Archive for diciembre, 2010


Posted by saformo on 15th diciembre 2010

This paper will be focused not onlt in the concept of anarchy in Percy Shelley´s works but also any type of political and philosophical thoughts that are present in Percy Shelley´s work but I will also include a biography and a list of his works as well as an essay contextualizing Shelley in order to understand his thoughts in relation with his written works.

I will also include in every text where it is explained how some political and philosophical concepts in his works and life some poems and written texts that can justifie that thoughts.

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Posted by saformo on 15th diciembre 2010

As a representant of the early generation of romatic poets Shelley was unhappy with the politic and social panorama that he had to live. During the XIX century the political and social rights took part in the English streets. Shelley was politically commited in its time and he was a fighter for the growth of political rights in Britain in the 19th century, claiming that every person to be an individual with freedom as an individual and claiming the right of universal suffrage that was achieved in 1832 with the law of the Great Reform Act.

The influence not only of his literary works on other writer but also the political thinking of Percy Shelley was exerted to the subsequent generation of poets and specially to the victorian poets, and also Shelley exerted a notable influence in the socialims and marxist circle.

A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and of many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Government is an evil; it is only the thoughtlessness and vices of men that make it a necessary evil. When all men are good and wise, government will of itself decay.
Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Posted by saformo on 14th diciembre 2010

Forman’s Editorial Preface: In addition to the two Irish pamphlets, Shelley appears to have got printed in Dublin the broadside entitled Declaration of Rights, which afterwords led to the imprisonment of his Irish servant Daniel Hill (or Healy) for uttering the same without an imprint. Although this curious document was reprinted by Richard Carlile in The Republican for the 24th of September, 1819, and figures in Lowndes’s Bibliographers’s Manual (Bohn’s Edition, p. 2374) as having occurred in a certain copy of Queen Mab not now forthcoming, it remained for Mr. Rossetti to place it before the present generation of Shelley’s readers in an article contributed to The Fortnightly Review for January, 1871, entitled “Shelley in 1812-13.” Mr. Rossetti (p. 71) points out the resemblances between this Declaration and two such Documents of the French Revolution, “the one adopted by the Consituent Assembly in August, 1789, and the other proposed in April, 1793, by Robespierre.” Mr. MacCarthy (Shelley’s Early Life, p. 323) calls attention to the recurrence, in the Declaration of Rights, of certain thoughts and phrases from the Proposals for an Association. For a concise account of Shelley’s proceeding’s at Barnstaple with this hand-bill, see p. 37 of the memoir prefixed to Vol. I. of Mr. Rossetti’s last edition of Shelley’s Poetical Works (3 vols. 1878). The Declaration is a roughly printed affair,—a single leaf measuring 14[and]7/8 inches by 8[and]15/16 inches. There are two copies preserved in the Public Record Office; and Lord Carlingford has the copy sent officially to Mr. (afterwards Sir Francis) Feeling, Secretary of the Post Office, by the Post Office Agent at Holyhead, under circumstances fully detailed by Mr. MacCarthy (Shelley’s Early Life, pp. 309 et seq.). By his Lordship’s courtesy, the text is here given from that copy.—H.B.F.


GOVERNMENT has no rights; it is a delegation from several individuals for the purpose of securing their own. It is therefore just, only so far as it exists by their consent, useful only so far as it operates to their well-being.

IF these individuals think that the form of government which they, or their forefathers constituted is ill adapted to produce their happiness, they have a right to change it.

Governmnent is devised for the security of rights. The rights of man are liberty, and all equal participation of the commonage of nature.

As the benefit of the governed, is, or ought to be the origin of government, no men can have any authority that does not expressly emanate from their will.

Though all governments are not so bad as that of Turkey, yet none are so good as they might be; the majority of every country have a right to perfect their government, the minority should not disturb them, they ought to secede, and form their own system in their own way.

All have a right to an equal share in the benefits, and burdens of Government. Any disabilities for opinion, imply by their existence, barefaced tyranny on the side of government, ignorant slavishness on the side of the governed.

The rights of man in the present state of society, are only to be secured by some degree of coercion to be exercised on their violator. The sufferer has a right that the degree of coercion employed be as slight as possible.

It may be considered as a plain proof of the hollowness of any proposition, if power be used to enforce instead of reason to persuade its admission. Government is never supported by fraud until it cannot be supported by reason.

No man has a right to disturb the public peace, by personally resisting the execution of a law however bad. He ought to acquiesce, using at the same time the utmost powers of his reason, to promote its repeal.

A man must have a right to act in a certain manner before it can be his duty. He may, before he ought.

A man has a right to think as his reason directs, it is a duty he owes to himself to think with freedom, that he may act from conviction.

A man has a right to unrestricted liberty of discussion, falsehood is a scorpion that will sting itself to death.

A man has not only a right to express his thoughts, but it is his duty to do so.

No law has a right to discourage the practice of truth. A man ought to speak the truth on every occasion, a duty can never be criminal, what is not criminal cannot be injurious.

Law cannot make what is in its nature virtuous or innocent, to be criminal, any more than it can make what is criminal to be innocent. Government cannot make a law, it can only pronounce that which was the law before its organisation, viz. the moral result of the imperishable relations of things.

The present generation cannot bind their posterity. The few cannot promise for the many.

No man has a right to do an evil thing that good may come.

Expediency is inadmissible in morals. Politics are only sound when conducted on principles of morality. They are, in fact, the morals of nations.

Man has no right to kill his brother, it is no excuse that he does so in uniform. He only adds the infamy of servitude to the crime of murder.

Man, whatever be his country, has the same rights in one place as another, the rights of universal citizenship.

The government of a country ought to be perfectly indifferent to every opinion. Religious differences, the bloodiest and most rancorous of all, spring from partiality.

A delegation of individuals, for the purpose of securing their rights, can have no undelegated power of restraining the expression of their opinion.

Belief is involuntary; nothing involuntary is meritorious or reprehensible. A man ought not to be considered worse or better for his belief.

A Christian, a Deist, a Turk, and a Jew, have equal rights: they are men and brethren.

If a person’s religious ideas correspond not with your own, love him nevertheless. How different would yours have been, had the chance of birth placed you in Tartary or India!

Those who believe that Heaven is, what earth has been, a monopoly in the hands of a favored few, would do well to reconsider their opinion: if they find that it came from their priest or their grandmother, they could not do better than reject it.

No man has a right to be respected for any other possessions, but those of virtue and talents. Titles are tinsel, power a corruptor, glory a bubble, and excessive wealth, a libel on its possessor.

No man has a right to monopolize more than he can enjoy; what the rich give to the poor, whilst millions are starving, is not a perfect favour, but an imperfect right.

Every man has a right to a certain degree of leisure and liberty, because it is his duty to attain a certain degree of knowledge. He may before he ought.

Sobriety of body and mind is necessary to those who would be free, because, without sobriety a high sense of philanthropy cannot actuate the heart, nor cool and determined courage, execute its dictates.

The only use of government is to repress the vices of man. If man were to day sinless, to-morrow he would have a right to demand that government and all its evils should cease.

Man! thou whose rights are here declared, be no longer forgetful of the loftiness of thy destination. Think of thy rights; of those possessions which will give thee virtue and wisdom, by which thou mayest arrive at happiness and freedom. They are decimated to thee by one who knows thy dignity, for every hour does his heart swell with honorable pride in the contemplation of what thou mayest attain, by one who is not forgetful of thy degeneracy, for every moment brings home to him the bitter conviction of what thou art.

Awake!-arise!-or be for ever fallen.

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Posted by saformo on 14th diciembre 2010

