Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

XXV.

WHEN soft winds and

sunny

skies
With the green earth harmonise,
And the young and dewy dawn,
Bold as an unhunted fawn,
Up the windless heaven is gone-
Laugh—for ambushed in the day,
Clouds and whirlwinds watch their prey.

XXVI.

The babe is at peace within the womb,
The
corpse

is at rest within the tomb,
We begin in what we end.

XXVII.

EPITAPH.

THESE are two friends whose lives were undivided ; So let their memory be, now they have glided Under their grave; let not their bones be parted, For their two hearts in life were single-hearted.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

With this last year of the life of Shelley these Notes end. They are not what I intended them to be. I began with energy and a burning desire to impart to the world, in worthy language, the sense I have of the virtues and genius

6

of the Beloved and the Lost; my strength has failed under the task. Recurrence to the past-full of its own deep and unforgotten joys and sorrows, contrasted with succeeding years of painful and solitary struggle, has shaken my health. Days of great suffering have followed my attempts to write, and these again produced a weakness and languor that spread their sinister influence over these notes. I dislike speaking of myself, but cannot help apologising to the dead, and to the public, for not having executed in the manner I desired the history I engaged to give of Shelley's writings*.

The winter of 1822 was passed in Pisa, if we might call that season winter in which autumn merged into spring, after the interval of but few days of bleaker weather. Spring sprang up early, and with extreme beauty. Shelley had conceived the idea of writing a tragedy on the subject of Charles I. It was one that he believed adapted for a drama ; full of intense interest, contrasted character, and busy passion. He had recommended it long before, when he encouraged me to attempt a play. Whether the subject proved more difficult than he anticipated, or whether in fact he could not bend his mind away from the broodings and wanderings of thought, divested from human interest, which he best loved, I cannot tell; but he proceeded slowly, and threw it aside for one of the most mystical of his poems, " The Triumph of Life," on which he was employed at the last,

* I at one time feared that the correction of the press might be less exact through my illness; but, I believe that it is nearly free from error. Some asterisks occur in a few pages, as they did in the volume of Posthumous Poems, either because they refer to private concerns, or because the original manuscript was left imperfect. Did any one see the papers from which I drew that volume, the wonder would be how any eyes or patience were capable of extracting it from so confused a mass, interlined and broken into fragments, so that the sense could only be deciphered aud joined by guesses, which might seem rather intuitive than founded on reasoning. Yet I believe no mistake was made.

His passion for boating was fostered at this time by having among our friends several sailors ; his favourite companion, Edward Ellerker Williams, of the 8th Light Dragoons, had begun his life in the navy, and had afterwards entered the army; he had spent several years in India, and his love for adventure and manly exercises accorded with Shelley's taste. It was their favourite plan to build a boat such as they could manage themselves, and, living on the sea-coast, to enjoy at every hour and season the pleasure they loved best. Captain Roberts, R.N., undertook to build the boat at Genoa, where he was also occupied in building the Bolivar for Lord Byron. Ours was to be an open boat, on a model taken from one of the royal dock-yards. I have since heard that there was a defect in this model, and that it was never sea-worthy. In the month of February, Shelley and his friend went to Spezia to seek for houses for us. Only one was to be found at all suitable ; however, a trifle such as not finding a house could not stop Shelley ; the one found was to serve for all. It was unfurnished; we sent our furniture by sea, and with a good deal of precipitation, arising from his impatience, made our removal. We left Pisa on the 26th of April.

The bay of Spezia is of considerable extent, and divided by a rocky promontory into a larger and smaller one. The town of Lerici is situated on the eastern point, and in the depth of the smaller bay, which bears the name of this town, is the village of Sant' Arenzo. Our house, Casa Magni, was close to this village; the sea came up to the door, a steep hill sheltered it behind. The proprietor of the estate on which it was situated was insane; he had begun to erect a large house at the summit of the hill behind, but his malady prevented its being finished, and it was falling into ruin. He had, and

this to the Italians had seemed a glaring symptom of very decided madness, rooted up the olives on the hill side, and planted forest trees; these were mostly young, but the plantation was more in English taste than I ever elsewhere saw in Italy; some fine walnut and ilex trees interiningled their dark massy foliage, and formed groups which still haunt my memory, as then they satiated the eye with a sense of loveliness. The scene was indeed of unimaginable beauty ; the blue extent of waters, the almost land-locked bay, the near castle of Lerici, shutting it in to the east, and distant Porto Venere to the west; the varied forms of the precipitous rocks that bound in the beach, over which there was only a winding rugged foot-path towards Lerici, and none on the other side ; the tideless sea leaving no sands nor shingle,-formed a picture such as one sees in Salvator Rosa's landscapes only: sometimes the sunshine vanished when the scirocco raged—the ponente, the wind was called on that shore. The gales and squalls, that hailed our first arrival, surrounded the bay with foam ; the howling wind swept round our exposed house, and the sea roared unremittingly, so that we almost fancied ourselves on board ship. At other times sunshine and calm invested sea and sky, and the rich tints of Italian heaven bathed the scene in bright and ever-varying tints.

The natives were wilder than the place. Our near neighbours, of Sant' Arenzo, were more like

savages than any people I ever before lived among. Many a night they passed on the beach, singing or rather howling, the women dancing about among the waves that broke at their feet, the men leaning against the rocks and joining in their loud wild chorus. We could get no provisions nearer than Sarzana, at a distance of

« PoprzedniaDalej »