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The freedman of a western poet-chief.
A Greek who had been Lord Byron's servant commands the insurgents in Attica. This Greek, Lord Byron informs me, though a poet and an enthusiastic patriot, gave him rather the idea of a timid and unenterprizing person. It appears that circumstances make men what they are, and that we all contain the germ of a degree of degradation or greatness whose connexion with our character is determined by P. 125.
The Greeks expect a Saviour from the west.
It is reported that this Messiah had arrived at a sea-port near Lacedæmon in an American brig. The association of names and ideas is irresistibly ludicrous, but the prevalence of such a rumour strongly marks the state of popular enthusiasm in Greece.
As of the assault of an imperial city.
For the vision of Mahmud of the taking of Constantinople in 1453, see Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. xii., p. 223.
The manner of the invocation of the spirit of Mahomet the Second will be censured as over subtle. I could easily have made the Jew a regular conjuror, and the Phantom an ordinary ghost. I have preferred to represent the Jew as disclaiming all pretension, or even belief in supernatural agency, and as tempting Mahmud to that state of mind in which ideas may be supposed to assume the force of sensations, through the confusion of thought with the objects of thought, and the excess of passion animating the creations of the imagination.
It is a sort of natural magic, susceptible of being exercised in a degree by any one who should have made himself master of the secret associations of another's thoughts.
The final chorus is indistinct and obscure as the event of the living drama whose arrival it foretells.
Prophecies of wars, and rumours of wars, &c., may safely be made by poet or prophet in any age; but to anticipate, however darkly, a period of regeneration and happiness, is a more hazardous exercise of the faculty which bards possess or feign. It will remind the reader, "magno nec proximus intervallo,” of Isaiah and Virgil ; whose ardent spirits, overleaping the actual reign of evil which we endure and bewail, already saw the possible and perhaps approaching state of society in which the "lion shall lie down with the lamb," and "omnis feret omnia tellus." Let these great names be my authority and excuse.
Saturn and Love their long repose.
Saturn and Love were among the deities of a real or imaginary state of innocence and happiness. All those who fell, or the gods of Greece, Asia, and Egypt; the one who rose, or Jesus Christ, at whose appearance the idols of the pagan world were amerced of their worship; and the many unsubdued, or the monstrous objects of the idolatry of China, India, the Antarctic islands, and the native tribes of America; certainly have reigned over the understandings of men in conjunction or in succession, during periods in which all we know of evil has been in a state of portentous, and, until the revival of learning and the arts, perpetually increasing, activity. The Grecian gods seem indeed to have been personally more innocent; although it can
not be said that, as far as temperance and chastity are concerned, they gave so edifying an example as their successor. The sublime human character of Jesus Christ was deformed by an imputed identification with a power who tempted, betrayed, and punished, the innocent beings who were called into existence by his sole will; and, for the period of a thousand years, the spirit of this most just, wise, and benevolent of men has been propitiated with myriads of hecatombs of those who approached the nearest to his innocence and wisdom, sacrificed under every aggravation of atrocity, and variety of torture. The horrors of the Mexican, the Peruvian, and the Indian superstitions are well known.
NOTE ON HELLAS, BY MRS. SHELLEY.
THE South of Europe was in a state of great political excitement at the beginning of the year 1821. The Spanish Revolution had been a signal to Italy-secret societies were formed-and, when Naples rose to declare the Constitution, the call was responded to, from Brundusium to the foot of the Alps. To crush these attempts to obtain liberty, early in 1821, the Austrians poured their armies into the Peninsula : at first their coming rather seemed to add energy and resolution to a people long enslaved. The Piedmontese asserted their freedom; Genoa threw off the yoke of the King of Sardinia; and, as if in playful imitation, the people of the little state of Massa and Carrara gave the congé to their sovereign, and set up a republic.
Tuscany alone was perfectly tranquil. It was said that the Austrian minister presented a list of sixty Carbonari to the Grand-Duke, urging their imprisonment; and the Grand-Duke replied, "I do not know whether these sixty men are Carbonari, but I know, if I imprison them, I shall directly have sixty thousand start up." But, though the Tuscans had no desire to disturb the paternal government beneath whose shelter they slumbered, they regarded the progress of the various Italian revolutions with intense interest, and hatred for the Austrian was warm in every bosom. But they had slender hopes; they knew that the Neapolitans would offer no fit resistance to the regular German troops, and that the overthrow of the constitution in Naples would act as a decisive blow against all struggles for liberty in Italy.