Early Shelley: Vulgarisms, Politics, and Fractals

Introduction: The Return of the “Wild Boy”;
or, Reading Early Shelley

by Neil Fraistat

ALMOST 50 years after the fact, Hellen Shelley recalled a visit her famous older brother made to her school: “He came once with the elders of the family, and Harriet Grove, his early love, was of the party: how fresh and pretty she was! Her assistance was invoked to keep the wild boy quiet, for he was full of pranks, and upset the port wine on the tray cloth, for our schoolmistress was hospitable and had offered refreshments; then we all walked in the garden, and there was much ado to calm the spirits of the wild boy” (Hogg’s Life of PBS , ed. Wolfe, I, 27). Critics have contrived as well, with perhaps more success, to keep the “wild boy” quiet. The Great Divide in Shelley studies perennially has been between Alastor (1816), which is generally viewed as Shelley’s first mature poem, and all of his preceding work, which is usually dismissed as the juvenilia of a “wild boy,” immature both in craftsmanship and thought. As a result, with the notable exception of Kenneth Neill Cameron’s monumental The Young Shelley, Shelley’s early work either is not seriously engaged, or is engaged in a merely cursory way, to map how Shelley grew beyond it.
A careful look at Shelley’s early work, however, would show that he is capable, virtually from the start, of writing polished verse in a range of stylistic registers, and that the early verse, even in its most apparently eccentric gestures–perhaps especially in these gestures–is very much a part of its own cultural habitus rather than merely being personally idiosyncratic. In its moments of wildness, then, its more abandoned forays into Sensibility, the Gothic, political satire, and vulgarity, Shelley’s early verse offers an aesthetics of excess and a politics of resistance that provides telling access to the fissured byways of early Regency culture, as well as to Shelley’s art and thought in general. For far too long, the early Shelley has existed in a state of spectral supplementarity to the “real” Shelley. The essays of this volume, which were originally commissioned for a session on the young Shelley at MLA in 1996, begin to explore what it might mean to give voice to the “wild boy.”
In the opening essay of the collection, Donald H. Reiman examines Shelley’s early textual strategies and practices, revealing several important continuities throughout Shelley’s poetic career, some of which vex any attempt to separate cleanly the “early” from the “mature” Shelley. William Keach next considers the political commitments of Shelley’s early verse, calling both for the development of critical readings of this verse “rooted in an engaged attentiveness to context and content” and for a pedagogy that focuses classroom attention on the writing Shelley produced between the spring of 1810 and summer of 1813. For Timothy Morton, who, in the following essay, reads the topology of Queen Mab, the “sublime, dizzying, spiralling poetics of Shelley, minted as he tries to fit the asymmetrical ideologies of capitalism and ecology together, persist throughout his work” in what Morton describes as a “fractal” poetics that is not simply Utopian in its desires, but “Ecotopian.” Finally, Linda Brigham responds to the previous essays, turning our attention to the problematics of authorship, agency, and the continuity of identity that necessarily complicate any return to the “early Shelley.” She notes that attempts to chart the continuities in Shelley’s canon must be alive to a range of differentials: “the terrain [of the verse from 1813-1820] does not change uniformly; in the case of topoi, for example, or in the way Shelley’s language relates to things, it changes less than in the case, of say, the manner in which his work incorporates other texts, or in the rhetorical quality of his poetry, the manner and degree of its didacticism.”
As Brigham also reminds us, the Shelley we get is a function of our own perspective. The more closely we look at Shelley’s early verse, the less homogeneous and easily dismissable this verse will appear–and the more its wide-ranging and complex engagements will unfold. Taken together, the essays in this volume argue for such a collective change of focus. Let us by all means return, then, to Queen Mab–an epic apotheosis of the Jacobin Imaginary that–in its phantasmal structure, in its exploration of the gap between words and things, in its anxieties about revolutionary agency and revolutionary change–is also simultaneously the first great crisis poem of the Jacobin Imaginary. But let us also begin to read with critical attention the nuanced tonalities and craftsmanship of such early lyrics as “To Mary, who died in this opinion,” and “Why is it said thou canst but live”; the dizzying Gothic implosions of The Wandering Jew; the satiric vulgarities of The Devil’s Walk and those astonishingly Oedipal verse epistles to Edward Fergus Graham; and the lyrics of (often) overheated Sensibility and (sometimes) overwrought political protest in the Esdaile Notebook and the early poetic volumes. In the return of the repressed “wild boy,” we stand to gain not just new insights on early Regency culture, nor even a different “early Shelley,” but an entire poetic career freshly reimagined.


