PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY
INCLUDING MATERIALS NEVER BEFORE PRINTED IN ANY EDITION OF THE POEMS.
EDITED WITH TEXTUAL NOTES
THOMAS HUTCHINSON, M. A. EDITOR OF THE OXFORD WORDSWORTH.
This edition of his "Poetical Works" contains all Shelley's ascertained poems and fragments of verse that have hitherto appeared in print. In preparing the volume I have worked as far as possible on the principle of recognizing the editio princeps as the primary textual authority. I have not been content to reprint Mrs. Shelley's recension of 1839, or that of any subsequent editor of the "Poems". The present text is the result of a fresh collation of the early editions; and in every material instance of departure from the wording of those originals the rejected reading has been subjoined in a footnote. Again, wherever—as in the case of "Julian and Maddalo"—there has appeared to be good reason for superseding the authority of the editio princeps, the fact is announced, and the substituted exemplar indicated, in the Prefatory Note. in the case of a few pieces extant in two or more versions of debatable authority the alternative text or texts will be found at the [end] of the [relevant work]; but it may be said once for all that this does not pretend to be a variorum edition, in the proper sense of the term—the textual apparatus does not claim to be exhaustive. Thus I have not thought it necessary to cumber the footnotes with every minute grammatical correction introduced by Mrs. Shelley, apparently on her own authority, into the texts of 1839; nor has it come within the scheme of this edition to record every conjectural emendation adopted or proposed by Rossetti and others in recent times. But it is hoped that, up to and including the editions of 1839 at least, no important variation of the text has been overlooked. Whenever a reading has been adopted on manuscript authority, a reference to the particular source has been added below.
I have been chary of gratuitous interference with the punctuation of the manuscripts and early editions; in this direction, however, some revision was indispensable. Even in his most carefully finished "fair copy" Shelley under-punctuates (Thus in the exquisite autograph "Hunt MS." of "Julian and Maddalo", Mr. Buxton Forman, the most conservative of editors, finds it necessary to supplement Shelley's punctuation in no fewer than ninety-four places.), and sometimes punctuates capriciously. In the very act of transcribing his mind was apt to stray from the work in hand to higher things; he would lose himself in contemplating those airy abstractions and lofty visions of which alone he greatly cared to sing, to the neglect and detriment of the merely external and formal element of his song. Shelley recked little of the jots and tittles of literary craftsmanship; he committed many a small sin against the rules of grammar, and certainly paid but a halting attention to the nice distinctions of punctuation. Thus in the early editions a comma occasionally plays the part of a semicolon; colons and semicolons seem to be employed interchangeably; a semicolon almost invariably appears where nowadays we should employ the dash; and, lastly, the dash itself becomes a point of all work, replacing indifferently commas, colons, semicolons or periods. Inadequate and sometimes haphazard as it is, however, Shelley's punctuation, so far as it goes, is of great value as an index to his metrical, or at times, it may be, to his rhetorical intention—for, in Shelley's hands, punctuation serves rather to mark the rhythmical pause and onflow of the verse, or to secure some declamatory effect, than to indicate the structure or elucidate the sense. For this reason the original pointing has been retained, save where it tends to obscure or pervert the poet's meaning. Amongst the Editor's Notes at the end of the Volume 3 the reader will find lists of the punctual variations in the longer poems, by means of which the supplementary points now added may be identified, and the original points, which in this edition have been deleted or else replaced by others, ascertained, in the order of their occurrence. In the use of capitals Shelley's practice has been followed, while an attempt has been made to reduce the number of his inconsistencies in this regard.
To have reproduced the spelling of the manuscripts would only have served to divert attention from Shelley's poetry to my own ingenuity in disgusting the reader according to the rules of editorial punctilio. (I adapt a phrase or two from the preface to "The Revolt of Islam".) Shelley was neither very accurate, nor always consistent, in his spelling. He was, to say the truth, indifferent about all such matters: indeed, to one absorbed in the spectacle of a world travailing for lack of the gospel of "Political Justice", the study of orthographical niceties must have seemed an occupation for Bedlamites. Again—as a distinguished critic and editor of Shelley, Professor Dowden, aptly observes in this connexion—'a great poet is not of an age, but for all time.' Irregular or antiquated forms such as 'recieve,' 'sacrifize,' 'tyger,' 'gulph,' 'desart,' 'falshood,' and the like, can only serve to distract the reader's attention, and mar his enjoyment of the verse. Accordingly Shelley's eccentricities in this kind have been discarded, and his spelling reversed in accordance with modern usage. All weak preterite-forms, whether indicatives or participles, have been printed with "ed" rather than "t", participial adjectives and substantives, such as 'past,' alone excepted. In the case of 'leap,' which has two preterite-forms, both employed by Shelley (See for an example of the longer form, the "Hymn to Mercury", 18 5, where 'leaped' rhymes with 'heaped' (line 1). The shorter form, rhyming to 'wept,' 'adapt,' etc., occurs more frequently.)—one with the long vowel of the present-form, the other with a vowel-change (Of course, wherever this vowel-shortening takes place, whether indicated by a corresponding change in the spelling or not, "t", not "ed" is properly used—'cleave,' 'cleft,'; 'deal,' 'dealt'; etc. The forms discarded under the general rule laid down above are such as 'wrackt,' 'prankt,' 'snatcht,' 'kist,' 'opprest,' etc.) like that of 'crept' from 'creep'—I have not hesitated to print the longer form 'leaped,' and the shorter (after Mr. Henry Sweet's example) 'lept,' in order clearly to indicate the pronunciation intended by Shelley. In the editions the two vowel-sounds are confounded under the one spelling, 'leapt.' In a few cases Shelley's spelling, though unusual or obsolete, has been retained. Thus in 'aethereal,' 'paean,' and one or two more words the "ae" will be found, and 'airy' still appears as 'aery'. Shelley seems to have uniformly written 'lightening': here the word is so printed whenever it is employed as a trisyllable; elsewhere the ordinary spelling has been adopted. (Not a little has been written about 'uprest' ("Revolt of Islam", 3 21 5), which has been described as a nonce-word deliberately coined by Shelley 'on no better warrant than the exigency of the rhyme.' There can be little doubt that 'uprest' is simply an overlooked misprint for 'uprist'—not by any means a nonce-word, but a genuine English verbal substantive of regular formation, familiar to many from its employment by Chaucer. True, the corresponding rhyme-words in the passage above referred to are 'nest,' 'possessed,' 'breast'; but a laxity such as 'nest'—'uprist' is quite in Shelley's manner. Thus in this very poem we find 'midst'—'shed'st' (6 16), 'mist'—'rest'—'blest' (5 58), 'loveliest'—'mist'—kissed'—'dressed' (5 53). Shelley may have first seen the word in "The Ancient Mariner"; but he employs it more correctly than Coleridge, who seems to have mistaken it for a preterite-form (='uprose') whereas in truth it serves either as the third person singular of the present (='upriseth'), or, as here, for the verbal substantive (='uprising').
The editor of Shelley to-day enters upon a goodly heritage, the accumulated gains of a series of distinguished predecessors. Mrs. Shelley's two editions of 1839 form the nucleus of the present volume, and her notes are here reprinted in full; but the arrangement of the poems differs to some extent from that followed by her—chiefly in respect of "Queen Mab", which is here placed at the head of the "Juvenilia", instead of at the forefront of the poems of Shelley's maturity. In 1862 a slender volume of poems and fragments, entitled "Relics of Shelley", was published by Dr. Richard Garnett, C.B.—a precious sheaf gleaned from the manuscripts preserved at Boscombe Manor. The "Relics" constitute a salvage second only in value to the "Posthumous Poems" of 1824. To the growing mass of Shelley's verse yet more material was added in 1870 by Mr. William Michael Rossetti, who edited for Moxon the "Complete Poetical Works" published in that year. To him we owe in particular a revised and greatly enlarged version of the fragmentary drama of "Charles I". But though not seldom successful in restoring the text, Mr. Rossetti pushed revision beyond the bounds of prudence, freely correcting grammatical errors, rectifying small inconsistencies in the sense, and too lightly adopting conjectural emendations on the grounds of rhyme or metre. In the course of an article published in the "Westminster Review" for July, 1870, Miss Mathilde Blind, with the aid of material furnished by Dr. Garnett, 'was enabled,' in the words of Mr. Buxton Forman, 'to supply omissions, make authoritative emendations, and controvert erroneous changes' in Mr. Rossetti's work; and in the more cautiously edited text of his later edition, published by Moxon in 1878, may be traced the influence of her strictures.
Six years later appeared a variorum edition in which for the first time Shelley's text was edited with scientific exactness of method, and with a due respect for the authority of the original editions. It would be difficult indeed to over-estimate the gains which have accrued to the lovers of Shelley from the strenuous labours of Mr. Harry Buxton Forman, C.B. He too has enlarged the body of Shelley's poetry (Mr. Forman's most notable addition is the second part of "The Daemon of the World", which he printed privately in 1876, and included in his Library Edition of the "Poetical Works" published in the same year. See the "List of Editions", etc. at the end of Volume 3.); but, important as his editions undoubtedly are, it may safely be affirmed that his services in this direction constitute the least part of what we owe him. He has vindicated the authenticity of the text in many places, while in many others he has succeeded, with the aid of manuscripts, in restoring it. His untiring industry in research, his wide bibliographical knowledge and experience, above all, his accuracy, as invariable as it is minute, have combined to make him, in the words of Professor Dowden, 'our chief living authority on all that relates to Shelley's writings.' His name stands securely linked for all time to Shelley's by a long series of notable words, including three successive editions (1876, 1882, 1892) of the Poems, an edition of the Prose Remains, as well as many minor publications—a Bibliography ("The Shelley Library", 1886)and several Facsimile Reprints of the early issues, edited for the Shelley Society.
