Obrazy na stronie


Froy the Baths of Lucca, in 1818, Shelley visited Venice; and, circumstances rendering it eligible that we should remain a few weeks in the neighbourhood of that city, he accepted the offer of Lord Byron, who lent him the use of a villa he rented Dear Este; and he sent for his family from Lucca to join him.

I Capuccini was a villa built on the site of a Capuchin convent, demolished when the French suppressed religious houses; it was situated on the very overhanging brow of a low hill at the foot of a range of higher ones. The house was cheerful and plcasant; a vine-trellised walk (a pergola, as it is called in Italian) led from the hall door to a summer-house at the end of the garden, which Shelley made his study, and in which he began the Prometheus; and here also, as he mentions in a letter, he wrote Julian and Maddalo. A slight ravine, with a road in its depth, divided the garden from the hill, on which stood the ruins of the ancient castle of Este, whose dark massive wall gave forth an echo, and from whose ruined crevices owls and bats flitted forth at night, as the crescent moon sunk behind the black and heavy battlements. We looked from the garden over the wide plain of Lombardy, bounded to the west by the far Apennines, while to the east the horizon was lost in misty distance. After the picturesque but limited view of mountain, ravine, and chesnut wood, at the Baths of Lucca, there was something infinitely gratifying to the eye in the wide range of prospect commanded by our new abode.

Our first misfortune, of the kind from which we soon suffered even more severely, happened here. Our little girl, an infant in whose small features I fancied that I traced great resemblance to her father, showed symptoms of suffering from the heat of the climate. Teething increased her illness and danger. W when we became alarmed, hastened to Venice for the best advice. When we arrived at Fusina, we found that we had forgotten our passport, and the soldiers on duty attempted to prevent our crossing the laguna; but they could not resist Shelley's impetuosity at such a moment. We had scarcely arrived at Venice before life fled from the little sufferer, and we returned to Este to weep her loss.

After a few weeks spent in this retreat, which were interspersed by visits to Venice, we proceeded southward.



Audisne hæc, Amphiarae, sub terram abdite?

PREFACE. The Greek tragic writers, in selecting as their subject any portion of their nations history or mythology, employed in their treatment of it a certain arbitrary discretion, They by no means conceived themselves bound to adhere to the common interpretation, or to imitate in story, as in title, their rivals and predecessors. Such a system would have amounted to a resignation of those claims to preference over their competitors which incited the composition. The Agamemnonian story was exhibited on the Athenian theatre with as many variations as dramas. · I have presumed to employ a similar license. The Prometheus Unbourd of

Eschylus supposed the reconciliation of Jupiter with his victim as the price of the disclosure of the danger threatened to his empire by the consummation of his marriage with Thetis. Thetis, according to this view of the subject, was given in



permission of Jupiter, delivered from framed my story on this model. I should bare

feating the subject had incitei me

uch an attempt would challenge
e from a catastrophe so feeble as that

manhind. The moral ioterest of
he sufferings and endurance oi

him as unsaying lus high
hous adversary. The only
is Satan; and Prometheus is,

in addition to omnipotent force, he is of ambition, envy, revenge, the Hero of Paradise Lost

enders in the mind a per

US wrongs, and to excuse e minds of those who cooengenders something worse.

perfection of moral and

to the best and


marriage to Peleus ; and Prometheus, by the permission of Jupiter, d his captivity by Hercules. Had I framed my story on this model, done no more than have attempted to restore the lost drama of

to restore the lost drama of Æschylus; an ambition which, if my preference to this mode of treating the subject " to cherish, the recollection of the high comparison such an attempt w might well abate, But, in truth, I was averse from a catastrophe so of reconciling the Champion with the Oppressor of manhind. The m the fable, which is so powerfully sustained by the sufferings and Prometheus, would be annihilated if we could conceive of him as language, and quailing before his successful and perfidious adversar imaginary being resembling in any degree Prometheus is Satan : and in my judgment, a more poetical character than Satan, because, courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipote susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, and a desire for personal aggrandizement, which, in the Hero of interfere with the interest. The character of Satan engenders in nicious casuistry, which leads us to weigh his faults with his wrons, the former because the latter exceed all measure. In the minds 01 sider that magnificent fiction with a religious feeling, it engenders sou But Prometheus is, as it were, the type of the highest perfection intellectual nature, impelled by the purest and the truest motives 2 noblest ends.

