« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
to it, except Keats's, in his Ode to a Nightingale; and none can
8 « Ancestral voices prophesying war.”_Was ever anything more wild, and remote, and majestic, than this fiction of the “ tral voices ?" Methinks I hear them, out of the blackness of
YOUTH AND AGE.
Derse, a breeze 'mid blossoms straying,
When I was young!
When I was young? Ah, woful when!
Flowers are lovely; Love is flower-like :
Ere I was old!
Ere I was old ? Ah, woful ere !
And thou wert aye a masker bold !
This is one of the most perfect poems, for style, feeling, and everything, that ever were written.
THE HEATHEN DIVINITIES MERGED INTO ASTROLOGY.
FROM THE TRANSLATION OF SCHILLER'S PICOOLOMINI.
--Fable is Love's world, his home, his birthplace:
WORK WITHOUT HOPE.
LINES COMPOSED 21ST FEBRUARY, 1827.
All Nature seems at work. Stags leave their lair
The bees are stirring—birds are on the wing-
Wears on his smiling face a dream of Spring!
I insert this poem on account of the exquisite imaginative picture in the third and fourth lines, and the terseness and melody of the whole. Here we have a specimen of a perfect style,unsuperfluous, straightforward, suggestive, impulsive, and se. rene. But how the writer of such verses could talk of “work without hope,” I cannot say. What work had he better to do than to write more ? and what hope but to write more still, and delight himself and the world ? But the truth is, his mind was too active and self-involved to need the diversion of work; and his body, the case that contained it, too sluggish with sedentary living to like it; and so he persuaded himself that if his writings did not sell, they were of no use. Are we to disrespect these self-delusions in such a man? No; but to draw from them salutary cautions for ourselves,-his inferiors.
BORN, 1792,-DIED, 1822.
AMONG the many reasons which his friends had to deplore the premature death of this splendid poet and noble-hearted man, the greatest was his not being able to repeat, to a more attentive public, his own protest, not only against some of his earlier effusions (which he did in the newspapers), but against all which he had written in a wailing and angry, instead of an invariably calm, loving, and therefore thoroughly helping spirit. His works, in justice to himself, require either to be winnowed from what he disliked, or to be read with the remembrance of that dislike. He had sensibility almost unique, seemingly fitter for a planet of a different sort, or in more final condition, than ours : he has said of himself,--so delicate was his organization, that he could
“ Hardly bear The weight of the superincumbent hour ;" and the impatience which he vented for some years against that rough working towards good, called evil, and which he carried out into conduct too hasty, subjected one of the most naturally · pious of men to charges which hurt his name, and thwarted his philanthropy. Had he lived, he would have done away all mistake on these points, and made everybody know him for what he was,-a man idolized by his friends,-studious, temperate, of the gentlest life and conversation, and willing to have died to do the world a service. For my part, I never can mention his name without a transport of love and gratitude. I rejoice to have partaken of his cares, and to be both suffering and benefiting from him at this moment; and whenever I think of a future state, and of the great and good Spirit that must
pervade it, one of the first faces I humbly hope to see there, is that of the kind and impassioned man, whose intercourse conferred on me the title of the Friend of Shelley.
The finest poetry of Shelley is so mixed up with moral and political speculation, that I found it impossible to give more than the following extracts, in accordance with the purely poetical design of the present volume. Of the poetry of reflection and tragic pathos, he has abundance; but even such fanciful productions as the Sensitive Plant and the Witch of Atlas are full of metaphysics, and would require a commentary of explanation. The short pieces and passages, however, before us, are so beautiful, that they may well stand as the representatives of the whole powers of his mind in the region of pure poetry. In sweetness (and not even there in passages) the Ode to the Skylark is inferior only to Coleridge,-in rapturous passion to no man.
It is like the bird it sings,—enthusiastic, enchanting, profuse, continuous, and alone,-small, but filling the heavens. One of the triumphs of poetry is to associate its remembrance with the beauties of nature. There are probably no lovers of Homer and Shakspeare, who, when looking at the moon, do not often call to mind the descriptions in the eighth book of the Iliad and the fifth act of the Merchant of Venice. The nightingale (in England) may be said to have belonged exclusively to Milton (see page 178), till a dying young poet of our own day partook of the honor by the production of his exquisite Ode: and notwithstanding Shakspeare's lark singing “at heaven's gate," the longer effusion of Shelley will be identified with thoughts of the bird hereafter, in the minds of all who are susceptible of its beauty. What a pity he did not live to produce a hundred such; or to mingle briefer lyrics, as beautiful as Shakspeare's, with tragedies which Shakspeare himself might have welcomed ! for assuredly, had he lived, he would have been the greatest dramatic writer since the days of Elizabeth, if indeed he has not abundantly proved himself such in his tragedy of the Cenci. Unfor. tunately, in his indignation against every conceivable form of oppression, he took a subject for that play too much resembling one which Shakspeare had taken in his youth, and still. more unsuitable to the stage ; otherwise, besides grandeur and terror