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prophecy is fulfilled, and Love, untainted by any worn before. And as he wandered among the evil, becomes the law of the world.
ruins, made one with nature in their decay, or England had been rendered a painful residence gazed on the Praxitelean shapes that throng the to Shelley, as much by the sort of persecution with Vatican, the Capitol, and the palaces of Rome, his which in those days all men of liberal opinions soul imbibed forms of loveliness which became a were visited, and by the injustice he had lately portion of itself. There are many passages in the endured in the Court of Chancery, as by the symp “ Prometheus” which show the intense delight he toms of disease which made him regard a visit to received from such studies, and give back the imItaly as necessary to prolong his life. An exile, pression with a beauty of poetical description pecuand strongly impressed with the feeling that the liarly his own. He felt this, as a poet must feel when majority of his countrymen regarded him with sen he satisfies himself by the result of his labours, and timents of aversion, such as his own heart could he wrote from Rome, “My Prometheus Unbound experience towards none, he sheltered himself from is just finished, and in a month or two I shall send such disgusting and painful thoughts in the calm it. It is a drama, with characters and mechanism retreats of poetry, and built up a world of his own, of a kind yet unattempted, and I think the execuwith the more pleasure, since he hoped to induce tion is better than any of my former attempts.” some one or two to believe that the earth might I may mention, for the information of the more become such, did mankind themselves consent. critical reader, that the verbal alterations in this The charm of the Roman climate helped to clothe edition of Prometheus are made from a list of his thoughts in greater beauty than they had ever errata, written by Shelley himself.
END OF PROMETHEUS U'XBOUND.
IN FIVE ACTS.
A MANUSCRIPT was communicated to me during my TO LEIGH HUNT, ESQ.
travels in Italy, which was copied from the archives of the Cenci Palace at Rome, and contains a detailed
account of the horrors which ended in the extinction MY DEAR FRIEND,
of one of the noblest and richest families of that city, I INSCRIBE with your name, from a distant country, during the pontificate of Clement VIII., in the year and after an absence whose months have seemed years,
1599. The story is, that an old man, having spent this the latest of my literary efforts.
his life in debauchery and wickedness, conceived at
length an implacable hatred towards his children; Those writings which I have hitherto published, form of an incestuous passion, aggravated by every
which showed itself towards one daughter under the have been little else than visions which impersonate circumstance of cruelty and violence. This daughter, my own apprehensions of the beautiful and the just after long and vain attempts to escape from what she I can also perceive in them the literary defects inci- considered a perpetual contamination both of body dental to youth and impatience ; they are dreams of and mind, at length plotted with her mother-in-law what ought to be, or may be. The drama which I and brother to murder their common tyrant. The Dow present to you is a sad reality. lay aside the young maiden, who was urged to this tremendous presumptuous attitude of an instructor, and am content
deed by an inpulse which overpowered its horror, was fo paint, with such colours as my own heart furnishes, formed to adorn and be admired, and thus violently
evidently a most gentle and amiable being; a creature that which has been.
thwarted from her nature by the necessity of circum
stances and opinion. The deed was quickly discovered, Had I known a person more highly endowed than and in spite of the most earnest prayers made to the yourself with all that it becomes a man to poseess, I | Pope by the highest persons in Rome, the criminals had solicited for this work the ornament of his name. were put to death. The old man had, during his life, One more gentle, honourable, innocent and brave; one
repeatedly bought his pardon from the Pope for capital of more exalted toleration for all who do and think
crimes of the most enormous and unspeakable kind,
at the price of a hundred thousand crowns; the death evil, and yet himself more free from evil; one who
therefore of his victims can scarcely be accounted for knows better how to receive, and how to confer a
by the love of justice. The Pope, among other benefit, though he must ever confer far more than he
motives for severity, probably felt that whoever killed can receive; one of simpler, and, in the highest the Count Cenci deprived his treasury of a certain sense of the word, of purer life and manners, I never and copious source of revenue*. Such a story, if told knew; and I had already been fortunate in friendships so as to present to the reader all the feelings of those when your name was added to the list.