Earth, Ocean, Air, beloved brotherhood!
If our great Mother has imbued my soul
With aught of natural piety to feel
Your love, and recompense the boon with mine;
If dewy morn, and odorous noon, and even,                            5
With sunset and its gorgeous ministers,
And solemn midnight's tingling silentness;
If autumn's hollow sighs in the sere wood,
And winter robing with pure snow and crowns
Of starry ice the grey grass and bare boughs;                        10
If spring's voluptuous pantings when she breathes
Her first sweet kisses, have been dear to me;
If no bright bird, insect, or gentle beast
I consciously have injured, but still loved
And cherished these my kindred; then forgive                         15
This boast, beloved brethren, and withdraw
No portion of your wonted favour now!
Mother of this unfathomable world!
Favour my solemn song, for I have loved
Thee ever, and thee only; I have watched                             20
Thy shadow, and the darkness of thy steps,
And my heart ever gazes on the depth
Of thy deep mysteries. I have made my bed
In charnels and on coffins, where black death
Keeps record of the trophies won from thee,                          25
Hoping to still these obstinate questionings
Of thee and thine, by forcing some lone ghost,
Thy messenger, to render up the tale
Of what we are. In lone and silent hours,
When night makes a weird sound of its own stillness,                 30
Like an inspired and desperate alchymist
Staking his very life on some dark hope,
Have I mixed awful talk and asking looks
With my most innocent love, until strange tears,
Uniting with those breathless kisses, made                           35
Such magic as compels the charmed night
To render up thy charge:...and, though ne'er yet
Thou hast unveiled thy inmost sanctuary,
Enough from incommunicable dream,
And twilight phantasms, and deep noon-day thought,                   40
Has shone within me, that serenely now
And moveless, as a long-forgotten lyre
Suspended in the solitary dome
Of some mysterious and deserted fane,
I wait thy breath, Great Parent, that my strain                      45
May modulate with murmurs of the air,
And motions of the forests and the sea,
And voice of living beings, and woven hymns
Of night and day, and the deep heart of man.
There was a Poet whose untimely tomb                                 50
No human hands with pious reverence reared,
But the charmed eddies of autumnal winds
Built o'er his mouldering bones a pyramid
Of mouldering leaves in the waste wilderness:--
A lovely youth,--no mourning maiden decked                           55
With weeping flowers, or votive cypress wreath,
The lone couch of his everlasting sleep:--
Gentle, and brave, and generous,--no lorn bard
Breathed o'er his dark fate one melodious sigh:
He lived, he died, he sung in solitude.                              60
Strangers have wept to hear his passionate notes,
And virgins, as unknown he passed, have pined
And wasted for fond love of his wild eyes.
The fire of those soft orbs has ceased to burn,
And Silence, too enamoured of that voice,                            65
Locks its mute music in her rugged cell.
By solemn vision, and bright silver dream
His infancy was nurtured. Every sight
And sound from the vast earth and ambient air,
Sent to his heart its choicest impulses.                             70
The fountains of divine philosophy
Fled not his thirsting lips, and all of great,
Or good, or lovely, which the sacred past
In truth or fable consecrates, he felt
And knew. When early youth had passed, he left                       75
His cold fireside and alienated home
To seek strange truths in undiscovered lands.
Many a wide waste and tangled wilderness
Has lured his fearless steps; and he has bought
With his sweet voice and eyes, from savage men,                      80
His rest and food. Nature's most secret steps
He like her shadow has pursued, where'er
The red volcano overcanopies
Its fields of snow and pinnacles of ice
With burning smoke, or where bitumen lakes                           85
On black bare pointed islets ever beat
With sluggish surge, or where the secret caves,
Rugged and dark, winding among the springs
Of fire and poison, inaccessible
To avarice or pride, their starry domes                              90
Of diamond and of gold expand above
Numberless and immeasurable halls,
Frequent with crystal column, and clear shrines
Of pearl, and thrones radiant with chrysolite.
Nor had that scene of ampler majesty                                 95
Than gems or gold, the varying roof of heaven
And the green earth lost in his heart its claims
To love and wonder; he would linger long
In lonesome vales, making the wild his home,
Until the doves and squirrels would partake                          100
From his innocuous hand his bloodless food,
Lured by the gentle meaning of his looks,
And the wild antelope, that starts whene'er
The dry leaf rustles in the brake, suspend
Her timid steps, to gaze upon a form
More graceful than her own.                                          105
His wandering step,
Obedient to high thoughts, has visited
The awful ruins of the days of old:
Athens, and Tyre, and Balbec, and the waste
Where stood Jerusalem, the fallen towers                             110
Of Babylon, the eternal pyramids,
Memphis and Thebes, and whatsoe'er of strange,
Sculptured on alabaster obelisk,
Or jasper tomb, or mutilated sphynx,
Dark Aethiopia in her desert hills                                   115
Conceals. Among the ruined temples there,
Stupendous columns, and wild images
Of more than man, where marble daemons watch
The Zodiac's brazen mystery, and dead men
Hang their mute thoughts on the mute walls around,                   120
He lingered, poring on memorials
Of the world's youth: through the long burning day
Gazed on those speechless shapes; nor, when the moon
Filled the mysterious halls with floating shades
Suspended he that task, but ever gazed                               125
And gazed, till meaning on his vacant mind
Flashed like strong inspiration, and he saw
The thrilling secrets of the birth of time.
Meanwhile an Arab maiden brought his food,
Her daily portion, from her father's tent,                           130
And spread her matting for his couch, and stole
From duties and repose to tend his steps,
Enamoured, yet not daring for deep awe
To speak her love:--and watched his nightly sleep,
Sleepless herself, to gaze upon his lips                             135
Parted in slumber, whence the regular breath
Of innocent dreams arose; then, when red morn
Made paler the pale moon, to her cold home
Wildered, and wan, and panting, she returned.
The Poet, wandering on, through Arabie,                              140
And Persia, and the wild Carmanian waste,
And o'er the aerial mountains which pour down
Indus and Oxus from their icy caves,
In joy and exultation held his way;
Till in the vale of Cashmire, far within                             145
Its loneliest dell, where odorous plants entwine
Beneath the hollow rocks a natural bower,
Beside a sparkling rivulet he stretched
His languid limbs. A vision on his sleep
There came, a dream of hopes that never yet                          150
Had flushed his cheek. He dreamed a veiled maid
Sate near him, talking in low solemn tones.
Her voice was like the voice of his own soul
Heard in the calm of thought; its music long,
Like woven sounds of streams and breezes, held                       155
His inmost sense suspended in its web
Of many-coloured woof and shifting hues.
Knowledge and truth and virtue were her theme,
And lofty hopes of divine liberty,
Thoughts the most dear to him, and poesy,                            160
Herself a poet. Soon the solemn mood
Of her pure mind kindled through all her frame
A permeating fire; wild numbers then
She raised, with voice stifled in tremulous sobs
Subdued by its own pathos; her fair hands                            165
Were bare alone, sweeping from some strange harp
Strange symphony, and in their branching veins
The eloquent blood told an ineffable tale.
The beating of her heart was heard to fill
The pauses of her music, and her breath                              170
Tumultuously accorded with those fits
Of intermitted song. Sudden she rose,
As if her heart impatiently endured
Its bursting burthen: at the sound he turned,
And saw by the warm light of their own life                          175
Her glowing limbs beneath the sinuous veil
Of woven wind, her outspread arms now bare,
Her dark locks floating in the breath of night,
Her beamy bending eyes, her parted lips
Outstretched, and pale, and quivering eagerly.                       180
His strong heart sunk and sickened with excess
Of love. He reared his shuddering limbs and quelled
His gasping breath, and spread his arms to meet
Her panting bosom:...she drew back a while,
Then, yielding to the irresistible joy,                              185
With frantic gesture and short breathless cry
Folded his frame in her dissolving arms.
Now blackness veiled his dizzy eyes, and night
Involved and swallowed up the vision; sleep,
Like a dark flood suspended in its course,                           190
Rolled back its impulse on his vacant brain.
Roused by the shock he started from his trance--
The cold white light of morning, the blue moon
Low in the west, the clear and garish hills,
The distinct valley and the vacant woods,                            195
Spread round him where he stood. Whither have fled
The hues of heaven that canopied his bower
Of yesternight? The sounds that soothed his sleep,
The mystery and the majesty of Earth,
The joy, the exultation? His wan eyes                                200
Gaze on the empty scene as vacantly
As ocean's moon looks on the moon in heaven.
The spirit of sweet human love has sent
A vision to the sleep of him who spurned
Her choicest gifts. He eagerly pursues                               205
Beyond the realms of dream that fleeting shade;
He overleaps the bounds. Alas! Alas!
Were limbs, and breath, and being intertwined
Thus treacherously? Lost, lost, for ever lost
In the wide pathless desert of dim sleep,                            210
That beautiful shape! Does the dark gate of death
Conduct to thy mysterious paradise,
O Sleep? Does the bright arch of rainbow clouds
And pendent mountains seen in the calm lake,
Lead only to a black and watery depth,                               215
While death's blue vault, with loathliest vapours hung,
Where every shade which the foul grave exhales
Hides its dead eye from the detested day,
Conducts, O Sleep, to thy delightful realms?
This doubt with sudden tide flowed on his heart;                     220
The insatiate hope which it awakened, stung
His brain even like despair.
While daylight held
The sky, the Poet kept mute conference
With his still soul. At night the passion came,
Like the fierce fiend of a distempered dream,                        225
And shook him from his rest, and led him forth
Into the darkness.--As an eagle, grasped
In folds of the green serpent, feels her breast
Burn with the poison, and precipitates
Through night and day, tempest, and calm, and cloud,                 230
Frantic with dizzying anguish, her blind flight
O'er the wide aery wilderness: thus driven
By the bright shadow of that lovely dream,
Beneath the cold glare of the desolate night,
Through tangled swamps and deep precipitous dells,                   235
Startling with careless step the moonlight snake,
He fled. Red morning dawned upon his flight,
Shedding the mockery of its vital hues
Upon his cheek of death. He wandered on
Till vast Aornos seen from Petra's steep                             240
Hung o'er the low horizon like a cloud;
Through Balk, and where the desolated tombs
Of Parthian kings scatter to every wind
Their wasting dust, wildly he wandered on,
Day after day a weary waste of hours,                                245
Bearing within his life the brooding care
That ever fed on its decaying flame.
And now his limbs were lean; his scattered hair,
Sered by the autumn of strange suffering
Sung dirges in the wind; his listless hand                           250
Hung like dead bone within its withered skin;
Life, and the lustre that consumed it, shone
As in a furnace burning secretly
From his dark eyes alone. The cottagers,
Who ministered with human charity                                    255
His human wants, beheld with wondering awe
Their fleeting visitant. The mountaineer,
Encountering on some dizzy precipice
That spectral form, deemed that the Spirit of wind
With lightning eyes, and eager breath, and feet                      260
Disturbing not the drifted snow, had paused
In its career: the infant would conceal
His troubled visage in his mother's robe
In terror at the glare of those wild eyes,
To remember their strange light in many a dream                      265
Of after-times; but youthful maidens, taught
By nature, would interpret half the woe
That wasted him, would call him with false names
Brother and friend, would press his pallid hand
At parting, and watch, dim through tears, the path                   270
Of his departure from their father's door.
At length upon the lone Chorasmian shore
He paused, a wide and melancholy waste
Of putrid marshes. A strong impulse urged
His steps to the sea-shore. A swan was there,                        275
Beside a sluggish stream among the reeds.
It rose as he approached, and, with strong wings
Scaling the upward sky, bent its bright course
High over the immeasurable main.
His eyes pursued its flight:--'Thou hast a home,                     280
Beautiful bird; thou voyagest to thine home,
Where thy sweet mate will twine her downy neck
With thine, and welcome thy return with eyes
Bright in the lustre of their own fond joy.
And what am I that I should linger here,                             285
With voice far sweeter than thy dying notes,
Spirit more vast than thine, frame more attuned
To beauty, wasting these surpassing powers
In the deaf air, to the blind earth, and heaven
That echoes not my thoughts?' A gloomy smile                         290
Of desperate hope wrinkled his quivering lips.
For sleep, he knew, kept most relentlessly
Its precious charge, and silent death exposed,
Faithless perhaps as sleep, a shadowy lure,
With doubtful smile mocking its own strange charms.                  295
Startled by his own thoughts he looked around.
There was no fair fiend near him, not a sight
Or sound of awe but in his own deep mind.
A little shallop floating near the shore
Caught the impatient wandering of his gaze.                          300
It had been long abandoned, for its sides
Gaped wide with many a rift, and its frail joints
Swayed with the undulations of the tide.
A restless impulse urged him to embark
And meet lone Death on the drear ocean's waste;                      305
For well he knew that mighty Shadow loves
The slimy caverns of the populous deep.
The day was fair and sunny; sea and sky
Drank its inspiring radiance, and the wind
Swept strongly from the shore, blackening the waves.                 310
Following his eager soul, the wanderer
Leaped in the boat, he spread his cloak aloft
On the bare mast, and took his lonely seat,
And felt the boat speed o'er the tranquil sea
Like a torn cloud before the hurricane.                              315
As one that in a silver vision floats
Obedient to the sweep of odorous winds
Upon resplendent clouds, so rapidly
Along the dark and ruffled waters fled
The straining boat.--A whirlwind swept it on,                        320
With fierce gusts and precipitating force,
Through the white ridges of the chafed sea.
The waves arose. Higher and higher still
Their fierce necks writhed beneath the tempest's scourge
Like serpents struggling in a vulture's grasp.                       325
Calm and rejoicing in the fearful war
Of wave ruining on wave, and blast on blast
Descending, and black flood on whirlpool driven
With dark obliterating course, he sate:
As if their genii were the ministers                                 330
Appointed to conduct him to the light
Of those beloved eyes, the Poet sate,
Holding the steady helm. Evening came on,
The beams of sunset hung their rainbow hues
High 'mid the shifting domes of sheeted spray                        335
That canopied his path o'er the waste deep;
Twilight, ascending slowly from the east,
Entwined in duskier wreaths her braided locks
O'er the fair front and radiant eyes of day;
Night followed, clad with stars. On every side                       340
More horribly the multitudinous streams
Of ocean's mountainous waste to mutual war
Rushed in dark tumult thundering, as to mock
The calm and spangled sky. The little boat
Still fled before the storm; still fled, like foam                   345
Down the steep cataract of a wintry river;
Now pausing on the edge of the riven wave;
Now leaving far behind the bursting mass
That fell, convulsing ocean: safely fled--
As if that frail and wasted human form,                              350
Had been an elemental god.
At midnight
The moon arose; and lo! the ethereal cliffs
Of Caucasus, whose icy summits shone
Among the stars like sunlight, and around
Whose caverned base the whirlpools and the waves                     355
