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The struggling brook: tall spires of Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty windlestrae


Branchless and blasted, clenched with
grasping roots
The unwilling soil.
was here,

Yet ghastly. For, as fast years flow

Threw their thin shadows down the Dim tracts and vast, robed in the rugged slope, lustrous gloom

And nought but gnarled roots of ancient Of leaden-coloured even, and fiery hills pines Mingling their flames with twilight, on the verge


The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin

Of the remote horizon. The near scene,
A gradual change In naked and severe simplicity,
Made contrast with the universe. A

Rock-rooted, stretched athwart the

Rolled through the labyrinthine dell,
and there
Fretted a path through its descending



Its swinging boughs, to each inconstant


And white, and where irradiate dewy eyes Had shone, gleam stony orbs :-so from his steps In most familiar cadence, with the howl Bright flowers departed, and the beauti- The thunder and the hiss of homeless

Yielding one only response, at each pause

ful shade


Of the green groves, with all their odor- Mingling its solemn song, whilst the ous winds broad river,

And musical motions.


Calm, he still Foaming and hurrying o'er its rugged path, The stream, that with a larger volume Fell into that immeasurable void. Scattering its waters to the passing winds.


With its wintry speed. On every side

now rose

Rocks, which, in unimaginable forms,
Lifted their black and barren pinnacles
In the light of evening, and, its precipice
Obscuring the ravine, disclosed above,
Mid toppling stones, black gulphs and
yawning caves,

Whose windings gave ten thousand

Yet the gray precipice and solemn pine And torrent were not all;-one silent nook Was there. Even on the edge of that vast mountain, Upheld by knotty roots and fallen rocks, It overlooked in its serenity

The dark earth, and the bending vault of stars.

It was a tranquil spot, that seemed to


various tongues

Even in the lap of horror. Ivy clasped To the loud stream. Lo! where the The fissured stones with its entwining


pass expands Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain And did embower with leaves for ever breaks,


And seems, with its accumulated crags, And berries dark, the smooth and even To overhang the world: for wide



Of its inviolated floor, and here Beneath the wan stars and descending The children of the autumnal whirlwind bore,


In wanton sport, those bright leaves, In thy devastating omnipotence,
whose decay,
Red, yellow, or ethereally pale,
Rivals the pride of summer.

Art king of this frail world, from the red field

'Tis the Of slaughter, from the reeking hospital, The patriot's sacred couch, the snowy bed

Of innocence, the scaffold and the throne,

Of every gentle wind, whose breath can teach

The wilds to love tranquillity. One step,

A mighty voice invokes thee. Ruin

One human step alone, has ever broken
The stillness of its solitude :-one voice His brother Death. A rare and regal
Alone inspired its echoes ;- -even that


Which hither came, floating among the winds,

And led the loveliest among human

To make their wild haunts the depository
Of all the grace and beauty that endued
Its motions, render up its majesty,
Scatter its music on the unfeeling storm,
And to the damp leaves and blue cavern

When on the threshold of the green



Nurses of rainbow flowers and branching The wanderer's footsteps fell, he knew
that death
Commit the colours of that varying Was on him. Yet a little, ere it fled,
Did he resign his high and holy soul


That snowy breast, those dark and To images of the majestic past,

drooping eyes.

He hath prepared, prowling around the world;

Glutted with which thou mayst repose, and men

Go to their graves like flowers or creeping worms,


Filled the unbounded atmosphere, and

Nor ever more offer at thy dark shrine
The unheeded tribute of a broken heart.

The dim and hornèd moon hung low, Like winds that bear sweet music, when and poured

they breathe

A sea of lustre on the horizon's verge
That overflowed its mountains. Yellow

Through some dim latticed chamber.
He did place

His pale lean hand upon the rugged


Of the old pine. Upon an ivied stone Wan moonlight even to fulness: not a Reclined his languid head, his limbs did

That paused within his passive being


Whose sightless speed divides this sullen




Shone, not a sound was heard; the very Diffused and motionless, on the smooth brink


And thou, colossal Skeleton, that, still
Guiding its irresistible career

Danger's grim playmates, on that Of that obscurest chasm ;-and thus he precipice

Slept, clasped in his embrace.-O, storm of death!


