Obrázky na stránke

And then she had a charm of strange Was as a green and overarching bower device, Lit by the gems of many a starry flower.

Which, murmured on mute lips with


tender tone,

Could make that spirit mingle with her For on the night when they were buried,



Restored the embalmers' ruining, and

The light out of the funeral lamps, to be
A mimic day within that deathy nook;
And she unwound the woven imagery


Alas! Aurora, what wouldst thou have given

For such a charm when Tithon became gray?

Or how much, Venus, of thy silver

Wouldst thou have yielded, ere Proser.

Had half (oh! why not all?) the debt


Which dear Adonis had been doomed And there the body lay, age after age, to pay,

Mute, breathing, beating, warm, and undecaying,

To any witch who would have taught you it?

The Heliad doth not know its value yet.

Like one asleep in a green hermitage, With gentle smiles about its eyelids playing,

And living in its dreams beyond the rage

Of death or life; while they were still arraying


"Tis said in after times her spirit free Knew what love was, and felt itself alone

But holy Dian could not chaster be

Before she stooped to kiss Endymion, Than now this lady-like a sexless bee Tasting all blossoms, and confined to


Among those mortal forms, the wizardmaiden

Past with an eye serene and heart unladen.


Of second childhood's swaddling
bands, and took

The coffin, its last cradle, from its niche,
And threw it with contempt into a ditch.


In liveries ever new, the rapid, blind
And fleeting generations of mankind.


And she would write strange dreams upon the brain

Of those who were less beautiful, and make All harsh and crooked purposes more vain

Than in the desert is the serpent's wake

To those she saw most beautiful, she gave

Strange panacea in a crystal bowl:They drank in their deep sleep of that

sweet wave, And lived thenceforward as if some control, Mightier than life, were in them; and the grave


Of such, when death oppressed the The priests would write an explanation weary soul,


Which the sand covers,-all his evil gain The miser in such dreams would rise and shake

Into a beggar's lap;-the lying scribe Would his own lies betray without a bribe.

They hardly knew whether they loved

or not,

Would rise out of their rest, and take sweet joy,

The same against the temple doors, and pull

To the fulfilment of their inmost thought;

The old cant down; they licensed And when next day the maiden and the all to speak

Translating hieroglyphics into Greek, How the god Apis really was a bull,

And nothing more; and bid the herald stick

Whate'er they thought of hawks, and cats, and geese,

By pastoral letters to each diocese.


The king would dress an ape up in his


And robes, and seat him on his glori

ous seat,

And on the right hand of the sunlike throne

Would place a gaudy mock-bird to repeat The chatterings of the monkey.-Every


Of the prone courtiers crawled to kiss the feet

Of their great Emperor, when the morning came,

And kissed-alas, how many kiss the same!


The soldiers dreamed that they were blacksmiths, and

Walked out of quarters in somnambulism;

Round the red anvils you might see them stand

Like Cyclopses in Vulcan's sooty abysm,

Beating their swords to ploughshares; -in a band

The gaolers sent those of the liberal schism

Free through the streets of Memphis, much, I wis

To the annoyance of king Amasis.


And timid lovers who had been so coy,


Met one another, both, like sinners caught,

Blushed at the thing which each believed was done

Only in fancy-till the tenth moon shone;


And then the Witch would let them take no ill:

Of many thousand schemes which lovers find,

The Witch found one,-and so they took their fill

Of happiness in marriage warm and kind.

Friends who, by practice of some envious skill,

Were torn apart, a wide wound, mind from mind!

She did unite again with visions clear
Of deep affection and of truth sincere.


These were the pranks she played among the cities

Of mortal men, and what she did to sprites

And Gods, entangling them in her sweet ditties

To do her will, and show their subtle slights,

I will declare another time; for it is

A tale more fit for the weird winter

Than for these garish summer days,
when we
Scarcely believe much more than we

can see.

NOTE ON THE WITCH OF ATLAS, BY MRS. SHELLEY WE spent the summer of 1820 at the Baths of San Giuliano, four miles from Pisa. These baths were of great use to Shelley in soothing his nervous irritability. We made several excursions in the neighbourhood. The country around is fertile, and diversified and rendered picturesque by ranges of near hills and more distant mountains. The peasantry are a handsome intelligent race; and there was a gladsome sunny heaven spread over us, that rendered home and every scene we visited cheerful and bright. During some of the hottest days of August, Shelley made a solitary journey on foot to the summit of Monte San Pellegrino-a mountain of some height, on the top of which there is a chapel, the object, during certain days of the year, of many pilgrimages. The excursion delighted him while it lasted; though he exerted himself too much, and the effect was considerable lassitude and weakness on his return. During the expedition he conceived the idea, and wrote, in the three days immediately succeeding to his return, the Witch of Atlas. This poem is peculiarly characteristic of his tastes-wildly fanciful, full of brilliant imagery, and discarding human interest and passion, to revel in the fantastic ideas that his imagination suggested.

