
Florence, November, 181ft
Mr Dear Friend,—Two letters, both bearing date Oct. 20, arrive on the same day; one is always glad of twins.
We hear of a box arrived at Genoa with books and clothes; it must be yours. Meanwhile the babe is wrapt in flannel petticoats, and we get on with him as we can. He is small, healthy, and pretty. Mary is recovering rapidly. Marianne, I hope, is quite well.
You do not tell me whether you have received my lines on the Manchester affair. They are of the exoteric species, and are meant, not for the ■ Indicator," but the " Examiner." I would send for the former, if you like, some letters on such subjects of art as suggest themselves in Italy. Perhaps I will, at a venture, send you a specimen of what I mean next post. I enclose you in this a piece for the " Examiner," or let it share the fate, whatever that fate may be, of the "Masque of Anarchy."*
I am sorry to hear that you have pmployed yourself in translating the " Aminta," though I doubt not it will be a just and beautiful translation. You ought to write Amintas. You ought to exercise your fancy in the perpetual creation of new forms of gentleness and beauty.
With respect to translation, even / will not be seduced by it; although the Greek plays, and some of the ideal dramas of Calderon, (with which I have lately, and with inexpressible wonder and delight, become acquainted) are perpetually tempting me to throw over their perfect and glowing forms the grey veil of my own words. And you know me too well to suspect that I refrain from a belief that what I could substitute for them would deserve the regret which yours would, if suppressed. I have confidence in my moral sense alone ; but that is a land of originality. I have only translated the Cyclops of Euripides, when I could absolutely do nothing else; and the Symposium of
* Peter Bell the Third.
Plato, which is the delight and astonishment of all who read it; I mean the original, or so much of the original as is seen in my translation, not the translation itself.
I think I hare had an accession of strength Bince my residence in Italy, though the disease itself in the side, whatever it may be, is not subdued. Some day we shall all return from Italy. I fear that in England things will be carried violently by the rulers, and they will not have learned to yield in time to the spirit of the age. The great thing to do is to hold the balance between popular impatience and tyrannical obstinacy; to inculcate with fervour both the right of resistance and the duty of forbearance. You know my principles incite me to take all the good I can get in politics, for ever aspiring to something more. I am one of those whom nothing will fully satisfy, but who are ready to be partially satisfied in all that is practicable. We shall see.
Give Bessy a thousand thanks from me for writing out in that pretty neat hand your kind and powerful defence. Ask what she would like best from Italian land. We mean to bring you all something; and Mary and I have been wondering what it shall be. Do you, each of you, choose.
Adieu, my dear friend.
Yours affectionately ever,
P. B. S.
long time—ready for any stormy cruise. »~fc?E will the ship be ready to sail? We hare brea feeding ourselves with the hope that Mr. Gisborot and your mother would have paid as ihe* promised visit. I did not even hope, perhaps not even wish, that you should, until the engine » finished. My regret at this failure has arreral times impelled me to go to Leghorn—bm 1 bare always resisted the temptation. Ask them, eatreu them, from me, to appoint some early day. Ws have a bed and room, and everything preparei
I write in great haste, as you may see. Evw believe me, my dear Henry, your attached fnai,
Florence, 18« Dec. 1819. My Dear Henry,—You see, as I said, it only amounts to delay, all this abominable entanglement I send you 484 dollars, or ordinary franccsconi, I suppose, but you will tell me what you receive in Tuscan money, if they are not—the produce of £100. So my heart is a little lightened, which, I assure you, was heavy enough until this moment, on your account. I write to Messrs. Ward to pay you.
I have received no satisfactory letter from my bankers, but I must expect it every week—or, at least, in a month from this date, when I will not fail to transmit you the remainder of what may be necessary.
Everybody here is talking of a steam-ship which is building at Leghorn; one person said, as if he knew the whole affair, that he was waiting in Tuscany to take his departure to Naples in it. Your name has not, to my knowledge, been mentioned. I think you would do well to encourage this publicity.
I have better health tlian I havo known for a
Florence, D?c. 23d, Igli Mr Dear Friends,—I suffered more pain tan it would be manly to confess, or than von en easily conceive, from that wretched uncemiEtj about the money. At last, however, it is certai that you will encounter no further check in tix receiving supplies, and a weight is taken from Bit spirits, which, in spite of many other causes cV discomfort, makes itself known to have been a heavy load, by the lightness which I now fed U, writing to you.
So the steamboat will take three months to finish! The vernal equinox will be over by that time, and the early wakening of the vear bar,paved the Mediterranean with calm." Amooother circumstances to regret in this delav, it » so far well that our first cruise will be made m serene weather.
