Obrazy na stronie

Why should we shrink from what we cannot shun ? Each hath his pang, but feeble sufferers groan With brain-born dreams of evil all their own. Pursue what chance or fate proclaimeth best; Peace waits us on the shores of Acheron: There no forced banquet claims the sated guest, But silence spreads the couch of ever-welcome rest.

Yet if, as holiest men have deemed, there be
A land of souls beyond that sable shore,
To shame the doctrine of the Sadducee
And sophists, madly vain of dubious lore,
How sweet it were in concert to adore
With those who made our mortal labours light!
To hear each voice we feared to hear no more !
Behold each mighty shade revealed to sight,

The ": Samian sage, and all who taught the

right !

The third canto of Childe Harold is more deeply imbued with a love of nature than any of his previous productions. A new power had been imparted to him on the shores of the ‘Leman lake. He had just escaped from the strife of London and his own domestic unhappiness, and his conversations with Shelley might have turned him more strongly to this pure poetical source. The poetry of Wordsworth had also unconsciously lent its influence. An evening scene by the side of the lake is thus exquisitely described:

It is the hush of night; and all between Thy margin and the mountains, dusk, yet clear, Mellowed and mingling, yet distinctly seen— Save darkened Jura, whose capped heights appear Precipitously steep; and drawing near, There breathes a living fragrance from the shore, Of flowers yet fresh with childhood: on the ear Drops the light drip of the suspended oar, Or chirps the grasshopper one good-night carol more;

He is an evening reveller, who makes His life an infancy, and sings his fill ! At intervals, some bird from out the brakes, Starts into voice a moment—then is still. There seems a floating whisper on the hillBut that is fancy, for the star-light dews All silently their tears of love instil, Weeping themselves away, till they infuse Deep into nature's breast the spirit of her hues.

A forcible contrast to this still scene is then given in a brief description of the same landscape during a thunder-storm :

The sky is changed —and such a change | 0 night, And storm, and darkness, ye are wondrous strong, Yet lovely in your strength, as is the light Of a dark eye in woman | Far along From peak to peak, the rattling crags among, Leaps the live thunder ! not from one lone cloud, But every mountain now hath found a tongue, And Jura answers, through her misty shroud, Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!

And this is in the night: most glorious night ! Thou wert not sent for slumber ! let me be A sharer in thy fierce and far delight— A portion of the tempest and of thee! How the lit lake shines, a phosphoric sea, And the big rain comes dancing to the earth ! And now again ’tis black-and now the glee Of the loud hill shakes with its mountain-mirth, As if they did rejoice o'er a young earthquake's birth.

In the fourth canto there is a greater throng of

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

The Greek statues at Florence are then inimitably described, after which the poet visits Rome, and revels in the ruins of the Palatine and Coliseum, and the glorious remains of ancient art. His dreams of love and beauty, of intellectual power and majesty, are here realised. The lustre of the classic age seems reflected back in his glowing pages, and we feel that in this intense appreciation of ideal beauty and sculptured grace—in passionate energy and ecstasy—Byron outstrips all his contemporaries. The poem concludes abruptly with an apostrophe to the sea, his ‘joy of youthful sports, and a source of lofty enthusiasm and pleasure in his solitary wanderings on the shores of Italy and Greece. The greatness of Byron's genius is seen in Childe Haroldits tenderness in the tales and smaller poems—its rich variety in Don Juan. A brighter garland few poets can hope to wear—yet it wants the unfading flowers of hope and virtue.

[The Gladiator.]

I see before me the gladiator lie:
He leans upon his hand; his manly brow
Consents to death, but conquers agony,
And his drooped head sinks gradually low:
And through his side the last drops, ebbing slow
From the red gash, fall heavy, one by one,
Like the first of a thunder-shower; and now
The arena swims around him; he is gone,

Ere ceased the inhuman shout which hailed the wretch

who won.

He heard it, but he heeded not; his eyes Were with his heart, and that was far away: He recked not of the life he lost nor prize, But where his rude hut by the Danube lay; There were his young barbarians all at play, There was their Dacian mother—he, their sire, Butchered to make a Roman holiday. All this rushed with his blood. Shall he expire, And unavenged? Arise, ye Goths, and glut # ire ! [Apostrophe to the Ocean.]

y There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar;
I love not man the less, but nature more,
From these our interviews, in which I steal
From all I may be, or have been before,
To mingle with the universe, and feel

What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.

y Roll on, thou deep and dark-blue Ocean-roll!
Ten thousand fleets sweep over thee in vain;
Man marks the earth with ruin-his control
Stops with the shore; upon the watery plain
The wrecks are all thy deed, nor doth remain
A shadow of man's ravage, save his own,
When, for a moment, like a drop of rain,
He sinks into thy depths with bubbling groan-

Without a grave, unknelled, uncoffined, and unknown.