Bursting and eddying irresistibly
Rage and resound forever.--Who shall save?--
The boat fled on,--the boiling torrent drove,--
The crags closed round with black and jagged arms,
The shattered mountain overhung the sea,                             360
And faster still, beyond all human speed,
Suspended on the sweep of the smooth wave,
The little boat was driven. A cavern there
Yawned, and amid its slant and winding depths
Ingulfed the rushing sea. The boat fled on                           365
With unrelaxing speed.--'Vision and Love!'
The Poet cried aloud, 'I have beheld
The path of thy departure. Sleep and death
Shall not divide us long.'
The boat pursued
The windings of the cavern. Daylight shone                           370
At length upon that gloomy river's flow;
Now, where the fiercest war among the waves
Is calm, on the unfathomable stream
The boat moved slowly. Where the mountain, riven,
Exposed those black depths to the azure sky,                         375
Ere yet the flood's enormous volume fell
Even to the base of Caucasus, with sound
That shook the everlasting rocks, the mass
Filled with one whirlpool all that ample chasm:
Stair above stair the eddying waters rose,                           380
Circling immeasurably fast, and laved
With alternating dash the gnarled roots
Of mighty trees, that stretched their giant arms
In darkness over it. I' the midst was left,
Reflecting, yet distorting every cloud,                              385
A pool of treacherous and tremendous calm.
Seized by the sway of the ascending stream,
With dizzy swiftness, round, and round, and round,
Ridge after ridge the straining boat arose,
Till on the verge of the extremest curve,                            390
Where, through an opening of the rocky bank,
The waters overflow, and a smooth spot
Of glassy quiet mid those battling tides
Is left, the boat paused shuddering.--Shall it sink
Down the abyss? Shall the reverting stress                           395
Of that resistless gulf embosom it?
Now shall it fall?--A wandering stream of wind,
Breathed from the west, has caught the expanded sail,
And, lo! with gentle motion, between banks
Of mossy slope, and on a placid stream,                              400
Beneath a woven grove it sails, and, hark!
The ghastly torrent mingles its far roar,
With the breeze murmuring in the musical woods.
Where the embowering trees recede, and leave
A little space of green expanse, the cove                            405
Is closed by meeting banks, whose yellow flowers
For ever gaze on their own drooping eyes,
Reflected in the crystal calm. The wave
Of the boat's motion marred their pensive task,
Which naught but vagrant bird, or wanton wind,                       410
Or falling spear-grass, or their own decay
Had e'er disturbed before. The Poet longed
To deck with their bright hues his withered hair,
But on his heart its solitude returned,
And he forbore. Not the strong impulse hid                           415
In those flushed cheeks, bent eyes, and shadowy frame
Had yet performed its ministry: it hung
Upon his life, as lightning in a cloud
Gleams, hovering ere it vanish, ere the floods
Of night close over it.
The noonday sun                                                      420
Now shone upon the forest, one vast mass
Of mingling shade, whose brown magnificence
A narrow vale embosoms. There, huge caves,
Scooped in the dark base of their aery rocks,
Mocking its moans, respond and roar for ever.                        425
The meeting boughs and implicated leaves
Wove twilight o'er the Poet's path, as led
By love, or dream, or god, or mightier Death,
He sought in Nature's dearest haunt some bank,
Her cradle, and his sepulchre. More dark                             430
And dark the shades accumulate. The oak,
Expanding its immense and knotty arms,
Embraces the light beech. The pyramids
Of the tall cedar overarching frame
Most solemn domes within, and far below,                             435
Like clouds suspended in an emerald sky,
The ash and the acacia floating hang
Tremulous and pale. Like restless serpents, clothed
In rainbow and in fire, the parasites,
Starred with ten thousand blossoms, flow around                      440
The grey trunks, and, as gamesome infants' eyes,
With gentle meanings, and most innocent wiles,
Fold their beams round the hearts of those that love,
These twine their tendrils with the wedded boughs
Uniting their close union; the woven leaves                          445
Make net-work of the dark blue light of day,
And the night's noontide clearness, mutable
As shapes in the weird clouds. Soft mossy lawns
Beneath these canopies extend their swells,
Fragrant with perfumed herbs, and eyed with blooms                   450
Minute yet beautiful. One darkest glen
Sends from its woods of musk-rose, twined with jasmine,
A soul-dissolving odour to invite
To some more lovely mystery. Through the dell,
Silence and Twilight here, twin-sisters, keep                        455
Their noonday watch, and sail among the shades,
Like vaporous shapes half-seen; beyond, a well,
Dark, gleaming, and of most translucent wave,
Images all the woven boughs above,
And each depending leaf, and every speck                             460
Of azure sky, darting between their chasms;
Nor aught else in the liquid mirror laves
Its portraiture, but some inconstant star
Between one foliaged lattice twinkling fair,
Or painted bird, sleeping beneath the moon,                          465
Or gorgeous insect floating motionless,
Unconscious of the day, ere yet his wings
Have spread their glories to the gaze of noon.
Hither the Poet came. His eyes beheld
Their own wan light through the reflected lines                      470
Of his thin hair, distinct in the dark depth
Of that still fountain; as the human heart,
Gazing in dreams over the gloomy grave,
Sees its own treacherous likeness there. He heard
The motion of the leaves, the grass that sprung                      475
Startled and glanced and trembled even to feel
An unaccustomed presence, and the sound
Of the sweet brook that from the secret springs
Of that dark fountain rose. A Spirit seemed
To stand beside him--clothed in no bright robes                      480
Of shadowy silver or enshrining light,
Borrowed from aught the visible world affords
Of grace, or majesty, or mystery;--
But, undulating woods, and silent well,
And leaping rivulet, and evening gloom                               485
Now deepening the dark shades, for speech assuming,
Held commune with him, as if he and it
Were all that was,--only...when his regard
Was raised by intense pensiveness,...two eyes,
Two starry eyes, hung in the gloom of thought,                       490
And seemed with their serene and azure smiles
To beckon him.
Obedient to the light
That shone within his soul, he went, pursuing
The windings of the dell.--The rivulet,
Wanton and wild, through many a green ravine                         495
Beneath the forest flowed. Sometimes it fell
Among the moss with hollow harmony
Dark and profound. Now on the polished stones
It danced; like childhood laughing as it went:
Then, through the plain in tranquil wanderings crept,                500
Reflecting every herb and drooping bud
That overhung its quietness.--'O stream!
Whose source is inaccessibly profound,
Whither do thy mysterious waters tend?
Thou imagest my life. Thy darksome stillness,                        505
Thy dazzling waves, thy loud and hollow gulfs,
Thy searchless fountain, and invisible course
Have each their type in me; and the wide sky.
And measureless ocean may declare as soon
What oozy cavern or what wandering cloud                             510
Contains thy waters, as the universe
Tell where these living thoughts reside, when stretched
Upon thy flowers my bloodless limbs shall waste
I' the passing wind!'
Beside the grassy shore
Of the small stream he went; he did impress                          515
On the green moss his tremulous step, that caught
Strong shuddering from his burning limbs. As one
Roused by some joyous madness from the couch
Of fever, he did move; yet, not like him,
Forgetful of the grave, where, when the flame                        520
Of his frail exultation shall be spent,
He must descend. With rapid steps he went
Beneath the shade of trees, beside the flow
Of the wild babbling rivulet; and now
The forest's solemn canopies were changed                            525
For the uniform and lightsome evening sky.
Grey rocks did peep from the spare moss, and stemmed
The struggling brook; tall spires of windlestrae
Threw their thin shadows down the rugged slope,
And nought but gnarled roots of ancient pines                        530
Branchless and blasted, clenched with grasping roots
The unwilling soil. A gradual change was here,
Yet ghastly. For, as fast years flow away,
The smooth brow gathers, and the hair grows thin
And white, and where irradiate dewy eyes                             535
Had shone, gleam stony orbs:--so from his steps
Bright flowers departed, and the beautiful shade
Of the green groves, with all their odorous winds
And musical motions. Calm, he still pursued
The stream, that with a larger volume now                            540
Rolled through the labyrinthine dell; and there
Fretted a path through its descending curves
With its wintry speed. On every side now rose
Rocks, which, in unimaginable forms,
Lifted their black and barren pinnacles                              545
In the light of evening, and its precipice
Obscuring the ravine, disclosed above,
Mid toppling stones, black gulfs and yawning caves,
Whose windings gave ten thousand various tongues
To the loud stream. Lo! where the pass expands                       550
Its stony jaws, the abrupt mountain breaks,
And seems, with its accumulated crags,
To overhang the world: for wide expand
Beneath the wan stars and descending moon
Islanded seas, blue mountains, mighty streams,                       555
Dim tracts and vast, robed in the lustrous gloom
Of leaden-coloured even, and fiery hills
Mingling their flames with twilight, on the verge
Of the remote horizon. The near scene,
In naked and severe simplicity,                                      560
Made contrast with the universe. A pine,
Rock-rooted, stretched athwart the vacancy
Its swinging boughs, to each inconstant blast
Yielding one only response, at each pause
In most familiar cadence, with the howl                              565
The thunder and the hiss of homeless streams
Mingling its solemn song, whilst the broad river
Foaming and hurrying o'er its rugged path,
Fell into that immeasurable void
Scattering its waters to the passing winds.                          570
Yet the grey 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                                        575
The dark earth, and the bending vault of stars.
It was a tranquil spot, that seemed to smile
Even in the lap of horror. Ivy clasped
The fissured stones with its entwining arms,
And did embower with leaves for ever green,                          580
And berries dark, the smooth and even space
Of its inviolated floor, and here
The children of the autumnal whirlwind bore,
In wanton sport, those bright leaves, whose decay,
Red, yellow, or ethereally pale,                                     585
Rivals the pride of summer. 'Tis the haunt
Of every gentle wind, whose breath can teach
The wilds to love tranquillity. One step,
One human step alone, has ever broken
The stillness of its solitude:--one voice                            590
Alone inspired its echoes;--even that voice
Which hither came, floating among the winds,
And led the loveliest among human forms
To make their wild haunts the depository
Of all the grace and beauty that endued                              595
Its motions, render up its majesty,
Scatter its music on the unfeeling storm,
And to the damp leaves and blue cavern mould,
Nurses of rainbow flowers and branching moss,
Commit the colours of that varying cheek,                            600
That snowy breast, those dark and drooping eyes.
The dim and horned moon hung low, and poured
A sea of lustre on the horizon's verge
That overflowed its mountains. Yellow mist
Filled the unbounded atmosphere, and drank                           605
Wan moonlight even to fulness; not a star
Shone, not a sound was heard; the very winds,
Danger's grim playmates, on that precipice
Slept, clasped in his embrace.--O, storm of death!
Whose sightless speed divides this sullen night: 610
And thou, colossal Skeleton, that, still
Guiding its irresistible career
In thy devastating omnipotence,
Art king of this frail world, from the red field
Of slaughter, from the reeking hospital,                             615
The patriot's sacred couch, the snowy bed
Of innocence, the scaffold and the throne,
A mighty voice invokes thee. Ruin calls
His brother Death. A rare and regal prey
He hath prepared, prowling around the world;                         620
Glutted with which thou mayst repose, and men
Go to their graves like flowers or creeping worms,
Nor ever more offer at thy dark shrine
The unheeded tribute of a broken heart.
When on the threshold of the green recess                            625
The wanderer's footsteps fell, he knew that death
Was on him. Yet a little, ere it fled,
Did he resign his high and holy soul
To images of the majestic past,
That paused within his passive being now,                            630
Like winds that bear sweet music, when they breathe
Through some dim latticed chamber. He did place
His pale lean hand upon the rugged trunk
Of the old pine. Upon an ivied stone
Reclined his languid head, his limbs did rest,                       635
Diffused and motionless, on the smooth brink
Of that obscurest chasm;--and thus he lay,
Surrendering to their final impulses
The hovering powers of life. Hope and despair,
The torturers, slept; no mortal pain or fear                         640
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 sight                       645
Was the great moon, which o'er the western line
Of the wide world her mighty horn suspended,
With whose dun beams inwoven darkness seemed
To mingle. Now upon the jagged hills
It rests; and still as the divided frame                             650
Of the vast meteor sunk, the Poet's blood,
That ever beat in mystic sympathy
With nature's ebb and flow, grew feebler still:
And when two lessening points of light alone
Gleamed through the darkness, the alternate gasp                     655
Of his faint respiration scarce did stir
The stagnate night:--till the minutest ray
Was quenched, the pulse yet lingered in his heart.
It paused--it fluttered. But when heaven remained
Utterly black, the murky shades involved                             660
An image, silent, cold, and motionless,
As their own voiceless earth and vacant air.
Even as a vapour fed with golden beams
That ministered on sunlight, ere the west
Eclipses it, was now that wondrous frame--                           665
No sense, no motion, no divinity--
A fragile lute, on whose harmonious strings
The breath of heaven did wander--a bright stream
Once fed with many-voiced waves--a dream
Of youth, which night and time have quenched for ever,               670
Still, dark, and dry, and unremembered now.
Oh, 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,                     675
Profuse of poisons, would concede the chalice
Which but one living man has drained, who now,
Vessel of deathless wrath, a slave that feels
No proud exemption in the blighting curse
He bears, over the world wanders for ever,                           680
Lone as incarnate death! O, that the dream
Of dark magician in his visioned cave,
Raking the cinders of a crucible
For life and power, even when his feeble hand
Shakes in its last decay, were the true law                          685
Of this so lovely world! But thou art fled,
Like some frail exhalation; which the dawn
Robes in its golden beams,--ah! thou hast fled!
The brave, the gentle and the beautiful,
The child of grace and genius. Heartless things                      690
Are done and said i' the world, and many worms
And beasts and men live on, and mighty Earth
From sea and mountain, city and wilderness,
In vesper low or joyous orison,
Lifts still its solemn voice:--but thou art fled--                   695
Thou canst no longer know or love the shapes
Of this phantasmal scene, who have to thee
Been purest ministers, who are, alas!
Now thou art not. Upon those pallid lips
So sweet even in their silence, on those eyes                        700
That image sleep in death, upon that form
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 alone                         705
In the frail pauses of this simple strain,
Let not high verse, mourning the memory
Of that which is no more, or painting's woe
Or sculpture, speak in feeble imagery
Their own cold powers. Art and eloquence,                            710
And all the shows o' the world are frail and vain
To weep a loss that turns their lights to shade.
It is a woe "too deep for tears," when all
Is reft at once, when some surpassing Spirit,
Whose light adorned the world around it, leaves                      715
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 were.                      720