who once acted it, their hopes and fears, their confi
dences and misgivings, their various interests, passions, In that patient and irreconcilable enmity with
and opinions, acting upon and with each other, yet all domestic and political tyranny and imposture which conspiring to one tremendous end, would be as a light the tenor of your life has illustrated, and which, bad I
to make apparent some of the most dark and secret
caverns of the human heart. health and talents, should illustrate mine, let us, com On my arrival at Rome, I found that the story of forting each other in our task, live and die.
the Cenci was a subject not to be mentioned in Italian
society without awakening a deep and breathless interest; All happiness attend you ! Your affectionate friend,
• The Papal Government formerly took the most extra
ordinary precautions against the publicity of facts which PERCY B. SHELLEY. offer so tragical a demonstration of its own wickedness
and weakness ; so that the communication of the MS. had Rome, Jay 29, 1819.
become, until very lately, a matter of some difficulty.
I had a copy
and that the feelings of the company never failed to under a thin veil converting names and actions of the incline to a romantic pity for the wrongs, and a sixteenth century into cold impersonations of my own passionate exculpation of the horrible deed to which mind. They are represented as Catholics, and as they urged her, who has been mingled two centuries Catholics deeply tinged with religion. To a Protestant with the common dust. All ranks of people kuew apprehension there will appear something unnatural the outlines of this history, and participated in the in the earnest and perpetual sentiment of the relations overwhelming interest which it seems to have the between God and man which pervade the tragedy of magic of exciting in the human heart.
the Cenci. It will especially be startled at the comof Guido's picture of Beatrice, which is preserved in bination of an undoubting persuasion of the truth of the Colonna Palace, and my servant instantly recog the popular religion, with a cool and determined pernized it as the portrait of La Cenci.
severance in enormous guilt. But religion in Italy is This national and universal interest which the story not, as in Protestant countries, a cloak to be worn on produces and has produced for two centuries, and particular days; or a passport which those who do not among all ranks of people in a great city, where the wish to be railed at carry with them to exhibit; or a imagination is kept for ever active and awake, first gloomy passion for penetrating the impenetrable myssuggested to me the conception of its fitness for a teries of our being, which terrifies its possessor at the dramatic purpose. In fact, it is a tragedy which has darkness of the abyss to the brink of which it has already received, from its capacity of awakening and conducted him. Religion co-exists, as it were, in the sustaining the sympathy of men, approbation and
mind of an Italian Catholic with a faith in that of success. Nothing remained, as I imagined, but to which all men have the most certain knowledge. clothe it to the apprehensions of my countrymen in
is interwoven with the whole fabric of life. It is such language and action as would bring it home to adoration, faith, submission, penitence, blind admitheir hearts. The deepest and the sublimest tragic ration ; not a rule for moral conduct. It has no con positions, King Lear, and the two plays in which necessary connection with any one virtue.
The most the tale of (Edipus is told, were stories which already atrocious villain may be rigidly devout, and, without existed in tradition, as matters of popular belief and any shock to established faith, confess himself to be interest, before Shakspeare and Sophocles made them so. Religion pervades intensely the whole frame of familiar to the sympathy of all succeeding generations society, and is, according to the temper of the mind of mankind.