To Professor Dowden, whose authoritative Biography of the poet, published in 1886, was followed in 1890 by an edition of the Poems (Macmillans), is due the addition of several pieces belonging to the juvenile period, incorporated by him in the pages of the "Life of Shelley". Professor Dowden has also been enabled, with the aid of the manuscripts placed in his hands, to correct the text of the "Juvenilia" in many places. In 1893 Professor George E. Woodberry edited a "Centenary Edition of the Complete Poetical Works", in which, to quote his own words, an attempt is made 'to summarize the labours of more than half a century on Shelley's text, and on his biography so far as the biography is bound up with the text.' In this Centenary edition the textual variations found in the Harvard College manuscripts, as well as those in the manuscripts belonging to Mr. Frederickson of Brooklyn, are fully recorded. Professor Woodberry's text is conservative on the whole, but his revision of the punctuation is drastic, and occasionally sacrifices melody to perspicuity.
In 1903 Mr. C.D. Locock published, in a quarto volume of seventy-five pages, the fruits of a careful scrutiny of the Shelley manuscripts now lodged in the Bodleian Library. Mr. Locock succeeded in recovering several inedited fragments of verse and prose. Amongst the poems chiefly concerned in the results of his "Examination" may be named "Marenghi", "Prince Athanase", "The Witch of Atlas", "To Constantia", the "Ode to Naples", and (last, not least) "Prometheus Unbound". Full use has been made in this edition of Mr. Locock's collations, and the fragments recovered and printed by him are included in the text. Variants derived from the Bodleian manuscripts are marked "B." in the footnotes.
On the state of the text generally, and the various quarters in which it lies open to conjectural emendation, I cannot do better than quote the following succinct and luminous account from a "Causerie" on the Shelley manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, contributed by Dr. Richard Garnett, C.B., to the columns of "The Speaker" of December 19, 1903:—
'From the textual point of view, Shelley's works may be divided into three classes—those published in his lifetime under his own direction; those also published in his lifetime, but in his absence from the press; and those published after his death. The first class includes "Queen Mab", "The Revolt of Islam", and "Alastor" with its appendages, published in England before his final departure for the continent; and "The Cenci" and "Adonais", printed under his own eye at Leghorn and Pisa respectively. Except for some provoking but corrigible misprints in "The Revolt of Islam" and one crucial passage in "Alastor", these poems afford little material for conjectural emendation; for the Alexandrines now and then left in the middle of stanzas in "The Revolt of Islam" must remain untouched, as proceeding not from the printer's carelessness but the author's. The second class, poems printed during Shelley's lifetime, but not under his immediate inspection, comprise "Prometheus Unbound" and "Rosalind and Helen", together with the pieces which accompanied them, "Epipsychidion", "Hellas", and "Swellfoot the Tyrant". The correction of the most important of these, the "Prometheus", was the least satisfactory. Shelley, though speaking plainly to the publisher, rather hints than expresses his dissatisfaction when writing to Gisborne, the corrector, but there is a pretty clear hint when on a subsequent occasion he says to him, "I have received 'Hellas', which is prettily printed, and with fewer mistakes than any poem I ever published." This also was probably not without influence on his determination to have "The Cenci" and "Adonais" printed in Italy...Of the third class of Shelley's writings—those which were first published after his death—sufficient facsimiles have been published to prove that Trelawny's graphic description of the chaotic state of most of them was really in no respect exaggerated...The difficulty is much augmented by the fact that these pieces are rarely consecutive, but literally disiecti membra poetae, scattered through various notebooks in a way to require piecing together as well as deciphering. The editors of the Posthumous Poems, moreover, though diligent according to their light, were neither endowed with remarkable acumen nor possessed of the wide knowledge requisite for the full intelligence of so erudite a poet as Shelley, hence the perpetration of numerous mistakes. Some few of the manuscripts, indeed, such as those of "The Witch of Atlas", "Julian and Maddalo", and the "Lines at Naples", were beautifully written out for the press in Shelley's best hand, but their very value and beauty necessitated the ordeal of transcription, with disastrous results in several instances. An entire line dropped out of the "Lines at Naples", and although "Julian and Maddalo" was extant in more than one very clear copy, the printed text had several such sense-destroying errors as "least" for "lead".
'The corrupt state of the text has stimulated the ingenuity of numerous correctors, who have suggested many acute and convincing emendations, and some very specious ones which sustained scrutiny has proved untenable. It should be needless to remark that success has in general been proportionate to the facilities of access to the manuscripts, which have only of late become generally available. If Shelley is less fortunate than most modern poets in the purity of his text, he is more fortunate than many in the preservation of his manuscripts. These have not, as regards a fair proportion, been destroyed or dispersed at auctions, but were protected from either fate by their very character as confused memoranda. As such they remained in the possession of Shelley's widow, and passed from her to her son and daughter-in-law. After Sir Percy Shelley's death, Lady Shelley took the occasion of the erection of the monument to Shelley at University College, Oxford, to present [certain of] the manuscripts to the Bodleian Library, and verse and sculpture form an imperishable memorial of his connection with the University where his residence was so brief and troubled.' (Dr. Garnett proceeds:—'The most important of the Bodleian manuscripts is that of "Prometheus Unbound", which, says Mr. Locock, has the appearance of being an intermediate draft, and also the first copy made. This should confer considerable authority on its variations from the accepted text, as this appears to have been printed from a copy not made by Shelley himself. "My 'Prometheus'," he writes to Ollier on September 6, 1819, "is now being transcribed," an expression which he would hardly have used if he had himself been the copyist. He wished the proofs to be sent to him in Italy for correction, but to this Ollier objected, and on May 14, 1820, Shelley signifies his acquiescence, adding, however, "In this case I shall repose trust in your care respecting the correction of the press; Mr. Gisborne will revise it; he heard it recited, and will therefore more readily seize any error." This confidence in the accuracy of Gisborne's verbal memory is touching! From a letter to Gisborne on May 26 following it appears that the offer to correct came from him, and that Shelley sent him "two little papers of corrections and additions," which were probably made use of, or the fact would have been made known. In the case of additions this may satisfactorily account for apparent omissions in the Bodleian manuscript. Gisborne, after all, did not prove fully up to the mark. "It is to be regretted," writes Shelley to Ollier on November 20, "that the errors of the press are so numerous," adding, "I shall send you the list of errata in a day or two." This was probably "the list of errata written by Shelley himself," from which Mrs. Shelley corrected the edition of 1839.')
In placing "Queen Mab" at the head of the "Juvenilia" I have followed the arrangement adopted by Mr. Buxton Forman in his Library Edition of 1876. I have excluded "The Wandering Jew", having failed to satisfy myself of the sufficiency of the grounds on which, in certain quarters, it is accepted as the work of Shelley. The shorter fragments are printed, as in Professor Dowden's edition of 1890, along with the miscellaneous poems of the years to which they severally belong, under titles which are sometimes borrowed from Mr. Buxton Forman, sometimes of my own choosing. I have added a few brief Editor's Notes, mainly on textual questions, at the end of the book. Of the poverty of my work in this direction I am painfully aware; but in the present edition the ordinary reader will, it is hoped, find an authentic, complete, and accurately printed text, and, if this be so, the principal end and aim of the OXFORD SHELLEY will have been attained.
I desire cordially to acknowledge the courtesy of Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B., by whose kind sanction the second part of "The Daemon the World" appears in this volume. And I would fain express my deep sense of obligation for manifold information and guidance, derived from Mr. Buxton Forman's various editions, reprints and other publications—especially from the monumental Library Edition of 1876. Acknowledgements are also due to the poet's grandson, Charles E.J. Esdaile, Esq., for permission to include the early poems first printed in Professor Dowden's "Life of Shelley"; and to Mr. C.D. Locock, for leave to make full use of the material contained in his interesting and stimulating volume. To Dr. Richard Garnett, C.B., and to Professor Dowden, cordial thanks are hereby tendered for good counsel cheerfully bestowed. To two of the editors of the Shelley Society Reprints, Mr. Thomas J. Wise and Mr. Robert A. Potts—both generously communicative collectors—I am deeply indebted for the gift or loan of scarce volumes, as well as for many kind offices in other ways. Lastly, to the staff of the Oxford University Press my heartiest thanks are owing, for their unremitting care in all that relates to the printing and correcting of the sheets.
In a valuable paper, 'Notes on Passages in Shelley,' contributed to "The Modern Language Review" (October, 1905), Mr. A.C. Bradley discussed, amongst other things, some fifty places in the text of Shelley's verse, and indicated certain errors and omissions in this edition. With the aid of these "Notes" the editor has now carefully revised the text, and has in many places adopted the suggestions or conclusions of their accomplished author.
PREFACE BY MRS. SHELLEY
TO FIRST COLLECTED EDITION, 1839.
Obstacles have long existed to my presenting the public with a perfect edition of Shelley's Poems. These being at last happily removed, I hasten to fulfil an important duty,—that of giving the productions of a sublime genius to the world, with all the correctness possible, and of, at the same time, detailing the history of those productions, as they sprang, living and warm, from his heart and brain. I abstain from any remark on the occurrences of his private life, except inasmuch as the passions which they engendered inspired his poetry. This is not the time to relate the truth; and I should reject any colouring of the truth. No account of these events has ever been given at all approaching reality in their details, either as regards himself or others; nor shall I further allude to them than to remark that the errors of action committed by a man as noble and generous as Shelley, may, as far as he only is concerned, be fearlessly avowed by those who loved him, in the firm conviction that, were they judged impartially, his character would stand in fairer and brighter light than that of any contemporary. Whatever faults he had ought to find extenuation among his fellows, since they prove him to be human; without them, the exalted nature of his soul would have raised him into something divine.
The qualities that struck any one newly introduced to Shelley were,—First, a gentle and cordial goodness that animated his intercourse with warm affection and helpful sympathy. The other, the eagerness and ardour with which he was attached to the cause of human happiness and improvement; and the fervent eloquence with which he discussed such subjects. His conversation was marked by its happy abundance, and the beautiful language in which he clothed his poetic ideas and philosophical notions. To defecate life of its misery and its evil was the ruling passion of his soul; he dedicated to it every power of his mind, every pulsation of his heart. He looked on political freedom as the direct agent to effect the happiness of mankind; and thus any new-sprung hope of liberty inspired a joy and an exultation more intense and wild than he could have felt for any personal advantage. Those who have never experienced the workings of passion on general and unselfish subjects cannot understand this; and it must be difficult of comprehension to the younger generation rising around, since they cannot remember the scorn and hatred with which the partisans of reform were regarded some few years ago, nor the persecutions to which they were exposed. He had been from youth the victim of the state of feeling inspired by the reaction of the French Revolution; and believing firmly in the justice and excellence of his views, it cannot be wondered that a nature as sensitive, as impetuous, and as generous as his, should put its whole force into the attempt to alleviate for others the evils of those systems from which he had himself suffered. Many advantages attended his birth; he spurned them all when balanced with what he considered his duties. He was generous to imprudence, devoted to heroism.
