Obrázky na stránke

her notes to the poems. Our debt is also great to three distinguished Shelley scholars: to Dr. Garnett, whose Relics of Shelley, recovered from manuscripts which are often a tangle of corrections, form the most precious addition to Shelley's poetical works which has appeared since the publication of the Posthumous Poems, 1824; to Mr. W. M. Rossetti, and to Mr. Forman. Mr. Rossetti increased the body of Shelley's published poetry by several pieces of value, and in particular added largely to the known fragments of Charles I. from a manuscript most difficult to decipher. His principles in dealing with the text led him to some changes which cannot be sustained, but in not a few instances he recovered the true text by happy emendation. Mr. Forman added to the published poems of Shelley the second part of the "Dæmon of the World," and some other pieces. His devotion to the author of his choice, his untiring zeal as a collector, his learning, his accuracy, his good judgment, have made him our chief living authority on all that relates to Shelley's writings. The present volume has gained much from Mr. Forman's labours; it is impossible but that it should be so. In its general plan, however, it differs materially from his editions, which reprint in chronological order the several volumes published during Shelley's life. In giving "The Revolt of Islam" rather than "Laon and Cythna," which Mr. Forman reprints, we follow the example of Mrs. Shelley; but in Notes to the present volume the readings of "Laon and Cythna" will be found. Mr. Forman's annotated edition is unquestionably that to which appeal must be made in any question of doubt on any point of Shelley scholarship. But perhaps if Mr. Rossetti modified the text of the early editions somewhat too freely, Mr. Forman has sometimes been over-conservative of peculiarities of spelling and obvious errors of punctuation. When these cloud the sense, it seems permissible to make a correction in an edition designed for general use. Yet I should be slow to alter erroneous punctuation, if the meaning be not obscured, for such punctuation may have a metrical value. As to spelling, while in several instances (as 66 blosmy," ," "glode") it is desirable to preserve Shelley's spelling, it would be impossible, or at least intolerable, to follow his manuscripts in every instance ("thier" for "their," "mein" for "mien," etc.) A great poet is not of an age but for all time. While texts of Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope, prepared for specialists, may rightly retain the peculiarities of the early editions, there must also be texts of Shakespeare, Milton, and Pope, in which every obstacle to the reader's pleasure, caused by the early printers, ought to be removed.

All ascertained poems which have appeared in previous editions are included in the present volume. "The Wandering Jew" is not, and

probably ought not, to be given as the work of Shelley. Two doubtful pieces-"The Dinner Party Anticipated, A Paraphrase of Horace's 19th Ode, B. III.," and "The Magic Horse, translated from the Italian of Cristofano Bronzino" (given in the appendix to Mr. Forman's library edition)—are excluded as of uncertain authorship. A considerable body of Shelley's early verse existing in a manuscript book owned by the poet's grandson, Mr. Esdaile, remains unprinted. Mr. Esdaile, who kindly allowed me to print certain poems of biographical interest in my Life of Shelley, has expressed his desire that they should not be now reprinted. It was, as he believes, the wish of Shelley's daughter Ianthe that the poems in this manuscript volume should not be included in an edition of her father's poetical works.

An arrangement of the poems differing somewhat from that of Mrs. Shelley has involved the displacing of a few paragraphs of her Notes, so that these paragraphs may be read in connection with the poems to which they refer. In this particular the treatment of Mr. Rossetti has been adopted. The fragments of verse are placed among the poems of the years to which they respectively belong, as they have been placed by Mr. Forman, but in a somewhat different order. They have perhaps a better chance of being read with interest in such an arrangement as this than when they are massed together as a group by themselves. The titles of the shorter fragments are those of Mr. Forman, in cases where his titles seemed inevitably right; I have not felt at liberty to adopt his titles in other cases, and have proposed, for convenience of reference, titles of my own devising. Perhaps I have ventured too far in naming a fragment on p. 531 "Song of the Furies." A few notes, chiefly textual, are added at the end of the volume. In preparing these use has been made of Mr. Woodberry's "Notes on the MS. Volume of Shelley's Poems in the Library of Harvard College." A few corrections in the text of some of the "Juvenilia" are made from Shelley's manuscript.