His steps are not upon thy paths—thy fields Are not a spoil for him—thou dost arise And shake him from thee; the vile strength he wields For earth's destruction thou dost all despise, Spurning him from thy bosom to the skies, And send'st him, shivering in thy playful spray, And howling to his gods, where haply lies His petty hope in some near port or bay, And dashest him again to earth: there let him lay.

* The armaments which thunderstrike the walls
Of rock-built cities, bidding nations quake,
And monarchs tremble in their capitals,
The oak leviathans, whose huge ribs make
Their clay creator the vain title take
Of lord of thee, and arbiter of war:
These are thy toys, and, as the snowy flake,
They melt into thy yeast of waves, which mar

Alike the Armada's pride, or spoils of Trafalgar.

* Thy shores are empires, changed in all save thee-
Assyria, Greece, Rome, Carthage, what are they?
Thy waters wasted them while they were free,
And many a tyrant since; their shores obey
The stranger, slave, or savage; their decay
Has dried up realms to deserts: not so thou;
Unchangeable save to thy wild waves' play.
Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow:

Such as creation's dawn beheld, thou rollest now.

- Thou glorious mirror, where the Almighty's form
Glasses itself in tempests; in all time,
Calm or convulsed—in breeze, or gale, or storm,
Icing the pole, or in the torrid clime
Dark-heaving; boundless, endless, and sublime—
The image of Eternity—the throne
Of the Invisible; even from out thy slime
The monsters of the deep are made; each zone

Obeys thee; thou goest forth, dread, fathomless, alone.

And I have loved thee, Ocean' and my joy Of youthful sports was on thy breast to be Borne, like thy bubbles, onward: from a boy I wantoned with thy breakers—they to me Were a delight; and if the freshening sea Made them a terror—'twas a pleasing fear; For I was as it were a child of thee, And trusted to thy billows far and near, A'id my hand upon thy mane—as I do here.

[An Italian Evening on the Banks of the Brenta.] [From Childe Harold.]

The moon is up, and yet it is not night— Sunset divides the sky with her—a sea Of glory streams along the alpine height Of blue Friuli's mountains: heaven is free From clouds, but of all colours seems to be Melted to one vast Iris of the west, Where the day joins the past eternity; While on the other hand, meek Dian's crest Floats through the azure air—an island of the blest.

A single star is at her side, and reigns
With her o'er half the lovely heaven; but still
Yon sunny sea heaves brightly, and remains
Rolled o'er the peak of the far Rhaetian hill,
As day and night contending were, until
Nature reclaimed her order: gently flows
The deep-dyed Brenta, where their hues instil
The odorous purple of a new-born rose,

Which streams upon her stream, and glassed within

it glows.

Filled with the face of heaven, which, from afar, Comes down upon the waters; all its hues, From the rich sunset to the rising star, Their magical variety diffuse: And now they change; a paler shadow strews Its mantle o'er the mountains; parting day Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues With a new colour as it gasps away, The last still loveliest, till—'tis gone—and all is gray.

[Midnight Scene in Rome—the Coliseum.] [From Manfred.]

The stars are forth, the moon above the tops
Of the snow-shining mountains. Beautiful!
I linger yet with Nature, for the night
Hath been to me a more familiar face
Than that of man; and in her starry shade
Of dim and solitary loveliness,
I learned the language of another world.
I do remember me, that in my youth,
When I was wandering, upon such a night
I stood within the Coliseum's wall,
"Midst the chief relics of all-mighty Rome:
The trees which grew along the broken arches
Waved dark in the blue midnight, and the stars
Shone through the rents of ruin; from afar
The watch-dog bayed beyond the Tiber; and
More near, from out the Caesars' palace came
The owl's long cry, and, interruptedly,
Of distant sentinels the fitful song
Begun and died upon the gentle wind.
Some cypresses beyond the time-worn breach
Appeared to skirt the horizon, yet they stood
Within a bowshot. Where the Caesars dwelt,
And dwell the tuneless birds of night, amidst
A grove which springs through levelled battlements,
And twines its roots with the imperial hearths,
Ivy usurps the laurel's place of growth;
But the gladiator's bloody circus stands
A noble wreck in ruinous perfection |
While Caesar's chambers and the Augustan halls
Grovel on earth in indistinct decay.
And thou didst shine, thou rolling moon, upon
All this, and cast a wide and tender light,
Which softened down the hoar austerity
Of rugged desolation, and filled up,
As 'twere anew, the gaps of centuries;
Leaving that beautiful which still was so,