These characteristics breathe throughout his poetry. The struggle for human weal; the resolution firm to martyrdom; the impetuous pursuit, the glad triumph in good; the determination not to despair;—such were the features that marked those of his works which he regarded with most complacency, as sustained by a lofty subject and useful aim.
In addition to these, his poems may be divided into two classes,—the purely imaginative, and those which sprang from the emotions of his heart. Among the former may be classed the "Witch of Atlas", "Adonais", and his latest composition, left imperfect, the "Triumph of Life". In the first of these particularly he gave the reins to his fancy, and luxuriated in every idea as it rose; in all there is that sense of mystery which formed an essential portion of his perception of life—a clinging to the subtler inner spirit, rather than to the outward form—a curious and metaphysical anatomy of human passion and perception.
The second class is, of course, the more popular, as appealing at once to emotions common to us all; some of these rest on the passion of love; others on grief and despondency; others on the sentiments inspired by natural objects. Shelley's conception of love was exalted, absorbing, allied to all that is purest and noblest in our nature, and warmed by earnest passion; such it appears when he gave it a voice in verse. Yet he was usually averse to expressing these feelings, except when highly idealized; and many of his more beautiful effusions he had cast aside unfinished, and they were never seen by me till after I had lost him. Others, as for instance "Rosalind and Helen" and "Lines written among the Euganean Hills", I found among his papers by chance; and with some difficulty urged him to complete them. There are others, such as the "Ode to the Skylark and The Cloud", which, in the opinion of many critics, bear a purer poetical stamp than any other of his productions. They were written as his mind prompted: listening to the carolling of the bird, aloft in the azure sky of Italy; or marking the cloud as it sped across the heavens, while he floated in his boat on the Thames.
No poet was ever warmed by a more genuine and unforced inspiration. His extreme sensibility gave the intensity of passion to his intellectual pursuits; and rendered his mind keenly alive to every perception of outward objects, as well as to his internal sensations. Such a gift is, among the sad vicissitudes of human life, the disappointments we meet, and the galling sense of our own mistakes and errors, fraught with pain; to escape from such, he delivered up his soul to poetry, and felt happy when he sheltered himself, from the influence of human sympathies, in the wildest regions of fancy. His imagination has been termed too brilliant, his thoughts too subtle. He loved to idealize reality; and this is a taste shared by few. We are willing to have our passing whims exalted into passions, for this gratifies our vanity; but few of us understand or sympathize with the endeavour to ally the love of abstract beauty, and adoration of abstract good, the to agathon kai to kalon of the Socratic philosophers, with our sympathies with our kind. In this, Shelley resembled Plato; both taking more delight in the abstract and the ideal than in the special and tangible. This did not result from imitation; for it was not till Shelley resided in Italy that he made Plato his study. He then translated his "Symposium" and his "Ion"; and the English language boasts of no more brilliant composition than Plato's Praise of Love translated by Shelley. To return to his own poetry. The luxury of imagination, which sought nothing beyond itself (as a child burdens itself with spring flowers, thinking of no use beyond the enjoyment of gathering them), often showed itself in his verses: they will be only appreciated by minds which have resemblance to his own; and the mystic subtlety of many of his thoughts will share the same fate. The metaphysical strain that characterizes much of what he has written was, indeed, the portion of his works to which, apart from those whose scope was to awaken mankind to aspirations for what he considered the true and good, he was himself particularly attached. There is much, however, that speaks to the many. When he would consent to dismiss these huntings after the obscure (which, entwined with his nature as they were, he did with difficulty), no poet ever expressed in sweeter, more heart-reaching, or more passionate verse, the gentler or more forcible emotions of the soul.
A wise friend once wrote to Shelley: 'You are still very young, and in certain essential respects you do not yet sufficiently perceive that you are so.' It is seldom that the young know what youth is, till they have got beyond its period; and time was not given him to attain this knowledge. It must be remembered that there is the stamp of such inexperience on all he wrote; he had not completed his nine-and-twentieth year when he died. The calm of middle life did not add the seal of the virtues which adorn maturity to those generated by the vehement spirit of youth. Through life also he was a martyr to ill-health, and constant pain wound up his nerves to a pitch of susceptibility that rendered his views of life different from those of a man in the enjoyment of healthy sensations. Perfectly gentle and forbearing in manner, he suffered a good deal of internal irritability, or rather excitement, and his fortitude to bear was almost always on the stretch; and thus, during a short life, he had gone through more experience of sensation than many whose existence is protracted. 'If I die to-morrow,' he said, on the eve of his unanticipated death, 'I have lived to be older than my father.' The weight of thought and feeling burdened him heavily; you read his sufferings in his attenuated frame, while you perceived the mastery he held over them in his animated countenance and brilliant eyes.
He died, and the world showed no outward sign. But his influence over mankind, though slow in growth, is fast augmenting; and, in the ameliorations that have taken place in the political state of his country, we may trace in part the operation of his arduous struggles. His spirit gathers peace in its new state from the sense that, though late, his exertions were not made in vain, and in the progress of the liberty he so fondly loved.
He died, and his place, among those who knew him intimately, has never been filled up. He walked beside them like a spirit of good to comfort and benefit—to enlighten the darkness of life with irradiations of genius, to cheer it with his sympathy and love. Any one, once attached to Shelley, must feel all other affections, however true and fond, as wasted on barren soil in comparison. It is our best consolation to know that such a pure-minded and exalted being was once among us, and now exists where we hope one day to join him;—although the intolerant, in their blindness, poured down anathemas, the Spirit of Good, who can judge the heart, never rejected him.
In the notes appended to the poems I have endeavoured to narrate the origin and history of each. The loss of nearly all letters and papers which refer to his early life renders the execution more imperfect than it would otherwise have been. I have, however, the liveliest recollection of all that was done and said during the period of my knowing him. Every impression is as clear as if stamped yesterday, and I have no apprehension of any mistake in my statements as far as they go. In other respects I am indeed incompetent: but I feel the importance of the task, and regard it as my most sacred duty. I endeavour to fulfil it in a manner he would himself approve; and hope, in this publication, to lay the first stone of a monument due to Shelley's genius, his sufferings, and his virtues:—
Se al seguir son tarda, Forse avverra che 'l bel nome gentile Consacrero con questa stanca penna.
POSTSCRIPT IN SECOND EDITION OF 1839.
In revising this new edition, and carefully consulting Shelley's scattered and confused papers, I found a few fragments which had hitherto escaped me, and was enabled to complete a few poems hitherto left unfinished. What at one time escapes the searching eye, dimmed by its own earnestness, becomes clear at a future period. By the aid of a friend, I also present some poems complete and correct which hitherto have been defaced by various mistakes and omissions. It was suggested that the poem "To the Queen of my Heart" was falsely attributed to Shelley. I certainly find no trace of it among his papers; and, as those of his intimate friends whom I have consulted never heard of it, I omit it.
Two poems are added of some length, "Swellfoot the Tyrant" and "Peter Bell the Third". I have mentioned the circumstances under which they were written in the notes; and need only add that they are conceived in a very different spirit from Shelley's usual compositions. They are specimens of the burlesque and fanciful; but, although they adopt a familiar style and homely imagery, there shine through the radiance of the poet's imagination the earnest views and opinions of the politician and the moralist.
At my request the publisher has restored the omitted passages of "Queen Mab". I now present this edition as a complete collection of my husband's poetical works, and I do not foresee that I can hereafter add to or take away a word or line.
Putney, November 6, 1839.
PREFACE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
TO THE VOLUME OF POSTHUMOUS POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1824.
In nobil sangue vita umile e queta, Ed in alto intelletto un puro core Frutto senile in sul giovenil fibre, E in aspetto pensoso anima lieta.—PETRARCA.
It had been my wish, on presenting the public with the Posthumous Poems of Mr. Shelley, to have accompanied them by a biographical notice; as it appeared to me that at this moment a narration of the events of my husband's life would come more gracefully from other hands than mine, I applied to Mr. Leigh Hunt. The distinguished friendship that Mr. Shelley felt for him, and the enthusiastic affection with which Mr. Leigh Hunt clings to his friend's memory, seemed to point him out as the person best calculated for such an undertaking. His absence from this country, which prevented our mutual explanation, has unfortunately rendered my scheme abortive. I do not doubt but that on some other occasion he will pay this tribute to his lost friend, and sincerely regret that the volume which I edit has not been honoured by its insertion.
The comparative solitude in which Mr. Shelley lived was the occasion that he was personally known to few; and his fearless enthusiasm in the cause which he considered the most sacred upon earth, the improvement of the moral and physical state of mankind, was the chief reason why he, like other illustrious reformers, was pursued by hatred and calumny. No man was ever more devoted than he to the endeavour of making those around him happy; no man ever possessed friends more unfeignedly attached to him. The ungrateful world did not feel his loss, and the gap it made seemed to close as quickly over his memory as the murderous sea above his living frame. Hereafter men will lament that his transcendent powers of intellect were extinguished before they had bestowed on them their choicest treasures. To his friends his loss is irremediable: the wise, the brave, the gentle, is gone for ever! He is to them as a bright vision, whose radiant track, left behind in the memory, is worth all the realities that society can afford. Before the critics contradict me, let them appeal to any one who had ever known him. To see him was to love him: and his presence, like Ithuriel's spear, was alone sufficient to disclose the falsehood of the tale which his enemies whispered in the ear of the ignorant world.
His life was spent in the contemplation of Nature, in arduous study, or in acts of kindness and affection. He was an elegant scholar and a profound metaphysician; without possessing much scientific knowledge, he was unrivalled in the justness and extent of his observations on natural objects; he knew every plant by its name, and was familiar with the history and habits of every production of the earth; he could interpret without a fault each appearance in the sky; and the varied phenomena of heaven and earth filled him with deep emotion. He made his study and reading-room of the shadowed copse, the stream, the lake, and the waterfall. Ill health and continual pain preyed upon his powers; and the solitude in which we lived, particularly on our first arrival in Italy, although congenial to his feelings, must frequently have weighed upon his spirits; those beautiful and affecting "Lines written in Dejection near Naples" were composed at such an interval; but, when in health, his spirits were buoyant and youthful to an extraordinary degree.