I send you enclosed a mandate for 3£W francesconi, which is what M. Torlonia incorrertlv designates a hundred pounds—but as we eoan't in the money of the country, that Deed make no difference to us.
I have just finished an additional act to "Prometheus," which Mary is now traflscribnic, and which will be enclosed for your inspection' before it is transmitted to the bookseller. I »c engaged in a political work—I am busy encash and if the faculties of my mind were not im-' prisoned within a mind, whose bars are dailv cares and vulgar difficulties, I might yet do sonxs thing—but as it ia—
Mary is well-but for this affair in Lond.* 1
think her spirits would be good. What shall I_
what can I-what ought I to do! You c»na,«
picture to yourself my perplexity.
Adieu, my dear friends.
Ever yours, faithfully attached, P. B. S.
Mt Dear Sib,—We have suddenly taken the determination to avail ourselves of this lovely weather to approach you as far as Pisa. I need not assure you—unless my malady should violently return—you will see me at Leghorn.
We embark; and I promise myself the delight of the sky, the water, and the mountains. I must suffer at any rate, but I expect to suffer less in a boat than in a carriage. I have many things to say, which let me reserve till we meet.
I sympathise in all your good news, as I have done in your ill. Let Henry take caro of himself, and not, desiring to combine too many advantages, check the progress of his recovery, the greatest of aD.
Remember me affectionately to him and to Mrs. Gisborne, and accept for yourself my unalterable sentiments of regard. Meanwhile, eomider well yjur plant, which I only half understand.
Ever most faithfully yours,
Florence, SSth Jan., 1840.
ON SOME OP THE STATUES IN THE GALLERY
Of all that remains to us of Greek antiquity, this figure is perhaps the most consummate personification of loveliness, with regard to its countenance, as that of the Venus of the Tribune is with regard to its entire form of a woman. It is colossal: the size adds to its value ; because it allows the spectator the choice of a greater number of points of view, and affords him a more analytical one, in which to catch a greater number of the infinite modes of expression, of which any form approaching ideal beauty is necessarily composed. It is the figure of a mother in the act of sheltering, from some divine and inevitable peril, the last, we may imagine, of her surviving children.
The little creature, terrified, as we may conceive, at the strange destruction of all its kindred, has fled to its mother, and is hiding its head in the folds of her robe, and casting back one arm, as in a passionate appeal for defence, where it never before could have been sought in vain. She is clothed in a thin tunic of delicate woof; and her hair is fastened on her head into a knot probably by that mother whoso care will never fasten it
again. Niobe is enveloped in profuse drapery, a portion of which the left hand has gathered up, and is in the act of extending it over the child in the instinct of shielding her from what reason knows to be inevitable. The right (as the restorer has properly imagined), is drawing up her daughter to her ; and with that instinctive gesture, and by its gentle pressure, is encouraging the child to believe that it can give security. The countenance of Niobe is the consummation of feminine majesty and loveliness, beyond which the imagination scarcely doubts that it can conceive anything.
That masterpiece of the poetic harmony of marble expresses other feelings. There is embodied a sense of the inevitable and rapid destiny which is consummating around her, as if it were already over. It seems as if despair and beauty had combined, and produced nothing but the sublimity of grief. As the motions of the form expressed the instinctive sense of the possibility of protecting the child, and the accustomed and affectionate assurance that she would find an asylum within her arms, so reason and imagination speak in the countenance the certainty that no mortal defence is of avail. There is no terror in the countenance, only grief—deep, remediless grief. There is no anger :—of what avail is indignation against what is known to be omnipotent 1 There is no selfish shrinking from personal pain—there is no panic at supernatural agency—there is no adverting to herself as herself; the calamity is mightier than to leave scope for such emotions.
Everything is swallowed up in sorrow; she is all tears; her countenance, in assured expectation of the arrow piercing its last victim in her embrace, is fixed on her omnipotent enemy. The pathetic beauty of the expression of her tender, and inexhaustible, and unquenchable despair, is beyond the effect of any other sculpture. As soon as the arrow shall pierce her last tie upon earth, the fable that she was turned into stone, or dissolved into a fountain of tears, will be but a feeble emblem of the sadness of hopelessness, in which the few and evil years of her remaining life, we feel, must flow away.
It is diflicult to speak of the beauty of the countenance, or to make intelligible in words, from what such astonishing loveliness results.