Once, early in the morning, Beelzebub arose,
With care his sweet person adorning,
He put on his Sunday clothes.

He drew on a boot to hide his hoof,
He drew on a glove to hide his claw,
His horns were concealed by a Bras Chapeau,
And the Devil went forth as natty a Beau
As Bond-street ever saw.

He sate him down, in London town,
Before earth’s morning ray;
With a favourite imp he began to chat,
On religion, and scandal, this and that,
Until the dawn of day.

And then to St. James’s Court he went,
And St. Paul’s Church he took on his way;
He was mighty thick with every Saint,
Though they were formal and he was gay.

The Devil was an agriculturist,
And as bad weeds quickly grow,
In looking over his farm, I wist,
He wouldn’t find cause for woe.

He peeped in each hole, to each chamber stole,
His promising live-stock to view;
Grinning applause, he just showed them his claws,
And they shrunk with affright from his ugly sight,
Whose work they delighted to do.

Satan poked his red nose into crannies so small
One would think that the innocents fair,
Poor lambkins! were just doing nothing at all
But settling some dress or arranging some ball,
But the Devil saw deeper there.

A Priest, at whose elbow the Devil during prayer
Sate familiarly, side by side,
Declared that, if the Tempter were there,
His presence he would not abide.
Ah! ah! thought Old Nick, that’s a very stale trick,
For without the Devil, O favourite of Evil,
In your carriage you would not ride.

Satan next saw a brainless King,
Whose house was as hot as his own;
Many Imps in attendance were there on the wing,
They flapped the pennon and twisted the sting,
Close by the very Throne.

Ah! ah! thought Satan, the pasture is good,
My Cattle will here thrive better than others;
They dine on news of human blood,
They sup on the groans of the dying and dead,
And supperless never will go to bed;
Which will make them fat as their brothers.

Fat as the Fiends that feed on blood,
Fresh and warm from the fields of Spain,
Where Ruin ploughs her gory way,
Where the shoots of earth are nipped in the bud,
Where Hell is the Victor’s prey,
Its glory the meed of the slain.

Fat–as the Death-birds on Erin’s shore,
That glutted themselves in her dearest gore,
And flitted round Castlereagh,
When they snatched the Patriot’s heart, that HIS grasp
Had torn from its widow’s maniac clasp,
–And fled at the dawn of day.

Fat–as the Reptiles of the tomb,
That riot in corruption’s spoil,
That fret their little hour in gloom,
And creep, and live the while.

Fat as that Prince’s maudlin brain,
Which, addled by some gilded toy,
Tired, gives his sweetmeat, and again
Cries for it, like a humoured boy.

For he is fat,–his waistcoat gay,
When strained upon a levee day,
Scarce meets across his princely paunch;
And pantaloons are like half-moons
Upon each brawny haunch.

How vast his stock of calf! when plenty
Had filled his empty head and heart,
Enough to satiate foplings twenty,
Could make his pantaloon seams start.

The Devil (who sometimes is called Nature),
For men of power provides thus well,
Whilst every change and every feature,
Their great original can tell.

Satan saw a lawyer a viper slay,
That crawled up the leg of his table,
It reminded him most marvellously
Of the story of Cain and Abel.

The wealthy yeoman, as he wanders
His fertile fields among,
And on his thriving cattle ponders,
Counts his sure gains, and hums a song;
Thus did the Devil, through earth walking,
Hum low a hellish song.

For they thrive well whose garb of gore
Is Satan’s choicest livery,
And they thrive well who from the poor
Have snatched the bread of penury,
And heap the houseless wanderer’s store
On the rank pile of luxury.

The Bishops thrive, though they are big;
The Lawyers thrive, though they are thin;
For every gown, and every wig,
Hides the safe thrift of Hell within.

Thus pigs were never counted clean,
Although they dine on finest corn;
And cormorants are sin-like lean,
Although they eat from night to morn.

Oh! why is the Father of Hell in such glee,
As he grins from ear to ear?
Why does he doff his clothes joyfully,
As he skips, and prances, and flaps his wing,
As he sidles, leers, and twirls his sting,
And dares, as he is, to appear?

A statesman passed–alone to him,
The Devil dare his whole shape uncover,
To show each feature, every limb,
Secure of an unchanging lover.

At this known sign, a welcome sight,
The watchful demons sought their King,
And every Fiend of the Stygian night,
Was in an instant on the wing.

Pale Loyalty, his guilt-steeled brow,
With wreaths of gory laurel crowned:
The hell-hounds, Murder, Want and Woe,
Forever hungering, flocked around;
From Spain had Satan sought their food,
‘Twas human woe and human blood!

Hark! the earthquake’s crash I hear,–
Kings turn pale, and Conquerors start,
Ruffians tremble in their fear,
For their Satan doth depart.

This day Fiends give to revelry
To celebrate their King’s return,
And with delight its Sire to see
Hell’s adamantine limits burn.

But were the Devil’s sight as keen
As Reason’s penetrating eye,
His sulphurous Majesty I ween,
Would find but little cause for joy.

For the sons of Reason see
That, ere fate consume the Pole,
The false Tyrant’s cheek shall be
Bloodless as his coward soul.

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Posted by saformo on 14th diciembre 2010

