« PredošláPokračovať »
And wanders up the vault of the blue day,
Outlives the noon, and on the sun's last ray Hangs o'er the sea, a fleece of fire and amethyst.
Thou art folded, thou art lying In the light which is undying Of thine own joy, and heaven's smile divine;
All suns and constellations shower On thee a light, a life, a power Which doth array thy sphere; thou pourest thine
On mine, on mine!
I spin beneath my pyramid of night, Which points into the heavens dreaming delight, Murmuring victorious joy in my en
As a youth lulled in love-dreams faintly sighing,
Under the shadow of his beauty lying, Which round his rest a watch of light and warmth doth keep.
As in the soft and sweet eclipse,
When soul meets soul on lovers' lips, High hearts are calm, and brightest eyes are dull;
So when thy shadow falls on me,
Then am I mute and still, by thee Covered; of thy love, Orb most beautiful,
Full, oh, too full!
Thou art speeding round the sun
Like the polar Paradise, Magnet-like of lovers' eyes; I, a most enamoured maiden Whose weak brain is overladen With the pleasure of her love, Maniac-like around thee move Gazing, an insatiate bride, On thy form from every side Like a Mænad, round the cup Which Agave lifted up In the weird Cadmæn forest. Brother, wheresoe'er thou soarest I must hurry, whirl and follow Through the heavens wide and hollow, Sheltered by the warm embrace Of thy soul from hungry space, Drinking from thy sense and sight Beauty, majesty, and might, As a lover or chameleon Grows like what it looks upon, As a violet's gentle eye Gazes on the azure sky Until its hue grows like what it beholds, As a gray and watery mist Glows like solid amethyst
Athwart the western mountain it enfolds, When the sunset sleeps
And you pretend to rise out of its wave, Because your words fall like the clear, soft dew
Shaken from a bathing wood-nymph's limbs and hair.
Panthea. Peace! peace! A mighty
Bursts, like eclipse which had been gathered up
Into the pores of sunlight: the bright visions,
Wherein the singing spirits rode and shone,
Gleam like pale meteors through a watery night.
Ione. There is a sense of words upon Of mine ear.
Panthea. An universal sound like words: Oh, list!
Beautiful orb! gathering as thou dost roll The love which paves thy path along the skies:
I hear: I am as a drop of dew that dies.
With wonder, as it gazes upon thee; Whilst each to men, and beasts, and the swift birth
Of birds, is beauty, love, calm, harmony:
Ye kings of suns and stars, Dæmons
Ætherial Dominations, who possess Elysian, windless, fortunate abodes Beyond Heaven's constellated wilder
A Voice from above.
Ye happy dead, whom beams of brightest
Are clouds to hide, not colours to
Whether your nature is that universe
Or as they Whom we have left, we change and pass away.
Ye elemental Genii, who have homes From man's high mind even to the central stone
sullen lead; from Heaven's starfretted domes
To the dull weed some sea-worm battens on:
A confused Voice.
We hear thy words waken Oblivion. Demogorgon. Spirits, whose homes are flesh: ye beasts and birds, Ye worms, and fish; ye living leaves and buds; Lightning and wind; and ye untameable herds,
Meteors and mists, which throng air's solitudes :
A Voice. Thy voice to us is wind among still woods.
The serpent that would clasp her with his length;
These are the spells by which to reassume An empire o'er the disentangled doom.
To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite; To forgive wrongs darker than death or night;
To defy Power, which seems omnipotent;
To love, and bear; to hope till Hope
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates;
Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent;
This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free;
This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.
NOTE ON PROMETHEUS UNBOUND, BY MRS. SHELLEY.