Such was his love for Nature that every page of his poetry is associated, in the minds of his friends, with the loveliest scenes of the countries which he inhabited. In early life he visited the most beautiful parts of this country and Ireland. Afterwards the Alps of Switzerland became his inspirers. "Prometheus Unbound" was written among the deserted and flower-grown ruins of Rome; and, when he made his home under the Pisan hills, their roofless recesses harboured him as he composed the "Witch of Atlas", "Adonais", and "Hellas". In the wild but beautiful Bay of Spezzia, the winds and waves which he loved became his playmates. His days were chiefly spent on the water; the management of his boat, its alterations and improvements, were his principal occupation. At night, when the unclouded moon shone on the calm sea, he often went alone in his little shallop to the rocky caves that bordered it, and, sitting beneath their shelter, wrote the "Triumph of Life", the last of his productions. The beauty but strangeness of this lonely place, the refined pleasure which he felt in the companionship of a few selected friends, our entire sequestration from the rest of the world, all contributed to render this period of his life one of continued enjoyment. I am convinced that the two months we passed there were the happiest which he had ever known: his health even rapidly improved, and he was never better than when I last saw him, full of spirits and joy, embark for Leghorn, that he might there welcome Leigh Hunt to Italy. I was to have accompanied him; but illness confined me to my room, and thus put the seal on my misfortune. His vessel bore out of sight with a favourable wind, and I remained awaiting his return by the breakers of that sea which was about to engulf him.
He spent a week at Pisa, employed in kind offices toward his friend, and enjoying with keen delight the renewal of their intercourse. He then embarked with Mr. Williams, the chosen and beloved sharer of his pleasures and of his fate, to return to us. We waited for them in vain; the sea by its restless moaning seemed to desire to inform us of what we would not learn:—but a veil may well be drawn over such misery. The real anguish of those moments transcended all the fictions that the most glowing imagination ever portrayed; our seclusion, the savage nature of the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, and our immediate vicinity to the troubled sea, combined to imbue with strange horror our days of uncertainty. The truth was at last known,—a truth that made our loved and lovely Italy appear a tomb, its sky a pall. Every heart echoed the deep lament, and my only consolation was in the praise and earnest love that each voice bestowed and each countenance demonstrated for him we had lost,—not, I fondly hope, for ever; his unearthly and elevated nature is a pledge of the continuation of his being, although in an altered form. Rome received his ashes; they are deposited beneath its weed-grown wall, and 'the world's sole monument' is enriched by his remains.
I must add a few words concerning the contents of this volume. "Julian and Maddalo", the "Witch of Atlas", and most of the "Translations", were written some years ago; and, with the exception of the "Cyclops", and the Scenes from the "Magico Prodigioso", may be considered as having received the author's ultimate corrections. The "Triumph of Life" was his last work, and was left in so unfinished a state that I arranged it in its present form with great difficulty. All his poems which were scattered in periodical works are collected in this volume, and I have added a reprint of "Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude": the difficulty with which a copy can be obtained is the cause of its republication. Many of the Miscellaneous Poems, written on the spur of the occasion, and never retouched, I found among his manuscript books, and have carefully copied. I have subjoined, whenever I have been able, the date of their composition.
I do not know whether the critics will reprehend the insertion of some of the most imperfect among them; but I frankly own that I have been more actuated by the fear lest any monument of his genius should escape me than the wish of presenting nothing but what was complete to the fastidious reader. I feel secure that the lovers of Shelley's poetry (who know how, more than any poet of the present day, every line and word he wrote is instinct with peculiar beauty) will pardon and thank me: I consecrate this volume to them.
The size of this collection has prevented the insertion of any prose pieces. They will hereafter appear in a separate publication.
MARY W. SHELLEY.
London, June 1, 1824.
MRS. SHELLEY'S PREFACE TO FIRST COLLECTED EDITION, 1839.
POSTSCRIPT IN SECOND EDITION OF 1839.
MRS. SHELLEY'S PREFACE TO "POSTHUMOUS POEMS", 1824.
THE DAEMON OF THE WORLD. A FRAGMENT. PART 1. PART 2.
ALASTOR; OR, THE SPIRiT OF SOLITUDE. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
THE REVOLT OF ISLAM. A POEM IN TWELVE CANTOS. PREFACE. DEDICATION: TO MARY — —. CANTO 1. CANTO 2. CANTO 3. CANTO 4. CANTO 5. CANTO 6. CANTO 7. CANTO 8. CANTO 9. CANTO 10. CANTO 11. CANTO 12. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
PRINCE ATHANASE. A FRAGMENT.
ROSALIND AND HELEN. A MODERN ECLOGUE. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
JULIAN AND MADDALO. A CONVERSATION. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
PROMETHEUS UNBOUND. A LYRICAL DRAMA IN FOUR ACTS. PREFACE. ACT 1. ACT 2. ACT 3. ACT 4. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
THE CENCI. A TRAGEDY IN FIVE ACTS. DEDICATION, TO LEIGH HUNT, ESQUIRE. PREFACE ACT 1. ACT 2. ACT 3. ACT 4. ACT 5. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
THe MASK OF ANARCHY. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
PETER BELL THE THIRD. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
LETTER TO MARIA GISBORNE.
THE WITCH OF ATLAS. TO MARY. THE WITCH OF ATLAS. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
OEDIPUS TYRANNUS; OR, SWELLFOOT THE TYRANT. A TRAGEDY IN TWO ACTS. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
EPIPSYCHIDION. FRAGMENTS CONNECTED WITH EPIPSYCHIDION.
ADONAIS. AN ELEGY ON THE DEATH OF JOHN KEATS. PREFACE. ADONAIS. CANCELLED PASSAGES.
HELLAS. A LYRICAL DRAMA. PREFACE. PROLOGUE. HELLAS. SHELLEY'S NOTES. NOTE BY MRS. SHELLEY.
FRAGMENTS OF AN UNFINISHED DRAMA.
CHARLES THE FIRST.
THE TRIUMPH OF LIFE.
THE DAEMON OF THE WORLD.
[Sections 1 and 2 of "Queen Mab" rehandled, and published by Shelley in the "Alastor" volume, 1816. See "Bibliographical List", and the Editor's Introductory Note to "Queen Mab".]
Nec tantum prodere vati, Quantum scire licet. Venit aetas omnis in unam Congeriem, miserumque premunt tot saecula pectus. LUCAN, Phars. v. 176.
How wonderful is Death, Death and his brother Sleep! One pale as yonder wan and horned moon, With lips of lurid blue, The other glowing like the vital morn, _5 When throned on ocean's wave It breathes over the world: Yet both so passing strange and wonderful!
Hath then the iron-sceptred Skeleton, Whose reign is in the tainted sepulchres, 10 To the hell dogs that couch beneath his throne Cast that fair prey? Must that divinest form, Which love and admiration cannot view Without a beating heart, whose azure veins Steal like dark streams along a field of snow, 15 Whose outline is as fair as marble clothed In light of some sublimest mind, decay? Nor putrefaction's breath Leave aught of this pure spectacle But loathsomeness and ruin?— 20 Spare aught but a dark theme, On which the lightest heart might moralize? Or is it but that downy-winged slumbers Have charmed their nurse coy Silence near her lids To watch their own repose? 25 Will they, when morning's beam Flows through those wells of light, Seek far from noise and day some western cave, Where woods and streams with soft and pausing winds A lulling murmur weave?— 30 Ianthe doth not sleep The dreamless sleep of death: Nor in her moonlight chamber silently Doth Henry hear her regular pulses throb, Or mark her delicate cheek 35 With interchange of hues mock the broad moon, Outwatching weary night, Without assured reward. Her dewy eyes are closed; On their translucent lids, whose texture fine 40 Scarce hides the dark blue orbs that burn below With unapparent fire, The baby Sleep is pillowed: Her golden tresses shade The bosom's stainless pride, 45 Twining like tendrils of the parasite Around a marble column.
Hark! whence that rushing sound? 'Tis like a wondrous strain that sweeps Around a lonely ruin 50 When west winds sigh and evening waves respond In whispers from the shore: 'Tis wilder than the unmeasured notes Which from the unseen lyres of dells and groves The genii of the breezes sweep. 55 Floating on waves of music and of light, The chariot of the Daemon of the World Descends in silent power: Its shape reposed within: slight as some cloud That catches but the palest tinge of day 60 When evening yields to night, Bright as that fibrous woof when stars indue Its transitory robe. Four shapeless shadows bright and beautiful Draw that strange car of glory, reins of light 65 Check their unearthly speed; they stop and fold Their wings of braided air: The Daemon leaning from the ethereal car Gazed on the slumbering maid. Human eye hath ne'er beheld 70 A shape so wild, so bright, so beautiful, As that which o'er the maiden's charmed sleep Waving a starry wand, Hung like a mist of light. Such sounds as breathed around like odorous winds 75 Of wakening spring arose, Filling the chamber and the moonlight sky. Maiden, the world's supremest spirit Beneath the shadow of her wings Folds all thy memory doth inherit 80 From ruin of divinest things, Feelings that lure thee to betray, And light of thoughts that pass away. For thou hast earned a mighty boon, The truths which wisest poets see 85 Dimly, thy mind may make its own, Rewarding its own majesty, Entranced in some diviner mood Of self-oblivious solitude.
Custom, and Faith, and Power thou spurnest; 90 From hate and awe thy heart is free; Ardent and pure as day thou burnest, For dark and cold mortality A living light, to cheer it long, The watch-fires of the world among. 95
Therefore from nature's inner shrine, Where gods and fiends in worship bend, Majestic spirit, be it thine The flame to seize, the veil to rend, Where the vast snake Eternity _100 In charmed sleep doth ever lie.
All that inspires thy voice of love, Or speaks in thy unclosing eyes, Or through thy frame doth burn or move, Or think or feel, awake, arise! _105 Spirit, leave for mine and me Earth's unsubstantial mimicry!
