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He grew dull, harsh, sly, unrefined,

As when he tramped beside the Otter."

In the death-hues of agony

Lambently flashing from a fish,
Now Peter felt amused to see
Shades like a rainbow's rise and flee,

Mixed with a certain hungry wish.?

1 A famous river in the new Atlantis of the Dynastophylic Pantisocratists.

3 Šee the description of the beautiful colours produced during the agonizing death of a number of trout, in the fourth part of a long poem in blank verse, published within a few years. That poem contains curious evidence of the gradual hardening of a strong but circumscribed sensibility, of the perversion of a penetrating but panic-stricken understanding. The author might have derived a lesson which he had probably forgotten from these sweet and sublime verses :

This lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,
Taught both by what she * shows and what con-

Never to blend our pleasure or our pride
With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels. +

* Nature.

+ At the end of the eighth book of The Excursion is an account of two young anglers “laden with their spoil”:

And, verily, the silent creatures made
A splendid sight, together thus exposed :
Dead--but not sullied or deformed by Death,

That seemed to pity what he could not spare. If this is the offence which Shelley meant to chastise (and I think it must be), stanza xxvi is quite hard enough upon it, without the note.-ED.

So in his Country's dying face

He looked—and lovely as she lay,
Seeking in vain his last embrace,
Wailing her own abandoned case,

With hardened sneer he turned away:

And coolly to his own soul said ;-

“Do you not think that we might make A poem on her when she's dead: Or, no—a thought is in my head

Her shroud for a new sheet I'll take.

XXIX. “My wife wants one.—Let who will bury

This mangled corpse! And I and you, My dearest Soul, will then make merry, As the Prince Regent did with Sherry,

Aye—and at last desert me too.”

And so his Soul would not be gay,

But moaned within him; like a fawn
Moaning within a cave, it lay
Wounded and wasting, day by day,

Till all its life of life was gone.

As troubled skies stain waters clear,

The storm in Peter's heart and mind
Now made his verses dark and queer:
They were the ghosts of what they were,

Shaking dim grave-clothes in the wind.

For he now raved enormous folly,

Of Baptisms, Sunday-schools, and Graves, 'Twould make George Colman melancholy, To have heard him, like a male Molly,

Chaunting those stupid staves.

Yet the Reviews, who heaped abuse

On Peter while he wrote for freedom,
So soon as in his song they spy,
The folly which soothes tyranny,

Praise him, for those who feed 'em.

“He was a man too great to scan ;-

A planet lost in truth's keen rays :-
His virtue, awful and prodigious;
He was the most sublime, religious,

Pure-minded Poet of these days.”

As soon as he read that, cried Peter,

“ Eureka! I have found the way
To make a better thing of metre
Than e'er was made by living creature

Up to this blessed day.”

Then Peter wrote odes to the Devil ;-

In one of which he meekly said: “ May Carnage and Slaughter, Thy niece and thy daughter, 1 The allusion is to a passage in Wordsworth's Thanksgiving Ode on the Battle of Waterloo :

... Almighty God !
But thy most dreaded instrument
In working out a pure intent
Is man arrayed for mutual slaughter :

Yea, Carnage is thy daughter. -ED.

May Rapine and Famine,
Thy gorge ever cramming,
Glut thee with living and dead !

“May death and damnation,

And consternation,
Flit up from hell with pure intent!

Slash them at Manchester,
Glasgow, Leeds and Chester;
Drench all with blood from Avon to Trent.


“Let thy body-guard yeomen

Hew down babes and women,
And laugh with bold triumph till Heaven be

When Moloch in Jewry

Munched children with fury,
It was thou, Devil, dining with pure intent.” 1

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The Devil now knew his proper cue.

Soon as he read the ode, he drove | It is curious to observe how often extremes meet. Cobbett and Peter use the same language for a different purpose : Peter is indeed a sort of metrical Cobbett. Cobbett is, however, more mischievous than Peter, because he pollutes a holy and now unconquerable cause with the principles of legitimate murder ; whilst the other only makes a bad one ridiculous and odious.

If either Peter or Cobbett should see this note, each will feel more indignation at being compared to the other than at any censure implied in the moral perversion laid to their charge.

To his friend Lord MacMurderchouse's,
A man of interest in both houses,

And said :-“ For money or for love,


“ Pray find some cure or sinecure;

To feed from the superfluous taxes, A friend of ours—a poet-fewer Have fluttered tamer to the lure Than he.” His lordship stands and racks


Stupid brains, while one might count

As many beads as he had boroughs,-
At length replies; from his mean front,
Like one who rubs out an account,

Smoothing away the unmeaning furrows :


“It happens fortunately, dear Sir,

I can. I hope I need require
No pledge from you, that he will stir
In our affairs ;-like Oliver,

That he'll be worthy of his hire.”

These words exchanged, the news sent off

To Peter, home the Devil hied, -
Took to his bed; he had no cough,
No doctor,—meat and drink enough,-

Yet that same night he died.

i Oliver, like Castles (see note at page 161), was a Government spy. He had been very prominent, two years before Peter Bell was published, in the Brandreth, Turner, and Ludlam case, which induced Shelley to write his Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte. See vol. i, page xlii. -ED.

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