which it inhabits, a passion, a persuasion, an excuse, This story of the Cenci is indeed eminently fearful a refuge; never a check. Cenci himself built a chapel and monstrous : anything like a dry exbibition of it in the court of his palace, and dedicated it to St. on the stage would be insupportable. The person Thomas the Apostle, and established masses for the who would treat such a subject must increase the peace of his soul. Thus in the first scene of the ideal, and diminish the actual horror of the events, so fourth act, Lucretia's design in exposing herself to the that the pleasure which arises from the poetry which consequences of an expostulation with Cenci after exists in these tempestuous sufferings and crimes, having administered the opiate, was to induce him by may mitigate the pain of the contemplation of the a feigned tale to confess himself before death; this moral deformity from which they spring. There being esteemed by Catholics as essential to salvation; must also be nothing attempted to make the exhibition and she only relinquishes her purpose when she persubservient to what is vulgarly termed a moral pur ceives that lier perseverance would expose Beatrice to pose. The highest moral purpose aimed at in the new outrages. highest species of the drama, is the teaching of the I have avoided with great care in writing this play human heart, through its sympathies and antipathies, the introduction of what is commonly called inere the knowledge of itself; in proportion to the possession poetry, and I imagine there will scarcely be found a of which knowledge every human being is wise, just, detached simile or a single isolated description, unless sincere, tolerant, and kind. If dogmas can do more, Beatrice's description of the chasm appointed for her it is well : but a drama is no fit place for the enforce father's murder should be judged to be of that mcnt of them. Undoubtedly no person can be truly nature*. dishonoured by the act of another; and the fit return In a dramatic composition the imagery and the to make to the most enormous injuries is kindness passion should interpenetrate one another, the former and forbearance, and a resolution to convert the injurer being reserved simply for the full development and from bis dark passions by peace and love. Revenge, illustration of the latter. Imagination is as the imretaliation, atonement, are pernicious mistakes. If mortal God which should assume flesh for the redempBeatrice had thonght in this manner, she would have tion of mortal passion. It is thus that the most been wiser and better; but she would never have been remote and the most familiar imagery may alike be a tragic character: the few whom such an exhibition fit for dramatic purposes when employed in the illuswould have interested, could never have been suffi tration of strong feeling, which raises what is low, and ciently interested for a dramatic purpose, from the levels to the apprehension that which is lofty, casting want of finding sympathy in their interest among the
over all the shadow of its own greatness. In other mass who surround them. It is in the restless and respects I have written more carelessly; that is, without anatomising casuistry with which men scek the justi an overfastidious and learned choice of words. In fication of Beatrice, yet feel that she has done what this respect, I entirely agree with those modern critics needs justification ; it is in the superstitious horror who assert, that in order to move men to true sympathy with which they contemplate alike her wrongs and we must use the familiar language of men; and that their revenge, that the dramatic character of what she our great ancestors, the ancient English pocts, are the did and suffered consists.
writers, a study of whom might incite us to do that I have endeavoured as nearly as possible to represent . An idea in this speech was suggested by a most the characters as they probably were, and have sought sublime passage in “El Purgatorio de San Patricio," of to avoid the error of making them actuated by my Calderon : the only plagiarism which I have intentionally own conceptions of right or wrong, false or true : thus committed in the whole piece.
for our own age which they have done for theirs. which, united with her exquisite loveliness and deep But it must be the real language of men in general, sorrow, are inexpressibly pathetic. Beatrice Cenci and not that of any particular class, to whose society appears to have been one of those rare persons in the writer happens to belong. So much for what I whom energy and gentleness dwell together without have attempted : I need not be assured that success destroying one another : her nature was simple and is a very different matter; particularly for one whose profound. The crimes and miseries in which she was attention has but newly been awakened to the study an actor and a sufferer, are as the mask and the of dramatic literature.
mantle in wbich circumstances clothed her for her I endeavoured whilst at Rome to observe such impersonation on the scene of the world. monuments of this story as might be accessible to a The Cenci Palace is of great extent; and, though in stranger. The portrait of Beatrice at the Colonna part modernised, there yet remains a vast and gloomy Palace is most admirable as a work of art: it was pile of feudal architecture in the same state as during taken by Guido during her confinement in prison. the dreadful scenes which are the subject of this traBut it is most interesting as a just representation of gedy. The palace is situated in an obscure corner of one of the loveliest specimens of the workmanship of Rome, near the quarter of the Jews, and from the Nature. There is a fixed and pale composure upon upper windows you see the immense ruins of Mount tbe features: she seems sad and stricken down in Palatine half hidden under their profuse overgrowth spirit, yet the despair thus expressed is lightened by of trees. There is a court in one part of the palace the patience of gentleness. Her head is bound with (perhaps that in which Cenci built the chapel to St. folds of white drapery, from which the yellow strings Thomas), supported by granite columns and adorned of her golden hair escape and fall about her neck. with antique friezes of fine workmanship, and built The moulding of her face is exquisitely delicate; the up, according to the ancient Italian fashion, with eye-brows are distinct and arched; the lips have that balcony over balcony of open work. One of the gates permanent meaning of imagination and sensibility of the palace, formed of immense stones, and leading which suffering has not repressed, and which it seems through a passage dark and lofty, and opening into as if death scarcely could extinguish. Her forehead is gloomy subterranean chambers, struck me particularge and clear; her eyes, which we are told were larly. remarkable for their vivacity, are swollen with weeping Of the Castle of Petrella, I could obtain no further and lustreless, but beautifully tender and serene. In information than that which is to be found in the the whole mien there is a simplicity and digaity manuscript.
