Imágenes de páginas

του μη διαρραισθέντας εις Αιδου μολεϊν.
τω τοι τοιαϊσδε πημoναισι κάμπτομαν
πάσχειν μεν αλγειναΐσιν, οικτράισιν δ' ιδείν.
θνητους δ' εν οίκτώ προθεμενος, τουτο τυχειν
ουκ ήξιώθην αυτος. .

κ.τ.λ. Which may thus be literally translated :

Man's miserable lot
Jove held in no regard, but wishod to kill
And re-create afresh the human race !-
None save myself opposed his cruel will;
But I was daring, and drew mortals forth
From falling into Hades' dark profound !
Wherefore, with wrongs disastrous to endure
And terrible to witness-I am crush'd to Earth!

Denied that mercy, I afforded man! A perpetual and dreadful punishment-for chained to a rock by fetters which may not be burnt, the mighty heart of Prometheus is ever gnawed by a voracious vulture, without the possibility of his finding relief in death!

It was to follow up this tale that Shelley devoted the full powers of his creative mind. Unknown to himself, but not unfelt, an allegory, which it will be our pains to illustrate, has developed itself under his pen. The first act of the “Prometheus Unbound” opens magnificently, thus:

ACT І. (SCENE-A ravine of icy rocks in the Indian Caucasus— Prometheus is discovered

bound Panthea and lone are seated at his feet-During the scene, morning slowly breaks.)

Monarch of gods, and dæmons, and all spirits
But One, who throng those bright and rolling worlds
Which Thou and I alone of living things
Bebold with sleepless eyes!-regard this Earth,
Made multitudinous with thy slaves, whom thou
Requitest for knee-worship, prayer, and praise.
With fear and self-contempt, and barren hope !
Wbilst me, who am thy foe, eyeless in bate
Hast thou made reign and triumph, to thy scorn,
O’er mine own misery, and thy vain revenge!

And yet to me welcome is day and night,
Whether one breaks the hoar frost of the morn,
Or starry, dim, and slow, the other climbs
The leaden-colour'd East, for then they lead
The wingless, crawling hours, one among whom
Shall drag thee, cruel king, to kiss the blood
From these pale feet, which then might trample thee,
If they disdain'd not such a prostrate slave!
Disdain--ab! no!-I pity thee.

The curse
Once breathed on thee, I would recall — Ye mountains,
Whose many-voiced Echoes, through the mist
Of cataracts flung the thunder of that curse !
Ye icy springs stagnant with wrinkling frost
Which vibrated to hear me! Thou serepest Air
Through which the sun walks burning without beams!
And ye swift Whirlwinds, who on poised wings

Hung mute and moveless o'er yon hush'd abyss,
As thunder louder than your own, made rock
The orbed world! If then my words had power :
What was that curse ? for ye all beard me speak !

What was that curse? What was that awful whisper which a pros. trate prisoner could fling with all its untold terror on his shrinking oppressor ? The mountains to whom Prometheus addresses himself dare not answer—the elements shrink from its repetition-Earth herself, in the recollection of what she has lost, and of what she suffers in the martyrdom of her benevolent protector, shudders, and for a while is silent.

But the fallen hero (and let it be remarked, that in personifying Earth Shelley imitates the example of Æschylus, in his character of Oceanus,) again addresses her :

Venerable mother,
All else who live, and suffer take from thee
Some comfort:-flowers, and fruits, and happy sounds,
And love, though fleeting :-these may not be mine.
But mine own words I pray deny me not!

The curse is at length repeated; but so terrible is its nature, that even the persecuted Titan relents. The following is in Shelley's best style :

Were these my words, oh parent ?

They were thine!

It doth repent me ?-words are quick and vain,
Grief for a wbile is blind, and so was mine,
I wish no living thing to suffer pain!

Misery! oh misery to me,
That Jove at length should vanquish thee?
Wail, howl aloud-Land and Sea,
The Earth's rent heart shall answer ye!
Howl Spirits of the living and the dead!
Your refuge, your defence lies fallen and vanquished !