The surpassing excellence of The Cenci had made me greatly desire that Shelley should increase his popularity by adopting subjects that would more suit the popular taste than a poem conceived in the abstract and dreamy spirit of the Witch of Atlas. It was not only that I wished him to acquire popularity as redounding to his fame; but I believed that he would obtain a greater mastery over his own powers, and greater happiness in his mind, if public applause crowned his endeavours. The few stanzas that precede the poem were addressed to me on my representing these ideas to him. Even now I believe that I was in the right. Shelley did not expect sympathy and approbation from the public; but the

want of it took away a portion of the ardour that ought to have sustained him while writing. He was thrown on his own resources, and on the inspiration of his own soul; and wrote because his mind overflowed, without the hope of being appreciated. I had not the most distant wish that he should truckle in opinion, or submit his lofty aspirations for the human race to the low ambition and pride of the many; but I felt sure that, if his poems were more addressed to the common feelings of men, his proper rank among the writers of the day would be acknowledged, and that popularity as a poet would enable his countrymen to do justice to his character and virtues, which in those days it was the mode to attack with the most flagitious calumnies and insulting abuse. things deeply cannot be doubted, though he armed himself with the consciousness of acting from a lofty and heroic sense of right. The truth burst from his heart sometimes in solitude, and he would write a few unfinished verses that showed

That he felt these

that he felt the sting; among such I find the following:

[blocks in formation]

I believed that all this morbid feeling would vanish if the chord of sympathy between him and his countrymen were touched. But my persuasions were vain, the mind could not be bent from its natural inclination. Shelley shrunk instinctively from pourtraying human passion, with its mixture of good and evil, of disappointment and disquiet. Such opened again the wounds of his own heart; and he loved to shelter himself rather in the airiest flights of fancy, forgetting love and hate, and regret and lost hope, in such imaginations as borrowed their hues from sunrise or sunset, from the yellow moonshine or paly twi

[ocr errors]


light, from the aspect of the far ocean or the shadows of the woods,-which celebrated the singing of the winds among the pines, the flow of a murmuring stream, and the thousand harmonious sounds which Nature creates in her solitudes. These are the materials which form the Witch of Atlas: it is a brilliant congregation of ideas such as his senses gathered, and his fancy coloured, during his rambles in the sunny land he so much loved.







"Choose Reform or civil war,

When thro' thy streets, instead of hare with dogs, A CONSORT QUEEN shall hunt a KING with hogs, Riding on the IONIAN MINOTAUR."


translation of this remarkable piece of antiquity, except the suppressing a seditious and blasphemous Chorus of the Pigs and Bulls at the last act. The word Hoydipouse (or more properly Edipus), has been rendered literally Swellfoot, without its having been conceived necessary to determine whether a swelling of the hind or the fore feet of the Swinish Monarch is particularly indicated.

Should the remaining portions of this Tragedy be found, entitled, "Swellfoot in Angaria," and "Charité," the Translator might be tempted to give them to the reading Public.


THIS Tragedy is one of a triad, or system of three Plays (an arrangement according to which the Greeks were accustomed to connect their dramatic representations), elucidating the wonderful and appalling fortunes of the SWELLFOOT dynasty. It was evidently written by some learned Theban, and, from its characteristic dulness, apparently before the duties on the importation of Attic salt had been repealed by the Bootarchs. The tenderness with which he treats the PIGS proves him to have been a sus Bootie; possibly Epicuri de grege porcus; for, as the poet observes,

"A fellow feeling makes us wond'rous kind." No liberty has been taken with the

[blocks in formation]

[Hecontemplates himself with satisfaction. Of gold and purple, and this kingly paunch

Swells like a sail before a favouring breeze,

And these most sacred nether promontories

Lie satisfied with layers of fat; and


Of their Eleusis, hail!

The Swine. Eigh! eigh! eigh! eigh!
Ha! what are ye,
Who, crowned with leaves devoted to
the Furies,

Cling round this sacred shrine?

Swine. Aigh! aigh! aigh!
What! ye that are
The very beasts that offered at her altar
With blood and groans, salt-cake, and
fat, and inwards

Boeotian cheeks, like Egypt's pyramid,
(Nor with less toil were their foundations

Chorus of Swine.

Sustain the cone of my untroubled brain,
That point, the emblem of a pointless

I have heard your Laureate sing,
That pity was a royal thing;

Thou to whom Kings and laurelled Under your mighty ancestors, we pigs
Were bless'd as nightingales on myrtle


Ever propitiate her reluctant will
When taxes are withheld?

Which should be given to cleaner Pigs than you?

Swine. Ugh! ugh! ugh!
Swellfoot. What! ye who grub
With filthy snouts my red potatoes up
In Allan's rushy bog? Who eat the oats
Up, from my cavalry in the Hebrides?
Who swill the hog-wash soup my cooks

From bones, and rags, and scraps of

The Swine.-Semichorus I.
The same, alas! the same;
Though only now the name
Of pig remains to me.
Semichorus II.



Radical-butchers, Paper-money-millers,
Bishops and deacons, and the entire army Or grasshoppers that live on noonday
Of those fat martyrs to the persecution
Of stifling turtle-soup, and brandy-devils,
Offer their secret vows! Thou plenteous

1 See Universal History for an account of the number of people who died, and the immense consumption of garlic by the wretched Egyptians, who made a sepulchre for the name as well as the bodies of their tyrants.

If 'twere your kingly will
Us wretched swine to kill,

What should we yield to thee? Swellfoot. Why skin and bones, and some few hairs for mortar.

And sung, old annals tell, as sweetly too,
But now our styes are fallen in, we catch
The murrain and the mange, the scab
and itch;
Sometimes your royal dogs tear down
our thatch,

And then we seek the shelter of a ditch;
Hog-wash or grains, or ruta baga, none
Has yet been ours since your reign

[blocks in formation]
« PredošláPokračovať »