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NOTE ON POEMS OF 1817, BY MRS. SHELLEY
THE very illness that oppressed, and the aspect of death which had approached so near Shelley, appear to have kindled to yet keener life the Spirit of Poetry in his heart. The restless thoughts kept awake by pain clothed themselves in verse. Much was composed during this year. The Revolt of Islam, written and printed, was a great effort-Rosalind and Helen was begun-and the fragments and poems I can trace to the same period show how full of passion and reflection were his solitary hours.
In addition to such poems as have an intelligible aim and shape, many a stray idea and transitory emotion found imperfect and abrupt expression, and then again lost themselves in silence. As he never wandered without a book and without implements of writing, I find many such, in his manuscript books, that scarcely bear record; while some of them, broken and vague as they are, will appear valuable to those who love Shelley's mind, and desire to trace its workings.
He projected also translating the Hymns of Homer; his version of several of the shorter ones remains, as well as that to Mercury already published in the PostHis readings this year humous Poems. were chiefly Greek. Besides the Hymns Dramas of Eschylus and Sophocles, the of Homer and the Iliad, he read the Symposium of Plato, and Arrian's Historia Indica. In Latin, Apuleius alone is named. In English, the Bible was his constant study; he read a great portion of it aloud in the evening. Among these evening readings I find also mentioned the Faerie Queen; and other modern works, the production of his contemporaries, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Moore, and Byron.
His life was now spent more in thought than action-he had lost the eager spirit which believed it could achieve what it projected for the benefit of mankind. And yet in the converse of daily life Shelley was far from being a melancholy man. He was eloquent when philosophy or politics or taste were the subjects of con
over his wrongs and woes, and was impelled to shed the grace of his genius over the uncontrollable emotions of his heart. I ought to observe that the fourth verse of this effusion is introduced in Rosalind and Helen. When afterwards this child died at Rome, he wrote, apropos of the English burying-ground in that city: "This spot is the repository of a sacred loss, of which the yearnings of a parent's heart are now prophetic; he is rendered immortal by love, as his memory is by death. My beloved child lies buried here. I envy death the body far less than the oppressors the minds of those whom they have torn from me. The one can only kill the body, the other crushes the affections."
versation. He was playful; and indulged in the wild spirit that mocked itself and others not in bitterness, but in sport. The author of Nightmare Abbey seized on some points of his character and some habits of his life when he painted Scythrop. He was not addicted to "port or madeira,' but in youth he had read of " Illuminati and Eleutherarchs," and believed that he possessed the power of operating an immediate change in the minds of men and the state of society. These wild dreams had faded; sorrow and adversity had struck home; but he struggled with despondency as he did with physical pain. There are few who remember him sailing paper boats, and watching the navigation of his tiny craft with eagerness or repeating with wild energy The Ancient Mariner, and Southey's Old Woman of Berkeley; but those who do will recollect that it was in such, and in the creations of his own fancy when that was most
POEMS WRITTEN IN 1818
TO THE NILE
daring and ideal, that he sheltered himself MONTH after month the gathered rains from the storms and disappointments, the pain and sorrow, that beset his life.
No words can express the anguish he felt when his elder children were torn from him. In his first resentment against the Chancellor, on the passing of the decree, he had written a curse, On Atlas, fields of moist snow half in which there breathes, besides haughty indignation, all the tenderness of a father's Girt there with blasts and meteors love, which could imagine and fondly dwell upon its loss and the consequences.
At one time, while the question was
still pending, the Chancellor had said some words that seemed to intimate that Shelley should not be permitted the care of any of his children, and for a moment he feared that our infant son would be
Drenching yon secret Æthiopian dells,
And they are thine O Nile-and well thou knowest
torn from us. He did not hesitate to resolve, if such were menaced, to abandon country, fortune, everything, and to escape with his child; and I find some unfinished stanzas addressed to this son, whom after
That soul-sustaining airs and blasts of evil And fruits and poisons spring where'er thou flowest.
Beware O Man-for knowledge must to thee
wards we lost at Rome, written under the Like the great flood to Egypt, ever be. idea that we might suddenly be forced to cross the sea, so to preserve him. This poem, as well as the one previously quoted, were not written to exhibit the pangs of distress to the public; they were the spontaneous outbursts of a man who brooded
PASSAGE OF THE APENNINES
LISTEN, listen, Mary mine,
It bursts on the roof like the thunder's As twilight to the western star,
Or like the sea on a northern shore,
But when night comes, a chaos dread On the dim starlight then is spread, And the Apennine walks abroad with the storm.
O Mary dear, that you were here; The Castle echo whispers "Here!"
ON A FADED VIOLET
THE odour from the flower is gone
Which like thy kisses breathed on me ; The colour from the flower is flown Which glowed of thee and only thee!
A shrivelled, lifeless, vacant form,
weep,-my tears revive it not !
Its mute and uncomplaining lot
WRITTEN AMONG THE
MANY a green isle needs must be
And the dim low line before
O'er the unreposing wave
That from bitter words did swerve
One white skull and seven dry bones,
Ay, many flowering islands lie
In the waters of wide Agony :
Like gray shades, till the eastern heaven
On the morning's fitful gale
Beneath is spread like a green sea
Sun-girt City, thou has been
Ocean's child, and then his queen;
Those who alone thy towers behold
Earth can spare ye: while like flowers,
Driven from his ancestral streams
As the love from Petrarch's urn,
Lo, the sun floats up the sky