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Peace! the abyss is wreathed with scorn At your presumption, atom-born !
What is heaven? and what are ye Who its brief expanse inherit ?
What are suns and spheres which flee
Of which ye are but a part ?
An old, mad, blind, despised, and dying king,Princes, the dregs of their dull race, who flow Through public scorn-mud from a muddy
spring, Rulers, who neither see, nor feel, nor know, But leech-like to their fainting country cling, Till they drop, blind in blood, without a blow,A people starved and stabbed in the untilled field, An army, which liberticide and prey Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield, Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay, Religion Christless, Godless—a book sealed ; A Senate-Time's worst statute unrepealed,Are graves, from which a glorious Phantom may Burst, to illumine our tempestuous day.
What is heaven? a globe of dew,
Some eyed flower, whose young leaves waken On an unimagined world :
Constellated suns unshaken,
In that frail and fading sphere,
As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh ! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud ! Thou on whose stream, ʼmid the steep sky's com I fall upon the thorns of life ! I bleed !
motion, Loose clouds like earth's decaying leaves are shed, A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed Shook from the tangled boughs of Heavenand Ocean, One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud. Angels of rain and lightning : there are spread On the blue surface of thine airy surge, Like the bright hair uplifted from the head
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is : Of some fierce Mænad, even from the dim verge
What if my leaves are falling like its own ! Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge
Will take from both a deep autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, spirit fierce, Of the dying year, to which this closing night Will be the doom of a vast sepulchre,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! Vaulted with all thy congregated might
Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth ;
And, by the incantation of this verse,
Be through my lips to unawakened earth
The trumpet of a prophecy! O wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ? Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay, And saw in sleep old palaces and towers Quivering within the wave's intenser day,
* This poem was conceived and chiefly written in a wood that skirts the Arno, near Florence, and on a day when that tempestuous wind, whose temperature is at once mild and animating, was collecting the vapours which pour down the autumnal rains. They began, as I foresaw, at sunset, with a violent tempest of hail and rain, attended by that magnificent thunder and lightning peculiar to the Cisalpine regions.
The phenomenon alluded to at the conclusion of the third stanza is well known to naturalists. The vegetation at the bottom of the sea, of rivers, and of lakes, sympathises with that of the land in the change of seasons, and is consequently influenced by the winds which announce it.
CAMELEONS feed on light and air:
Poets' food is love and fame :
Poets could but find the same
Would they ever change their hue
As the light cameleons do,
NOTE ON THE POEMS OF 1819.
BY THE EDITOR.
Though Shelley's first eager desire to excite his before I knew to what poem they were to belong. countrymen to resist openly the oppressions exis But the most touching passage is that which tent during “ the good old times” had faded with describes the blessed effects of liberty; they might early youth, still his warmest sympathies were make a patriot of any man, whose heart was not for the people. He was a republican, and loved wholly closed against his humbler fellow-creaa democracy. He looked on all human beings tures. as inheriting an equal right to possess the dearest privileges of our nature, the necessaries of life, often more virtuous, as always more suffering, and,
Shelley loved the people, and respected them as when fairly earned by labour, and intellectual instruction. His hatred of any despotism, that
therefore, more deserving of sympathy, than the
great. He believed that a clash between the two looked upon the people as not to be consulted or
classes of society was inevitable, and he eagerly protected from want and ignorance, was intense. He was residing near Leghorn, at Villa Valsovano, idea of publishing a series of poems adapted
ranged himself on the people's side. He had an writing The Cenci, when the news of the Man
expressly to commemorate their circumstances chester Massacre reached us ; it roused in him
and wrongs—he wrote a few, but in those days of violent emotions of indignation and compassion.
prosecution for libel they could not be printed. The great truth that the many, if accordant and
They are not among the best of his productions, a resolute, could control the few, as was shown some
writer being always shackled when he endeavours years after, made him long to teach his injured
to write down to the comprehension of those who countrymen how to resist. Inspired by these
could not understand or feel a highly imaginative feelings, he wrote the Masque of Anarchy, which
style ; but they show his earnestness, and with he sent to his friend, Leigh Hunt, to be inserted
what heartfelt compassion he went home to the in the Examiner, of which he was then the Editor.
