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plunging across the Channel to Ireland. an era of regeneration. Those passages, The next thing we hear of them is that with all their obvious literary crudities they are mooning about Killarney, and en- and imperfections, are, in their way, of joying themselves according to their fash- real mark, and not easily to be overmatchion, after this astounding incident. No ed by other poetic writing of that least further inquiries, it appears, have thrown readable sort, the didactic-declamatory." any light on this bewildering mystification, There is one thing, however, which we if mystification it was. Mr. Hogg, it is may note here, and which is everywhere evident, did not believe a word of it, and and at all times characteristic of Shelley : smiles at the breathless prayer for a little a curious twist which his mind seems to breathing-time and twenty pounds, to en- have taken from the first, like some growable him to get over it, which the poet, stilling thing warped and thwarted by a freak panting with his flight, makes to several of of nature. We have already remarked uphis friends. The whole story is tragically on his deification of that secondary menridiculous, though it is evident that, whé tal quality, resistance, and absolute incapather false or true, Shelley believed in it, and city to understand the much loftier sentiattributed even some of the fluctuations of ment of harmony, obedience, and subordihis own health to its results. This occur- nation-qualities quite indispensable to any red in the beginning of March, 1813. In lofty ideal. “Queen Mab' reveals anothApril they were again in London, where, er tendency equally strange. No one, we or in its neighborhood, they continued un- believe, ever has glanced at this audacious til the next scene in the wild drama be- production, without an involuntary sense gan.
of incongruity, a jar of something contraIt was, however, during this agitated dictory, which at the first moment it is diffiand troublous period that Shelley's first cult to give a reason for. On further expoem, and that which perhaps-so obsti- amination, it will be seen that this involunnate is human feeling when once power- tary jar arises from the extraordinary choice fully impressed-is most generally known at once of the name and preliminary maat least by name,“ Queen Mab," was writ- chinery of the poem. The name is already ten. It seems so vain at this period to re- enshrined in the English soul. It is that discuss a poem already over-discussed, and of that tiniest empress, which is so very unlikely either to attract “In shape no bigger than an agate-stone or influence the present generation, that we On the forefinger of an alderman”will confine ourselves to quoting Mr. Ros- who drives over courtiers' knees and ladies' setti's verdict on the subject, in which we lips in her fairy chariot, daintiest and most substantially agree:
fanciful of equipages.
This tricksome “As to the poetical merits of Queen sprite is the apparition that presents herMab,' I think the ordinary run of criticism self before us even now, despite of Shelis at fault. Some writers go to the ridicu- ley, when we read the name. "We think of lous excess of speaking of it as not only a her“ waggon-spokes made of long spingrand poem, but actually the masterpiece ners' legs," the hood of her vehicle of the of its author; and even those who stop far wings of grasshoppers, her whip of cricketshort of this expatiate in loose talk about bone, her teaņı of little atomies, innocentits splendid ideal passages, gorgeous ele- est and most fantastic of imaginations. mental imagery, and the like. The fact is Shelley, all-indifferent to the foregone fanthat 'Queen Mab' is a juvenile production cy, imposes the delightful levity of this in the fullest sense of the word—as no- name upon his solemnly didactic fairy who body knew better than Shelley a few years is grand as a tragedy queen. Queen Mab, afterwards; and furthermore, unless I am thus travestied, comes to the side of a sleepmuch mistaken, the most juvenile and un ing maiden, Ianthe, lovely and innocent, remarkable section of it is the ideal one. and carries off the soul, released for the The part which has some considerable moment from its beautiful covering. The amount of promise, and even of positive fair spirit and the fairy queen go off tomerit at times, is the declamatory part- gether in a state chariot of a very different the passages of flexible and sonorous blank form from that original one. It is a "pearly verse, in which Shelley boils over against and pellucid car," with “celestial coursers,” kings or priests, or the present misery of the endowed with "filmy pennons” and “reins world of man, and in acclaiming augury of of light.” Such in its turgid grandeur is the machinery of the poem. And where room, where, however, the philosopher do the voyagers go? To investigate the was not to be found. While the poet miseries of earth, the horrors of tyranny paced about in impatience, “the door was and religion, the falsehood of revelation, partially and softly opened. A thrilling the cruel fiction of Christianity! Never voice called 'Shelley ! A thrilling voice was a more strange contradiction to all po- answered Mary!' and he darted out of etic anticipations and all rules of art and the room." This is the first time that the nature. It is so wildly perverse that the second partner of Shelley's existence beingenuous reader can scarcely believe it comes apparent to us. In this same serious. But to the poet the idea of such month were written some verses addressed a hideous panorama exhibited by a fairy to to her, which breathe all the troublous a pure mortal maiden has no incongruity passion of a soul perhaps still trembling in it. His mind fails to seize the subtle and doubting what its next step was to be. sense of