Early Shelley: Vulgarisms, Politics, and Fractals

Shelley Comes Of Age:
His Early Poems As an Editorial Experience

by Donald H. Reiman

IN SPITE of George Bernard Shaw’s enthusiasm for Queen Mab , Kenneth Neill Cameron’s admiration for Shelley’s youthful radicalism, and a renewed interest in Gothic literature, “the young Shelley” has never received much respect, being treated, rather, as “Shelley the Kid.” Most biographers either laughed or frowned at his youthful enthusiasms, and several editors chose to exile his early poetry–including even Queen Mab –to the backs of their editions under the damning heading of “Juvenilia.” Such condescension (of which I’ve been guilty at times) parallels that with which T.S. Eliot, F.R. Leavis, and other critics once viewed Shelley’s poetry as a whole. They declared that, however much they may have doted on it while they were immature, they could no longer read it when they grew up. As I noted in my first book, those critics’ failure to comprehend Shelley’s mature poetry grew out of four problems that I labeled: first, “unnatural piety” (the tendency of Shelley’s heirs and enthusiasts to claim that everything he did was right, good, and true and that his poetry mirrored his angelic genius)–a stance that led to a strong reaction from those who did not feel themselves to be a part of this magic circle; second, “literary fundamentalism,” or the critics’ tendency “to transubstantiate mythical truth into fact” and then criticize it as erroneous; third, “critical myopia,” or a failure to pursue research on the meanings of Shelley’s words and literary conventions beyond the critics’ own limited knowledge; and, finally, the lack of accurate texts of Shelley’s writings.
Paragraph #2 During the past forty years scholar-critics of Shelley have made progress on all of these fronts, but the weak spot in Shelley studies remains an inadequate knowledge of both the canon and the significance of his early poems, to which few scholars other than the editors have given as much attention as might seem merited for a leading poet of the era which demonstrated that “The Child is father of the Man.”
Paragraph #3 Neil Fraistat and I have been aided in our work on the Johns Hopkins edition of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley, by strong institutional support (primarily from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the University of Maryland, and the Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Foundation) and some excellent research assistants. In the fall of 1992, as we began work on the first volume, we optimistically assumed that we would be able to finish editing the early poems rather quickly, since they were said to be fairly simple-minded and had been, we supposed, treated thoroughly by previous editors–especially in Volume I of the Longman Edition of The Poems of Shelley begun by the late G.M. Matthews and completed in 1989 by Kelvin Everest.
Paragraph #4 At the very outset of our work in 1992, however, Neil and I were confronted by a problem regarding the earliest volume in Shelley’s poetic canon that previous scholars had all finessed: at the Shelley Bicentennial Conference at Gregynog, Wales, Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi delivered an interesting paper in which she suggested that none of the poems in Original Poetry by “Victor and Cazire” (1810) had been written by Shelley’s sister Elizabeth, as Shelleyans had universally believed since the discovery and republication of the first text of that long-lost volume in 1898. Instead, Gelpi argued, Percy Bysshe Shelley himself was ventriloquizing in the persona of a woman the poems attributed to his sister. Though Neil and I believed Gelpi to be mistaken, she had raised an important question that no previous editor had studied in detail: Which poems in the “Victor and Cazire” volume actually were by P.B. Shelley and which, if any, could plausibly be attributed to Elizabeth Shelley, a year younger than he? We began immediately to gather the external evidence for dual authorship, which we found on the title page of Original Poetry ; in Shelley’s contemporary letters; in the journal of Shelley’s cousin Harriet Grove; in John Joseph Stockdale’s 1826 account of how he came to publish the volume; and in reminiscences that Hellen Shelley, the younger sister of Percy Bysshe and Elizabeth, sent to Lady Shelley in the 1850s, just before Thomas Jefferson Hogg wrote his Life of Shelley. We also scanned the poems for internal clues–dissecting their subject-matter, tone, and diction, as well as repetitions and variations in their orthography and phrasing. Our stylistic and orthographic analysis was complicated by the lack of any samples of poetry attributed to Elizabeth Shelley outside of the “Victor and Cazire” volume. To detect the substantive and stylistic signature of a sixteen-year-old girl from a landed family during the Regency, our best guides were the contemporary journals of her Wiltshire cousins Harriet and Charlotte Grove, which included comments on the personality of Elizabeth Shelley, and the novels of such female writers of similar class and background as Jane Austen (whom the Groves read with delight).
Paragraph #5 Readers of the Johns Hopkins edition of The Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley will judge for themselves whether we have succeeded in sorting out the evidence, but at least we have grappled with the question of authorship and concluded that a few poems in the volume–including the first two verse-letters, usually assigned to Elizabeth Shelley–were, indeed, probably written by her, a finding that agreed with the external evidence provided by Shelley and his contemporaries, all of which pointed to Original Poetry as being the work of two authors.[1]

Paragraph #6 Our study of the “Victor and Cazire” volume and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s subsequent four publication projects that involved poems not only added to our knowledge of repetitive patterns in his composition, arrangement, and publication of them, but we saw that practices that Shelley established at the beginning of his poetic career were echoed in his later writings. Without attempting to exhaust this topic, let me cite just a few literary tendencies present in Shelley’s earliest work that persisted in his mature poems. His interest in cooperative or joint authorship, appears not only in the “Victor and Cazire” effort, but also in his joint composition with his sister Elizabeth of a lost comedy that they submitted to the stage anonymously and in his collaboration with his second-cousin Thomas Medwin of the earliest version of The Wandering Jew ; this desire for communal composition was repeated when he and Mary Godwin jointly compiled and published History of a Six Weeks’s Tour . Elizabeth Shelley’s long verse-letters lead off the “Victor and Cazire” volume of 1810 to catch the reader’s human interest, before concluding with Shelley’s own heavier fare–climaxing in a difficult poem of guilt and supernatural judgment involving the Wandering Jew entitled “Ghasta; or the Avenging Demon.” Six years later History of a Six Weeks’ Tour , the joint production of Percy Shelley and Mary Godwin, begins with Mary’s travel letters and their joint journal and ends with the cryptic and philosophically challenging “Mont Blanc.” (These and other works in the later Shelley canon show also how addicted he was to the construction of Trojan horses within which to smuggle his subversive ideas into the homes of unsuspecting readers.) Percy Bysshe and Mary W. Shelley continued their mutual intellectual and artistic collaboration by reading and editing most of each other’s writings until William Shelley’s death in 1819 led to Mary’s severe depression and a partial distancing in their marriage, but the cooperative habits they had developed early in their life together led them to continue to assist each other in their writing projects at least sporadically till Shelley’s death, and Mary Shelley’s editorial labors affected Shelley’s writings till late in her life.
Paragraph #7 Another pattern that Shelley established early in his career was his tendency to revise and then recycle the same poem in different contexts. For example, he used the poetic fragment found at the end of Original Poetry by “Victor and Cazire” as the first poetic attempt in Chapter 1 of St. Irvyne . Later in the same romance, he introduced a poem made up with the first four stanzas of a ten-quatrain love poem that he had written to Harriet Grove while they were courting, but there he rounded off the lyric with a revised stanza from a less happy poem, written to Harriet after her family had broken off their engagement, thereby turning the original love lyric into a lament for love thwarted. This pattern of revising and using earlier material in new contexts appeared again when he published revised excerpts from Queen Mab as “The Daemon of the World” in the Alastor volume. As Michael Neth and I noted in connection with The Hellas Notebook , in late 1821 or early 1822 Shelley went so far as to redraft completely in Bodleian MS Shelley adds. e.7 the poem beginning “I arise from dreams of thee”–virtually the same poem that two years earlier he had given to Sophia Stacey. (Two other surviving holograph fair-copies, one entitled “The Indian Serenade” and the other “The Indian Girl’s Song, further complicate the story.”[2])This simulated composition of a “new” romantic lyric may have been done either to give it to Jane Williams (as Medwin’s Life of Shelley would have it), or perhaps (as Trelawny testified in a manuscript now at John Murray’s) to use in a competition with Byron, in which each was to compose lyrics to be sung to an Indian or Arabic melody. But whether Shelley recomposed from memory–or else pretended to compose for the first time–a poem that he had already used to impress Stacey, either to demonstrate his poetic facility vis-a-vis Byron, or to express his feelings for Jane Williams, we are faced with judgments of his motives.

Paragraph #8 These recyclings, like Shelley’s plagiarism of a long poem from Monk Lewis’ Tales of Terror that led to the suppression of the “Victor and Cazire” volume, cast light on an aspect of his poetic talent that has been almost universally overlooked: Shelley, unlike Byron or even Keats, was not a facile or prolific versifier. He invariably struggled to find and arrange words that could articulate his inchoate feelings and subtle ideas. References in his letters to his early Gothic poems and romances express surprise and dismay that he had not written enough to fill the number of pages or volumes that he promised to the printer or publisher.[3] Now, from analysis of malformed type characters found in the “Victor and Cazire” volume, we have determined that the printing was suspended and the type of the first part of the volume was distributed before the last part was typeset. During that hiatus, Shelley was probably scrambling to gather or write enough new material to fill a volume of the size for which he had contracted with the printer, but apparently he and Elizabeth Shelley were unable to provide sufficient poetry to do so. At that point (as the collation indicates), Shelley wrote down from memory–rather than copied–the long poem by Monk Lewis entitled The Black Canon of Elmham; or, St. Edmond’s Eve so as to swell the volume to its promised size. Since the other poems in it contain smaller plagiarisms from Byron and other contemporary poets, the title Original Poetry was (as Kenneth Neill Cameron suggested) almost certainly Shelley’s way of disguising his plagiarisms as part of a clever prank. To Cameron’s insight, we can now add the more general observation that Shelley was forced into this subterfuge by his inability to write as fluently as he wished to do–and believed others did. (This experience, by the way, may have been in Shelley’s mind in 1816, when walking with Keats on Hampstead Heath, he advised the younger man not to scrape together all his occasional poems in order to publish the volume dated 1817 that Keats himself later characterized as his “first blights.”)

Paragraph #9 As the foregoing example indicates, Neil and I have tried to take into account the relations between Shelley and his printers and publishers. By exploring his poetry from this perspective, we have noted a number of instances where Shelley’s close interest in printing and typography may have influenced the nature of his texts. Philadelphia Phillips, daughter of one of the Phillips brothers who ran the printshop at Worthing, Sussex, where both Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire and The Necessity of Atheism were typeset, left reminiscences of Shelley that were transmitted through a nephew with whom she later lived: “She said he took great interest in the art of printing, and would often come in and spend hours in the printing office learning to set up types and help” her (Philadelphia Phillips) with her work.[4] Though Neil and I have no evidence that Shelley actually set much type for Original Poetry, we do believe that he may have put his knowledge of the craft of printing to practical use in at least two later publications. One was the broadsheet entitled The Devil’s Walk , which is now mounted in an annotated hypertext edition on the Romantic Circles website and which I commend to your exploration. The most outre example of Shelley’s printing activity appears, however, in Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson , the third published volume containing his poetry. This volume caused a sensation among the students at Oxford when it was issued by J. Munday in Oxford in November 1810. Through typographical analysis, we have uncovered, we believe, a hitherto unnoted reason for its celebrity among the undergraduates. The second poem, an Epithalamium sung by the souls of Francois Ravaillac and Charlotte Corday, contains several lubricious passages in which these two assassins–of Henry IV (Henry of Navarre) and Marat respectively–express their passion for each other and describe their preferred kinds of lovemaking. Toward the end of one passage appear these lines that apparently convey a more political message (lines 109-112):