We have seen the rise and progress of reform. But the Holy Alliance was alive and active in those days, and few could dream of the peaceful triumph of liberty. It seemed then that the armed assertion of freedom in the South of Europe was the only hope of the liberals, as, if it prevailed, the nations of the north would imitate the example. Happily the reverse has proved the fact. The countries accustomed to the exercise of the privileges of freemen, to a limited extent, have extended, and are extending, these limits. Freedom and knowledge have now a chance of proceeding hand in hand; and, if it continue thus, we may hope for the durability of both. Then, as I have said,-in 1821,--Shelley, as well as every other lover of liberty, looked upon the struggles in Spain and Italy as decisive of the destinies of the world, probably for centuries to come. The interest he took in the progress of affairs was intense. When Genoa declared itself free, his hopes were at their highest. Day after day he read the bulletins of the Austrian army, and sought eagerly to gather tokens of its defeat. He heard of the revolt of Genoa with emotions of transport. His whole heart and soul were in the triumph of the cause. We were living at Pisa at that time; and several well-informed Italians, at the head of whom we may place the celebrated Vaccà, were accustomed to seek for sympathy in their hopes from Shelley: they did not find such for the despair they too generally experienced, founded on contempt for their southern countrymen.
While the fate of the progress of the Austrian armies then invading Naples was yet
in suspense, the news of another revolution filled him with exultation. We had formed the acquaintance at Pisa of several Constantinopolitan Greeks, of the family of Prince Caradja, formerly Hospodar of Wallachia; who, hearing that the bowstring, the accustomed finale of his viceroyalty, was on the road to him, escaped with his treasures, and took up his abode in Tuscany. Among these was the gentleman to whom the drama of Hellas is dedicated. Prince Mavrocordato was warmed by those aspirations for the independence of his country which filled the hearts of many of his countrymen. He often intimated the possibility of an insurrection in Greece; but we had no idea of its being so near at hand, when, on the 1st of April 1821, he called on Shelley, bringing the proclamation of his cousin, Prince Ypsilanti, and, radiant with exultation and delight, declared that henceforth Greece would be free.
Shelley had hymned the dawn of liberty in Spain and Naples, in two odes dictated by the warmest enthusiasm ; he felt himself naturally impelled to decorate with poetry the uprise of the descendants of that people whose works he regarded with deep admiration, and to adopt the vaticinatory character in prophesying their success. Hellas was written in a moment of enthusiasm. It is curious to remark how well he overcomes the difficulty of forming a drama out of such scant materials. His prophecies, indeed, came true in their general, not their particular, purport. He did not foresee the death of Lord Londonderry, which was to be the epoch of a change in English politics, particularly as regarded foreign affairs; nor that the navy of his country would fight for instead of against the Greeks, and by the battle of Navarino secure their enfranchisement from the Turks. Almost against reason, as it appeared to him, he resolved to believe that Greece would prove triumphant ; and in this spirit, auguring ultimate good, yet grieving over the vicissitudes to be endured in the interval, he composed his drama.
Hellas was among the last of his compositions, and is among the most beautiful. The choruses are singularly imaginative, and melodious in their versification. There are some stanzas that beautifully exemplify Shelley's peculiar style; as, for instance, the assertion of the intellectual empire which must be for ever the inheritance of the country of Homer, Sophocles, and Plato:
But Greece and her foundations are
And again, that philosophical truth felicitously imaged forth
Revenge and Wrong bring forth their kind:
Their den is in the guilty mind,
And Conscience feeds them with despair.
The conclusion of the last chorus is among the most beautiful of his lyrics. The imagery is distinct and majestic; the prophecy, such as poets love to dwell upon, the Regeneration of Mankind-and that regeneration reflecting back splendour on the foregone time, from which it inherits so much of intellectual wealth, and memory of past virtuous deeds, as must render the possession of happiness and peace of tenfold value.
ΔΑΚΡΥΕΙ ΔΙΟΙΣΩ ΠΟΤΜΟΝ ΑΠΟΤΜΟΝ.
OH! there are spirits in the air,
And genii of the evening breeze,
And gentle ghosts with eyes as fair
As starbeams among twilight trees:
Such lovely ministers to meet
Oft hast thou turned from men thy lonely feet.
With mountain winds, and babbling springs,
Of these inexplicable things,
Thou didst hold commune, and rejoice When they did answer thee. But they Cast like a worthless boon thy love away.
And thou hast sought in starry eyes
To a fond faith! Still dost thou pine?
Ah! wherefore didst thou build thine hope
Did thine own mind afford no scope
Of love or moving thoughts to theeThat natural scenes or human smiles]
Could steal the power to wind thee in their wiles?
Yes, all the faithless smiles are fled
Whose falsehood left thee broken-hearted;
Night's ghosts and dreams have now departed :
But changed to a foul fiend through misery.
This fiend, whose ghastly presence ever
Be as thou art. Thy settled fate,
AWAY! the moor is dark beneath the moon,
Away! the gathering winds will call the darkness soon,
Away, away! to thy sad and silent home;
Pour bitter tears on its desolated hearth;
And complicate strange webs of melancholy mirth.
The leaves of wasted autumn woods shall float around thine head,
But thy soul or this world must fade in the frost that binds the
Ere midnight's frown and morning's smile, ere thou and peace, may
The cloud shadows of midnight possess their own repose, For the weary winds are silent, or the moon is in the deep; Some respite to its turbulence unresting ocean knows; Whatever moves or toils or grieves hath its appointed sleep.