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in a state of enthralment has to undergo. To chain the body is nothing, unless the mind be chained with it; and it is only by addressing the mind through the darkened medium of external terrors, that the triumph over Liberty is to be consummated. In this trial an exalted imagination exerts its purest influence. The prisoner, who bodies shapes and scenes out of his dungeon's dark obscurity, has gone far to make captivity endurable. Relying on the gentle impulses of imagination, and peopling his solitude with a thousand forms of Love and Pity, he may calmly resign himself to his fate. Shelley gave a full developement to this selfsustaining power, when he makes purer Spirits throng from the “worldsurrounding æther,” to console the Titan after the Furies' departure. Look at the two following pictures ; for fierce, fiend-like hatred on one side, and tender, spiritualized melancholy, which is not, however, without a certain under-current of consolation, on the other; they are un
It is torn!
The pale stars of the morn
Joy! joy! joy!
The tender hopes, which in their hearts, the best and gentlest bear." We must really pause here. We have said that of all modern poets, Shelley was best adapted to replace the lost drama of Æschylus, but we are not blind to the faults of the drama he has given us. As far, indeed, as our quotations have gone, it is grand, well-sustained, even, to a certain degree, sublime, but when the tortures of Jove have wasted themselves, an hour of calm melancholy precedes the advent of the hero, Hercules, who is to rescue Freedom from its chains; instead of condemning and simplifying, Shelley has drawn his “Prometheus unbound" to a tedious length, introducing a monstrous shadow, called Demogorgon, and soaring farther than reason or truth can follow into the regions of phantasy. Yet are there other parts of real beauty in the Prometheus of Shelley, , -as a drama, and in this remark we also include his “ Hellas," whose subject and style is nearly similar, it is a failure; but, as a wild, unconnected, ideal poem, developing, with a master's hand, the most precious stores of the English language, it will be read by posterity, ages hence, with wonder and admiration.
Of Shelley's remaining poems, (we shall approach his minor ones presently,) there is great merit in his “ Julian and Maddalo,” an ideal con. versation between himself and Lord Byron; and in his “Rosalind and Helen,” a modern eclogue, as he terms it, both of which we recommend to our readers, as containing touches of true feeling.
We have reserved the gem of our review, (Shelley's “ Episychidion,"
however, or “ Address to Lady Emilia V
visionary though it be, must not be forgotten) viz. “ Adonais,” to the last. This latter poem is a chef d'auvre, to be read by every one, who has a soul for those sweet fancies which form the “half-deity” of man's mixed creation, without intense emotion. It is truly delightful to have now approached the open ground of our criticism. Leaving behind its errors, and failings, its mysteries, and its shadows, we may now contemplate Shelley's imagination in its purest ætheriality; and, can we but invoke one throb of sympathy in his behalf, or, to use his own words,“ plead successfully against oblivion for his fame, our labour will not have been in vain.
The “ Adonais” is an Elegy, as its author is pleased to term it, on the death of John Keats, whose fate is but too well known. With what propriety might not this Elegy have been prefaced by those overpowering lines of Virgil :
Heu miserande puer ! si quà fata aspera rumpas
at whose hearing the bereaved Octavia fell fainting to the earth. Listen, however, with what a burst of true affection “Adonais” begins :
Yes! he is gone-the observed of all observers, the sensitive, the pure, the intellecual Adonais is gone for ever—"the youngest, dearest one of Earth has perished.”
The nursling of her widowhood, who grew
And fed with true love-tears instead of dew ! What exquisite pathos! What depth, and tenderness, and classic chastity of feeling! But who cropped that flower? Was it the winds of heaven, whose unenvied, though duteous task, wasted the lilies' odours before corruption had marked it for its own-before age had sapped its delicate petals—before misfortune had snapped its stem :-thereby bequeathing its freshness to air, and its sweetness to the ambient beauty of nature-a death it is true, but a life in death--a spiritual transfusion into the vast Spirit of all! Oh, no!-oh, no! It was not the winds of heaven: the swift-destroying north – the more gentle west, the spicy south, or even the “ leaden”* autumnal breeze, but man, miserable man-who stamped his iron foot in the plenitude of arrogant imbecility on that flower,--wbo destroyed the “noblest of Creation's works”-who, “murderer as he was, spoke daggers, but used none”—who wreaked an unprovoked vengeance, and gathered his unhallowed harvest into
* Plumbeus Auster!
That high capitol, where kingly Death
Keeps his pale court in many-hued decay! Alas! poor Adonais—he will awake no more on earth, though all his race are mourners--though intellectual beauty goes into weeds—though fancy wreathes her wand with uncreative cypress—though virtue drops her white robe for the sad livery of “one who refuses to be comforted”— though thoughts sit mute and vacant, alas! he will awake no more on earth.
Pale ocean in unquiet slumber lay,
Into a shadow of all sounds:-a drear
And they dead leaves. And are not these sad, and silent thoughts-which make a mockery of life, and hope, and joy-like dead leaves, that the whirlwind of affliction bears from the mind's neglected branches, at its mercy, and its will, and does not the loss of “so dear a head,” (the literal translation of a Roman's* most affectionate tribute to his friend and patron,) change in a brief moment the sunny aspect of spring, to the frowns, and chills, and changes of autumn? Is there no truth, as beautiful as it is natural, in this and the foregoing images ? Away, ye pedantic critics, who have established some Dagon of poetry, at whose feet not to fall down and worship, is to be heretical, and therefore damned ;-away! ye arrogant verse-definers--ye mere mechanics of criticism--who dare to refuse the meed of genius to Shelley :--we could meet you with your own weapons, with the plummet and the line, the compass and the square, and prove in your own lists that the ill-fated Percy-the spiritual Alastor, was a a poet in the fullest and freest sense of the term. But proceed we to the next stanza, the latter portion of which is almost sublime.