It ceased, and from the mute and moveless frame A radiant spirit arose, All beautiful in naked purity. _110 Robed in its human hues it did ascend, Disparting as it went the silver clouds, It moved towards the car, and took its seat Beside the Daemon shape.
Obedient to the sweep of aery song, _115 The mighty ministers Unfurled their prismy wings. The magic car moved on; The night was fair, innumerable stars Studded heaven's dark blue vault; _120 The eastern wave grew pale With the first smile of morn. The magic car moved on. From the swift sweep of wings The atmosphere in flaming sparkles flew; _125 And where the burning wheels Eddied above the mountain's loftiest peak Was traced a line of lightning. Now far above a rock the utmost verge Of the wide earth it flew, _130 The rival of the Andes, whose dark brow Frowned o'er the silver sea. Far, far below the chariot's stormy path, Calm as a slumbering babe, Tremendous ocean lay. _135 Its broad and silent mirror gave to view The pale and waning stars, The chariot's fiery track, And the grey light of morn Tingeing those fleecy clouds _140 That cradled in their folds the infant dawn. The chariot seemed to fly Through the abyss of an immense concave, Radiant with million constellations, tinged With shades of infinite colour, _145 And semicircled with a belt Flashing incessant meteors.
As they approached their goal, The winged shadows seemed to gather speed. The sea no longer was distinguished; earth 150 Appeared a vast and shadowy sphere, suspended In the black concave of heaven With the sun's cloudless orb, Whose rays of rapid light Parted around the chariot's swifter course, 155 And fell like ocean's feathery spray Dashed from the boiling surge Before a vessel's prow.
The magic car moved on. Earth's distant orb appeared _160 The smallest light that twinkles in the heavens, Whilst round the chariot's way Innumerable systems widely rolled, And countless spheres diffused An ever varying glory. _165 It was a sight of wonder! Some were horned, And like the moon's argentine crescent hung In the dark dome of heaven; some did shed A clear mild beam like Hesperus, while the sea Yet glows with fading sunlight; others dashed _170 Athwart the night with trains of bickering fire, Like sphered worlds to death and ruin driven; Some shone like stars, and as the chariot passed Bedimmed all other light.
Spirit of Nature! here _175 In this interminable wilderness Of worlds, at whose involved immensity Even soaring fancy staggers, Here is thy fitting temple. Yet not the lightest leaf _180 That quivers to the passing breeze Is less instinct with thee,— Yet not the meanest worm. That lurks in graves and fattens on the dead, Less shares thy eternal breath. _185 Spirit of Nature! thou Imperishable as this glorious scene, Here is thy fitting temple.
If solitude hath ever led thy steps To the shore of the immeasurable sea, 190 And thou hast lingered there Until the sun's broad orb Seemed resting on the fiery line of ocean, Thou must have marked the braided webs of gold That without motion hang 195 Over the sinking sphere: Thou must have marked the billowy mountain clouds, Edged with intolerable radiancy, Towering like rocks of jet Above the burning deep: 200 And yet there is a moment When the sun's highest point Peers like a star o'er ocean's western edge, When those far clouds of feathery purple gleam Like fairy lands girt by some heavenly sea: 205 Then has thy rapt imagination soared Where in the midst of all existing things The temple of the mightiest Daemon stands.
Yet not the golden islands That gleam amid yon flood of purple light, 210 Nor the feathery curtains That canopy the sun's resplendent couch, Nor the burnished ocean waves Paving that gorgeous dome, So fair, so wonderful a sight 215 As the eternal temple could afford. The elements of all that human thought Can frame of lovely or sublime, did join To rear the fabric of the fane, nor aught Of earth may image forth its majesty. 220 Yet likest evening's vault that faery hall, As heaven low resting on the wave it spread Its floors of flashing light, Its vast and azure dome; And on the verge of that obscure abyss 225 Where crystal battlements o'erhang the gulf Of the dark world, ten thousand spheres diffuse Their lustre through its adamantine gates.
The magic car no longer moved; The Daemon and the Spirit 230 Entered the eternal gates. Those clouds of aery gold That slept in glittering billows Beneath the azure canopy, With the ethereal footsteps trembled not; 235 While slight and odorous mists Floated to strains of thrilling melody Through the vast columns and the pearly shrines.
The Daemon and the Spirit Approached the overhanging battlement, _240 Below lay stretched the boundless universe! There, far as the remotest line That limits swift imagination's flight. Unending orbs mingled in mazy motion, Immutably fulfilling _245 Eternal Nature's law. Above, below, around, The circling systems formed A wilderness of harmony. Each with undeviating aim _250 In eloquent silence through the depths of space Pursued its wondrous way.—
Awhile the Spirit paused in ecstasy. Yet soon she saw, as the vast spheres swept by, Strange things within their belted orbs appear. 255 Like animated frenzies, dimly moved Shadows, and skeletons, and fiendly shapes, Thronging round human graves, and o'er the dead Sculpturing records for each memory In verse, such as malignant gods pronounce, 260 Blasting the hopes of men, when heaven and hell Confounded burst in ruin o'er the world: And they did build vast trophies, instruments Of murder, human bones, barbaric gold, Skins torn from living men, and towers of skulls 265 With sightless holes gazing on blinder heaven, Mitres, and crowns, and brazen chariots stained With blood, and scrolls of mystic wickedness, The sanguine codes of venerable crime. The likeness of a throned king came by. 270 When these had passed, bearing upon his brow A threefold crown; his countenance was calm. His eye severe and cold; but his right hand Was charged with bloody coin, and he did gnaw By fits, with secret smiles, a human heart 275 Concealed beneath his robe; and motley shapes, A multitudinous throng, around him knelt. With bosoms bare, and bowed heads, and false looks Of true submission, as the sphere rolled by. Brooking no eye to witness their foul shame, 280 Which human hearts must feel, while human tongues Tremble to speak, they did rage horribly, Breathing in self-contempt fierce blasphemies Against the Daemon of the World, and high Hurling their armed hands where the pure Spirit, 285 Serene and inaccessibly secure, Stood on an isolated pinnacle. The flood of ages combating below, The depth of the unbounded universe Above, and all around 290 Necessity's unchanging harmony.
[Sections 8 and 9 of "Queen Mab" rehandled by Shelley. First printed in 1876 by Mr. H. Buxton Forman, C.B., by whose kind permission it is here reproduced. See Editor's Introductory Note to "Queen Mab".]
O happy Earth! reality of Heaven! To which those restless powers that ceaselessly Throng through the human universe aspire; Thou consummation of all mortal hope! 295 Thou glorious prize of blindly-working will! Whose rays, diffused throughout all space and time, Verge to one point and blend for ever there: Of purest spirits thou pure dwelling-place! Where care and sorrow, impotence and crime, 300 Languor, disease, and ignorance dare not come: O happy Earth, reality of Heaven!
Genius has seen thee in her passionate dreams, And dim forebodings of thy loveliness, Haunting the human heart, have there entwined 305 Those rooted hopes, that the proud Power of Evil Shall not for ever on this fairest world Shake pestilence and war, or that his slaves With blasphemy for prayer, and human blood For sacrifice, before his shrine for ever 310 In adoration bend, or Erebus With all its banded fiends shall not uprise To overwhelm in envy and revenge The dauntless and the good, who dare to hurl Defiance at his throne, girt tho' it be 315 With Death's omnipotence. Thou hast beheld His empire, o'er the present and the past; It was a desolate sight—now gaze on mine, Futurity. Thou hoary giant Time, Render thou up thy half-devoured babes,— 320 And from the cradles of eternity, Where millions lie lulled to their portioned sleep By the deep murmuring stream of passing things, Tear thou that gloomy shroud.—Spirit, behold Thy glorious destiny!
The Spirit saw _325 The vast frame of the renovated world Smile in the lap of Chaos, and the sense Of hope thro' her fine texture did suffuse Such varying glow, as summer evening casts On undulating clouds and deepening lakes. _330 Like the vague sighings of a wind at even, That wakes the wavelets of the slumbering sea And dies on the creation of its breath, And sinks and rises, fails and swells by fits, Was the sweet stream of thought that with wild motion _335 Flowed o'er the Spirit's human sympathies. The mighty tide of thought had paused awhile, Which from the Daemon now like Ocean's stream Again began to pour.—
To me is given The wonders of the human world to keep- 340 Space, matter, time and mind—let the sight Renew and strengthen all thy failing hope. All things are recreated, and the flame Of consentaneous love inspires all life: The fertile bosom of the earth gives suck 345 To myriads, who still grow beneath her care, Rewarding her with their pure perfectness: The balmy breathings of the wind inhale Her virtues, and diffuse them all abroad: Health floats amid the gentle atmosphere, 350 Glows in the fruits, and mantles on the stream; No storms deform the beaming brow of heaven, Nor scatter in the freshness of its pride The foliage of the undecaying trees; But fruits are ever ripe, flowers ever fair, 355 And Autumn proudly bears her matron grace, Kindling a flush on the fair cheek of Spring, Whose virgin bloom beneath the ruddy fruit Reflects its tint and blushes into love.
The habitable earth is full of bliss; _360 Those wastes of frozen billows that were hurled By everlasting snow-storms round the poles, Where matter dared not vegetate nor live, But ceaseless frost round the vast solitude Bound its broad zone of stillness, are unloosed; _365 And fragrant zephyrs there from spicy isles Ruffle the placid ocean-deep, that rolls Its broad, bright surges to the sloping sand, Whose roar is wakened into echoings sweet To murmur through the heaven-breathing groves _370 And melodise with man's blest nature there.
The vast tract of the parched and sandy waste Now teems with countless rills and shady woods, Corn-fields and pastures and white cottages; And where the startled wilderness did hear 375 A savage conqueror stained in kindred blood, Hymmng his victory, or the milder snake Crushing the bones of some frail antelope Within his brazen folds—the dewy lawn, Offering sweet incense to the sunrise, smiles 380 To see a babe before his mother's door, Share with the green and golden basilisk That comes to lick his feet, his morning's meal.