ON the 12th of March 1818 Shelley quitted England, never to return. His principal motive was the hope that his health would
be improved by a milder climate; he Isuffered very much during the winter previous to his emigration, and this decided his vacillating purpose. In December 1817 he had written from Marlow to a friend, saying:
My health has been materially worse. My feelings at intervals are of a deadly and torpid kind, or awakened to such a
state of unnatural and keen excitement
that, only to instance the organ of sight, I find the very blades of grass and the boughs of distant trees present themselves to me with microscopic distinctness. wards evening I sink into a state of lethargy
and inanimation, and often remain for hours on the sofa between sleep and waking, a prey to the most painful irritability of thought. Such, with little intermission, is my condition. The hours devoted to study are selected with vigilant caution from among these periods of endurance. It is not for this that I think of travelling to Italy, even if I knew that But I have exItaly would relieve me. perienced a decisive pulmonary attack; and although at present it has passed away without any considerable vestige of its existence, yet this symptom sufficiently shows the true nature of my disease to be consumptive. It is to my advantage that this malady is in its nature slow, and, if one is sufficiently alive to its advances, is susceptible of cure from a warm climate. In the event of its assuming any decided shape, it would be my duty to go to Italy without delay. It is not mere health, but life, that I should seek, and that not for my own sake-I feel I am capable of trampling on all such weakness; but for the sake of those to whom my life may be a source of happiness, utility, security, and honour, and to some of whom my death might be all that is the reverse.'
In almost every respect his journey to Italy was advantageous. He left behind friends to whom he was attached; but cares of a thousand kinds, many springing from his lavish generosity, crowded round him in his native country, and, except the society of one or two friends, he had no compensation. The climate caused him to consume half his existence in helpless
suffering. His dearest pleasure, the free enjoyment of the scenes of Nature, was marred by the same circumstance.
He went direct to Italy, avoiding even Paris, and did not make any pause till he arrived at Milan. The first aspect of Italy enchanted Shelley; it seemed a garden of delight placed beneath a clearer and brighter heaven than any he had lived under before. He wrote long descriptive letters during the first year of his residence in Italy, which, as compositions, are the most beautiful in the world, and show how truly he appreciated and studied the wonders of Nature and Art in that divine land.
The poetical spirit within him speedily revived with all the power and with more than all the beauty of his first attempts. He meditated three subjects as the groundwork for lyrical dramas. One was the story of Tasso; of this a slight fragment of a song of Tasso remains. The other was one founded on the Book of Job, which he never abandoned in idea, but of which no trace remains among his papers. The third was the Prometheus Unbound. The Greek tragedians were now his most familiar companions in his wanderings, and the sublime majesty of Æschylus filled him with wonder and delight. The father of Greek tragedy does not possess the pathos of Sophocles, nor the variety and tenderness of Euripides; the interest on which he founds his dramas is often elevated above human vicissitudes into the mighty passions and throes of gods and demi-gods: such fascinated the abstract imagination of Shelley.
We spent a month at Milan, visiting the Lake of Como during that interval. Thence we passed in succession to Pisa, Leghorn, the Baths of Lucca, Venice, Este, Rome, Naples, and back again to Rome, whither we returned early in March 1819. During all this time Shelley meditated the subject of his drama, and wrote portions of it. Other poems were composed during this interval, and while at the Bagni di Lucca he translated Plato's Symposium. But, though he diversified his studies, his thoughts centred in the Prometheus. At last, when at Rome,
during a bright and beautiful Spring, he gave up his whole time to the composition. The spot selected for his study was, as he mentions in his preface, the mountainous ruins of the Baths of Caracalla. These are little known to the ordinary visitor at Rome. He describes them in a letter, with that poetry and delicacy and truth of description which render his narrated impressions of scenery of unequalled beauty and interest.
At first he completed the drama in three acts. It was not till several months after, when at Florence, that he conceived that a fourth act, a sort of hymn of rejoicing in the fulfilment of the prophecies with regard to Prometheus, ought to be added to complete the composition.