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

The ruling passion, such as marble shews
When exquisitely chiseled, still lay there,
But fixed as marble's unchanged aspect throws
O'er the fair Wenus, but for ever fair;
O'er the Laocoon's all eternal throes,
And ever-dying gladiator's air,
Their energy like life forms all their fame,
Yet looks not life, for they are still the same.

She woke at length, but not as sleepers wake,
Rather the dead, for life seemed something new;
A strange sensation which she must partake
Perforce, since whatsoever met her view
Struck not on memory, though a heavy ache
Lay at her heart, whose earliest beat still true
Brought back the sense of pain without the cause-
For, for a while, the furies made a pause.

She looked on many a face with vacant eye,
On many a token, without knowing what;
She saw them watch her without asking why,
And recked not who around her pillow sat:
Not speechless, though she spoke not; not a sigh
Relieved her thoughts; dull silence and quick
Were tried in vain by those who served; she gave
No sign, save breath, of having left the grave.

Her handmaids tended, but she heeded not;
Her father watched, she turned her eyes away;
She recognised no being, and no spot,
However dear or cherished in their day;
They changed from room to room, but all forgot;
Gentle, but without memory, she lay;
At length those eyes, which they would fain be
Back to old thoughts, waxed full of fearful meaning.

And then a slave bethought her of a harp:
The harper came and tuned his instrument:

At the first notes, irregular and sharp,
On him her flashing eyes a moment bent;

Then to the wall she turned, as if to warp
Her thoughts from sorrow through her heart

And he began a long low island song
Of ancient days ere tyranny grew strong.

Anon her thin wan fingers beat the wall
In time to his old tune; he changed the theme,
And sung of Love; the fierce name struck through all
Her recollection; on her flashed the dream
Of what she was, and is, if ye could call
To be so being: in a gushing stream
The tears rushed forth from her o'erclouded brain,
Like mountain mists at length dissolved in rain.

Twelve days and nights she withered thus; at last,
Without a groan, or sigh, or glance, to shew
A parting pang, the spirit from her passed:
And they who watched her nearest could not know
The very instant, till the change that cast
Her sweet face into shadow, dull and slow,
Glazed o'er her eyes—the beautiful, the black-
Oh to possess such lustre, and then lack!

Thus lived—thus died she; never more on her
Shall sorrow light or shame. She was not made
Through years or moons the inner weight to bear,
Which colder hearts endure till they are laid
By age in earth: her days and pleasures were
Brief, but delightful—such as had not stayed
Long with her destiny; but she sleeps well
By the sea-shore whereon she loved to dwell.

That isle is now all desolate and bare,
Its dwellings down, its tenants passed away;
None but her own and father's grave is there,
And nothing outward tells of human clay;
Ye could not know where lies a thing so fair;
No one is there to shew, no tongue to say
What was; no dirge except the hollow seas
Mourns o'er the beauty of the Cyclades.


PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY was the son and heir of a wealthy English baronet, Sir Timothy Shelley of Castle Goring, in Sussex, and was born at Field Place, in that county, on the 4th of August 1792.

Percy Bysshe Shelley.

In worldly prospects and distinction the poet therefore surpassed most of his tuneful brethren; yet this only served to render his unhappy and strange destiny the more conspicuously wretched. When ten years of age, he was put to a public school, Sion House, where he was harshly treated both by his instructors and by tyrannical school-fellows. He was fond of reading, especially wild romances and tales of diablerie; and when very young he wrote two novels, Zastrozzi, and St Irvyne, or the Rosicrucian. From Sion House, Shelley was removed to Eton, where his sensitive spirit was again wounded by ill-usage and by the system of fagging tolerated at Eton. His resistance to all established authority and opinion displayed itself while at school, and in the introduction to his Revolt of Islam, he has portrayed his early impressions in some sweet and touching stanzas:

Thoughts of great deeds were mine, dear friend, when first The clouds which wrap this world from youth did pass. I do remember well the hour which burst My spirit's sleep: a fresh May-dawn it was, 55 3

« PoprzedniaDalej »