Those trackless deeps, where many a weary sail Has seen, above the illimitable plain, 385 Morning on night and night on morning rise, Whilst still no land to greet the wanderer spread Its shadowy mountains on the sunbright sea, Where the loud roarings of the tempest-waves So long have mingled with the gusty wind 390 In melancholy loneliness, and swept The desert of those ocean solitudes, But vocal to the sea-bird's harrowing shriek, The bellowing monster, and the rushing storm, Now to the sweet and many-mingling sounds 395 Of kindliest human impulses respond: Those lonely realms bright garden-isles begem, With lightsome clouds and shining seas between, And fertile valleys resonant with bliss, Whilst green woods overcanopy the wave, 400 Which like a toil-worn labourer leaps to shore, To meet the kisses of the flowerets there.
Man chief perceives the change, his being notes The gradual renovation, and defines Each movement of its progress on his mind. _405 Man, where the gloom of the long polar night Lowered o'er the snow-clad rocks and frozen soil, Where scarce the hardiest herb that braves the frost Basked in the moonlight's ineffectual glow, Shrank with the plants, and darkened with the night; _410 Nor where the tropics bound the realms of day With a broad belt of mingling cloud and flame, Where blue mists through the unmoving atmosphere Scattered the seeds of pestilence, and fed Unnatural vegetation, where the land _415 Teemed with all earthquake, tempest and disease, Was man a nobler being; slavery Had crushed him to his country's blood-stained dust.
Even where the milder zone afforded man A seeming shelter, yet contagion there, 420 Blighting his being with unnumbered ills, Spread like a quenchless fire; nor truth availed Till late to arrest its progress, or create That peace which first in bloodless victory waved Her snowy standard o'er this favoured clime: 425 There man was long the train-bearer of slaves, The mimic of surrounding misery, The jackal of ambition's lion-rage, The bloodhound of religion's hungry zeal.
Here now the human being stands adorning 430 This loveliest earth with taintless body and mind; Blest from his birth with all bland impulses, Which gently in his noble bosom wake All kindly passions and all pure desires. Him, still from hope to hope the bliss pursuing, 435 Which from the exhaustless lore of human weal Dawns on the virtuous mind, the thoughts that rise In time-destroying infiniteness gift With self-enshrined eternity, that mocks The unprevailing hoariness of age, 440 And man, once fleeting o'er the transient scene Swift as an unremembered vision, stands Immortal upon earth: no longer now He slays the beast that sports around his dwelling And horribly devours its mangled flesh, 445 Or drinks its vital blood, which like a stream Of poison thro' his fevered veins did flow Feeding a plague that secretly consumed His feeble frame, and kindling in his mind Hatred, despair, and fear and vain belief, 450 The germs of misery, death, disease and crime. No longer now the winged habitants, That in the woods their sweet lives sing away, Flee from the form of man; but gather round, And prune their sunny feathers on the hands 455 Which little children stretch in friendly sport Towards these dreadless partners of their play. All things are void of terror: man has lost His desolating privilege, and stands An equal amidst equals: happiness 460 And science dawn though late upon the earth; Peace cheers the mind, health renovates the frame; Disease and pleasure cease to mingle here, Reason and passion cease to combat there; Whilst mind unfettered o'er the earth extends 465 Its all-subduing energies, and wields The sceptre of a vast dominion there.
Mild is the slow necessity of death: The tranquil spirit fails beneath its grasp, Without a groan, almost without a fear, _470 Resigned in peace to the necessity, Calm as a voyager to some distant land, And full of wonder, full of hope as he. The deadly germs of languor and disease Waste in the human frame, and Nature gifts _475 With choicest boons her human worshippers. How vigorous now the athletic form of age! How clear its open and unwrinkled brow! Where neither avarice, cunning, pride, or care, Had stamped the seal of grey deformity _480 On all the mingling lineaments of time. How lovely the intrepid front of youth! How sweet the smiles of taintless infancy.
Within the massy prison's mouldering courts, Fearless and free the ruddy children play, _485 Weaving gay chaplets for their innocent brows With the green ivy and the red wall-flower, That mock the dungeon's unavailing gloom; The ponderous chains, and gratings of strong iron, There rust amid the accumulated ruins _490 Now mingling slowly with their native earth: There the broad beam of day, which feebly once Lighted the cheek of lean captivity With a pale and sickly glare, now freely shines On the pure smiles of infant playfulness: _495 No more the shuddering voice of hoarse despair Peals through the echoing vaults, but soothing notes Of ivy-fingered winds and gladsome birds And merriment are resonant around.
The fanes of Fear and Falsehood hear no more _500 The voice that once waked multitudes to war Thundering thro' all their aisles: but now respond To the death dirge of the melancholy wind: It were a sight of awfulness to see The works of faith and slavery, so vast, _505 So sumptuous, yet withal so perishing! Even as the corpse that rests beneath their wall. A thousand mourners deck the pomp of death To-day, the breathing marble glows above To decorate its memory, and tongues _510 Are busy of its life: to-morrow, worms In silence and in darkness seize their prey. These ruins soon leave not a wreck behind: Their elements, wide-scattered o'er the globe, To happier shapes are moulded, and become _515 Ministrant to all blissful impulses: Thus human things are perfected, and earth, Even as a child beneath its mother's love, Is strengthened in all excellence, and grows Fairer and nobler with each passing year. _520
Now Time his dusky pennons o'er the scene Closes in steadfast darkness, and the past Fades from our charmed sight. My task is done: Thy lore is learned. Earth's wonders are thine own, With all the fear and all the hope they bring. _525 My spells are past: the present now recurs. Ah me! a pathless wilderness remains Yet unsubdued by man's reclaiming hand.
Yet, human Spirit, bravely hold thy course, Let virtue teach thee firmly to pursue 530 The gradual paths of an aspiring change: For birth and life and death, and that strange state Before the naked powers that thro' the world Wander like winds have found a human home, All tend to perfect happiness, and urge 535 The restless wheels of being on their way, Whose flashing spokes, instinct with infinite life, Bicker and burn to gain their destined goal: For birth but wakes the universal mind Whose mighty streams might else in silence flow 540 Thro' the vast world, to individual sense Of outward shows, whose unexperienced shape New modes of passion to its frame may lend; Life is its state of action, and the store Of all events is aggregated there 545 That variegate the eternal universe; Death is a gate of dreariness and gloom, That leads to azure isles and beaming skies And happy regions of eternal hope. Therefore, O Spirit! fearlessly bear on: 550 Though storms may break the primrose on its stalk, Though frosts may blight the freshness of its bloom, Yet spring's awakening breath will woo the earth, To feed with kindliest dews its favourite flower, That blooms in mossy banks and darksome glens, 555 Lighting the green wood with its sunny smile.
Fear not then, Spirit, death's disrobing hand, So welcome when the tyrant is awake, So welcome when the bigot's hell-torch flares; 'Tis but the voyage of a darksome hour, 560 The transient gulf-dream of a startling sleep. For what thou art shall perish utterly, But what is thine may never cease to be; Death is no foe to virtue: earth has seen Love's brightest roses on the scaffold bloom, 565 Mingling with freedom's fadeless laurels there, And presaging the truth of visioned bliss. Are there not hopes within thee, which this scene Of linked and gradual being has confirmed? Hopes that not vainly thou, and living fires 570 Of mind as radiant and as pure as thou, Have shone upon the paths of men—return, Surpassing Spirit, to that world, where thou Art destined an eternal war to wage With tyranny and falsehood, and uproot 575 The germs of misery from the human heart. Thine is the hand whose piety would soothe The thorny pillow of unhappy crime, Whose impotence an easy pardon gains, Watching its wanderings as a friend's disease: 580 Thine is the brow whose mildness would defy Its fiercest rage, and brave its sternest will, When fenced by power and master of the world. Thou art sincere and good; of resolute mind, Free from heart-withering custom's cold control, 585 Of passion lofty, pure and unsubdued. Earth's pride and meanness could not vanquish thee, And therefore art thou worthy of the boon Which thou hast now received: virtue shall keep Thy footsteps in the path that thou hast trod, 590 And many days of beaming hope shall bless Thy spotless life of sweet and sacred love. Go, happy one, and give that bosom joy Whose sleepless spirit waits to catch Light, life and rapture from thy smile. 595
The Daemon called its winged ministers. Speechless with bliss the Spirit mounts the car, That rolled beside the crystal battlement, Bending her beamy eyes in thankfulness. The burning wheels inflame _600 The steep descent of Heaven's untrodden way. Fast and far the chariot flew: The mighty globes that rolled Around the gate of the Eternal Fane Lessened by slow degrees, and soon appeared _605 Such tiny twinklers as the planet orbs That ministering on the solar power With borrowed light pursued their narrower way. Earth floated then below: The chariot paused a moment; _610 The Spirit then descended: And from the earth departing The shadows with swift wings Speeded like thought upon the light of Heaven.
The Body and the Soul united then, 615 A gentle start convulsed Ianthe's frame: Her veiny eyelids quietly unclosed; Moveless awhile the dark blue orbs remained: She looked around in wonder and beheld Henry, who kneeled in silence by her couch, 620 Watching her sleep with looks of speechless love, And the bright beaming stars That through the casement shone.
Notes: _87 Regarding cj. A.C. Bradley.)
ALASTOR: OR, THE SPIRIT OF SOLITUDE.
[Composed at Bishopsgate Heath, near Windsor Park, 1815 (autumn); published, as the title-piece of a slender volume containing other poems (see "Biographical List", by Baldwin, Cradock and Joy, London, 1816 (March). Reprinted—the first edition being sold out—amongst the "Posthumous Poems", 1824. Sources of the text are (1) the editio princeps, 1816; (2) "Posthumous Poems", 1824; (3) "Poetical Works", 1839, editions 1st and 2nd. For (2) and (3) Mrs. Shelley is responsible.]