Thy spirit's sister, the lorn nightingale,
• Tam cari capitis.
Not so the eagle,—who like thee could scale
Light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast,
Reader! we must be calm ; there is that in “Adonais” which almost makes us forget our office: there is that which bears us far away into the heaven of heavens of poetry-there is that which is as a voice, and a spell in the solitude of our heart, to re-people, and re-kindle it again !
How many of the most promising of England's bards have died young. There was Lycidas, the sweet Lycidas of Milton, “who knew so well to build the lofty rhyme:" a very Hyacinth he must have been to have drawn tears from the Phæbus of poetry! but we shall return to him. There was Chatterton—the original, and daring, and Shakspearian “charity-boy!” the wondrous, self-gifted enchanter, who created poetry out of parchment, and called beauteous spirits from antiquity to preside over their own apparently coeval relics !-relics, which in the fullness of his imitative success he alone had constructed and inscribed: but whom poverty, that cause of all crime and all despair-poisoned. There was Kirke White, less daring, less original, but equally sweet in thought, and even purer in fancy, on whom that same poverty, feeding “ like a vulture fretted to decay," and laid dead at last, like an overwearied bird, in the bosom of that intellectual nest, which he never would desert! and lastly, there was " Adonais,” the sensitive Keats, who might have prospered, though his birth was humble, and his means straitened, had not an enmity, as gratuitous as it was wanton, as cruel in act as it was malignant in spirit, met, and tore, and trampled him to the earth!
But are either of these poets dead ?-to be extinct, to have vanished utterly and for ever, without a trace on the memory of those who knew us, is to die, in the term's darkest application. The body, indeed, like a worn-out machine,” may “rot, perish, and pass away,
but there is a spirit of loveliness yet breathing in the works of all these young poets. And who, ideal and eloquent as he was, could have better given life to that loveliness in the lamented Adonais—who could have more truly felt and entered into those deep emotions, those thrilling sympathies—those "beauty-winged” thoughts so peculiar to the poetic temperament, than the spiritual å lastor ? hear in what a sublime climax he proclaims, that the spark quenched on earth is “but bequeathed unquenchably to the future:”.
who lost in stormy visions, keep
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
He is secure, and now can never mourn
Nor, when the spirit's self has ceased to burn
With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn ! “ Adonais” should, strictly speaking, be termed a Monody.” We have but few monodies in our language: that of Milton, on the death of Lycidas, has been considered the finest. Byron and Coleridge have each devoted a most feeling one, the former to Sheridan and the latter to Chatterton. The monody of " Adonais,” if it does not excel, has, in our opinion, fully equalled Milton's: it pleases us better than that of Byron; and did we not feel a little prejudiced in the matter, (for who does not adore S. T. Coleridge?) we should give it the palm over even his. There is a remarkable concentration of feeling in “ Adonais." All the images it contains have one object-all that is pure and ætherial-all that beautifies or dignifies humanity is heaped, and who will call it an “inane munus," on that object. Shelley wrote, as he felt, intensely. No one else could have drawn so many intellectual treasures to such a task. Ordinary images, or as unpoetic people are apt to term them,
beautiful ideas,” might have occurred to an uncreative, though sensitive, mind: those ideas might have been feelingly and harmoniously expressed ; but like the deathless lament of Lycidas, we find the sublime and beautiful, the exalted, the picturesque, and the pathetic, breathing in every line of “ Adonais." To conclude, this monody has all the essentials of, and is, in fact, a perfect poem: its pathos being deep and unaffected-its imaginative beauty never overstepping nature: and that great blot in Shelley's writings, the want of a judicions unity of desigu, to which every portion of the poem should be subordinate, being here, from the nature of the subject, supplied. It is a noble monody: and had the author of " Adonais written nothing else, is of itself enough to “ plead against Oblivion for his name.”
Many of Shelley's minor poems are exquisite. His imagination, whenever concentered and subdued to the level of the subject, works wonders. We shall consider these poems under two heads: arranging under the first, all those that are descriptive or ideal: under the second, all those that have reference to the poet's own feelings, whether domestic or otherwise. The character of a poet is generally developed in his shorter compositions: they fall, as it were, like poetic gems from his heart. In a larger and more exalted attempt, such as an epic or a drama, there must be much art employed, and thus a laboured, acquired, or even factitious emotion may be worked out; but in a small domestic tribute, if the feeling be not real, the piece becomes cumbrous and overstrained. Of those pieces in which fancy and description are beautifully blended, Shelley's “ Sensitive Plant” is deserving of most notice. There is, indeed, nothing in the English language of the sort to surpass this
poem. It may be called a perfect picture, displaying two views : on one side, the fairy-like vista of enchanting scenes and illusions, where light, and love, and beauty have taken up their abode, like one of Howard's gorgeous Hesperides; on the other, a weedy, unprofitable wilderness, where thorns, and briars, and darnels flourish in unseemly luxuriance: the contrast is touchingly effective.
“ There was a power in this sweet place-an Eve in this garden,” says Shelley, in commencing the second part of the poem. The gardenthe temple of beauty, which, in the first part, he so beautifully depictured, was not complete without a presiding goddess ;-a thing of loveliness to harmonize with the scene-a thing of life to humanize it. And why-0! spiritual Alastor, did you not more frequently give life and being to your creations? All the world would then have clasped you to their hearts ! Yours was the imagining power of Milton! You might