inappropriateness. He is unable That they had by this time betrayed their to escape from the ruling tendency of his mutual love to each other is evident. own spirit into the nature of any other. According to Lady Shelley, this betrayal The succession of tableaux which, after occurred in a very strange scene, in St. grave and long preparation, Milton per- Pancras' churchyard, by the grave of Mary mits Raphael to show to Adam, is utterly Godwin's mother, the famous Mary Wolsexceeded in horror and melancholy by the toncraft, where the two had met, whether fierce scenes unfolded by Mab to Ianthe accidentally or not we are not told; but without any preparation or any purpose at where Shelley, “ in burning words, poured all. The same curious want of perception out the tale of his wild past—how he had recurs constantly in all Shelley's works; suffered, how he had been misled, and every thing seems to have been twisted to how, if supported by her love, he hoped him out of naturalness, out of harmony, in future years to enrol his name with the his sweet bells are always jangled. He wise and good who had done battle for turns to darkness, and mystery, and de- their fellow-men, and been true, through spair, and horror wantonly, when all the all adverse storms, to the cause of humansweeter secrets of nature are open to him; ity." This sentimental nonsense, which and without knowing, with the most curi- is very like Mary Shelley's own outpourous obtuseness in the midst of his genius, ings, and no doubt came from her, is very unfolds all this horror and misery to us by much less calculated to modify and touch the most unfit interpreters—by the inter- the reader over the story of this strange vention of a fairy, and the dreams of a transaction, than are the following tremusleeping girl.
lous verses, in which the reflection of a We need not add any thing about the certain struggle and effort at self-restraint opinions expressed in this poem. It is seems evident : these only, thanks to the clamor of many
“Upon my heart thy accents sweet good but foolish people, that have kept of peace and pity fell like dew this audacious piece of juvenile braggado- On flowers half-dead; thy lips did meet cio afloat. The ideal part of “Queen
Mine tremblingly, thy dark eyes threw
Their soft persuasion on my brain, Mab" is evidently founded on “ Thalaba,"
Charming away its dream of pain. which was, it is said, Shelley's favorite poem
We are not happy, sweet! our state at this period, and would have perished
Is strange, and full of doubt and fearlong ago out of mortal ken but for the bold More need of words that ills abate. atheism of its second part and of the notes,
Reserve or censure come not near which the horror of the many has kept a
Our sacred friendship, lest there be
No solace left for thee or me. certain life, or rather a tradition of life, in. Had it not filled hosts of people who nev
Gentle and good and mild thou art,
Nor can I live if thou appear er read it with this visionary fright and ha
Aught but thyself, or turn thy heart tred, “Queen Mab" would, we do not Away from me, or stoop to wear doubt, have been dead and forgotten long The mask of scorn, although it be
To hide the love thou feel'st for me." ago.
In June of the year 1814, another new This ominous poem indicates with sufpersonage becomes visible in Shelley's wild ficient distinctness what was coming; and story. His friend Hogg had gone with about the middle of June Shelley left the him to Godwin's shop, and into an inner cottage at Bracknell, where he had been living with his wife, and which for some ence, or merely the natural development time had been growing more and more of his mind, it would be difficult to say. uncongenial to him as a home, and went He had scarcely reached man's estate even to London. He does not seem ever to at the period when he formed this second have seen Harriet again, nor his child, the connection, being but twenty-two years baby Ianthe, who had been born a short old, though for so many years he had had time before; but whether he deserted her no guidance but that of his own perverse cruelly, or separated from her politely and and most wayward will, and no code but amicably, is a matter which between them that of inclination. The newly-united the biographers have not yet decided. pair went to Switzerland, as we have said ; He did part from her, however, absolutely then returned, and—in consequence of the and for ever, and some six weeks after favorable change in his fortune produced started for the Continent with his Mary, by the death of Shelley's grandfather, and began an altogether new period of which made him the immediate heir of a his life. This event is treated with such considerable entailed estate—they took a philosophic calm by every body concern- handsome house at Bishopgate, near Winded that it would be a kind of anachronism sor, on the edge of the Great Park and to pause and discuss it, as if it bore any Forest. Here they seem to have remainrelation to morals or the abstract standard ed more than a year, and here the poem of right and wrong. “Nought was done of “ Alastor” was written. While here in hate, but all in honor." Harriet, if they made an excursion on the Thames, abandoned, was still thought of with per- in which it appears to us Shelley showed fect friendliness, it would appear. Poor his usual perversity. They went up the soul! she was not far off the birth of her river as far as Lechlade, almost as far as a second child! an aggravation of her posi- boat could go, spending about a fortnight tion which no one seems to have taken in the excursion; and with characteristic into account; but it is to be hoped that the stubborness struggling all the way against fact that “Mary also continued on amic- the current, instead of adopting the easier able terms with her," was some consolation expedient generally preferred