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stamped his iron foot in the plenitude of arrogant imbecility on that flower,—who destroyed the “noblest of Creation's works”-who, “murderer as he was, spoke daggers, but used none”—who wreaked an unprovoked vengeance, and gathered his unhallowed harvest into
That high capitol, where kingly Death
Keeps his pale court in many-hued decay! Alas! poor Adonais—he will awake no more on earth, though all his race are mourners—though intellectual beauty goes into weeds—though fancy wreathes her wand with uncreative cypress—though virtue drops her white robe for the sad livery of “one who refuses to be comforted”though thoughts sit mute and vacant, alas! he will awake no more on earth.
Pale ocean in unquiet slumber lay,
Into a shadow of all sounds :-a drear
And they dead leaves. And are not these sad, and silent thoughts—which make a mockery of life, and hope, and joy-like dead leaves, that the whirlwind of affliction bears from the mind's neglected branches, at its mercy, and its will, and does not the loss of “so dear a head," (the literal translation of a Roman's* most affectionate tribute to his friend and patron,) change in a brief moment the sunny aspect of spring, to the frowns, and chills, and changes of autumn? Is there no truth, as beautiful as it is natural, in this and the foregoing images ? Away, ye pedantic critics, who have established some Dagon of poetry, at whose feet not to fall down and worship, is to be heretical, and therefore damned ;-away! ye arrogant verse-definers-ye mere mechanics of criticism-who dare to refuse the meed of genius to Shelley :-we could meet you with your own weapons, with the plummet and the line, the compass and the square, and prove in your own lists that the ill-fated Percy-the spiritual Alastor, was a a poet in the fullest and freest sense of the term. But proceed we to the next stanza, the latter portion of which is almost sublime.
Thy spirit's sister, the lorn nightingale,
* Tam cari capitis.
Not so the eagle.--who like thee could scale
Light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast,
Reader! we must be calm ; there is that in “ Adonais” which almos. makes us forget our office: there is that which bears us far away into the heaven of heavens of poetry--there is that which is as a voice, and a spell in the solitude of our heart, to re-people, and re-kindle it again !
How many of the most promising of England's bards have died young. There was Lycidas, the sweet Lycidas of Milton, “ who knew so well to build the lofty rhyme:" a very Hyacinth he must have been to have drawn tears from the Phæbus of poetry! but we shall return to him. There was Chatterton-the original, and daring, and Shakspearian “charity-boy!” the wondrous, self-gifted enchanter, who created poetry out of parchment, and called beauteous spirits from antiquity to preside over their own apparently coeval relics !—relics, which in the fullness of his imitative success he alone had constructed and inscribed: but whom poverty, that cause of all crime and all despair-poisoned. There was Kirke White, less daring, less original, but equally sweet in thought, and even purer in fancy, on whom that same poverty, feeding “like a vulture fretted to decay, and laid dead at last, like an overwearied bird, in the bosom of that intellectual nest, which he never would desert! and lastly, there was “ Adonais,” the sensitive Keats, who might have prospered, though his birth was humble, and his means straitened, had not an enmity, as gratuitous as it was wanton, as cruel in act as it was malignant in spirit, met, and tore, and trampled him to the earth!
But are either of these poets dead ?-to be extinct, to have vanished utterly and for ever, without a trace on the memory of those who knew us, is to die, in the term's darkest application. The body, indeed, like a “worn-out machine," may “rot, perish, and pass away, but there is a spirit of loveliness yet breathing in the works of all these young poets. And who, ideal and eloquent as he was, could have better given life to that loveliness in the lamented Adonais—who could have more truly felt and entered into those deep emotions, those thrilling sympathies—those "beauty-winged” thoughts so peculiar to the poetic temperament, than the spiritual Alastor ? hear in what a sublime climax he proclaims, that the spark quenched on earth is “but bequeathed unquenchably to the future:"
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
He is secure, and nou can never mourn
Nor, when the spirit's self has ceased to burn
With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn ! “Adonais” should, strictly speaking, be termed a Monody.” We have but few monodies in our language: that of Milton, on the death of Lycidas, has been considered the finest. Byron and Coleridge have each devoted a most feeling one, the former to Sheridan and the latter to Chatterton. The monody of “ Adonais,” if it does not excel, has, in our opinion, fully equalled Milton's: it pleases us better than that of Byron ; and did we not feel a little prejudiced in the matter, (for who does not adore S. T. Coleridge?) we should give it the palm over even his. There is a remarkable concentration of feeling in “ Adonais.” All the images it contains have one object-ah that is pure and ætherial-all that beautifies or dignifies humanity is heaped, and who will call it an “ inane munus,” on that object. Shelley wrote, as he felt, intensely. No one else could have drawn so many intellectual treasures to such a task. Ordinary images, or as unpoetic people are apt to term them, “beautiful ideas,” might have occurred to an uncreative, though sensitive, mind: those ideas might have been feelingly and harmoniously expressed ; but like the deathless lament of Lycidas, we find the sublime and beautiful, the exalted, the picturesque, and the pathetic, breathing in every line of “ Adonais.” To conclude, this monody has all the essentials of, and is, in fact, a perfect poem: its pathos being deep and unaffected—its imaginative beauty never overstepping nature: and that great blot in Shel. ley's writings, the want of a judicious unity of design, to which every portion of the poem should be subordinate, being here, from the nature of the subject, supplied. It is a noble monody: and had the author of “ Adonais written nothing else, is of itself enough to “ plead against Oblivion for his name.”