direct point of injury—that oppression is detest“ I did not insert it,” Leigh Hunt writes in his able, as being the parent of starvation, nakedness, valuable and interesting preface to this poem, and ignorance. Besides these outpourings of when he printed it in 1832, “ because I thought compassion and indignation, he had meant to that the public at large had not become sufficiently adorn the cause he loved with loftier poetry of discerning to do justice to the sincerity and kind- glory and triumph—such is the scope of the Ode heartedness of his spirit, that walked in this flaming to the Assertors of Liberty. He sketched also a robe of verse.” Days of outrage have passed new version of our national anthem, as addressed away, and with them the exasperation that would to Liberty. cause such an appeal to the many to be injurious.
God prosper, speed, and save, Without being aware of them, they at one time
God raise from England's grave acted on his suggestions, and gained the day; but
Her murdered Queen!
Pave with swift victory they rose when human life was respected by the
The steps of Liberty, minister in power; such was not the case during the
Whom Britons own to be administration which excited Shelley's abhorrence.
Immortal Queen. The poem was written for the people, and is
See, she comes throned on high, therefore in a more popular tone than usual ;
On swift Eternity!
God save the Queen! portions strike as abrupt and unpolished, but many stanzas are all his own. I heard him repeat, and
Millions on millions wait admired those beginning,
Firm, rapid, and elate,
On her majestic state !
God save the Queen!
By the false cant, which on their innocent lips,
Must hang like poison on an opening bloom, By the dark creeds which cover with eclipse
Their pathway from the cradle to the tomb:
By all the grief, the madness, and the guilt
That sand on which thy crumbling Power is built ;
Shelley had suffered severely from the death of our son during this summer. His heart, attuned to every kindly affection, was full of burning love for his offspring. No words can express the anguish he felt when his elder children were torn from him. In his first resentment against the Chancellor, on the passing of the decree, he had written a curse, in which there breathes, besides haughty indignation, all the tenderness of a father's love, which could imagine and fondly dwell upon its loss and the consequences. It is as follows :
By thy complicity with lust and hate,
Thy thirst for tears, thy hunger after gold, The ready frauds which ever on thee wait,
The servile arts in which thou hast grown old;
By thy most killing sneer, and by thy smile,
By all the acts and snares of thy black den, And-for thou canst outweep the crocodile,
By thy false tears--those millstones braining men;
By all the hate which checks a father's love,
By all the scorn which kills a father's care, By those most impious hands that dared remove
Nature's high bounds-by thee-and dy despair!
TO THE LORD CHANCELLOR.
Yes, the despair which bids a father groan,
And cry, my children are no longer mine; The blood within those veins may be mine own,
But, Tyrant, their polluted souls are thine.
Try country's curse is on thee, darkest Crest
Of that foul, knotted, many-headed worm, Which rends our Mother's bosom-Priestly Pest!
Masked Resurrection of a buried form !* Thy country's curse is on thee! Justice sold,
Truth trampled, Nature's land-marks overthrown, And heaps of fraud-accumulated gold,
Plead, loud as thunder, at Destruction's throne. And whilst that slow sure Angel, which aye stands,
Watching the beck of Mutability, Delays to execute her high commands,
And, though a nation weeps, spares thine and thee;
I curse thee, though I hate thee not; O slave!
If thou couldst quench the earth-consuming hell
At one time, while the question was still pending, the Chancellor had said some words that seemed to intimate that Shelley should not be permitted the care of any of his children, and for a moment he feared that our infant son would be torn from
He did not hesitate to resolve, if such were menaced, to abandon country, fortune, everything, and to escape with his child ; and I find some unfinished stanzas addressed to this son, whom
O let a father's curse be on thy soul,
And let a daughter's hope be on thy tomb, And both on thy grey head, a leaden cowl,
To weigh thee down to thine approaching doom!
* The Star Chamber.