This poem was chiefly written upon the mountainous ruins of the calla, among the flowery glades, and thickets of odoriferous blosso0323 are extending in ever-winding labyrinths upon its immense platto: arches suspended in the air. The bright blue sky of Rome, and eh vigorous awakening of Spring in that divinest climate, and the new 131 drenches the spirits even to intoxication, were the inspiration of this a

The imagery which I have employed will be found, in many is been drawn from the operations of the human mind, or from those este which they are expressed. This is unusual in modern poetry, althon Shakspeare are full of instances of the same kind : Dante indeed other poet, and with greater success. But the Greek poets, as write resource of awakening the sympathy of their contemporaries was un the habitual use of this power; and it is the study of their work 5 merit would probably be denied me) to which I am willing that y impute this singularity.

One word is due in candour to the degree in which the study o writings may have tinged my composition ; for such has been a topic. regard to poems far more popular, and indeed more deservedly po F** It is impossible that any one who inhabits the same age with such who stand in the foremost ranks of our own can conscientiously 253 his language and tone of thought may not have been modified by I productions of those extraordinary intellects. It is true that, not of genius, but the forms in which it has manifested itself are due less to of their own minds than to the peculiarity of the moral and intellect the minds among which they have been produced. Thus a number o the form, whilst they want the spirit, of those whom, it is allegea because the former is the endowment of the age in which they lives must be the uncommunicated lightning of their own mind.

The peculiar style of intense and comprehensive imagery which modern literature of England has not been, as a general power, th e imitation of any particular writer. The mass of capabilities remains Z A materially the same; the circumstances which awaken it to aces

uns of the Baths of Carz.

lossoming trees, which se platforms and dury e, and the effect of the e new life with which it "this dramı ay instances, to haw se exceralactions or y, although Dante and

deed more than any as writers to whom no

as unknown, were in works (since a higher

m y readers should

study of contemporary a topic of censure arth y popular, than mine. such w riters as those

assure himself that ned by the

study of the not th e Spirit of their sto th e peculiarities

lectual condition of Seraf V riters possess legea . E hey imitate:

a nd the latter

ch d

istinguishes the P roduct of the

every period


change. If England were divided into forty republics, each equal in population and extent to Athens, there is no reason to suppose but that, under institutions not more perfect than those of Athens, each would produce philosophers and poets equal to those who (if we except Shakspeare) have never been surpassed. We owe the great writers of the golden age of our literature to that fervid awakening of the public mind which shook to dust the oldest and most oppressive form of the Christian religion. We owe Milton to the progress and development of the same spirit : the sacred Milton was, let it ever be remembered, a republican, and a bold enquirer into morals and religion. The great writers of our own age are, we have reason to suppose, the companions and forerunners of some unimagined change in our social condition, or the opinions which cement it. The cloud of mind is discharging its collected lightning, and the equilibrium between institutions and opinions is now restoring, or is about to be restored.

As to imitation, poetry is a mimetic art. It creates, but it creates by combination and representation. Poetical abstractions are beautiful and new, not because the portions of which they are composed had no previous existence in the mind of man or in nature, but because the whole produced by their combination has some intelligible and beautiful analogy with those sources of emotion and thought, and with the con temporary condition of them: one great poet is a masterpiece of nature which another not only ought to study, but must study. He might as wisely and as easily determine that his mind should no longer be the mirror of all that is lovely in the visible universe as exclude from his contemplation the beautiful which exists in the writings of a great contemporary. The pretence of doing it would be a presumption in any but the greatest ; the effect, even in him, would be strained, unnatural, and ineffectual. A poet is the combined product of such internal powers as modify the nature of others, and of such external influences as excite and sustain these powers : he is not one, but both. Every inan's inind is, in this respect, modified by all the objects of nature and art; by every word and every suggestion which he ever admitted to act upon his consciousness; it is the mirror upon which all forms are reflected, and in which they compose one form. Poets-not otherwise than philosophers, painters, sculptors, and musicians--are, in one sense, the creators, and, in another, the creations, of their age. From this subjection the loftiest do not escape. There is a similarity between Homer and Hesiod, between Æschylus and Euripides, between Virgil and Horace, between Dante and Petrarch, between Shakspeare and Fletcher, between Dryden and Pope ; each has a generic resemblance under which the specific distinctions are arranged. If this similarity be the result of imitation, I am willing to confess that I have imitated.