Bu t wat is sweeter to revenge’s ear
Than the fell tyrant’s last expiring yell?
Yes! than love’s sweetest blisses ‘tis more dear
To drink the floatings of a despot’s knell.[5]
Paragraph #10 The first two words of this quatrain appear in all later editions as “But what”; here they contain an apparent typographical error, in which the h of “what” is missing and the t of “But” has slipped to the right until it is equidistant between the Bu and wat. This apparent typo has been silently corrected by all previous editors, presumably on the assumption that the type-characters had worked loose in the chase, the letter h had fallen out, and the t had shifted slightly toward the neighboring word. But all five copies of Posthumous Fragments that we examined contain exactly the same typographical error, with identical spacing between the letters, a uniformity that should not occur in a situation where pressure was applied and released for each page impression, unless lead spaces had been inserted to keep the loose types in the same location. Shelley, it seems to us–perhaps egged on by Hogg and other friends–purposely introduced the typo here to produce a vulgarism very amusing to the sophomoric mind: “But what” has become “Bu t wat“– a sure-fire way to sell a poem at Oxford in 1810. (As the Oxford English Dictionary points out, Robert Browning, raised in a much more sheltered environment than Shelley’s, employed the word “twat” in the first edition of Pippa Passes under the misapprehension that it “denoted some part of a nun’s attire.”)
Paragraph #11 There are many stories–most originating in the Victorian period–about the “virginal” mind of an angelic Shelley and how he could not abide coarse speech and impure stories. Then why did he enjoy Byron’s company so much? He was, Byron said, the finest gentleman ever to walk across a drawing room; what we sometimes forget is that Byron’s implicit ideal is a Regency aristocrat, who need be burdened by few restrictions of thought, word, or deed. As has recently come to light, Shelley wrote not one but two early verse-letters to his friend Edward Fergus Graham, a music-master a few years older than Shelley who had been raised–or at least sponsored–by Shelley’s parents. After hearing rumors that Graham has been carrying on an affair with Mrs. Shelley and had thus cuckolded the father whom Shelley despised, Shelley says in the first verse-letter that he is disinclined to believe the accusation on the grounds that Elizabeth Pilfold Shelley (then forty-eight) was too old to attract a young stud like twenty-five-year-old Graham. In the second verse-letter, however, Shelley not only admits the possibility of a liaison between Graham and Elizabeth Pilfold Shelley, but he positively encourages Graham to cuckold Timothy Shelley by sleeping with Shelley’s own mother. The story is more convoluted than there is time to tell here–or even in The Complete Poetry –but fortunately this second verse-letter to Graham has recently been purchased for the Pforzheimer Collection and will appear, with a facsimile, in Volume IX of Shelley and his Circle , where there is room to explore those complexities more adequately.
Paragraph #12 The paramount implication of the foregoing examples is that Shelley, like Byron, was a scion of the Regency aristocracy and in his youth was influenced by their coarse attitudes and language. Shelley’s draft manuscripts abound with drawings and doodlings, and besides his well-known sketches of romantic landscapes, sailboats, and demonic figures, he also did playful sketches of two boys in Eton costume urinating into a stream and (among the drafts of Adonais ) sketched a small naked male figure with a spear (probably representing John Keats as Adonis) who was being urinated upon by a headless torso (probably representing the anonymous reviewers of the Quarterly Review[6]). These late drawings, like the early typographical vulgarism, remind us that Shelley (unlike some of his Victorian admirers) never put on prudish airs. As he wrote in a note on the sculpture of an athlete at an Italian museum, “Curse these fig leaves; why is a round tin thing more decent than a cylindrical marble one?”[7] As an angry young man, in 1817 he vehemently declared in Laon and Cythna, both in its Preface and the poem (, that “to the pure all things are pure!” including brother-sister incest, though he added in a footnote to the Preface, “The sentiments connected with and characteristic of this circumstance have no personal reference to the Writer.”

Paragraph #13 The foregoing examples merely sample some kinds of research involved on a few of the simpler poems in Volume I of The Collected Poetry that I have taken the lead with. Neil Fraistat has thus far centered much of his attention on Queen Mab , Shelley’s comprehensive articulation of his world view during the period of his strongest affinity for the ideals of the Enlightenment. Much of his time was, therefore, devoted to reading the works of the major French and British writers who influenced Shelley during the period–Holbach, Rousseau, Volney, Erasmus Darwin, Godwin, etc., as well as tracking down the specific sources of Shelley’s quotations and references to facts about astronomy, theology, marriage customs around the world, vegetarianism, Eskimos, Hottentots, and so forth.
Paragraph #14 Thanks to the Collate program developed by Peter Robinson at Oxford, our grad-student colleagues have collated and recollated our proposed texts against both the primary authorities and earlier critical editions, and the results have aided us both to weed out errors in our own work and to identify textual cruxes where other editors felt the need to revise the words, pointing, or orthography of Shelley’s manuscripts and original editions. While analyzing hundreds of these textual cruxes, Neil and I made it our policy and goal to retain the reading found in Shelley’s copy-text, even where all earlier editors had emended it, except where we could convince each other that the original reading cannot not be justified within the contexts of its immediate syntactical unit and the larger structures of stanza, canto, or poem. Our notes note both where and why we finally did emend the text and comment on many cases where we declined to do so–usually because we found concrete evidence that Shelley’s text was congruent with literary precedent, contemporary usage, or specific ideas or information in books used by, or at least available to him. During this process of trying to understand his poetry sentence by sentence and word by word, we traced Shelley’s unusual diction to the poets who used these words earlier–and comment in our notes upon Shelley’s debts and innovations, as well as their significance.


       HOW wonderful is Death,
       Death, and his brother Sleep!
     One, pale as yonder waning moon
       With lips of lurid blue;
       The other, rosy as the morn
     When throned on ocean's wave
           It blushes o'er the world;
     Yet both so passing wonderful!

       Hath then the gloomy Power
   Whose reign is in the tainted sepulchres                           10
       Seized on her sinless soul?
       Must then that peerless form
   Which love and admiration cannot view
   Without a beating heart, those azure veins
   Which steal like streams along a field of snow,
     That lovely outline which is fair
       As breathing marble, perish?
       Must putrefaction's breath
     Leave nothing of this heavenly sight
       But loathsomeness and ruin?                                    20
     Spare nothing but a gloomy theme,
   On which the lightest heart might moralize?
       Or is it only a sweet slumber
       Stealing o'er sensation,
     Which the breath of roseate morning
           Chaseth into darkness?
           Will Ianthe wake again,
       And give that faithful bosom joy
     Whose sleepless spirit waits to catch
     Light, life and rapture, from her smile?                         30

           Yes! she will wake again,
   Although her glowing limbs are motionless,
           And silent those sweet lips,
           Once breathing eloquence
     That might have soothed a tiger's rage
   Or thawed the cold heart of a conqueror.
           Her dewy eyes are closed,
     And on their lids, whose texture fine
     Scarce hides the dark blue orbs beneath,
           The baby Sleep is pillowed;                                40
           Her golden tresses shade
           The bosom's stainless pride,
       Curling like tendrils of the parasite
           Around a marble column.

       Hark! whence that rushing sound?
           'T is like the wondrous strain
       That round a lonely ruin swells,
       Which, wandering on the echoing shore,
           The enthusiast hears at evening;
       'T is softer than the west wind's sigh;                        50
       'T is wilder than the unmeasured notes
       Of that strange lyre whose strings
       The genii of the breezes sweep;
           Those lines of rainbow light
       Are like the moonbeams when they fall
   Through some cathedral window, but the tints
           Are such as may not find
           Comparison on earth.

   Behold the chariot of the Fairy Queen!
   Celestial coursers paw the unyielding air;                         60
   Their filmy pennons at her word they furl,
   And stop obedient to the reins of light;
     These the Queen of Spells drew in;
     She spread a charm around the spot,
   And, leaning graceful from the ethereal car,
     Long did she gaze, and silently,
           Upon the slumbering maid.

   Oh! not the visioned poet in his dreams,
   When silvery clouds float through the wildered brain,
   When every sight of lovely, wild and grand                         70
     Astonishes, enraptures, elevates,
       When fancy at a glance combines
       The wondrous and the beautiful,--
     So bright, so fair, so wild a shape
           Hath ever yet beheld,
   As that which reined the coursers of the air
     And poured the magic of her gaze
           Upon the maiden's sleep.

       The broad and yellow moon
       Shone dimly through her form--                                 80
     That form of faultless symmetry;
     The pearly and pellucid car
       Moved not the moonlight's line.
       'T was not an earthly pageant.
     Those, who had looked upon the sight
       Passing all human glory,
       Saw not the yellow moon,
       Saw not the mortal scene,
       Heard not the night-wind's rush,
       Heard not an earthly sound,                                    90
       Saw but the fairy pageant,
       Heard but the heavenly strains
       That filled the lonely dwelling.

   The Fairy's frame was slight--yon fibrous cloud,
   That catches but the palest tinge of even,
   And which the straining eye can hardly seize
   When melting into eastern twilight's shadow,
   Were scarce so thin, so slight; but the fair star
   That gems the glittering coronet of morn,
   Sheds not a light so mild, so powerful,                           100
   As that which, bursting from the Fairy's form,
   Spread a purpureal halo round the scene,
       Yet with an undulating motion,
       Swayed to her outline gracefully.

       From her celestial car
       The Fairy Queen descended,
       And thrice she waved her wand
     Circled with wreaths of amaranth;
       Her thin and misty form
       Moved with the moving air,                                    110
       And the clear silver tones,
       As thus she spoke, were such
     As are unheard by all but gifted ear.

    'Stars! your balmiest influence shed!
     Elements! your wrath suspend!
     Sleep, Ocean, in the rocky bounds
       That circle thy domain!
     Let not a breath be seen to stir
     Around yon grass-grown ruin's height!
       Let even the restless gossamer                                120
       Sleep on the moveless air!
       Soul of Ianthe! thou,
   Judged alone worthy of the envied boon
   That waits the good and the sincere; that waits
   Those who have struggled, and with resolute will
   Vanquished earth's pride and meanness, burst the chains,
   The icy chains of custom, and have shone
   The day-stars of their age;--Soul of
           Awake! arise!'

