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have united sublimity and beauty in indissoluble links-you might have risen high, till you became a fixed star in the poetic atmosphere. But you panted after a meed of fame which you never could attain! You preferred a chaplet of sunbeams to one of earthly laurel-you would have ætherialized your poetry till it became like the language of our first parents in Eden! But you ought to have remembered that man is fallen now; and in ministering to his purer emotions, you should have taken into account the mortal medium through which they are addressed!
The Eve of this garden has gone to tend her flowers: have Cowper or Wordsworth any thing of simpler feeling than this?
" She lifted their beads with her tender hands,
And sustain'd them with rods and ozier bands;
And all killing insects, and gnawing worms,
In a basket, of grapes and wild flowers full,
Altho' they did ill, was innocent!" But the maiden, the presiding goddess of the garden, died-and then what a change !—the flowers faded and fell-hour after hour they perished and passed away. The change is absolutely affecting : weeds of rank savour choked up what remained of bloom and beauty-the winds of heaven whistled over wasting piles of vegetable corruption :—the sensitive plant was the last to go, for although its beauty was lopped off, its freshness blighted, starved to mildew, its leaves borne by the whirlwind far away, it yet collected its sap slowly into its struggling heart, until winter came-when the sensitive plant sunk down into the fate of its companions! At the conclusion, by way of moral, we have some remarkable stanzas, two of which we quote; the whole poem is a beautiful allegory.
“ It is a modest creed, and yet
Pleasant, if one considers it,
While on this part of our subject, we may also mention Shelley's “ Odes to the West Wind,"—to “ a Cloud,” and “to a Skylark,”—from the latter of which, from its resemblance to Wordsworth, we are tempted to make a brief extract; the two former, and particularly the first, are splendid compositions.
To A SKYLARK.
“ Hail to thee! blithe Spirit
Bird thou never wert!
Pourest thy full heart,
Or triumphal chaunt,
But an empty vaunt-
What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain ?
What shapes of sky or plain,
Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem,
Than we mortals dream,
We look before and after
And pine for what is not,
With some pain is fraught;
Yet if we could scorn,
Hate, and pride, and fear!
Not to shed a tear,
Of those compositions which are purely descriptive, the well-known stanzas to the " Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci,” may be considered the finest, and there is also great merit in a small poem, called the “ Fugi. tives.” As we have before remarked, Shelley possessed no ordinary power of description : but like a glimpse of blue sky in the drift of a tempest, it is unfrequent and overclouded. Into one stanza he will perhaps throw volumes of the picturesque; and there leave it, while in twenty following he soars far away into ideality: and it is this power of sudden concentration, without gradual developement, which more than any other destroys the unity of his poems.
We approach the conclusion of our task. It remains to examine those poems which have immediate reference to Shelley's own feelings. They are few in number; no one was less selfish than the author of “ Alastor; of all his works there are scarcely a dozen that come under the present head. What a contrast between him and the author of “Childe Harold !" while the one drew all his poetry from the heart of Nature, whence the freshest and deepest impulses are for ever springing ; the other, like the hungry pelican, fed on himself! While the one hunted through error and suffering, the ghost of an ideal Freedom, whose coming was to be an intellectual millennium to the world; the other brooded morbidly over his own imaginary wrongs-pursued his own reckless and solitary course—and if Nature was anything to his fervid imagination, it was only as imparting fresh feeling, or fresh food to his insatiable love of self. The constitution of Shelley's mind forbade him to be selfish : it was adapted for affection and friendship-it taught him to love all things, to cherish all things-or, as he beautifully says, in his “Ode to intellectual Beauty :"
I vow'd that I would dedicate my powers
To thee and thine:-have I not kept the vow ?
They know that never joy illumin'd my brow,
Unlink'd with hope that thou would'st free
This world from its dark slavery ! It is manifest that such a mind must have had its moments of deep despondency. Variable and sensitive, it must have ever oscillated from excitement to exhaustion. Ardent and enthusiastic, it must have stum. bled and tottered under every disappointment. Yet we have but two pieces, in which a dejected mood is suffered to display itself, the first in some stanzas “written near Naples," part of which we quote:
Alas! I have nor hope, nor health,
Nor peace within, nor calm around,
The sage in meditation found,
And walked with inward glory crown'd-
Others I see whom these surround-
Even as the winds and waters are :
And weep away this life of care,
Which I have borne, and yet must bear,
And I might feel in the warm air
Breathe o'er my dying brain its last monotony !