The poem entitled "Alastor" may be considered as allegorical of one of the most interesting situations of the human mind. It represents a youth of uncorrupted feelings and adventurous genius led forth by an imagination inflamed and purified through familiarity with all that is excellent and majestic, to the contemplation of the universe. He drinks deep of the fountains of knowledge, and is still insatiate. The magnificence and beauty of the external world sinks profoundly into the frame of his conceptions, and affords to their modifications at variety not to be exhausted. so long as it is possible for his desires to point towards objects thus infinite and unmeasured, he is joyous, and tranquil, and self-possessed. But the period arrives when these objects cease to suffice. His mind is at length suddenly awakened and thirsts for intercourse with an intelligence similar to itself. He images to himself the Being whom he loves. Conversant with speculations of the sublimest and most perfect natures, the vision in which he embodies his own imaginations unites all of wonderful, or wise, or beautiful, which the poet, the philosopher, or the lover could depicture. The intellectual faculties, the imagination, the functions of sense, have their respective requisitions on the sympathy of corresponding powers in other human beings. The Poet is represented as uniting these requisitions, and attaching them to a single image. He seeks in vain for a prototype of his conception. Blasted by his disappointment, he descends to an untimely grave.
The picture is not barren of instruction to actual men. The Poet's self-centred seclusion was avenged by the furies of an irresistible passion pursuing him to speedy ruin. But that Power which strikes the luminaries of the world with sudden darkness and extinction, by awakening them to too exquisite a perception of its influences, dooms to a slow and poisonous decay those manner spirits that dare to abjure its dominion. Their destiny is more abject and inglorious as their delinquency is more contemptible and pernicious. They who, deluded by no generous error, instigated by no sacred thirst of doubtful knowledge, duped by no illustrious superstition, loving nothing on this earth, and cherishing no hopes beyond, yet keep aloof from sympathies with their kind, rejoicing neither in human joy nor mourning with human grief; these, and such as they, have their apportioned curse. They languish, because none feel with them their common nature. They are morally dead. They are neither friends, nor lovers, nor fathers, nor citizens of the world, nor benefactors of their country. Among those who attempt to exist without human sympathy, the pure and tender-hearted perish through the intensity and passion of their search after its communities, when the vacancy of their spirit suddenly makes itself felt. All else, selfish, blind, and torpid, are those unforeseeing multitudes who constitute, together with their own, the lasting misery and loneliness of the world. Those who love not their fellow-beings live unfruitful lives, and prepare for their old age a miserable grave.
'The good die first, And those whose hearts are dry as summer dust, Burn to the socket!'
December 14, 1815.
ALASTOR: OR, THE SPIRIT OF SOLITUDE.
Earth, Ocean, Air, beloved brotherhood! If our great Mother has imbued my soul With aught of natural piety to feel Your love, and recompense the boon with mine; If dewy morn, and odorous noon, and even, _5 With sunset and its gorgeous ministers, And solemn midnight's tingling silentness; If autumn's hollow sighs in the sere wood, And winter robing with pure snow and crowns Of starry ice the grey grass and bare boughs; _10 If spring's voluptuous pantings when she breathes Her first sweet kisses, have been dear to me; If no bright bird, insect, or gentle beast I consciously have injured, but still loved And cherished these my kindred; then forgive _15 This boast, beloved brethren, and withdraw No portion of your wonted favour now!
Mother of this unfathomable world! Favour my solemn song, for I have loved Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched 20 Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps, And my heart ever gazes on the depth Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed In charnels and on coffins, where black death Keeps record of the trophies won from thee, 25 Hoping to still these obstinate questionings Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost, Thy messenger, to render up the tale Of what we are. In lone and silent hours, When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness, 30 Like an inspired and desperate alchymist Staking his very life on some dark hope, Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks With my most innocent love, until strange tears, Uniting with those breathless kisses, made 35 Such magic as compels the charmed night To render up thy charge:...and, though ne'er yet Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary, Enough from incommunicable dream, And twilight phantasms, and deep noon-day thought, 40 Has shone within me, that serenely now And moveless, as a long-forgotten lyre Suspended in the solitary dome Of some mysterious and deserted fane, I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain 45 May modulate with murmurs of the air, And motions of the forests and the sea, And voice of living beings, and woven hymns Of night and day, and the deep heart of man.
There was a Poet whose untimely tomb 50 No human hands with pious reverence reared, But the charmed eddies of autumnal winds Built o'er his mouldering bones a pyramid Of mouldering leaves in the waste wilderness:— A lovely youth,—no mourning maiden decked 55 With weeping flowers, or votive cypress wreath, The lone couch of his everlasting sleep:— Gentle, and brave, and generous,—no lorn bard Breathed o'er his dark fate one melodious sigh: He lived, he died, he sung in solitude. 60 Strangers have wept to hear his passionate notes, And virgins, as unknown he passed, have pined And wasted for fond love of his wild eyes. The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn, And Silence, too enamoured of that voice, 65 Locks its mute music in her rugged cell.
By solemn vision, and bright silver dream His infancy was nurtured. Every sight And sound from the vast earth and ambient air, Sent to his heart its choicest impulses. 70 The fountains of divine philosophy Fled not his thirsting lips, and all of great, Or good, or lovely, which the sacred past In truth or fable consecrates, he felt And knew. When early youth had passed, he left 75 His cold fireside and alienated home To seek strange truths in undiscovered lands. Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness Has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought With his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men, 80 His rest and food. Nature's most secret steps He like her shadow has pursued, where'er The red volcano overcanopies Its fields of snow and pinnacles of ice With burning smoke, or where bitumen lakes 85 On black bare pointed islets ever beat With sluggish surge, or where the secret caves, Rugged and dark, winding among the springs Of fire and poison, inaccessible To avarice or pride, their starry domes 90 Of diamond and of gold expand above Numberless and immeasurable halls, Frequent with crystal column, and clear shrines Of pearl, and thrones radiant with chrysolite. Nor had that scene of ampler majesty 95 Than gems or gold, the varying roof of heaven And the green earth lost in his heart its claims To love and wonder; he would linger long In lonesome vales, making the wild his home, Until the doves and squirrels would partake 100 From his innocuous hand his bloodless food, Lured by the gentle meaning of his looks, And the wild antelope, that starts whene'er The dry leaf rustles in the brake, suspend Her timid steps, to gaze upon a form More graceful than her own. 105 His wandering step, Obedient to high thoughts, has visited The awful ruins of the days of old: Athens, and Tyre, and Balbec, and the waste Where stood Jerusalem, the fallen towers 110 Of Babylon, the eternal pyramids, Memphis and Thebes, and whatsoe'er of strange, Sculptured on alabaster obelisk, Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphynx, Dark Aethiopia in her desert hills 115 Conceals. Among the ruined temples there, Stupendous columns, and wild images Of more than man, where marble daemons watch The Zodiac's brazen mystery, and dead men Hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around, 120 He lingered, poring on memorials Of the world's youth: through the long burning day Gazed on those speechless shapes; nor, when the moon Filled the mysterious halls with floating shades Suspended he that task, but ever gazed 125 And gazed, till meaning on his vacant mind Flashed like strong inspiration, and he saw The thrilling secrets of the birth of time.
Meanwhile an Arab maiden brought his food, Her daily portion, from her father's tent, 130 And spread her matting for his couch, and stole From duties and repose to tend his steps, Enamoured, yet not daring for deep awe To speak her love:—and watched his nightly sleep, Sleepless herself, to gaze upon his lips 135 Parted in slumber, whence the regular breath Of innocent dreams arose; then, when red morn Made paler the pale moon, to her cold home Wildered, and wan, and panting, she returned.
The Poet, wandering on, through Arabie, _140 And Persia, and the wild Carmanian waste, And o'er the aerial mountains which pour down Indus and Oxus from their icy caves, In joy and exultation held his way; Till in the vale of Cashmire, far within _145 Its loneliest dell, where odorous plants entwine Beneath the hollow rocks a natural bower, Beside a sparkling rivulet he stretched His languid limbs. A vision on his sleep There came, a dream of hopes that never yet _150 Had flushed his cheek. He dreamed a veiled maid Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones. Her voice was like the voice of his own soul Heard in the calm of thought; its music long, Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held _155 His inmost sense suspended in its web Of many-coloured woof and shifting hues. Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme, And lofty hopes of divine liberty, Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy, _160 Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame A permeating fire; wild numbers then She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs Subdued by its own pathos; her fair hands _165 Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp Strange symphony, and in their branching veins The eloquent blood told an ineffable tale. The beating of her heart was heard to fill The pauses of her music, and her breath _170 Tumultuously accorded with those fits Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose, As if her heart impatiently endured Its bursting burthen: at the sound he turned, And saw by the warm light of their own life _175 Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare, Her dark locks floating in the breath of night, Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly. _180 His strong heart sunk and sickened with excess Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs and quelled His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet Her panting bosom:...she drew back a while, Then, yielding to the irresistible joy, _185 With frantic gesture and short breathless cry Folded his frame in her dissolving arms. Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep, Like a dark flood suspended in its course, _190 Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain.
Roused by the shock he started from his trance— The cold white light of morning, the blue moon Low in the west, the clear and garish hills, The distinct valley and the vacant woods, 195 Spread round him where he stood. Whither have fled The hues of heaven that canopied his bower Of yesternight? The sounds that soothed his sleep, The mystery and the majesty of Earth, The joy, the exultation? His wan eyes 200 Gaze on the empty scene as vacantly As ocean's moon looks on the moon in heaven. The spirit of sweet human love has sent A vision to the sleep of him who spurned Her choicest gifts. He eagerly pursues 205 Beyond the realms of dream that fleeting shade; He overleaps the bounds. Alas! Alas! Were limbs, and breath, and being intertwined Thus treacherously? Lost, lost, for ever lost In the wide pathless desert of dim sleep, 210 That beautiful shape! Does the dark gate of death Conduct to thy mysterious paradise, O Sleep? Does the bright arch of rainbow clouds And pendent mountains seen in the calm lake, Lead only to a black and watery depth, 215 While death's blue vault, with loathliest vapours hung, Where every shade which the foul grave exhales Hides its dead eye from the detested day, Conducts, O Sleep, to thy delightful realms? This doubt with sudden tide flowed on his heart; 220 The insatiate hope which it awakened, stung His brain even like despair. While daylight held The sky, the Poet kept mute conference With his still soul. At night the passion came, Like the fierce fiend of a distempered dream, 225 And shook him from his rest, and led him forth Into the darkness.—As an eagle, grasped In folds of the green serpent, feels her breast Burn with the poison, and precipitates Through night and day, tempest, and calm, and cloud, 230 Frantic with dizzying anguish, her blind flight O'er the wide aery wilderness: thus driven By the bright shadow of that lovely dream, Beneath the cold glare of the desolate night, Through tangled swamps and deep precipitous dells, 235 Startling with careless step the moonlight snake, He fled. Red morning dawned upon his flight, Shedding the mockery of its vital hues Upon his cheek of death. He wandered on Till vast Aornos seen from Petra's steep 240 Hung o'er the low horizon like a cloud; Through Balk, and where the desolated tombs Of Parthian kings scatter to every wind Their wasting dust, wildly he wandered on, Day after day a weary waste of hours, 245 Bearing within his life the brooding care That ever fed on its decaying flame. And now his limbs were lean; his scattered hair, Sered by the autumn of strange suffering Sung dirges in the wind; his listless hand 250 Hung like dead bone within its withered skin; Life, and the lustre that consumed it, shone As in a furnace burning secretly From his dark eyes alone. The cottagers, Who ministered with human charity 255 His human wants, beheld with wondering awe Their fleeting visitant. The mountaineer, Encountering on some dizzy precipice That spectral form, deemed that the Spirit of wind With lightning eyes, and eager breath, and feet 260 Disturbing not the drifted snow, had paused In its career: the infant would conceal His troubled visage in his mother's robe In terror at the glare of those wild eyes, To remember their strange light in many a dream 265 Of after-times; but youthful maidens, taught By nature, would interpret half the woe That wasted him, would call him with false names Brother and friend, would press his pallid hand At parting, and watch, dim through tears, the path 270 Of his departure from their father's door.