Let this opportunity be conceded to me of acknowledging that I have what a Scotch philosopher characteristically terms, "a passion for reforming the world :” what passion incited him to write and publish his book he omits to explain. For my.

part. I had rather be damned with Plate and Lord-Bacon than go to hcayen with Valsy and Malthus. But it is a mistake to suppose that I dedicate my poetical com

jursitions solely to the direct enforcement of reform, or that I consider them in any I degree as containing a reasoned system on the theory of human life. Didactic poetry is my abhorrence; nothing can be equally well expressed in prose that is not tedious and supererogatory in verse. My purpose has hitherto been simply to familiarize the highly refined imagination of the more select classes of poetical readers with beautiful idealisms of moral excellence; aware that, until the mind can love, and admire, and trust, and hope, and endure, reasoned principles of moral conduct are seeds cast upon the highway of life, which the unconscious passenger tramples into dust although they would bear the harvest of his happiness. Should I live to accomplish what I propose--that is, produce a systematical history of what appear to me to be the genuine elements of human society-let not the advocates of injustice and superstition flatter themselves that I should take Æschylus rather than Plato as iny model.

The having spoken of myself with unaffected freedom will need little apology with the candid ; and let the uncandid consider that they injure me less than their own hearts and minds by misrepresentation. Whatever talents a person may possess to amuse and instruct others, be they ever so inconsiderable, he is yet bound to exert them. If his attempt be ineffectual, let the punishment of an unaccomplished pripose have been sufficient; let none trouble themselves to heap the dust of oblivioa upon his efforts; the pile they raise will betray his grave, which might otherwise have been unknown.


The Earth.



ACT I. SCENE-- A Ravine of Icy Rocks in the Indian Caucasus. PROMETHEUS

is discovered bound to the Precipice. PANTHEA and IONE are seated
at his fect. Time, Night. During the Scene, Morning straty

Prometheus. Monarch of Gods and Dæmons, and all Spirits -
But One-who throng those bright and rolling worlds
Which thou and I alone of living things
Behold with sleepless eyes ! regard this earth
Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou
Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise,
And toil, and hecatombs of broken hearts,
With fear and self-contempt and barren hope:
Whilst me who am thy foe, eyeless in hate
Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,
O'er mine own misery and thy vain revenge.
Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours,
And moments aye divided by keen pangs
Till they seemed years, torture and solitude,
Scorn and despair—these are mine empire :-
More glorious far than that which thou surveyest
From thine unenvied throne, O Mighty God !
Almighty, had I deigned to share the shame
Of thine ill tyranny, and hung not hure

Nailed to this wall of eagle-bafiling mountain,
Black, wintry, dead, unmeasured ; without herb,
Insect, or beast, or shape or sound of life.
Ah me! alas ! pain, pain, ever, for ever!
No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure.
I ask the Earth, have not the mountains felt?
I ask yon Heaven, the all-beholding Sun,
Has it not seen? The Sea, in storm or calm,
Heaven's ever-changing shadow spread below,
Have its deaf waves not heard my agony?
Ah me! alas ! pain, pain, ever, for ever !
The crawling glaciers pierce me with the spears
Of their moon-freezing crystals; the bright chains
Eat with their burning cold into my bones;
Heaven's winged hound, polluting from thy lips
His beak in poison not his own, tears up
My heart ; and shapeless sights come wandering by,
The ghastly people of the realm of dream,
Mocking me : and the Earthquake-fiends are charged
To wrench the rivets from my quivering wounds
When the rocks split and close again behind :
While from their loud abysses howling throng
The Genii of the Storm, urging the rage
Of whirlwind, and afflict me with keen hail.
And yet to me welcome is day and night;
Whether one breaks the hoar-frost of the morn,
Or, starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs
The leaden-coloured east ; for then they lead
The wingless crawling Hours, one among whom
-As some dark priest hales the reluctant victim-
Shall drag thee, cruel King, to kiss the blood
From these pale feet, which then might trample thee
If they disdained not such a prostrate slave.
Disdain! Ah no! I pity thee. What ruin
Will hunt thee undefended through the wide heaven !
How will thy soul, cloven to its depth with terror,
Gape like a hell within! I speak in grief,
Not exultation ; for I hate no more,
- As then ere misery made me wise. The curse
Once breathed on thee I would recall. Ye Mountains,
Whose many-voicèd Echoes through the mist

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