The prominent feature of Shelley's theory of the destiny of the human species was that evil is not inherent in the system of the creation, but an accident that might be expelled. This also forms a portion of Christianity: God made earth and man perfect, till he, by his fall,
'Brought death into the world and all our woe." Shelley believed that mankind had only to will that there should be no evil, and there would be none. It is not my part in these Notes to notice the arguments that have been urged against this opinion, but to mention the fact that he entertained it, and was indeed attached to it with fervent en- . thusiasm. That man could be so perfectionised as to be able to expel evil from his own nature, and from the greater part of the creation, was the cardinal point of his system. And the subject he loved best to dwell on was the image of One warring with the Evil Principle, oppressed not only by it, but by all-even the good, who were deluded into considering evil a necessary portion of humanity; a victim full of fortitude and hope and the spirit of triumph, emanating from a reliance in the ultimate omnipotence of Good. Such he had depicted in his last poem, when he made Laon the enemy and the victim of tyrants. He now took a more idealised image of the same subject. He followed certain classical authorities in figuring Saturn as the good principle, Jupiter the
usurping evil one, and Prometheus as the regenerator, who, unable to bring mankind back to primitive innocence, used knowledge as a weapon to defeat evil, by leading mankind, beyond the state wherein they are sinless through ignorance, to that in which they are virtuous through wisdom. Jupiter punished the temerity of the Titan by chaining him to a rock of Caucasus, and causing a vulture to devour his stillrenewed heart. There was a prophecy afloat in heaven portending the fall of Jove, the secret of averting which was known only to Prometheus; and the god offered freedom from torture on condition of its being communicated to him. According to the mythological story, this referred to the offspring of Thetis, who was destined to be greater than his father. Prometheus at last bought pardon for his crime of enriching mankind with his gifts, by revealing the prophecy. Hercules killed the vulture, and set him free; and Thetis was married to Peleus, the father of Achilles.
superseded by the Spirit of the Earth, the guide of our planet through the realms of sky; while his fair and weaker companion and attendant, the Spirit of the Moon, receives bliss from the annihilation of Evil in the superior sphere.
Shelley develops more particularly in the lyrics of this drama his abstruse and imaginative theories with regard to the creation. It requires a mind as subtle and penetrating as his own to understand the mystic meanings scattered throughout the poem. They elude the ordinary reader by their abstraction and delicacy of distinction, but they are far from vague. It was his design to write prose metaphysical essays on the nature of Man, which would have served to explain much of what is obscure in his poetry; a few scattered fragments of observations and remarks alone remain. He considered these philosophical views of Mind and Nature to be instinct with the intensest spirit of poetry.
More popular poets clothe the ideal with familiar and sensible imagery. Shelley loved to idealise the real-to gift the mechanism of the material universe with a soul and a voice, and to bestow such also on the most delicate and abstract emotions and thoughts of the mind. Sophocles was his great master in this species of imagery.
I find in one of his manuscript books some remarks on a line in the Edipus Tyrannus, which show at once the critical subtlety of Shelley's mind, and explain his apprehension of those " minute and remote distinctions of feeling, whether relative to external nature or the living beings which surround us," which he pronounces, in the letter quoted in the note to the Revolt of Islam, to comprehend all that is sublime in man.
"In the Greek Shakespeare, Sophocles, we find the image, Πολλὰς δ ̓ ὁδοὺς ἐλθόντα φροντίδος πλάνοις :
Shelley adapted the catastrophe of this story to his peculiar views. The son greater than his father, born of the nuptials of Jupiter and Thetis, was to dethrone Evil, and bring back a happier reign than that of Saturn. Prometheus defies the power of his enemy, and endures centuries of torture; till the hour arrives when Jove, blind to the real event, but darkly guessing that some great good to himself will flow, espouses Thetis. At the moment, the Primal Power of the world drives him from his usurped throne, and Strength, in the person of Hercules, liberates Humanity, typified in Prometheus, from the tortures generated by evil done or suffered. Asia, one of the Oceanides, is the wife of Prometheus-she was, according to other mythological interpretations, the same as Venus and Nature. When the benefactor of mankind is liberated, Nature resumes
the beauty of her prime, and is united to
her husband, the emblem of the human race, in perfect and happy union. In the fourth Act, the Poet gives further scope to his imagination, and idealises the forms of creation-such as we know them, instead of such as they appeared to the Greeks. Maternal Earth, the mighty parent, is If the words odoùs and λávos had not
a line of almost unfathomable depth of poetry; yet how simple are the images in which it is arrayed!
'Coming to many ways in the wanderings of careful thought."