The head, resting somewhat backward upon the full and flowing contour of the neck, is as in the act of watching an event momently to arrive. The hair is delicately divided on the forehead, and a gentle beauty gleams from the broad and clear forehead, over which its strings are drawn. Tho face is of an oval fulness, and the features conceived with the daring of a sense of power. In this respect it resembles the careless majesty which Nature stamps upon the rare masterpieces of her creation, harmonizing them as it were from the harmony of the spirit within. Yet all this not only consists with, but is the cause of, the subtlest delicacy of clear and tender beauty—the expression at once of innocence and sublimity of soul—of purity and strength—of all that which touches the most removed and divine of the chords that make music in our thoughts—of that which shakes with astonishment even the most superficial.
The head is of the highest beauty. It has a close helmet, from which the hair, delicately parted on the forehead, half escapes. The attitude gives entire effect to the perfect form of the neck, and to that full and beautiful moulding of the lower part of the face and mouth, which is in living beings the seat of the expression of a simplicity and integrity of nature. Her face, upraised to heaven, is animated with a profound, sweet, and impassioned melancholy, with an earnest, and fervid, and disinterested pleading against some vast and inevitable wrong. It is the joy and poetry of sorrow, making grief beautiful, and giving it that nameless feeling which, from the imperfection of language, we call pain, but which is not all pain, through a feeling which makes not only its possessor, but the spectator of it, prefer it to what is called pleasure, in which all is not pleasure. It is difficult to think that this head, though of the highest ideal beauty, is the head of Minerva, although the attributes and attitude of the lower part of the statue certainly suggest that idea. The Greeks rarely, in their representations of the characters of their gods,—unless we call the poetic enthusiasm of Apollo a mortal passion,—expressed the disturbance of human feeling; and here is deep and impassioned grief »nimitting a divine countenance. It is, indeed, divine. Wisdom (which Minerva may be supposed to emblem) is pleading earnestly with Power, — and invested with the expression of that grief, because it must ever plead so vainly. The drapery of the statue, the gentle beauty of the feet, and the grace of the attitude, are what may be seen in many other statues belonging to that astonishing era which produced it;—such a countenance is seen in few.
This statue happens to be placed on a pedestal, the subject of whose reliefs is in a spirit wholly the reverse. It was probably an altar to Bacchus— possibly a funeral urn. Under the festoons of fruits and flowers that grace the pedestal, the corners of which are ornamented with the skulls of goats, are sculptured some figures of Monads
under the inspiration of the god. Nothing can be conceived more wild and terrible than their gestures, touching, as they do, the verge of distortion, into which their fine limbs and lovely forms are thrown. There is nothing, however, that exceeds the possibility of nature, though it borders on the utmost line.
The tremendous spirit of superstition, aided by drunkenness, producing something beyond insanity, seems to have caught them in its whirlwinds, and to bear them over the earth, as the rapid volutions of a tempest have the ever-changing trunk of a waterspout, or as the torrent of a mountain river whirls the autumnal leaves resistlessly along in it* full eddies. The hair, loose and floating, seems caught in the tempest of their own tumulmotu motion ; their heads are thrown back, leaning with a strange delirium upon their necks, and looking up to heaven, whilst they totter and stumble even in the energy of their tempestuous dance.
One represents Agave with the head of Pentheo* in one hand, and in the other a great knife ; » second has a spear with its pine cone, which ni the Thyrsus; another dances with mad voluptuousness; the fourth is beating a kind of tambourine.
This was indeed a monstrous superstition, even in Greece, where it was alone capable of combining ideal beauty, and poetical and abstract enthusiasm, with the wild errors from which it sprung. Is Rome it had a more familiar, wicked, and dry appearance ; it was not suited to the severe and exact apprehensions of the Romans, and their strict morals were violated by it, and sustained s deep injury, little analogous to its effects upon the Greeks, who turned all things—superstition, prejudice, murder, madness—to beauty.
ON THE VENDS, CALLED AN1DTOMEVK,
She has just issued from the bath, and is yet animated with the enjoyment of it.
She seems all soft and mild enjoyment, and the curved lines of her fine limbs flow into each other with a never-ending sinuosity of sweetness. Her face expresses a breathless, yet passive and innocent voluptuousness, free from affectation. Her lips, without the sublimity of lofty and impetunn passion, the grandeur of enthusiastic imagination of the Apollo of the Capitol, or the union of both, like the Apollo Belvidere, have the tenderness o< arch, yet pure and affectionate, desire; and thr mode in which the ends of the mouth arc drawn in, yet lifted or half-opened, with the smile thai for ever circles round them, and the tremulous curve into which they are wrought by inextinguishable desire, and the tongue lying agauwt