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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. Unfortunately, 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
there are things in it lovely as heart can worship; and the author showed himself able to draw both men and women, whose names would have been "familiar in our mouths as household words." The utmost might of gentleness, and of the sweet habitudes of domestic affection, was never more balmily impressed through the tears of the reader, than in the unique and divine close of that dreadful tragedy. Its loveliness, being that of the highest reason, is superior to the madness of all the crime that has preceded it, and leaves nature in a state of reconcilement with her ordinary course. The daughter, who is going forth with her mother to execution, utters these final words :
Give yourself no unnecessary pain,
My dear Lord Cardinal. Here, mother, tie
In any simple knot. Ay, that does well;
The force of simplicity and moral sweetness cannot go further than this. But in general, if Coleridge is the sweetest of our poets, Shelley is at once the most ethereal and most gorgeous; the one who has clothed his thoughts in draperies of the most evanescent and most magnificent words and imagery. Not Milton himself is more learned in Grecisms, or nicer in etymological propriety; and nobody, throughout, has a style so Orphic and primæval. His poetry is as full of mountains, seas, and skies, of light, and darkness, and the seasons, and all the elements of our being, as if Nature herself had written it, with the creation and its hopes newly cast around her; not, it must be confessed, without too indiscriminate a mixture of great and small, and a want of sufficient shade,—a certain chaotic brilliancy, “dark with excess of light." Shelley (in the verses to a Lady with a Guitar) might well call himself Ariel. All the more enjoying part of his poetry is Ariel,—the "delicate" yet powerful "spirit," jealous of restraint, yet able to serve; living in the elements and the flowers; treading the "ooze of the salt deep," and running "on the sharp wind of the north;" feeling for creatures
unlike himself; "flaming amazement" on them too, and singing exquisitest songs. Alas! and he suffered for years, as Ariel did in the cloven pine: but now he is out of it, and serving the purposes of Beneficence with a calmness befitting his knowledge and his love.
TO A SKYLARK.
Hail to thee, blithe spirit!
That from heaven, or near it,
Pourest thy full heart,
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.1
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.
In the golden lightning
Of the sunken sun,
O'er which clouds are brightening,
Thou dost float and run;
Like an embodied joy, whose race has just begun
The pale purple even
Melts round thy flight;
In the broad day-light
Keen as are the arrows
Of that silver sphere
Whose intense lamp narrows
In the white dawn clear,
Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.
All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud
From one lonely cloud
What thou art we know not.
What is most like thee?
From rainbow clouds there flow not
Drops so bright to see,
As from thy presence showers a rain of melody
Like a poet hidden
In the light of thought,
Till the world is wrought
To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.
Like a high-born maiden2
Soul in secret hour
With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower.
Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew,
Its aerial hue
Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view
Like a rose embowered
In its own green leaves,
Till the scent it gives
Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-winged thieves
Sound of vernal showers
On the twinkling grass,
All that ever was
Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass
But an empty vaunt
A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.
What objects are the fountains
What fields, or waves, or mountains?
What shapes of sky or plain?
What love of thine own kind? What ignorance of pain?
With thy clear keen joyance
Shadow of annoyance
Never came near thee:
Thou lovest; but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.
Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem
Things more true and deep
Than we mortals dream,
Or how could thy note flow in such a crystal stream?
We look before and after,
And pine for what is not;
With some pain is fraught:
Our sweetest songs are those which tell of saddest thought.