Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

remonstrated on the danger, and could not understand how any one could take pleasure in an exercise that risked life. “Ma va per la vita ! ” they exclaimed. I little thought how true their words would prove. He once ventured with a friend, on the glassy sea of a calm day, down the Arno and round the coast, to Leghorn, which by keeping close in shore was very practicable. They returned to Pisa by the canal, when, missing the direct cut, they got entangled among weeds, and the boat upset; a wetting was all the harm done, except that the intense cold of his drenched clothes made Shelley faint. Once I went down with him to the mouth of the Arno, where the stream, then high and swift, met the tideless sea and disturbed its sluggish waters; it was a waste and dreary scene ; the desert sand stretched into a point surrounded by waves that broke idly though perpetually around; it was a scene very similar to Lido, of which he had said,

I love all waste
And solitary places; where we taste
The pleasure of believing what we see
Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be;
And such was this wide ocean, and this shore
More barren than its billows.

Our little boat was of greater use, unaccompanied by any danger, when we removed to the baths. Some friends lived at the village of Pugnano, four miles off, and we went to and fro to see them, in our boat, by the canal ; which, fed by the Serchio, was, though an artificial, a full and picturesque stream, making its way under verdant banks, sheltered by trees that dipped their boughs into the murmuring waters. By day, multitudes of ephemera darted to and fro on the surface ; at night, the fire-flies came out among the shrubs on the banks ; the cicale at noon day kept up their hum;

us.

the aziola cooed in the quiet evening. It was a pleasant summer, bright in all but Shelley's health and inconstant spirits ; yet he enjoyed himself greatly, and became more and more attached to the part of the country where chance appeared to cast us. Sometimes he projected taking a farm, situated on the height of one of the near hills, surrounded by chesnut and pine woods, and overlooking a wide extent of country; or of settling still further in the maritime Apennines, at Massa. Several of his slighter and unfinished poems were inspired by these scenes, and by the companions around

It is the nature of that poetry however which overflows from the soul oftener to express sorrow and regret than joy ; for it is when oppressed by the weight of life, and away from those he loves, that the poet has recourse to the solace of expression in verse.

Still Shelley's passion was the ocean ; and he wished that our summers, instead of being passed among the hills near Pisa, should be spent on the shores of the sea. difficult to find a spot. We shrank from Naples from a fear that the heats would disagree with Percy ; Leghorn had lost its only attraction, since our friends who had resided there were returned to England ; and Monte Nero being the resort of many English, we did not wish to find ourselves in the midst of a colony of chance travellers. No one then thought it possible to reside at Via Reggio, which latterly has become a summer resort. The low lands and bad air of Maremma stretch the whole length of the western shores of the Mediterranean, till broken by the rocks and hills of Spezia. It was a vague idea ; but Shelley suggested an excursion to Spezia, to see whether it would be feasible to spend a summer there. The beauty of the bay enchanted him-we saw no

It was very

house to suit us—but the notion took root, and many circumstances, enchained as by fatality, occurred to urge him to execute it.

He looked forward this autumn with great pleasure to the prospect of a visit from Leigh Hunt. When Shelley visited Lord Byron at Ravenna, the latter had suggested his coming out, together with the plan of a periodical work, in which they should all join. Shelley saw a prospect of good for the fortunes of his friend, and pleasure in his society, and instantly exerted himself to have the plan executed. He did not intend himself joining in the work ; partly from pride, not wishing to have the air of acquiring readers for his poetry by associating it with the compositions of more popular writers ; and, also, because he might feel shackled in the free expression of his opinions, if any friends were to be compromised; by those opinions, carried even to their utmost extent, he wished to live and die, as being in his conviction not only true, but such as alone would conduce to the moral improvement and happiness of mankind. The sale of the work might, meanwhile, either really or supposedly, be injured by the free expression of his thoughts, and this evil he resolved to avoid.

POEMS WRITTEN IN 1822.

THE ZUCCA.*

1

SUMMER was dead and Autumn was expiring,

And infant Winter laughed upon the land All cloudlessly and cold ;—when I, desiring More in this world than

any understand, Wept o'er the beauty, which, like sea retiring,

Had left the earth bare as the wave-worn sand Of my poor heart, and o'er the grass and flowers Pale for the falsehood of the flattering hours.

Summer was dead, but I yet lived to weep

The instability of all but weeping;
And on the earth lulled in her winter sleep

I woke, and envied her as she was sleeping.
Too happy Earth! over thy face shall creep

The wakening vernal airs, until thou, leaping From unremembered dreams shalt [ ] see No death divide thy immortality.

I loved-O no, I mean not one of ye,

Or any earthly one, though ye are dear As human heart to human heart may be ;

* Pumpkin.

I loved, I know not what—but this low sphere, And all that it contains, contains not thee,

Thou, whom, seen nowhere, I feel everywhere, Dim object of my soul's idolatry.

*

*

By Heaven and Earth, from all whose shapes thou flowest,

Neither to be contained, delayed, or hidden, Making divine the loftiest and the lowest,

When for a moment thou art not forbidden To live within the life which thou bestowest,

And leaving noblest things, vacant and chidden, Cold as a corpse after the spirit's flight, Blank as the sun after the birth of night. In winds, and trees, and streams, and all things common,

In music, and the sweet unconscious tone Of animals, and voices which are human,

Meant to express some feelings of their own ; In the soft motions and rare smile of woman,

In flowers and leaves, and in the fresh grass shown,
Or dying in the autumn, I the most
Adore thee present, or lament thee lost.
And thus I went lamenting, when I saw

A plant upon the river's margin lie,
Like one who loved beyond his Nature's law,

And in despair had cast him down to die ;
Its leaves which had outlived the frost, the thaw

Had blighted as a heart which hatred's eye
Can blast not, but which pity kills; the dew
Lay on its spotted leaves like tears too true.
The Heavens had wept upon it, but the Earth

Had crushed it on her unmaternal breast

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« PoprzedniaDalej »