by aquatic to the young mother not yet twenty. She persons, of coming down and floating with went to Bath, to her father, while the other the stream. This, however, is a remark pair went off to Switzerland. On their by the way; and it is more interesting to return from their trip in autumn, Mr. Ros- note a much stronger instance of poetic setti informs us that Shelley “ consulted a perverseness : which is the total absence of legal friend with a view to re-introducing any influence either from the glorious Harriet into his household as a permanent Windsor woods or the Thames in the inmate—it is to be presumed, strictly and poem of "Alastor.” There is a voyage solely as a friend of the connubial pair, but it is a wild voyage, in which a boat Mary and himself; and it required some unguided is driven through the white little cogency of demonstration on the ridges of the chafed sea.” There is a part of the lawyer to convince the prime river, but it is a “boiling torrent" flowing val intellect of Shelley" that this arrange- through a cavern, and making its way ment was an impracticable one. But through crags which" closed around with notwithstanding these amiable intentions, black and jagged arms,” (by the way, the the unfortunate young woman drowned boat in this case too continues its course herself a little more than two years after, up the stream ;) and there is a forest, but and there was an end of her young life it has not the daylight breadth of English and of one portion of the poet's. It is woods. From all the sweet nature around said he was deeply affected by this occur- him he draws nothing, or next to nothing. rence; and we must hope it was true, His poet-hero roams wildly over the world though indeed no evidence is given from in search of a lost ideal; but that world is his own hand of any sort of penitence or exclusively a dream-world, a wild comsorrow either in prose or verse.
position of caves and rocks, of icy sumShelley's life thus divides itself into two mits and putrid marshes, of tropical woods epochs, the reign of Harriet and that of clothed with brilliant-flowered parasites, of Mary; the latter being, so far as poetry is gray precipices and rock-rooted solemn concerned, much the richer of the two. pines. There is a wild and melancholy Whether, however, this was Mary's influ- cadence about the poem, and many beau
tiful lines; but the weird strangeness of ed to have had any warm paternal feeling every detail, and the absolute want of hu- for the child. And we can not see, the man features in the vague hero, make it question being once raised, how any judge hard to hold fast the strain, a peculiarity could have decided differently. On one common to many of Shelley's works. side was the grandfather Westbrook, who " In Alastor,'” says Mr. Rossetti,“ we at had maintained and sheltered the hapless last have the genuine, the immortal Shel- ' babies, and had settled, we are told, ley," and he designates the poem as “full- £2000 upon them, securing their livecharged with meaning.” This may be; lihood, and who was, it is to be supposed, but the meaning is one which most read a person of ordinary decency and moralers will strive in vain to grasp, and which, ity; on the other, the father who had defor our own part, we do not think worth serted them while one was still unborn, the pains. Shelley, however, has certainly who had taken no notice of them up to struck here the key-note of that melodious this moment, who had lived for years in flow of word-music which is his undoubt- what the English law frankly calls (an ed possession.
ugly word, unpleasant to write) adultery, In 1816 the pair went again to Swit- who had entertained from his youth, and zerland, and met with Lord Byron, in still ostentatiously professed, sentiments whose constant company they seem to not only contrary to all religion, but have lived for some time. This inter- broadly opposed to every thing which the course had results which would have made majority of mankind considers morality. any other pair eschew the noble poet's so- What could any Chancellor have done? ciety, but which do not seem to have af- Fortunately or unfortunately, genius does fected the philosophic Shelleys. The not counterbalance morals in the eyes of story, however, belongs rather to Byron's English law; and so far as we can see, life than to that of our present subject, genius was Shelley's only claim upon the whose own misdemeanors are enough for consideration of his country. To say that him to carry. In Switzerland, Mrs. Shel- he did what most people think wrong, on ley (so-called) produced that extraordinary principle, is, if you will, an excuse for himromance of “ Frankenstein," which affect- self personally to himself and a limited cired the mind of the time, as it must affect cle of congenial souls; but it is no excuse, every individual reader, like a horrible rather an aggravation, to mankind, which nightmare. They then returned and set- depends for its very existence upon the tled for a time in Great Marlow on the maintenance of moral law. In short, it is Thames, and in the year 1818 finally left extremely difficult to perceive what the England for Italy. In the interval occur- ground is for that infinite indignation red Harriet's death; the marriage which which, from Lady Shelley to Mr. Rossetti, legalized the tie between Shelley and every biographer of the poet has expressMary; the composition of the “ Revolt of ed on this subject. Shelley's only possible Islam," and the Chancery suit which de- claim upon his children was that lowest prived Shelley of the charge of Harriet's right of nature which is conferred by the children, and which every man and woman simple fact that he was their father; and who has yet written on the subject has the man whose latest imagination had denounced with more vehemence and heat, been that of a pair of