I wish to express my thanks to Lady Shelley for favours which she has rendered in connection with this edition. The portrait of Shelley is from the likeness by Miss Curran in the possession of Lady Shelley.




OBSTACLES have long existed to my presenting the public with a perfect edition of Shelley's Poems. These being at last happily removed, I hasten to fulfil an important duty,—that of giving the productions of a sublime genius to the world, with all the correctness possible, and of, at the same time, detailing the history of those productions, as they sprang, living and warm, from his heart and brain. I abstain from any remark on the occurrences of his private life, except inasmuch as the passions which they engendered inspired his poetry. This is not the time to relate the truth; and I should reject any colouring of the truth. No account of these events has ever been given at all approaching reality in their details, either as regards himself or others; nor shall I further allude to them than to remark that the errors of action committed by a man as noble and generous as Shelley, may, as far as he only is concerned, be fearlessly avowed by those who loved him, in the firm conviction that, were they judged impartially, his character would stand in fairer and brighter light than that of any contemporary. Whatever faults he had ought to find extenuation among his fellows, since they prove him to be human; without them, the exalted nature of his soul would have raised him into something divine.

The qualities that struck any one newly introduced to Shelley were,-First, a gentle and cordial goodness that animated his intercourse with warm affection and helpful sympathy. The other, the eagerness and ardour with which he was attached to the cause of human happiness and improvement; and the fervent eloquence with which he discussed such subjects. His conversation was marked by its happy abundance, and the beautiful language in which he clothed his poetic ideas and philosophical notions. To defecate life of its misery and its evil was the ruling passion of his soul; he dedicated to it every power of his mind, every pulsation of his heart. He looked on political freedom as the direct agent to effect the happiness of mankind; and thus any new-sprung hope of liberty inspired a joy and an exultation more intense and wild than he could have felt for any personal advantage. Those who have never experienced the workings of passion on general and unselfish subjects cannot understand this; and it must be difficult of comprehension to the younger generation rising around, since they cannot remember the scorn and hatred with which the partisans of reform were regarded some few years ago, nor the persecutions to which they were exposed. He had been from youth the victim of the state of feeling inspired by the reaction of the French Revolution; and believing firmly in the justice and excellence of

his views, it cannot be wondered that a nature as sensitive, as impetuous, and as generous as his, should put its whole force into the attempt to alleviate for others the evils of those systems from which he had himself suffered. Many advantages attended his birth; he spurned them all when balanced with what he considered his duties. He was generous to imprudence, devoted to heroism.

These characteristics breathe throughout his poetry. The struggle for human weal; the resolution firm to martyrdom; the impetuous pursuit, the glad triumph in good; the determination not to despair;-such were the features that marked those of his works which he regarded with most complacency, as sustained by a lofty subject and useful aim.


79 66

In addition to these, his poems may be divided into two classes,-the purely imaginative, and those which sprang from the emotions of his heart. Among the former may be classed the Witch of Atlas,' Adonais," and his latest composition, left imperfect, the "Triumph of Life." In the first of these particularly he gave the reins to his fancy, and luxuriated in every idea as it rose; in all there is that sense of mystery which formed an essential portion of his perception of life-a clinging to the subtler inner spirit, rather than to the outward form—a curious and metaphysical anatomy of human passion and perception.

The second class is, of course, the more popular, as appealing at once to emotions common to us all; some of these rest on the passion of love; others on grief and despondency; others on the sentiments inspired by natural objects. Shelley's conception of love was exalted, absorbing, allied to all that is purest and noblest in our nature, and warmed by earnest passion; such it appears when he gave it a voice in verse. Yet he was usually averse to expressing these feelings, except when highly idealised; and many of his more beautiful effusions he had cast aside unfinished, and they were never seen by me till after I had lost him. Others, as for instance "Rosalind and Helen" and "Lines written among the Euganean Hills,” I found among his papers by chance; and with some difficulty urged him to complete them. There are others, such as the "Ode to the Skylark” and "The Cloud," which, in the opinion of many critics, bear a purer poetical stamp than any other of his productions. They were written as his mind prompted: listening to the carolling of the bird, aloft in the azure sky of Italy; or marking the cloud as it sped across the heavens, while he floated in his boat on the Thames.

