Imágenes de páginas

Yet well I ken the banks where amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, 0 ye amaranths! bloom for whom ye may ;
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!
With lips unbrighten'd, wreathless brow, I stroll :
And would you learn the spells that drowse my soul ?
Work without hope draws nectar in a sieve,
And hope without an object cannot live.


I insert this poem on account of the exquisite imaginative picture in the third and fourth lines, and the terseness and melody of the whole. Here we have a specimen of a perfect style,-unsuperfluous, straightforward, suggestive, impulsive, and

But how the writer of such verses could talk of “work without hope," I cannot say. What work had he better to do than to write more ? and what hope but to write more still, and delight himself and the world? But the truth is, his mind was too active and self-involved to need the diversion of work; and his body, the case that contained it, too sluggish with sedentary living to like it; and so he persuaded himself that if his writings did not sell, they were of no use. Are we to disrespect these self-delusions in such a man? No; but to draw from them salutary cautions for ourselves, — his inferiors.


BORN, 1792,-DIED, 1822.

Among the many reasons which his friends had to deplore the premature death of this splendid poet and noble-hearted man, the greatest was his not being able to repeat, to a more attentive public, his own protest, not only against some of his earlier effusions (which he did in the newspapers), but against all which he had written in a wailing and angry, instead of an invariably calm, loving, and therefore thoroughly helping spirit. His works, in justice to himself, require either to be winnowed from what he disliked, or to be read with the remembrance of that dislike. He had sensibility almost unique, seemingly fitter for a planet of a different sort, or in more final condition, than ours : he has said of himself,—so delicate was his organization,– that he could

' hardly bear
The weight of the superincumbent hour;"

and the impatience which he vented for some years against that rough working towards good, called evil, and which he carried out into conduct too hasty, subjected one of the most naturally pious of men to charges which hurt his name, and thwarted his philanthropy.

Had he lived, he would have done away all mistake on these points, and made every body know him for what he was,—a man idolized by his friends,-studious, temperate, of the gentlest life and conversation, and willing to have died to do the world a service. For my part, I never can mention his name without a transport of love and gratitude. I rejoice to have partaken of his cares, and to be both suffering and benefiting from him at this moment; and whenever I think of a future state, and of the great and good Spirit that must pervade it, one of the first faces I humbly hope to see there, is that of the kind and impassioned man, whose intercourse conferred on me the title of the Friend of Shelley.

The finest poetry of Shelley is so mixed up with moral and political speculation, that I found it impossible to give more than the following extracts, in accordance with the purely poetical design of the present volume.

Of the poetry of reflection and 1

tragic pathos, he has abundance; but even such fanciful productions as the Sensitive Plant and the Witch of Atlas are full of metaphysics, and would require a commentary of explanation. The short

pieces and passages, however, before us, are so beau-
tiful, that they may well stand as the representatives
of the whole powers of his mind in the region of
pure poetry. In sweetness (and not even there in
passages) the Ode to the Skylark is inferior only
to Coleridge,—in rapturous passion to no man. It
is like the bird it sings,—enthusiastic, enchanting,
profuse, continuous, and alone,-small, but filling
the heavens. One of the triumphs of poetry is to
associate its remembrance with the beauties of
nature. There are probably no lovers of Homer
and Shakspeare, who, when looking at the moon,
do not often call to mind the descriptions in the
eighth book of the Iliad and the fifth act of the
Merchant of Venice. The nightingale (in England)
may be said to have belonged exclusively to Milton
(see page 243), till a dying young poet of our own
day partook of the honour by the production of his
exquisite Ode: and notwithstanding Shakspeare's
lark singing “at heaven's gate,” the longer effusion
of Shelley will be identified with thoughts of the
bird hereafter, in the minds of all who are sus-
ceptible of its beauty. What a pity he did not live
to produce a hundred such! or to mingle briefer
lyrics, as beautiful as Shakspeare's, with tragedies
which Shakspeare himself might have welcomed !
for assuredly, had he lived, he would have been the
greatest dramatic writer since the days of Elizabeth,
if indeed he has not abundantly proved himself such

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

in his tragedy of the Cenci. Unfortunately, in his indignation against every conceivable form of oppression, he took a subject for that play too much resembling one which Shakspeare had taken in his youth, and still more unsuitable to the stage; otherwise, besides grandeur and terror, there are things in it lovely as heart can worship; and the author showed himself able to draw both men and women, whose names would have become “ familiar in our mouths as household words.” The utmost might of gentleness, and of the sweet habitudes of domestic affection, was never more balmily impressed through the tears of the reader, than in the unique and divine close of that dreadful tragedy. Its loveliness, being that of the highest reason, is superior to the madness of all the crime that has preceded it, and leaves nature in a state of reconcilement with her ordinary

The daughter, who is going forth with her mother to execution, utters these final words :


Give yourself no unnecessary pain,
My dear Lord Cardinal. Here, mother, tie
My girdle for me, and bind up this hair
In any simple knot. Ay, that does well;
And yours, I see, is coming down. How often
Have we done this for one another ! now
We shall not do it any more. My Lord,
We are quite ready. Well,'t is very well.

The force of simplicity and moral sweetness cannot go further than this. But in general, if

« AnteriorContinuar »