Surrendering to their final impulses
The hovering powers of life. Hope and

The torturers, slept; no mortal pain or fear

Marred his repose, the influxes of sense,

And his own being unalloyed by pain,
Yet feebler and more feeble, calmly fed
The stream of thought, till he lay
breathing there

At peace, and faintly smiling :- his last

Was the great moon, which o'er the western line

Of the wide world her mighty horn suspended,

With whose dun beams inwoven dark-
ness seemed

To mingle. Now upon the jagged hills
It rests, and still as the divided frame
Of the vast meteor sunk, the Poet's

Which but one living man has drained, who now,

Vessel of deathless wrath, a slave that feels

No proud exemption in the blighting


He bears, over the world wanders for

That ever beat in mystic sympathy
With nature's ebb and flow, grew feebler Lone as incarnate death! O, that the




And when two lessening points of light Of dark magician in his visioned cave,
Raking the cinders of a crucible
Gleamed through the darkness, the For life and power, even when his feeble
alternate gasp
Of his faint respiration scarce did stir
The stagnate night :-till the minutest


No sense, no motion, no divinity-
A fragile lute, on whose harmonious

The breath of heaven did wander-a
bright stream

Once fed with many-voiced waves-a dream

O, for Medea's wondrous alchemy, Which wheresoe'er it fell made the earth gleam

With bright flowers, and the wintry
boughs exhale

From vernal blooms fresh fragrance!
O, that God,

Profuse of poisons, would concede the

Of youth, which night and time have
quenched for ever,
Still, dark, and dry, and unremembered



Was quenched, the pulse yet lingered | Like some frail exhalation; which the in his heart.


It paused-it fluttered. But when Robes in its golden beams,-ah! thou

heaven remained

hast fled!

The brave, the gentle, and the beautiful, The child of grace and genius. Heartless things


Utterly black, the murky shades involved
An image, silent, cold, and motionless,
As their own voiceless earth and vacant
Even as a vapour fed with golden beams
That ministered on sunlight, ere the west And beasts and men live on, and mighty
Eclipses it, was now that wondrous

done and said i' the world, and
many worms

Shakes in its last decay, were the true law
Of this so lovely world! But thou art



From sea and mountain, city and wilder


In vesper low or joyous orison,
Lifts still its solemn voice :-but thou
art fled-

Thou canst no longer know or love the
Of this phantasmal scene, who have to

Been purest ministers, who are, alas!
Now thou art not. Upon those pallid




So sweet even in their silence, on those contrary, contains an individual interest only. A very few years, with their attendant events, had checked the ardour of Shelley's hopes, though he still thought

them well grounded, and that to advance

their fulfilment was the noblest task man could achieve.

the sad realities of life.

This is neither the time nor place to speak of the misfortunes that chequered his life. It will be sufficient to say that, in all he did, he at the time of doing it believed himself justified to his own conscience; while the various ills of poverty and loss of friends brought home to him Physical suffering had also considerable influence in causing him to turn his eyes inward; inclining him rather to brood over the thoughts and emotions of his own soul than to glance abroad, and to make, as in Queen Mab, of his song. the whole universe the object and subject In the Spring of 1815 an eminent physician pronounced that he was dying rapidly of a consumption; abscesses were formed on his lungs, and he suffered acute spasms. Suddenly a complete change took place; and, though through life he was a martyr to pain and debility, every symptom of pulmonary disease vanished. His nerves, which nature had formed sensitive to an unexampled degree, were rendered still more susceptible by the state of his health.


That image sleep in death, upon that


Yet safe from the worm's outrage, let

no tear

Be shed-not even in thought. Nor, when those hues

Are gone, and those divinest lineaments,
Worn by the senseless wind, shall live


In the frail pauses of this simple strain,
Let not high verse, mourning the


Of that which is no more, or painting's


Or sculpture, speak in feeble imagery
Their own cold powers.
Art and


And all the shows o' the world are frail

and vain

To weep a loss that turns their lights to


It is a woe too "deep for tears," when


Is reft at once, when some surpassing

Whose light adorned the world around
it, leaves

Those who remain behind, not sobs or groans,

The passionate tumult of a clinging hope;