Many of Shelley's minor poems are exquisite. His imagination, whenever concentered and subdued to the level of the subject, works wonders. We shall consider these poems under two heads: arranging under the first, all those that are descriptive or ideal : under the second, all those that have reference to the poet's own feelings, whether domestic or otherwise. The character of a poet is generally developed in his shorter compositions: they fall, as it were, like poetic gems from his heart. In a larger and more exalted attempt, such as an epic or a drama, there must be much art employed, and thus a laboured, acquired, or even factitious emotion may be worked out; but in a small domestic tribute, if the feeling be not real, the piece becomes cumbrous and overstrained. Of those pieces in which fancy, and description are beautifully blended, Shelley's “ Sensitive Plant” is deserving of most notice. There is, indeed, nothing in the English language of the sort to surpass this poem. It may be called a perfect picture, displaying two views: on one side, the fairy-like vista of enchanting scenes and illusions, where light, and love, and beauty have taken up their abode, like one of Howard's gorgeous Hesperides; on the other, a weedy, unprofitable wilderness, where thorns, and briars, and darnels flourish in unseemly luxuriance: the contrast is touchingly effective.
“ There was a power in this sweet place-an Eve in this garden,” says Shelley, in commencing the second part of the poem. The gardenthe temple of beauty, which, in the first part, he so beautifully depictured, was not complete without a presiding goddess ;-a thing of loveliness to harmonize with the scenę-a thing of life to humanize it. And why-0! spiritual Alastor, did you not more frequently give life and being to your creations ? All the world would then have clasped you to their hearts! Yours was the imagining power of Milton! You might
have united sublimity and beauty in indissoluble links-you might have risen high, till you became a fixed star in the poetic atmosphere. But you panted after a meed of fame which you never could attain! You preferred a chaplet of sunbeams to one of earthly laurel-you would have ætherialized your poetry till it became like the language of our first parents in Eden! But you ought to have remembered that man is fallen now; and in ministering to his purer emotions, you should have taken into account the mortal medium through which they are addressed !
The Eve of this garden has gone to tend her flowers : have Cowper or Wordsworth any thing of simpler feeling than this?
" She lifted their heads with her tender hands,
And sustain'd them with rods and ozier bands;
Altho' they did ill, was innocent !" But the maiden, the presiding goddess of the garden, died—and then what a change !-the flowers faded and fell-hour after hour they perished and passed away. The change is absolutely affecting : weeds of rank savour choked up what remained of bloom and beauty-the winds of heaven whistled over wasting piles of vegetable corruption :—the sensitive plant was the last to go, for although its beauty was lopped off, its freshness blighted, starved to mildew, its leaves borne by the whirlwind far away, it yet collected its sap slowly into its struggling heart, until winter came--when the sensitive plant sunk down into the fate of its companions! At the conclusion, by way of moral, we have some remarkable stanzas, two of which we quote; the whole poem is a beautiful allegory.
“ It is a modest creed, and yet
Pleasant, if one considers it,
While on this part of our subject, we may also mention Shelley's “ Odes to the West Wind,”—to “a Cloud,” and “to a Skylark,"—from the latter of which, from its resemblance to Wordsworth, we are tempted to make a brief extract; the two former, and particularly the first, are splendid compositions.
To A SKYLARK.
Bird thou never wert!
Pourest thy full heart,
Or triumpbal chaunt,
But an empty vaunt-
What objects are the fountains
Of thy happy strain ?
Wbat shapes of sky or plain,
Waking or asleep,
Thou of death must deem,
Than we mortals dream,
We look before and after
And pine for what is not,
With some pain is fraught ;
Yet if we could scorn,
Hate, and pride, and fear!
Not to shed a tear,
Of those compositions which are purely descriptive, the well-known stanzas to the " Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci,” may be considered the finest, and there is also great merit in a small poem, called the “ Fugitives.” As we have before remarked, Shelley possessed no ordinary power of description : but like a glimpse of blue sky in the drift of a tempest, it is unfrequent and overclouded." Into one stanza he will perhaps throw volumes of the picturesque ; and there leave it, while in twenty following he soars far away into ideality: and it is this power of sudden con. centration, without gradual developement, which more than any other destroys the unity of his poems.
We approach the conclusion of our task. It remains to examine those poems which have immediate reference to Shelley's own feelings. They are few in number; no one was less selfish than the author of "
Alastor; of all his works there are scarcely a dozen that come under the present head. What a contrast between him and the author of " Childe Harold !" while the one drew all his poetry from the heart of Nature, whence the freshest and deepest impulses are for ever springing; the other, like the hungry pelican, fed on himself! While the one hunted through error and suffering, the ghost of an ideal Freedom, whose coming was to be an intellectual millennium to the world; the other brooded morbidly over his own imaginary wrongs-pursued his own reckless and solitary course--and if Nature was anything to his fervid imagination, it was only as imparting fresh feeling, or fresh food to his insatiable love of self. The constitution of Shelley's mind forbade him to be selfish : it was adapted for affection and friendship-it taught him to love all things, to cherish all things—or, as he beautifully says, in his “ Ode to intellectual Beauty :"