Shelley has been called an atheist: the public still deem him one:-it is a hard name. Hume wrote laboured essays, to prove by dogmas, the absurdity of-truth! Voltaire sneered at mankind-until, having deprived them of all divinity here, and of all hope hereafter, he would have reduced them to a level with-monkeys. Gibbon was a philosophic sceptic, who implied by witty sarcasm rather than gave direct utterance to what he felt. Byron was a poetic sceptic, who could be as pure as a Madonna, and as satanic as Lucifer himself, when it suited him : yet who will call Gibbon, or Byron, or Voltaire, or even Hume, atheists? The term is still more misapplied in the instance of Shelley-atheism is folly: “ The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God:” atheism is ignorance, a low, brutified, vulgar ignorance, like that of such a mind as C—'s. Again, atheism implies an arrogant, blind independence: it sees no beauty, no love, no divinity-it is swayed by passion and the grossest sensuality: it has no eyes for nature, no tenderness for man—110 thirst for knowledge, no sympathy for aught save its wretched self! One unquenchable feeling prevails throughout the writings of Shelley, that of love in its most refined ideality! Wherever this love points—whether to nature, or truth, or intellectual beauty-we care not. To worship the attributes--the choicest attributes of divinity, is to worship divinity itself: is Shelley then an atheist ?
We have now gone through our task-to us it has been one of much pleasure. Whatever may be his faults, Shelley was undoubtedly a real
Sept. 1835.-VOL. XIV.—NO. LIII.
poet:-his originality is unquestioned-- his imagination is of the highest class : and we have no hesitation in repeating, that had his capacity for executing equalled his ability in conceiving, he might, of all English bards, have approached the nearest to Milton. As it is, he stands alone in his sphere: alone in thought and feeling; alone in wild and profuse imagery: companionless and eccentric in career: opposed to the world at seventeenand banished from it afterwards: branded for faults he never possessed, shunned for crimes, the faintest shadow of which could never have entered into his warm benevolent heart: the victim of a fate which is always awful, but in his case doubly so: let his own words be sculptured on his tomb:
Lift not the painted veil, which those who live
W, G. T.
BY MRS. CRAWFORD.
KATHLEEN MAVOURNEEN! the gray dawn is breaking,
The horn of the hunter is heard on the hill,
Kathleen Mavourneen! what, slumbering still !
Oh ! hast thou forgotten this day we must part?
Oh! why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?
Kathleen Mavourneen! awake from thy slumbers;
The blue mountains glow in the sun's golden light;
Arise in thy beauty, thou star of my night!
To think that from Erin and thee I must part;
Oh! why art thou silent, thou voice of my heart?
THE LIFE OF A SUB-EDITOR.1
BY THE SUB-EDITOR.
What a nice, varied, sentimental, joyous, lachrymose, objurgatory, laudatory, reflective volume might be made, entitled, " Meditations at the Masthead!" When I found myself comfortably established in my aëry domicile, I first looked down upon the vessel below with a feeling nearly akin to pity, then around me with a positive feeling of rapture, and, at length, above me with a heart-warming glow of adoration. Perched up at a height so great, the decks of the frigate looked extremely long and narrow, and the foreshortened view one has of those upon it, makes them look little bigger, or more important, than so many puppets. Beneath me I saw the discontented author of “ A Tour up and down the Rio de la Plate,” and of my elevation, skipping actively here and there, to avoid the splashing necessary in washing the decks. I could not help comparing the annoyance of this involuntary dance, with the afterguard, this croisséz with clattering buckets, and dos à dosing with wet swabs, with my comfortable and commanding recumbency upon the cross-trees. I looked down upon Lieutenant Silva and pitied him. I looked around me, and my heart was exceeding glad. The upper rim of the sun was dallying with a crimson cloud, whilst the greater part of his disk was still below the well-defined deep blue horizon. All above him, to the zenith, was chequered with small clouds, layer over layer, like the scales of a breastplate of burnished gold. The little waves were mantling, dimpling, and seemed playfully striving to emulate the intenser glories of ihe heavens above. They now flashed into living light, now assumed the blushing bue of a rose-bud, and here and there wreathed up into a diminutive foam, mocking the smile of youth when she shows her white teeth between her beauty-breathing lips. As I swung aloft, with a motion gentle as that of the cradled infant, and looked out upon the splendours beneath and around me, my bosom swelled with the most ra emotions. Every where, as far as my eye could reach, the transparent and beryl-dyed waters were speckled with white sails, actually “ blushing rosy-red” with the morning beams. Far, far astern, hull down, were the huge dull sailers, spreading all their studding sails to the winds, reminding me of frightened swans with expanded wings. Conspicuous among these were the two men-of-war brigs, obliquely sai!ing, now here and then there, and ever and anon firing a gun, whose mimic thunder, came with melodious resonance over the waters, whilst the many-coloured signals were continually flying and shifting. They were the hawks among the covey of the larger white-plumed birds. At this moment our gallant frigate, like a youthful and a regal giant, more majestic from the lightness of her dress, walked in conscious superiority in the midst of all. She had, as I before mentioned, just
Continued from vol. xiii, p. 425.