No poet was ever warmed by a more genuine and unforced inspiration. His extreme sensibility gave the intensity of passion to his intellectual pursuits; and rendered his mind keenly alive to every perception of outward objects, as well as to his internal sensations. Such a gift is, among the sad vicissitudes of human life, the disappointments we meet, and the galling sense of our own mistakes and errors, fraught with pain; to escape from such, he delivered up his soul to poetry, and felt happy when he sheltered himself, from the influence of human sympathies, in the wildest regions of fancy. His imagination has been termed too brilliant, his thoughts too subtle. He loved to idealise reality; and this is a taste shared by few. We are willing to have our passing whims exalted into passions, for this gratifies our vanity; but few of us understand or sympathise with the endeavour to ally the love of abstract beauty, and adoration of abstract good, the rò ȧya dr kai тò kaλóv of the Socratic philosophers, with our sympathies with our kind. In this, Shelley resembled Plato; both taking more delight in the abstract and the ideal than in the special and tangible. This did not result from

imitation; for it was not till Shelley resided in Italy that he made Plato his study. He then translated his "Symposium" and his "Ion ;" and the English language boasts of no more brilliant composition than Plato's Praise of Love translated by Shelley. To return to his own poetry. The luxury of imagination, which sought nothing beyond itself (as a child burdens itself with Spring flowers, thinking of no use beyond the enjoyment of gathering them), often showed itself in his verses : they will be only appreciated by minds which have resemblance to his own; and the mystic subtlety of many of his thoughts will share the same fate. The metaphysical strain that characterises much of what he has written was, indeed, the portion of his works to which, apart from those whose scope was to awaken mankind to aspirations for what he considered the true and good, he was himself particularly attached. There is much, however, that speaks to the many. When he would consent to dismiss these huntings after the obscure (which, entwined with his nature as they were, he did with difficulty), no poet ever expressed in sweeter, more heart-reaching, or more passionate verse, the gentler or more forcible emotions of the soul.

A wise friend once wrote to Shelley: "You are still very young, and in certain essential respects you do not yet sufficiently perceive that you are so." It is seldom that the young know what youth is, till they have got beyond its period; and time was not given him to attain this knowledge. It must be remembered that there is the stamp of such inexperience on all he wrote; he had not completed his nine-and-twentieth year when he died. The calm of middle life did not add the seal of the virtues which adorn maturity to those generated by the vehement spirit of youth. Through life also he was a martyr to ill-health, and constant pain wound up his nerves to a pitch of susceptibility that rendered his views of life different from those of a man in the enjoyment of healthy sensations. Perfectly gentle and forbearing in manner, he suffered a good deal of internal irritability, or rather excitement, and his fortitude to bear was almost always on the stretch; and thus, during a short life, had gone through more experience of sensation than many whose existence is protracted. "If I die to-morrow," he said, on the eve of his unanticipated death, "I have lived to be older than my father." The weight of thought and feeling burdened him heavily; you read his sufferings in his attenuated frame, while you perceived the mastery he held over them in his animated countenance and brilliant eyes.

He died, and the world showed no outward sign. But his influence over mankind, though slow in growth, is fast augmenting; and, in the ameliorations that have taken place in the political state of his country, we may trace in part the operation of his arduous struggles. His spirit gathers peace in its new state from the sense that, though late, his exertions were not made in vain, and in the progress of the liberty he so fondly loved.

He died, and his place, among those who knew him intimately, has never been filled up. He walked beside them like a spirit of good to comfort and benefit-to enlighten the darkness of life with irradiations of genius, to cheer it with his sympathy and love. Any one, once attached to Shelley, must feel all other affections, however true and fond, as wasted on barren soil in comparison. It is our best consolation to know that such a pure-minded and exalted being was once among us, and now exists where we hope one day to join him ;-although the intolerant, in their blindness, poured down anathemas, the Spirit of Good, who can judge the heart, never rejected him.

« PredošláPokračovať »