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That time is dead for ever, child,
We look on the past,
And stare aghast At the spectres wailing, pale, and ghast, Of hopes which thou and I beguiled
To death on life's dark river.
I met a traveller from an antique land
The stream we gazed on then rolled by ; Its waves are unreturning ;
But we yet stand
In a lone land, Like tombs to mark the memory Of hopes and fears, which fade and flee
In the light of life's dim morning. November 5th, 1817.
NOTE ON POEMS OF 1817.
BY THE EDITOR.
The very illness that oppressed, and the aspect And then again this melancholy trace of the sad of death which had approached so near Shelley, thronging thoughts, which were the well whence appears to have kindled to yet keener life the he drew the idea of Athanase, and express the Spirit of Poetry in his heart. The restless thoughts restless, passion-fraught emotions of one whose kept awake by pain clothed themselves in verse. sensibility, kindled to too intense a life, perpetually Much was composed during this year. The preyed upon itself : “ Revolt of Islam,” written and printed, was a
To thirst and find no fill-to wail and wander great effort_“ Rosalind and Helen” was begun
With short unsteady steps-to pause and ponder-and the fragments and poems I can trace to the To feel the blood run through the veins and tingle same period, show how full of passion and reflec Where busy thought and blind sensation mingle; tion were his solitary hours.
To nurse the image of unfelt caresses
Till dim imagination just possesses In addition to such poems as have an intelligible The half created shadow. aim and shape, many a stray idea and transitory emotion found imperfect and abrupt expression,
In the next page I find a calmer sentiment, better
fitted to sustain one whose whole being was love: and then again lost themselves in silence. As he never wandered without a book, and without im Wealth and dominion fade into the mass plements of writing, I find many such in his Of the great sea of human right and wrong, manuscript books, that scarcely bear record ;
When once from our possession they must pass; while some of them, broken and vague as they are,
But love, though misdirected, is among
The things which are immortal, and surpass will appear valuable to those who love Shelley's
All that frail stuff which will be-or which was. mind, and desire to trace its workings. Thus in the same book that addresses “Constantia, Sirging,” In another book, which contains some passionate I find these lines :
outbreaks with regard to the great injustice that My spirit like a charmed bark doth swim
he endured this year, the poet writes : Upon the liquid waves of thy sweet singing,
My thoughts arise and fade in solitude, Far away into the regions dim
The verse that would invest them melts away
Like moonlight in the heaven of spreading day:
How beautiful they were, how firm they stood,
Flecking the starry sky like woven pearl !
He had this year also projected a poem on Unless Love feeds upon its own sweet self,
the subject of Otho, inspired by the pages Till it becomes all music murmurs of.
Tacitus. I find one or two stanzas only, which
were to open the subject:-
Thou wert not, Cassius, and thou couldst not be, Softest grave of a thousand fears,
Last of the Romans, though thy memory claim
From Brutus his own glory-and on thee
Rests the full splendour of his sacred fame;
Nor he who dared make the foul tyrant quail,
constant study ; he read a great portion of it aloud Amid his cowering senate with thy name,
in the evening. Among these evening readings, Though thou and he were great-it will avail
I find also mentioned the Fairy Queen, and other To thine own fame that Otho's should not fail.
modern works, the production of his contem'Twill wrong thee not-thou wouldst, if thou couldst feel, Abjure such envious fame-great Otho died
poraries, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Moore, and Like thee-he sanctified his country's steel,
His life was now spent more in thought than Tears from all men--though full of gentle pride, action—he had lost the eager spirit which believed Such pride as from impetuous love may spring,
it could achieve what it projected for the benefit That will not be refused its offering.
of mankind. And yet in the converse of daily I insert here also the fragment of a song, though
life Shelley was far from being a melancholy
He was eloquent when philosophy, or I do not know the date when it was written,- but it was early :
politics, or taste, were the subjects of conver
sation. He was playful—and indulged in the wild TO
spirit that mocked itself and others—not in bitterYet look on me-take not thine eyes away, Which feed upon the love within mine own,
ness, but in sport. The Author of “ Nightmare Which is indeed but the reflected ray
Abbey" seized on some points of his character and Of thine own beauty from my spirit thrown.
some habits of his life when he painted Scythrop. Yet speak to me-thy voice is as the tone
He was not addicted to “port or madeira,” but Of my heart's echo, and I think I hear
in youth he had read of “ Illuminati and EleuThat thou yet lovest me ; yet thou alone
therachs,” and believed that he possessed the Like one before a mirror, without care
power of operating an immediate change in the Of aught but thine own features, imaged there ; minds of men and the state of society. These And yet I wear out life in watching thee;
wild dreams had faded ; sorrow and adversity had A toil so sweet at times, and thou indeed
struck home ; but he struggled with despondency Art kind when I am sick, and pity me.
as he did with physical pain. There are few who He projected also translating the Hymns of remember him sailing paper boats, and watching Homer; his version of several of the shorter ones the navigation of his tiny craft with eagernessremain, as well as that to Mercury, already or repeating with wild energy the “ Ancient published in the Posthumous Poems. His readings Mariner,” and Southey's “Old Woman of this year were chiefly Greek. Besides the Hymns Berkeley,”_but those who do, will recollect that of Homer and the Iliad, he read the Dramas of it was in such, and in the creations of his own Æschylus and Sophocles, the Symposium of Plato, fancy, when that was most daring and ideal, that and Arrian’s Historia Indica. In Latin, Apuleius he sheltered himself from the storms and disapalone is named. In English, the Bible was his pointments, the pain and sorrow, that beset his life.
