Images de page


Hate men who cant, and men who pray,

And men who rail, like thee;

An equal passion to repay

They are not coy like me.


Or seek some slave of power and gold

To be thy dear heart's mate;
Thy love will move that bigot cold
Sooner than me thy hate.


A passion like the one I prove
Cannot divided be;

I hate thy want of truth and love-
How should I then hate thee?

December 1817.


THE very illness that oppressed, and the aspect of death which had approached so near, Shelley, appear to have kindled to yet keener life the Spirit of Poetry in his heart. The restless thoughts kept awake by pain clothed themselves in verse. Much was composed during this year. The Revolt of Islam, written and printed, was a great effort-Rosalind and Helen was begun-and the fragments and poems I can trace to the same period show how full of passion and reflection were his solitary hours.

In addition to such poems as have an intelligible aim and shape, many a stray idea and transitory emotion found imperfect and abrupt expression, and then again lost themselves in silence. As he never wandered without a book and without implements of writing, I find many such, in his manuscript books, that scarcely bear record; while some of them, broken and vague as they are, will appear valuable to those who love Shelley's mind, and desire to trace its workings.

He projected also translating the Hymns of Homer; his version of several of the shorter ones remains, as well as that to Mercury already published in the Posthumous Poems. His readings this year were chiefly Greek. Besides the Hymns of Homer and the Iliad, he read the Dramas of Eschylus and Sophocles, the Symposium of Plato, and Arrian's Historia Indica. In Latin, Apuleius alone is named. In English, the Bible was his constant study; he read a great portion of it aloud in the evening. Among these evening readings, I find also mentioned the Faery Queen; and other modern works, the production of his contemporaries, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Moore, and Byron.

His life was now spent more in thought than action-he had lost the eager spirit which believed it could achieve what it projected for the benefit of mankind. And yet in the converse of daily life Shelley was far from being a melancholy man. He

was eloquent when philosophy or politics or taste were the subjects of conversation. He was playful; and indulged in the wild spirit that mocked itself and others—not in bitterness, but in sport. The author of Nightmare Abbey seized on some points of his character and some habits of his life when he painted Scythrop. He was not addicted to "port or madeira," but in youth he had read of "Illuminati and Eleutherarchs," and believed that he possessed the power of operating an immediate change in the minds of men and the state of society. These wild dreams had faded; sorrow and adversity had struck home; but he struggled with despondency as he did with physical pain. There are few who remember him sailing paper boats, and watching the navigation of his tiny craft with eagerness-or repeating with wild energy The Ancient Mariner, and Southey's Old Woman of Berkeley; but those who do will recollect that it was in such, and in the creations of his own fancy when that was most daring and ideal, that he sheltered himself from the storms and disappointments, the pain and sorrow, that beset his life. 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.

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 us. 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 afterwards we lost at Rome, written under the idea that we might suddenly be forced to cross the sea, so to preserve him. This poem, as well as the one previously quoted, were not written to exhibit the pangs of distress to the public; they were the spontaneous outbursts of a man who brooded over his wrongs and woes, and was impelled to shed the grace of his genius over the uncontrollable emotions of his heart. I ought to observe that the fourth verse of this effusion is introduced in Rosalind and Helen. When afterwards this child died at Rome, he wrote, àpropos of the English burying-ground in that city; "This spot is the repository of a sacred loss, of which the yearnings of a parent's heart are now prophetic; he is rendered immortal by love, as his memory is by death. My beloved child lies buried here. I envy death the body far less than the oppressors the minds of those whom they have torn from me. The one tan only kill the body, the other crushes the affections."



LISTEN, listen, Mary mine,

To the whisper of the Apennine.

It bursts on the roof like the thunder's roar;

Or like the sea on a northern shore,

Heard in its raging ebb and flow

By the captives pent in the cave below.
The Apennine in the light of day

Is a mighty mountain dim and grey
Which between the earth and sky doth lay;
But, when night comes, a chaos dread
On the dim starlight then is spread,

And the Apennine walks abroad with the storm.

4 May 1818.



The odour from the flower is gone

Which like thy kisses breathed on me;

The colour from the flower is flown

Which glowed of thee and only thee!

A shrivelled, lifeless, vacant form,
It lies on my abandoned breast;

And mocks the heart, which yet is warm,
With cold and silent rest.

I weep-my tears revive it not;

I sigh-it breathes no more on me:

Its mute and uncomplaining lot

Is such as mine should be.


WILT thou forget the happy hours
Which we buried in Love's sweet bowers,

Heaping over their corpses cold

Blossoms and leaves instead of mould?
Blossoms which were the joys that fell,

And leaves, the hopes that yet remain.

Forget the dead, the past? Oh yet

There are ghosts that may take revenge for it!
Memories that make the heart a tomb,

Regrets which glide through the spirit's gloom,
And with ghastly whispers tell

That joy, once lost, is pain.


LIFT not the painted veil which those who live

Call Life; though unreal shapes be pictured there,

And it but mimic all we would believe

With colours idly spread. Behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies, who ever weave

Their shadows o'er the chasm sightless and drear.

I knew one who had lifted it :-he sought,

For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot

Upon this gloomy scene, a spirit that strove
For truth, and, like the Preacher, found it not.


MANY a green isle needs must be
In the deep wide sea of Misery;
Or the mariner, worn and wan,

Never thus could voyage on-
Day and night, and night and day,
Drifting on his dreary way,
With the solid darkness black
Closing round his vessel's track;
Whilst, above, the sunless sky,
Big with clouds, hangs heavily,-
And, behind, the tempest fleet
Hurries on with lightning feet,
Riving sail and cord and plank,
Till the ship has almost drank

Death from the o'er-brimming deep,
And sinks down, down, like that sleep
When the dreamer seems to be
Weltering through eternity,—
And the dim low line before
Of a dark and distant shore
Still recedes, as--ever still
Longing with divided will,
But no power to seek or shun-
He is ever drifted on

O'er the unreposing wave

To the haven of the grave.

What if there no friends will greet?
What if there no heart will meet
His with love's impatient beat?
Wander wheresoe'er he may,
Can he dream before that day
To find refuge from distress

In friendship's smile, in love's caress?
Then 'twill wreak him little woe
Whether such there be or no.
Senseless is the breast, and cold,
Which relenting love would fold;
Bloodless are the veins, and chill,
Which the pulse of pain did fill;
Every little living nerve

That from bitter words did swerve
Round the tortured lips and brow
Is like a sapless leaflet now
Frozen upon December's bough.

On the beach of a northern sea
Which tempests shake eternally
As once the wretch there lay to sleep,
Lies a solitary heap,

One white skull and seven dry bones,
On the margin of the stones,
Where a few grey rushes stand,
Boundaries of the sea and land.
Nor is heard one voice of wail
But the sea-mews' as they sail
O'er the billows of the gale,

« PrécédentContinuer »