First Echo.
Lies fallen and vanquished-

Second Echo.
Fallen and vanquished !

We have gone thus far into the drama, to show the terrible punishment of the Titan. We shall presently see the fortitude with which he sustains it. Calm and unflinching in all his solitary tortures, with an eye still fixed on the beautiful, and a bosom, whose emotions are for ever pure and benevolent- watched and tended by two lovely spirits, the types of Constancy and Fidelity,-have we not a beautiful image of the Genius of Liberty itself, chained in adamantine links, and ever persecuted by a vulturous oppression, yet unvanquished in its enduring and patient immortality. Here then is the true allegory of Prometheus: it is a picture under ideal characters, of Freedom overborne for awhile by Tyranny, with all the elements of nature weeping and wailing for her fall.

But the measure of the Titan's sufferings is not yet full. Mercury, the messenger of Jove, approaches, conducting the Furies, who have prepared themselves with tenfold tortures : Shelley has nobly improved on Æschylus, who drew Mercury as a pampered and insulting minion.


Awful sufferer!
To thee unwilling, most unwillingly
I come, by the great Father's will driven down,
To execute a doom of new revenge.
Be it not so!

Bend down thy soul in pray’r,
And like a suppliant in some gorgeous fane,
Let the will kneel within thy haughty heart!


Let others flatter crime where it sits thron'd
In brief Omnipotence-secure are they:
But hark the hell-hounds clamour!

Oh! that we might be spar'd. I to inflict,
And thou to suffer! once more answer me;
Thou know'st not the period of Jove's power ?

I know but this, that it must come!


Thou canst not count thy future years of pain !

They last wbile Jove must reign-nor more, nor less,
Do I desire or fear!


Yet pause and plunge
Into Eternity, where recorded Time,
Even all that we imagine, age on age,
Seems but a point-and the reluctant mind
Flags wearily in its unending flight!
Till it sink dizzy, blind, lost, shelterless ;-
Perchance it hath not number'd half the years,
Which thou must spend in torture!

Perchance no thought can count them, yet they pass !

If thou might'st dwell among the gods the while,
Lapp'd in voluptuous joy.


I would not quit
This bleak ravine, these unrepentant pains !

Alas! I wonder at and pity thee!

Pity the self-despising slaves of Heaven,
Not me-within whose mind sits peace serene,
As light as in the sun, thron'd ;-how vain this talk !

Call up the fiends! The hour of torture has now reached the Titan: all that it is frightful to conceive, and terrible to suffer; all of external and internal terror, which preys so bitterly as well on body as on mind, are now heaped on the immortal philanthropist. It is such sufferings as these that Liberty in a state of enthralment has to undergo. To chain the body is nothing, unless the mind be chained with it, and it is only by addressing the mind through the darkened medium of external terrors, that the triumph over Liberty is to be consummated. In this trial an exalted imagination exerts its purest influence. The prisoner, who bodies shapes and scenes out of his dungeon's dark obscurity, has gone far to make captivity endurable. Relying on the gentle impulses of imagination, and peopling his solitude with a thousand forms of Love and Pity, he may calmly resign himself to his fate. Shelley gave a full developement to this selfsustaining power, when he makes purer Spirits throng from the “ world. surrounding æther,” to console the Titan after the Furies' departure. Look at the two following pictures ; for fierce, fiend-like hatred on one side, and tender, spiritualized melancholy, which is not, however, without a certain under-current of consolation, on the other ; they are unrivalled.

1 st.

Tear the veil!

It is torn!

The pale stars of the morn
Shine on a misery dire to be borne.
Dost thou faint, mighty Titan ? we laugh thee to scorn.

Joy! joy! jog!
For the future is dark, and the present is spread,
Like a pillow of thorns for thy slumberless head !