COUNT FRANCESCO CENCI.
ORSINO, a Prelate.
SAVELLA, the Pope's Legate.
LUCRETIA, Wife of Cenci, and step-mother of his children.
The Scene lies principally in Rome, but changes during the Fourth Act to Petrella, a Castle among the
But that the glory and the interest
The third of my possessions—let it go!
That which the vassal threatened to divulge, The sight of agony, and the sense of joy,
This mood has grown upon me, until now
But such as men like you would start to know, Will grant for their sake that I long enjoy Is as my natural food and rest debarred Strength, wealth, and pride, and lust, and length of Until it be accomplished.
days Wherein to act the deeds which are the stewards
CAMILLO. Of their revenue.
Art thou not :-But much yet remains To which they show no title.
Why miserable ? Oh, Count Cenci ! No. I am what your theologians call So much that thou might'st honourably live, Hardened ; which they must be in impudence, And reconcile thyself with thine own heart So to revile a man's peculiar taste. And with thy God, and with the offended world. True, I was happier than I am, while yet How hideously look deeds of lust and blood Manhood remained to act the thing I thought ; Through those snow-white and venerable hairs ! While lust was sweeter than revenge ; and now Your children should be sitting round you now, Invention palls ; ay, we must all grow old : But that you fear to read upon their looks But that there yet remains a deed to act The shame and misery you have written there. Whose horror might make sharp an appetite Where is your wife? Where is your gentle daughter? Duller than mine-I'd do, I know not what. Methinks hersweet looks, which make all things else When I was young I thought of nothing else Beauteous and glad, might kill the fiend within you. But pleasure ; and I fed on honey sweets : Why is she barred from all society
Men, by St. Thomas ! cannot live like bees, But her own strange and uncomplaining wrongs? And I grew tired : yet, till I killed a foe, (groans, Talk with me, Count, you know I mean you well. And heard his groans, and heard his children's I stood beside your dark and fiery youth,
Knew I not what delight was else on earth, Watching its bold and bad career, as men
Which now delights me little. I the rather Watch meteors, but it vanished not-I marked Look on such pangs as terror ill conceals ; Your desperate and remorseless manhood ; now The dry, fixed eye-ball; the pale, quivering lip, Do I behold you, in dishonoured age,
Which tell me that the spirit weeps within Charged with a thousand unrepented crimes. Tears bitterer than the bloody sweat of Christ. Yet I have ever hoped you would amend,
I rarely kill the body, which
preserves, And in that hope have saved your life three times. Like a strong prison, the soul within my power,
Wherein I feed it with the breath of fear
For hourly pain.
Hell's most abandoned fiend
Did never, in the drunkenness of guilt, A man you knew spoke of my wife and daughter,
Speak to his heart as now you speak to me ; He was accustomed to frequent my house;
I thank my God that I believe you not.
My Lord, a gentleman from Salamanca
Would speak with you.
Bid him attend me in the grand saloon.
Almighty God that false, impious words
[Exit CAMILLO. If I discuss it with you. I may speak
CENCI. Alike to you and my own conscious heart ; The third of my possessions ! I must use For you give out that you have half reformed me, Close husbandry, or gold, the old man's sword, Therefore strong vanity will keep you silent Falls from my withered hand. But yesterday If fear should not ; both will, I do not doubt. There came an order from the Pope to make All men delight in sensual luxury,
Fourfold provision for my cursed sons ; All men enjoy revenge ; and most exult
Whom I have sent from Rome to Salamanca, Over the tortures they can never feel ;
Hoping some accident might cut them off ; Flattering their secret peace with others' pain. And meaning, if I could, to starve them there. But I delight in nothing else. I love
I pray thee, God, send some quick death upon them!