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Who rather than pay any rent,
Over his father's grave.
No bailiff dared within that space,
For fear of the dull charm, to enter; A man would bear upon his face, For fifteen months in any case,
The yawn of such a venture.
XXIV. Seven miles above-below-around
This pest of dulness holds its sway; A ghastly life without a sound; To Peter's soul the spell is bound
How should it ever pass away
LETTER TO MARIA GISBORNE.
LEGHORN, July 1, 1820. The spider spreads her webs, whether she be In poet's tower, cellar, or barn, or tree; The silk-worm in the dark green mulberry leaves His winding sheet and cradle ever weaves; So I, a thing whom moralists call worm, Sit spinning still round this decaying form, From the fine threads of rare and subtle
thoughtNo net of words in garish colours wrought To catch the idle buzzers of the dayBut a soft cell, where when that fades away, 10 Memory may clothe in wings my living name And feed it with the asphodels of fame, Which in those hearts which must remember
me Grow, making love an immortality.
Whoever should behold me now, I wist, Would think I were a mighty mechanist, Bent with sublime Archimedean art To breathe a soul into the iron heart Of some machine portentous, or strange gin, Which by the force of figured spells might
win Its way over the sea, and sport therein ;
1 See vol. i, pages xliii, xlvii, and xlix.
For round the walls are hung dread engines,
such As Vulcan never wrought for Jove to clutch Ixion or the Titan :-or the quick Wit of that man of God, St. Dominic, To convince Atheist, Turk or Heretic, Or those in philanthropic council met, Who thought to pay some interest for the debt They owed to Jesus Christ for their salvation, By giving a faint foretaste of damnation 30 To Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser and the rest Who made our land an island of the bless'd, When lamp-like Spain, who now relumes her
On Freedom's hearth, grew dim with Empire:With thumbscrews, wheels, with tooth and
spike and jag, Which fishers found under the utmost crag Of Cornwall and the storm-encompassed isles, Where to the sky the rude sea rarely smiles Unless in treacherous wrath, as on the morn When the exulting elements in scorn Satiated with destroyed destruction, lay Sleeping in beauty on their mangled prey, As panthers sleep;—and other strange and
50 To puzzle Tubal Cain and all his brood: Great screws, and cones, and wheels, and
The elements of what will stand the shocks Of wave and wind and time.—Upon the table More knacks and quips there be than I am
able To catalogize in this verse of mine :A pretty bowl of wood—not full of wine, But quicksilver ; that dew which the gnomes
drink When at their subterranean toil they swink, Pledging the dæmons of the earthquake, who 60 Reply to them in lava-cry halloo ! And call out to the cities o'er their head, Roofs, towers and shrines, the dying and the
dead, Crash through the chinks of earth-and then
all quaff Another rouse, and hold their sides and laugh. This quicksilver no gnome has drunk—within The walnut bowl it lies, veinèd and thin, In colour like the wake of light that stains The Tuscan deep, when from the moist moon
rains The inmost shower of its white fire—the
breeze Is still-blue heaven smiles over the pale seas. And in this bowl of quicksilver—for I Yield to the impulse of an infancy Outlasting manhood—I have made to float A rude idealism of a paper boat:A hollow screw with cogs-Henry will know The thing I mean and laugh at me,-if so He fears not I should do more mischief.—Next Lie bills and calculations much perplexed, With steam - boats, frigates, and machinery
quaint Traced over them in blue and yellow paint. Then comes a range of mathematical
Instruments, for plans nautical and statical;
be. Near that a dusty paint-box, some odd hooks, A half-burnt match, an ivory block, three
books, . Where conic sections, spherics, logarithms, To great Laplace, from Saunderson and Sims, Lie heaped in their harmonious disarray Of figures,—disentangle them who may. Baron de Tott's Memoirs beside them lie, And some odd volumes of old chemistry. Near those a most inexplicable thing, With lead in the middle-- I'm conjecturing How to make Henry understand; but noI'll leave, as Spenser says, with many mo, This secret in the pregnant womb of time, Too vast a matter for so weak a rhyme.
And here like some weird Archimage sit I, Plotting dark spells, and devilish enginery, The self-impelling steam-wheels of the mind
1 If Shelley had acquired in his boyhood and carried into maturity the ordinary schoolboy's pronunciation lograthims, this couplet would be less impeachable on the score of rhyme than it must remain on the supposition that he pronounced the word properly. To the eye and the punctilious ear the rhyme is ab. solutely indefensible.—ED.