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And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still.

And there lay the steed, with his nostril all wide ;
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride,
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.

And there lay the rider, distorted and pale,
With dew on his brow and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal ;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord.

There have been few poets who could handle language with Byron's ease and power. His rhyming is a marvel of facility. He wrote with a pen that played as freely as the lightning, and his thought never seemed to feel the bonds of rhyme.

In his poetry, Byron warmly took up the cause of Greece, which was then making an effort to free herself from the Turks. In Childe Harold and in other poems some grand passages are addressed to struggling Greece. The year before his death he entered into the plans of the Greek leaders in a war for their country's independence, and went to live at Missolonghi, where he mustered a band of soldiers in his own pay.

Overwork and the bad climate threw him into a fever, and he was urged to leave the air of Missolonghi, which was malarious, and go elsewhere to recover. He refused, saying he would remain till Greece was either free or hopelessly subdued. He died soon after, at his post there, in the prime of life and genius. He used to say he had up to that time written only for women; in the last of his life he would write for men. Would he had been spared to do even greater things than Childe Harold !

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LV.

ON PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.

BETWE

ETWEEN Byron and PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, who were

personal friends, there is a kind of resemblance in their lives, although they were men very unlike in charac

ter. They were both of aristocratic birth, both 1792–1822

held opinions very different from most young men in their position, and they won a similar reputation in their social circle, where their characters and their poetry were looked on by the conservative portion as dangerous and immoral.

Shelley had first drawn blame on himself in college, when he was barely twenty, by a publication which was condemned as atheistic; and he was expelled, finally, from Oxford. Much that he did later, confirmed the bad character this gave him in the eyes of respectable and wellordered English society, which, like Byron, he seemed bound to set at defiance.

In character Shelley was a noble, pure man. The conduct for which he was blamed sprang from his own highest ideal of right. His mind had early formed radically different theories from those of most men of his class. Born of the aristocracy, he was an extreme democrat; in religious and social ideas he was a freethinker. Considered apart from his opinions, he was a shy, scholarly man, inclined to immerse himself in books, unselfish, full of humanity, keenly sensitive to all the abuses and distresses in the world, and eager to make the world better at any cost. Byron said of him after his death, “He was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew."

He began to write very early. When he was fifteen he had completed two novels. In college he began his poem of Queen Mab, which was condemned as an atheistic production; and after he left college his works followed each other rapidly. Although he died at thirty, he had written a

was

good deal of prose, and tried his hand at all forms of poetic composition, — dramas, lyrics, blank verse, narrative poems, and several poems in the Spenserian stanza, which seems to have been a favorite form with him.

In 1817 he went to Italy, from which he never returned. He had written Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude, and The Revolt of Islam, before his departure ; his other works, except a few shorter poems, belong to the five years in which he lived in Italy.

Among his dramas, Prometheus Unbound a tragedy following the Greek models and with a Greek subject one of the first things written in Italy, during a residence at Rome. Afterwards he went to live near Lord Byron at Pisa, and here his mind and sympathies were taken hold of by the sad story of Beatrice Cenci that he wrote on it his tragedy, The Cenci. It is the most painful and powerful drama written since the days of John Webster and Philip Massinger, and it would be, if the plot were not too revolting, a strong acting play.

In Julian and Maddalo Shelley put the characters of Byron and himself into a poem. At nearly the same time that this was written, he wrote also his lament for Keats under the title of Adonais.

Shelley's poetry is imaginative in the highest degree ; his was an imagination governed by high intellect. Of all the later poets he seems to me most of all a poet for other poets. No one who has not the imaginative quality in a rare degree can fully understand and appreciate Shelley. He also had the gift of writing verse of most musical quality, which seemed to flow without effort. Macaulay says, “ His poetry seems not to have been an art, but an inspiration.”

This musical quality shows most of all in his lyrics ; he wrote a great many of these, some long, others only a verse or two. I think there is no lyric of equal length in our language which is so perfect as Shelley's Ode to a Skylark. It is exquisite in melody, — the first requirement of a lyric;

the images it contains are poetic in the highest degree ; and it is full of an aspiration that upbears the thoughts, as if borne aloft on the wings of the bird. Can anything be more musical than this?

“ Sound of vernal showers

On the twinkling grass,
Rain-awakened flowers,

All that ever was
Joyous and clear and fresh, thy music doth surpass.”
Or more spirited than these? -

Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest;
Like a cloud of fire

The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

“All the earth and air

With thy voice is loud
As, when night is bare,

From one lonely cloud
The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.”

And see how, without changing, the measure takes on deeper meaning :

Waking or asleep,

Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep

Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy notes flow in such a crystal stream ?

“ We look before and after,

And pine for what is not ;
Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;
Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought.”

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The Cloud is another lyric, less subtle in thought than The Skylark, but showing the wonderful music Shelley could make by the interlinking of words.

Among his poems of a fit length to quote, I have chosen The Sensitive Plant, because it seems to me a most characteristic poem, — in its melody, in its imaginative quality, and in its very subject a poem in harmony with Shelley's own nature :

THE SENSITIVE PLANT.

PART I.

A sensitive plant in a garden grew,
And the young winds fed it with silver dew;
And it opened its fan-like leaves to the light,
And closed them beneath the kisses of night.

And the spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere,
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.

But none ever trembled and panted with bliss
In the garden, the field, or the wilderness,
Like a doe in the noontide with love's sweet want,
As the companionless sensitive plant.

The snowdrop and then the violet
Arose from the ground with warm rain wet,
And their breath was mixed with fresh odor, sent
From the turf, like the voice and the instrument.

Then the pied wind-flowers and the tulip tall,
And narcissi, the fairest among them all,
Who gaze on their eyes in the stream's recess
Till they die of their own dear loveliness ;

And the naiad-like lily of the vale,
Whom youth makes so fair, and passion so pale,
That the light of its tremulous bells is seen
Through their pavilions of tender green;

And the hyacinth, purple and white and blue,
Which flung from its bells a sweet peal anew
Of music so delicate, soft, and intense,
It was felt like an odor within the sense ;

And the rose, like a nymph to the bath addrest,
Which unveiled the depth of her glowing breast,
Till fold after fold, to the fainting air,
The soul of her beauty and love lay bare ;

And the wand-like lily, which lifted up
As a Mænad its moonlight-colored cup,
Till the fiery star which is its eye
Gazed through clear dew on the tender sky;

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