POEMS WRITTEN IN MDCCCXVIII.
ROSALIND AND HELEN.
I do not know which of the few scattered poems I
left in England will be selected by my bookseller to ROSALIND AND HELEN, AND LINES WRITTEN AMONG
add to this collection. One, which I sent from Italy, was THE EUGANEAN HILLS.
written after a day'sexcursion among those lovely moun
tains which surround wbat was once the retreat, and where The story of Rosalind and Helen ir, undoubtedly,
is now the sepulchre, of Petrarch. If any one is inclined not an attempt in the highest style of poetry. It is in
to condemn the insertion of the introductory lines, which no degree calculated to excite profound meditation; image forth the sudden relief of a state of deep desand if, by interesting the affections and amusing the
pondency by the radiant visions disclosed by the sudden imagination, it awaken a certain ideal melancholy
burst of an Italian sunrise in autumn, on the highest favourable to the reception of more important impres- peak of those delightful mountains, I can only offer as sions, it will produce in the reader all that the writer
my excuse, that they were not erased at the request experienced in the composition. I resigned myself,
of a dear friend, with whom added years of intercourse as I wrote, to the impulse of the feelings which moulded
only add to my apprehension of its value, and who the conception of the story; and this impulse deter
would have had more right than any one to complain, mined the pauses of a measure, which only pretends
that she has not been able to extinguish in me the to be regular, inasmuch as it corresponds with, and
very power of delineating sadness. expresses, the irregularity of the imaginations wbich inspired it.
NAPLES, Dec. 20, 1818.
SCENE.--The Shore of the Lake of Como.
ROSALIND, HELEN, and her Child.
Those heathy paths, that inland stream,
Is it a dream, or do I see
Nor ever did I love thee less,
And the grey shades of evening Though mourning o'er thy wickedness
O'er that green wilderness did fling Even with a sister's woe. I knew
Still deeper solitude. What to the evil world is due,
Pursuing still the path that wound And therefore sternly did refuse
The vast and knotted trees around, To link me with the infamy
Through which slow shades were wandering, Of one so lost as Helen. Now
To a deep lawny dell they came, Bewildered by my dire despair,
To a stone seat beside a spring, Wondering I blush and weep that thou
O’er which the columned wood did frame Shouldst love me still,—thou only !—There, A roofless temple, like the fane Let us sit on that grey stone,
Where, ere new creeds could faith obtain, Till our mournful talk be done.
Man's early race once knelt beneath
The overhanging deity.
O'er this fair fountain hung the sky,
Now spangled with rare stars. The snake, The murmur of this lake to hear.
The pale snake, that with eager breath A sound from thee, Rosalind dear,
Creeps here his noontide thirst to slake, Which never yet I heard elsewhere
Is beaming with many a mingled hue, But in our native land, recurs,
Shed from yon dome's eternal blue, Even here where now we meet. It stirs
When he floats on that dark and lucid flood Too much of suffocating sorrow !
In the light of his own loveliness ; In the dell of yon dark chesnut wood
And the birds that in the fountain dip Is a stone seat, a solitude
Their plumes with fearless fellowship Less like our own. The ghost of peace
Above and round him wheel and hover. Will not desert this spot. To-morrow,
The fitful wind is heard to stir If thy kind feelings should not cease,
One solitary leaf on high ;
The chirping of the grasshopper
In all that dwells at noontide here :
Then, through the intricate wild wood,
A maze of life and light and motion
Is woven. But there is stillness now;
Gloom, and the trance of Nature now:
The snake is in his cave asleep ;
Only the glow-worm is gleaming ;
Wake in this dell when day-light fails,
And grey shades gather in the woods ;
And the owls have all fled far away
In a merrier glen to hoot and play,
The accustomed nightingale still broods
I do not know : On her accustomed bough, But it might break any one's heart to see
But she is mute; for her false mate You and the lady cry so bitterly.
Has fled and left her desolate.
This silent spot tradition old It is a gentle child, my frier.d.
Had peopled with the spectral dead. Henry, and play with Lilla till I come.
For the roots of the speaker's hair felt cold We only cried with joy to see each other ; And stiff, as with tremulous lips he told We are quite merry now-Good night.
That a hellish shape at midnight led
The ghost of a youth with hoary hair,
And sate on the seat beside him there,
Till a naked child came wandering by, And in the gleam of forced and hollow joy
When the fiend would change to a lady fair !
For here a sister and a brother
For beneath yon very sky,
Tracking them to the secret wood,
Tore limb from limb their innocent child, In silence then they took the way
And stabbed and trampled on its mother ; Beneath the forest's solitude.
But the youth, for God's most holy grace, It was a vast and antique wood,
A priest saved to burn in the market-place. Through which they took their way ;