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To some more lovely mystery. Through the dell,
Like vaporous shapes half seen.” He now feels the dark approaching consciousness of death and we think the following address to a stream, on whose banks the youth is lying, contains a wild, and solemn, and mysterious foreboding of dissolution.
“ O stream!
I'' the passing wind !" The beauty of the woods seems now to decay, and there is a gradual, but ghastly change all around, which is described by a very fine image.
“ For, as fast
And musical motions." The stream, on whose banks he strays, leads him into a dreadful land, where all is wrapped in the dimness and thunder of fear; but the pilgrim's dreary travel ends in peace; and on entering the threshold of the green recess, he feels that his last hour is come. There is scarcely any part of the poem, which does not partake of a character of extravagance—and probably many of our readers may have felt this to be the case in our extracts, more than ourselves. Be this as it may, we cannot but think that there is great sublimity in the death scene.
“ He did place
At peace, and faintly smiling :-bis last sight
Still, dark, and dry, and unremembered now.' Several of the smaller poems contain beauties of no ordinary kind—but they are almost all liable to the charge of vagueness and obscurity. Mr. Shelley's imagination is enamoured of dreams of death; and he loves to strike his harp among the tombs.
There is no Work, nor Device, nor Knowledge, nor Wisdom in the Grave, whither thou goest.
Through the stormy shades of thy worldly way,
Shall sleep in the light of a wondrous day,
This world is the mother of all we feel,
To a brain unencompassed with nerves of steel;
Where all but this frame must surely be,
No longer will live to hear or to see
Who listeth the veil of what is to come?
The wide-winding caves of the peopled tomb?
Or uniteth the hopes of what shall be
With the fears and the love for that which we see?" We will make one more extract, from a strange and unintelligible fragment of a poem, entitled “The Dæmon of the World." It is exceedingly beautiful.
" How wonderful is Death,
Death and his brother Sleep!
With lips of lurid blue,
When throned on ocean's wave
It breathes over the world :
Nor putrefaction's breath
But loathsomeness and ruin?"
Or mark her delicate cheek
Outwatching weary night,
Her dewy eyes are closed;
With unapparent fire,
The bosom's stainless pride,
Around a marble column." We beg leave, in conclusion, to say a few words about the treatment which Mr. Shelley has, in his poetical character, received from the public. By our periodical critics, he has either been entirely overlooked, or slightingly noticed, or grossly abused. There is not so much to find fault with in the mere silence of critics; but we do not hesitate to say, with all due respect for the general character of that journal, that Mr. Shelley has been infamously and stupidly treated in the Quarterly Review. His Reviewer there, whoever he is, does not show himself a man of such lofty principles as to entitle him to ride the high horse in company with the author of the Revolt of Islam. And when one compares the vis inertiæ of his motionless prose, with the “eagle-winged raptures” of Mr. Shelley's poetry, one does not think, indeed, of Satan reproving Sin, but one does think, we will say it in plain words, and without a figure, of a dunce rating a man of genius. If that critic does not know that Mr. Shelley is a poet, almost in the very highest sense of that mysterious word, then, we appeal to all those whom we have enabled to judge for themselves, if he be not unfit to speak of poetry before the people of England. If he does know that Mr. Shelley is a great poet, what manner of man is he, who, with such conviction, brings himself, with the utmost difficulty, to admit that there is any beauty at all in Mr. Shelley's writings, and is happy to pass that admission off with an accidental and niggardly phrase of vague and valueless commendation. This is manifest and mean-glaring and gross injustice on the part of a man who comes forward as the champion of morality, truth, faith, and religion. This is being guilty of one of the very worst charges of which he accuses another; nor will any man who loves and honours genius, even though that genius may have occasionally suffered itself to be both stained and led astray, think but with contempt, and indignation, and scorn, of a critic, who, while he pretends to wield the weapons of honour, virtue, and truth, yet clothes himself in the armour of deceit, hypocrisy, and falsehood. He exults to calumniate Mr. Shelley's moral character, but he fears to acknowledge bis genius. And therefore do we, as the sincere, though sometimes sorrowing friends of Mr. Shelley, scruple not to say, even though it may expose us to the charge of personality from those from whom alone such a charge could at all affect our minds, that the critic shows himself by such conduct, as far inferior to Mr. Shelley as a man of worth, as the language in which he utters his falsehood and uncharitableness, shows him to be inferior as a man of intellect.
In the present state of public feeling, with regard to poets and poetry, a critic cannot attempt to defraud a poet of his fame, without paying the penalty either of his ignorance or his injustice. So long as he confines the expression of his envy or stupidity to works of moderate or doubtful merit, he may escape punishment; but if he dare to insult the spirit of England by contumelious and scorpful treatment of any one of her gifted sons, that contumely and that scorn will most certainly be flung back upon himself, till he be made to shrink and to shiver beneath the load. It is not in the power of all the critics alive, to blind one true lover of poetry to the splendour of Mr. Shelley's genius--and the reader who, from inere curiosity, should turn to the Revolt of Islam to see what sort
of trash it was that so moved the wrath, and the spleen, and the scorn of the Reviewer, would soon feel, that to understand the greatness of the poet, and the littleness of his traducer, nothing more was necessary than to recite to his delighted sense, any six successive stanzas of that poem, so full of music, imagination, intellect, and passion. We care comparatively little for injustice offered to one moving majestical in the broad day of fame: it is the injustice done to the great while their greatness is unknown or misunderstood, that a generous nature most abhors, inasmuch as it seems more basely wicked to wish that genius might never lift its head, than to envy the glory with which it is encircled.
There is, we firmly believe, a strong love of genius in the people of this country, and they are willing to pardon to its possessor much extravagance and error-nay, even more serious transgressions. Let both Mr. Shelley and his critic think of that-let it encourage the one to walk onwards to his bright destiny, without turning into dark, or doubtful, or wicked ways let it teach the other to feel a proper sense of his own insignificance, and to be ashamed, in the midst of his own weaknesses, and deficiencies, and meannesses, to aggravate the faults of the highly-gifted, and 10 gloat with a sinful satisfaction on the real or imaginary debasement of genius and intellect.
And here we ought, perhaps, to stop. But the Reviewer has dealt out a number of dark and oracular denunciations against the Poet, which the public can know nothing about, except that they imply a charge of immorality and wickedness. Let him speak out plainly, or let him bold his tongue. There are many wicked and foolish things in Mr. Shelley's creed, and we have not hitherto scrupled, nor shall we henceforth scruple to expose that wickedness and that folly. But we do not think that he believes his own creed-at least, that he believes it fully and to utter convictionand we doubt not but the scales will yet all fall from his eyes. The Reviewer, however, with a face of most laughable horror, accuses Mr. Shelley in the same breath, of some nameless act of atrocity, and of having been rusticated, or expelled, or warned to go away from the University of Oxford! He seems to shudder with the same holy fear at the violation of the laws of morality, and the breaking of college rules. He forgets that in the world men do not wear caps and gowns as at Oriel or Exeter. He preaches not like Paul- but like a Proctor.
Once more, then, we bid Mr. Shelley farewell. Let him come forth from the eternal city-where, we understand he has been sojourning-in his strength, conquering and to conquer. Let his soul watch his soul, and listen to the voice of its own noble nature and there is no doubt that the future will make amends for the past,