At length upon the lone Chorasmian shore He paused, a wide and melancholy waste Of putrid marshes. A strong impulse urged His steps to the sea-shore. A swan was there, _275 Beside a sluggish stream among the reeds. It rose as he approached, and, with strong wings Scaling the upward sky, bent its bright course High over the immeasurable main. His eyes pursued its flight:—'Thou hast a home, _280 Beautiful bird; thou voyagest to thine home, Where thy sweet mate will twine her downy neck With thine, and welcome thy return with eyes Bright in the lustre of their own fond joy. And what am I that I should linger here, _285 With voice far sweeter than thy dying notes, Spirit more vast than thine, frame more attuned To beauty, wasting these surpassing powers In the deaf air, to the blind earth, and heaven That echoes not my thoughts?' A gloomy smile _290 Of desperate hope wrinkled his quivering lips. For sleep, he knew, kept most relentlessly Its precious charge, and silent death exposed, Faithless perhaps as sleep, a shadowy lure, With doubtful smile mocking its own strange charms. _295
Startled by his own thoughts he looked around. There was no fair fiend near him, not a sight Or sound of awe but in his own deep mind. A little shallop floating near the shore Caught the impatient wandering of his gaze. 300 It had been long abandoned, for its sides Gaped wide with many a rift, and its frail joints Swayed with the undulations of the tide. A restless impulse urged him to embark And meet lone Death on the drear ocean's waste; 305 For well he knew that mighty Shadow loves The slimy caverns of the populous deep.
The day was fair and sunny; sea and sky Drank its inspiring radiance, and the wind Swept strongly from the shore, blackening the waves. 310 Following his eager soul, the wanderer Leaped in the boat, he spread his cloak aloft On the bare mast, and took his lonely seat, And felt the boat speed o'er the tranquil sea Like a torn cloud before the hurricane. 315
As one that in a silver vision floats Obedient to the sweep of odorous winds Upon resplendent clouds, so rapidly Along the dark and ruffled waters fled The straining boat.—A whirlwind swept it on, _320 With fierce gusts and precipitating force, Through the white ridges of the chafed sea. The waves arose. Higher and higher still Their fierce necks writhed beneath the tempest's scourge Like serpents struggling in a vulture's grasp. _325 Calm and rejoicing in the fearful war Of wave ruining on wave, and blast on blast Descending, and black flood on whirlpool driven With dark obliterating course, he sate: As if their genii were the ministers _330 Appointed to conduct him to the light Of those beloved eyes, the Poet sate, Holding the steady helm. Evening came on, The beams of sunset hung their rainbow hues High 'mid the shifting domes of sheeted spray _335 That canopied his path o'er the waste deep; Twilight, ascending slowly from the east, Entwined in duskier wreaths her braided locks O'er the fair front and radiant eyes of day; Night followed, clad with stars. On every side _340 More horribly the multitudinous streams Of ocean's mountainous waste to mutual war Rushed in dark tumult thundering, as to mock The calm and spangled sky. The little boat Still fled before the storm; still fled, like foam _345 Down the steep cataract of a wintry river; Now pausing on the edge of the riven wave; Now leaving far behind the bursting mass That fell, convulsing ocean: safely fled— As if that frail and wasted human form, _350 Had been an elemental god.
At midnight The moon arose; and lo! the ethereal cliffs Of Caucasus, whose icy summits shone Among the stars like sunlight, and around Whose caverned base the whirlpools and the waves _355 Bursting and eddying irresistibly Rage and resound forever.—Who shall save?— The boat fled on,—the boiling torrent drove,— The crags closed round with black and jagged arms, The shattered mountain overhung the sea, _360 And faster still, beyond all human speed, Suspended on the sweep of the smooth wave, The little boat was driven. A cavern there Yawned, and amid its slant and winding depths Ingulfed the rushing sea. The boat fled on _365 With unrelaxing speed.—'Vision and Love!' The Poet cried aloud, 'I have beheld The path of thy departure. Sleep and death Shall not divide us long.'
The boat pursued The windings of the cavern. Daylight shone 370 At length upon that gloomy river's flow; Now, where the fiercest war among the waves Is calm, on the unfathomable stream The boat moved slowly. Where the mountain, riven, Exposed those black depths to the azure sky, 375 Ere yet the flood's enormous volume fell Even to the base of Caucasus, with sound That shook the everlasting rocks, the mass Filled with one whirlpool all that ample chasm: Stair above stair the eddying waters rose, 380 Circling immeasurably fast, and laved With alternating dash the gnarled roots Of mighty trees, that stretched their giant arms In darkness over it. I' the midst was left, Reflecting, yet distorting every cloud, 385 A pool of treacherous and tremendous calm. Seized by the sway of the ascending stream, With dizzy swiftness, round, and round, and round, Ridge after ridge the straining boat arose, Till on the verge of the extremest curve, 390 Where, through an opening of the rocky bank, The waters overflow, and a smooth spot Of glassy quiet mid those battling tides Is left, the boat paused shuddering.—Shall it sink Down the abyss? Shall the reverting stress 395 Of that resistless gulf embosom it? Now shall it fall?—A wandering stream of wind, Breathed from the west, has caught the expanded sail, And, lo! with gentle motion, between banks Of mossy slope, and on a placid stream, 400 Beneath a woven grove it sails, and, hark! The ghastly torrent mingles its far roar, With the breeze murmuring in the musical woods. Where the embowering trees recede, and leave A little space of green expanse, the cove 405 Is closed by meeting banks, whose yellow flowers For ever gaze on their own drooping eyes, Reflected in the crystal calm. The wave Of the boat's motion marred their pensive task, Which naught but vagrant bird, or wanton wind, 410 Or falling spear-grass, or their own decay Had e'er disturbed before. The Poet longed To deck with their bright hues his withered hair, But on his heart its solitude returned, And he forbore. Not the strong impulse hid 415 In those flushed cheeks, bent eyes, and shadowy frame Had yet performed its ministry: it hung Upon his life, as lightning in a cloud Gleams, hovering ere it vanish, ere the floods Of night close over it. The noonday sun 420 Now shone upon the forest, one vast mass Of mingling shade, whose brown magnificence A narrow vale embosoms. There, huge caves, Scooped in the dark base of their aery rocks, Mocking its moans, respond and roar for ever. 425 The meeting boughs and implicated leaves Wove twilight o'er the Poet's path, as led By love, or dream, or god, or mightier Death, He sought in Nature's dearest haunt some bank, Her cradle, and his sepulchre. More dark 430 And dark the shades accumulate. The oak, Expanding its immense and knotty arms, Embraces the light beech. The pyramids Of the tall cedar overarching frame Most solemn domes within, and far below, 435 Like clouds suspended in an emerald sky, The ash and the acacia floating hang Tremulous and pale. Like restless serpents, clothed In rainbow and in fire, the parasites, Starred with ten thousand blossoms, flow around 440 The grey trunks, and, as gamesome infants' eyes, With gentle meanings, and most innocent wiles, Fold their beams round the hearts of those that love, These twine their tendrils with the wedded boughs Uniting their close union; the woven leaves 445 Make net-work of the dark blue light of day, And the night's noontide clearness, mutable As shapes in the weird clouds. Soft mossy lawns Beneath these canopies extend their swells, Fragrant with perfumed herbs, and eyed with blooms 450 Minute yet beautiful. One darkest glen Sends from its woods of musk-rose, twined with jasmine, A soul-dissolving odour to invite To some more lovely mystery. Through the dell, Silence and Twilight here, twin-sisters, keep 455 Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades, Like vaporous shapes half-seen; beyond, a well, Dark, gleaming, and of most translucent wave, Images all the woven boughs above, And each depending leaf, and every speck 460 Of azure sky, darting between their chasms; Nor aught else in the liquid mirror laves Its portraiture, but some inconstant star Between one foliaged lattice twinkling fair, Or painted bird, sleeping beneath the moon, 465 Or gorgeous insect floating motionless, Unconscious of the day, ere yet his wings Have spread their glories to the gaze of noon.
Hither the Poet came. His eyes beheld Their own wan light through the reflected lines _470 Of his thin hair, distinct in the dark depth Of that still fountain; as the human heart, Gazing in dreams over the gloomy grave, Sees its own treacherous likeness there. He heard The motion of the leaves, the grass that sprung _475 Startled and glanced and trembled even to feel An unaccustomed presence, and the sound Of the sweet brook that from the secret springs Of that dark fountain rose. A Spirit seemed To stand beside him—clothed in no bright robes _480 Of shadowy silver or enshrining light, Borrowed from aught the visible world affords Of grace, or majesty, or mystery;— But, undulating woods, and silent well, And leaping rivulet, and evening gloom _485 Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming, Held commune with him, as if he and it Were all that was,—only...when his regard Was raised by intense pensiveness,...two eyes, Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought, _490 And seemed with their serene and azure smiles To beckon him.