Ah! sister!-Desolation is a delicate thing :
It walks not on the earth, it floats not on the air,
But treads with silent foctstep, and fans with silent wing

The tender hopes, which in their hearts, the best and gentlest bear." We must really pause here. We have said that of all modern poets, Shelley was best adapted to replace the lost drama of Æschylus, but we are not blind to the faults of the drama he has given us. As far, indeed, as our quotations have gone, it is grand, well-sustained, even, to a certain degree, sublime, but when the tortures of Jove have wasted them. selves, an hour of calm melancholy precedes the advent of the hero, Hercules, who is to rescue Freedom from its chains; instead of condemning and simplifying, Shelley has drawn his “Prometheus unbound" to a tedious length, introducing a monstrous shadow, called Demogorgon, and soaring farther than reason or truth can follow into the regions of phantasy. Yet are there other parts of real beauty in the Prometheus of Shelley,--as a drama, and in this remark we also include his “ Hellas,' whose subject and style is nearly similar, it is a failure ; but, as a wild, unconnected, ideal poem, developing, with a master's hand, the most precious stores of the English language, it will be read by posterity, ages hence, with wonder and admiration.

Of Shelley's remaining poems, (we shall approach his minor ones presently,) there is great merit in his “ Julian and Maddalo,” an ideal conversation between himself and Lord Byron; and in his “ Rosalind and Helen,” a modern eclogue, as he terms it, both of which we recommend to our readers, as containing touches of true feeling.

We have reserved the gem of our review, (Shelley's “ Episychidion,"

however, or “ Address to Lady Emilia V- ,” visionary though it be, must not be forgotten) viz. “ Adonais,” to the last. This latter poem is a chef d'auvre, to be read by every one, who has a soul for those sweet fancies which form the “half-deity” of man's mixed creation, without intense emotion. It is truly delightful to have now approached the open ground of our criticism. Leaving behind its errors, and failings, its mysteries, and its shadows, we may now contemplate Shelley's imagination in its purest ætheriality; and, can we but invoke one throb of sympathy in his behalf, or, to use his own words,“ plead successfully against oblivion for his fame,” our labour will not have been in vain.

The “ Adonais” is an Elegy, as its author is pleased to term it, ou the death of John Keats, whose fate is but too well known. With what propriety might not this Elegy have been prefaced by those overpowering lines of Virgil :

Heu miserande puer! si quà fata aspera rumpas
Tu Marcellus eris. Manibus date lilia plenis;
Purpureos spargam flores, animamque nepotis
His saltem accumulem donis, et fungar inani

Munere:"at whose hearing the bereaved Octavia fell fainting to the earth. Listen, however, with what a burst of true affection “Adonais” begins :-

I weep for Adonais-he is dead!
Ob! weep for Adonais ! tho' our tears
Tbaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!
And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years
To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers
And teach them thine own sorrow; say with me,
Died Adonais,- till the Future dares

Forget the Past, bis fate and fame shall be
An echo and a voice unto eternity!

Oh! weep for Adonaisąhe is dead!
Wake, melancholy mother, wake and weep!
Yet, wherefore ?-quench within their burning bed
Thy fiery tears, and let thy fond heart keep
Like his, a mute and uncomplaining sleep,
For he is gone where all tbings wise and fair

Yes! he is gone—the observed of all observers, the sensitive, the pure,
the intellecual Adonais is gone for ever—“the youngest, dearest one of
Earth has perished."

The nursling of her widowhood, who grew
Like a pale fiower by some sad maiden cherished,

And fed with true lore-tears instead of dew! What exquisite pathos! What depth, and tenderness, and classic chastity of feeling ! 'But who cropped that flower? Was it the winds of heaven, whose unenvied, though duteous task, wasted the lilies' odours before corruption had marked it for its own-before age had sapped its delicate petals—before misfortune had snapped its stem :—thereby bequeathing its freshness to air, and its sweetness to the ambient beauty of nature-a death it is true, but a life in death—a spiritual transfusion into the vast Spirit of all! Oh, no!-oh, no! It was not the winds of heaven: the swift-destroying north--the more gentle west, the spicy south, or even the “leaden”* autumnal breeze, but man, miserable man-who

* Plumbeus Auster!

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