lovers, born brother we think, than reason. According to all and sister, could not be supposed to atthat we can gleam from the various bio- tach much importance to that merely acgraphies, Shelley had never seen these cidental circumstance. Had they been children of his repudiated marriage, and torn from his affectionate arms, taken out he does not even mention them, so far as of his kindly house, even on account of we are aware, with any kind of affection, his immorality, the complaints of his chamThey are mere names as they stand in all pions would have been reasonable. But the multitudinous pages which rhapsodize when it is understood that he never saw over the misery of the “outraged fạther.”, them, did not know them, and had to all The poor little boy had been born after appearance expressed no interest whatever the separation; and the impetuous poet, in them, we confess we are utterly bewilwho had not even the patience to wait dered to know what the commotion is until this infant saw the light before he about. “ Logical minds, which accept left its mother, can not certainly be suppos- saving faith' as a principle, are entitled, in the ratio of their logicality, to accept the green and pleasant shore. Rather it is Lord Eldon's judgment as righteous," Mr. the fantastic little bark with a light in it, Rossetti says, with a sneer. We are quite such as Hindoo girls send down the sacred unable, however, to see what “saving river to divine their fate by. How long faith" has to do with the subject; nor can will it go on burning, that fitful earth-star we treat as any thing but extravagant non- How long, chance and wind and the gensense the wild talk about the monstrous tle currents favoring, will it float, till the injustice” of this decree, the wickedness of inevitable moment comes, and the darkenthe man who “robbed" the poet “ of his ed water quenches its fateful glimmer? So offspring,” or the crushing effect of this does this wild soul float on, half-conscious, blow upon the young father, who never, subject to every breath of capricious air till this moment, had troubled himself in and every unnoted eddy, with wild locks the smallest degree about his offspring. It listed by the breeze, and wild eyes that see seems to have been one of his wild fancies nothing-eyes full of inward contempla-gravely recorded in all these books, as tion, unmoved by the sweet reality of naif the poor child's illegitimacy had not ture round him, yet soothed by it, seeing made such a proceeding absolutely impos- not as men see. Probably the dullest gensible—that Shelley feared some similar at- tle soul that has floated after him over those tempt to tear from him his baby son, the soft waters has carried away as much acfirst child of Mary, and that this most tual impression from them as Shelley did. fantastic and groundless fear hastened his Those wealthy murmurous woods, those final departure for Italy. The state of silvery reaches, the sunshiny haze of suhis health is also given as a reason for preme summer, the ripple of the soft wathis; and as we have no longer the out- ter gurgling against his boat,-none of spoken and candid guidance of Mr. Hogg those enchanted sights or sounds find any in respect to these particulars, we have no echo in the poet's verse; but they lulled right to doubt what is said. Hogg is, him while he dreamed of other things, to however, very skeptical about Shelley's him more splendid: delicacy of health in the earlier portion of “The homely nurse does all she can his career, and laughs at it with his usual
To make her foster-child, her inmate man, somewhat coarse and patronizing superior- Forget the splendor he has known, ity, as a pretense always at hand to jus- And that celestial palace whence he came." tify any new restlessness. This view of It is very difficult to take up for the purthe subject seems to have been practically pose of criticism such a poem as the “ Reconfirmed by the Italian physician Vac- volt of Islam." Its extreme length, its atca, who recommended Shelley to give up tenuated thread of story, its absence of humedical help and to live quietly, as the best man character, and even its bewildering means of keeping himself in health-an melodiousness and beauty of diction, conadvice not likely to have been given had fuse the critical faculties. We are expectthere been any thing of a serious character ed to learn a great deal from it; indeed in his ailments.
Shelley himself puts it upon a certain solHowever, whether it was for health, or emn footing: "Much of what the volume for fear, or for the love of change, the contains was written with the same feeling, family left Marlow, and went finally to Ita- as real, though not so prophetic,” he says, ly. The life in Marlow forms a pleasant as the communications of a dying man;" episode in their restless existence. We but what it is that we are to learn it is exthink of the poet rowing up to the sweet tremely difficult to say, except that tyranny shade of the Bischam woods, and allowing is hateful, and some other broad principles his boat to drift down under those pleas- of a similar kind. The length of the poant shadows, among the tangled water- em, however, and its sweet monotony of lilies, through lights and shades which are music, baffle the attempts of any but a dilinever more delicious than on a river—with gent reader. Indeed we should be disa softened sentiment. His aspect is sym- posed to say that no reader above twenty bolical, and brings a sympathetic tender- could at the present day give a sufficiently ness, half pity, half wondering sadness, into long strain of time and attention to master the spectator's eyes. It is no man of in- this word-sonata -- this flood of linked dependent soul and action upon whom we sweetness and musical discord. The ordilook as he glides in dreamy motion along nary mass of humanity, for whom all truly