But pale despair and cold tranquillity, Nature's vast frame, the web of human things,

Birth and the grave, that are not as they



Alastor is written in a very different tone from Queen Mab. In the latter, Shelley poured out all the cherished speculations of his youth-all the irrepressible emotions of sympathy, censure, and hope, to which the present suffering, and what he considers the proper destiny, of his fellowcreatures, gave birth. Alastor, on the

As soon as the peace of 1814 had opened the Continent, he went abroad. He visited some of the more magnificent scenes of Switzerland, and returned to England from Lucerne, by the Reuss and the Rhine. The river-navigation enchanted him. In his favourite poem of Thalaba, his imagination had been excited by a description of such a voyage. In the summer of 1815, after a tour along the southern coast of Devonshire and a visit to Clifton, he rented a house on Bishopgate Heath, on the borders of Windsor Forest, where he enjoyed several months of comparative health and tranquil happiness. The later summer months were warm and dry. Accompanied by a few friends, he visited the source of the Thames, making a voyage in a wherry from Windsor to Cricklade. His beautiful

stanzas in the churchyard of Lechlade a thirst for a happier condition of moral were written on that occasion. Alastor and political society survives, among the was composed on his return. He spent enlightened and refined, the tempests his days under the oak-shades of Windsor which have shaken the age in which we Great Park; and the magnificent woodland live. I have sought to enlist the harmony was a fitting study to inspire the various of metrical language, the ethereal comdescriptions of forest-scenery we find in binations of the fancy, the rapid and subtle the poem. transitions of human passion, all those elements which essentially compose a Poem, in the cause of a liberal and comprehensive morality; and in the view of kindling within the bosoms of my readers a virtuous enthusiasm for those doctrines of liberty and justice, that faith and hope in something good, which neither violence nor misrepresentation nor prejudice can ever totally extinguish among mankind.

For this purpose I have chosen a story of human passion in its most universal character, diversified with moving and romantic adventures, and appealing, in contempt of all artificial opinions or institutions, to the common sympathies of every human breast. I have made no attempt to recommend the motives which I would substitute for those at present governing mankind, by methodical and systematic argument. 1 would only awaken the feelings, so that the reader should see the beauty of true virtue, and be incited to those inquiries which have led to my moral and political creed, and that of some of the sublimest intellects in the world. The Poem therefore (with the exception of the first canto, which is purely introductory) is narrative, not didactic. It is a succession of pictures illustrating the growth and progress of individual mind aspiring after excellence, and devoted

to the love of mankind; its influence in refining and making pure the most daring and uncommon impulses of the imagination, the understanding, and the senses; its impatience at "all the oppressions that are done under the sun"; its tendency to awaken public hope, and to enlighten and improve mankind; the rapid effects of the application of that tendency; the awakening of an immense nation from their slavery and degradation to a true sense of moral dignity and freedom; the bloodless dethronement of their oppressors, and the unveiling of the religious frauds

None of Shelley's poems is more characteristic than this. The solemn spirit that reigns throughout, the worship of the majesty of nature, the broodings of a poet's heart in solitude-the mingling of the exulting joy which the various aspects of the visible universe inspires with the sad and struggling pangs which human passion imparts-give a touching interest to the whole. The death which he had often contemplated during the last months as certain and near he here represented in such colours as had, in his lonely musings, soothed his soul to peace. The versification sustains the solemn spirit which breathes throughout it is peculiarly melodious. The poem ought rather to be considered didactic than narrative: it was the outpouring of his own emotions, embodied in the purest form he could conceive, painted in the ideal hues which his brilliant imagination inspired, and softened by the recent anticipation of death.



Οσαις δὲ βροτὸν ἔθνος ἀγλαίαις ἁπτόμεσθα
Περαίνει πρὸς ἔσχατον
Ιλόον· ναυσὶ δ ̓ οὔτε πεζὸς ἰὼν ἂν εὕροις
Ἐς ὑπερβορέων ἀγῶνα θαυματὰν ὁδόν.
Πινδ. Πυθ. x.


THE poem which I now present to the world is an attempt from which I scarcely dare to expect success, and in which a writer of established fame might fail without disgrace. It is an experiment on the temper of the public mind, as to how far

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