           Sudden arose                                              130
       Ianthe's Soul; it stood
     All beautiful in naked purity,
   The perfect semblance of its bodily frame;
   Instinct with inexpressible beauty and grace--
         Each stain of earthliness
       Had passed away--it reassumed
       Its native dignity and stood
         Immortal amid ruin.

       Upon the couch the body lay,
       Wrapt in the depth of slumber;                                140
   Its features were fixed and meaningless,
       Yet animal life was there,
       And every organ yet performed
       Its natural functions; 'twas a sight
   Of wonder to behold the body and the soul.
       The self-same lineaments, the same
       Marks of identity were there;
   Yet, oh, how different! One aspires to Heaven,
   Pants for its sempiternal heritage,
   And, ever changing, ever rising still,                            150
       Wantons in endless being:
   The other, for a time the unwilling sport
   Of circumstance and passion, struggles on;
   Fleets through its sad duration rapidly;
   Then like an useless and worn-out machine,
       Rots, perishes, and passes.

      'Spirit! who hast dived so deep;
       Spirit! who hast soared so high;
       Thou the fearless, thou the mild,
     Accept the boon thy worth hath earned,                          160
       Ascend the car with me!'

      'Do I dream? Is this new feeling
       But a visioned ghost of slumber?
           If indeed I am a soul,
       A free, a disembodied soul,
           Speak again to me.'

    'I am the Fairy MAB: to me 'tis given
     The wonders of the human world to keep;
     The secrets of the immeasurable past,
     In the unfailing consciences of men,                            170
     Those stern, unflattering chroniclers, I find;
     The future, from the causes which arise
     In each event, I gather; not the sting
     Which retributive memory implants
     In the hard bosom of the selfish man,
     Nor that ecstatic and exulting throb
     Which virtue's votary feels when he sums up
     The thoughts and actions of a well-spent day,
     Are unforeseen, unregistered by me;
     And it is yet permitted me to rend                              180
     The veil of mortal frailty, that the spirit,
     Clothed in its changeless purity, may know
     How soonest to accomplish the great end
     For which it hath its being, and may taste
     That peace which in the end all life will share.
     This is the meed of virtue; happy Soul,
        Ascend the car with me!'

     The chains of earth's immurement
       Fell from Ianthe's spirit;
   They shrank and brake like bandages of straw                      190
     Beneath a wakened giant's strength.
       She knew her glorious change,
     And felt in apprehension uncontrolled
       New raptures opening round;
     Each day-dream of her mortal life,
     Each frenzied vision of the slumbers
       That closed each well-spent day,
       Seemed now to meet reality.
     The Fairy and the Soul proceeded;
       The silver clouds disparted;                                  200
     And as the car of magic they ascended,
       Again the speechless music swelled,
       Again the coursers of the air
   Unfurled their azure pennons, and the Queen,
       Shaking the beamy reins,
       Bade them pursue their way.

       The magic car moved on.
     The night was fair, and countless stars
     Studded heaven's dark blue vault;
       Just o'er the eastern wave 210
     Peeped the first faint smile of morn.
       The magic car moved on--
       From the celestial hoofs
     The atmosphere in flaming sparkles flew,
       And where the burning wheels
     Eddied above the mountain's loftiest peak,
       Was traced a line of lightning.
       Now it flew far above a rock,
       The utmost verge of earth,
     The rival of the Andes, whose dark brow                         220
       Lowered o'er the silver sea.

       Far, far below the chariot's path,
         Calm as a slumbering babe,
         Tremendous Ocean lay.
       The mirror of its stillness showed
         The pale and waning stars,
         The chariot's fiery track,
         And the gray light of morn
         Tinging those fleecy clouds
         That canopied the dawn.                                     230

     Seemed it that the chariot's way
   Lay through the midst of an immense concave
   Radiant with million constellations, tinged
       With shades of infinite color,
       And semicircled with a belt
       Flashing incessant meteors.

       The magic car moved on.
       As they approached their goal,
     The coursers seemed to gather speed;
   The sea no longer was distinguished; earth                        240
     Appeared a vast and shadowy sphere;
       The sun's unclouded orb
       Rolled through the black concave;
       Its rays of rapid light
   Parted around the chariot's swifter course,
     And fell, like ocean's feathery spray
       Dashed from the boiling surge
       Before a vessel's prow.

       The magic car moved on.
       Earth's distant orb appeared                                  250
   The smallest light that twinkles in the heaven;
       Whilst round the chariot's way
       Innumerable systems rolled
       And countless spheres diffused
       An ever-varying glory.
     It was a sight of wonder: some
     Were hornèd like the crescent moon;
     Some shed a mild and silver beam
     Like Hesperus o'er the western sea;
     Some dashed athwart with trains of flame,                       260
     Like worlds to death and ruin driven;
   Some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed,
       Eclipsed all other light.

           Spirit of Nature! here--
       In this interminable wilderness
       Of worlds, at whose immensity
           Even soaring fancy staggers,
           Here is thy fitting temple!
             Yet not the lightest leaf
         That quivers to the passing breeze                          270
           Is less instinct with thee;
           Yet not the meanest worm
     That lurks in graves and fattens on the dead,
       Less shares thy eternal breath!
         Spirit of Nature! thou,
       Imperishable as this scene--
         Here is thy fitting temple!

     If solitude hath ever led thy steps
       To the wild ocean's echoing shore,
       And thou hast lingered there,
       Until the sun's broad orb
     Seemed resting on the burnished wave,
       Thou must have marked the lines
     Of purple gold that motionless
       Hung o'er the sinking sphere;
     Thou must have marked the billowy clouds,
     Edged with intolerable radiancy,                                 10
       Towering like rocks of jet
       Crowned with a diamond wreath;
       And yet there is a moment,
       When the sun's highest point
   Peeps like a star o'er ocean's western edge,
   When those far clouds of feathery gold,
     Shaded with deepest purple, gleam
     Like islands on a dark blue sea;
   Then has thy fancy soared above the earth
       And furled its wearied wing                                    20
       Within the Fairy's fane.

       Yet not the golden islands
       Gleaming in yon flood of light,
           Nor the feathery curtains
       Stretching o'er the sun's bright couch,
       Nor the burnished ocean-waves
           Paving that gorgeous dome,
     So fair, so wonderful a sight
   As Mab's ethereal palace could afford.
   Yet likest evening's vault, that faëry Hall!                  30
   As Heaven, low resting on the wave, it spread
           Its floors of flashing light,
           Its vast and azure dome,
           Its fertile golden islands
           Floating on a silver sea;
   Whilst suns their mingling beamings darted
   Through clouds of circumambient darkness,
     And pearly battlements around
     Looked o'er the immense of Heaven.

     The magic car no longer moved.                                   40
       The Fairy and the Spirit
       Entered the Hall of Spells.
         Those golden clouds
       That rolled in glittering billows
       Beneath the azure canopy,
   With the ethereal footsteps trembled not;
           The light and crimson mists,
   Floating to strains of thrilling melody
       Through that unearthly dwelling,
   Yielded to every movement of the will;                             50
   Upon their passive swell the Spirit leaned,
   And, for the varied bliss that pressed around,
     Used not the glorious privilege
       Of virtue and of wisdom.

      'Spirit!' the Fairy said,
     And pointed to the gorgeous dome,
      'This is a wondrous sight
       And mocks all human grandeur;
   But, were it virtue's only meed to dwell
   In a celestial palace, all resigned                                60
   To pleasurable impulses, immured
   Within the prison of itself, the will
   Of changeless Nature would be unfulfilled.
   Learn to make others happy. Spirit, come!
   This is thine high reward:--the past shall rise;
   Thou shalt behold the present; I will teach
           The secrets of the future.'

           The Fairy and the Spirit
   Approached the overhanging battlement.
       Below lay stretched the universe!                              70
       There, far as the remotest line
       That bounds imagination's flight,
         Countless and unending orbs
       In mazy motion intermingled,
       Yet still fulfilled immutably
           Eternal Nature's law.
           Above, below, around,
           The circling systems formed
           A wilderness of harmony;
       Each with undeviating aim,                                     80
   In eloquent silence, through the depths of space
           Pursued its wondrous way.

           There was a little light
   That twinkled in the misty distance.
           None but a spirit's eye
           Might ken that rolling orb.
           None but a spirit's eye,
           And in no other place
   But that celestial dwelling, might behold
   Each action of this earth's inhabitants.                           90
           But matter, space, and time,
   In those aërial mansions cease to act;
   And all-prevailing wisdom, when it reaps
   The harvest of its excellence, o'erbounds
   Those obstacles of which an earthly soul
       Fears to attempt the conquest.

       The Fairy pointed to the earth.
       The Spirit's intellectual eye
       Its kindred beings recognized.
   The thronging thousands, to a passing view,                       100
       Seemed like an ant-hill's citizens.
           How wonderful! that even
     The passions, prejudices, interests,
   That sway the meanest being--the weak touch
           That moves the finest nerve
           And in one human brain
   Causes the faintest thought, becomes a link
       In the great chain of Nature!

      'Behold,' the Fairy cried,
      'Palmyra's ruined palaces!                                     110
       Behold where grandeur frowned!
       Behold where pleasure smiled!
     What now remains?--the memory
       Of senselessness and shame.
       What is immortal there?
       Nothing--it stands to tell
       A melancholy tale, to give
       An awful warning; soon
     Oblivion will steal silently
       The remnant of its fame.                                      120
       Monarchs and conquerors there
     Proud o'er prostrate millions trod--
     The earthquakes of the human race;
     Like them, forgotten when the ruin
       That marks their shock is past.

      'Beside the eternal Nile
       The Pyramids have risen.
     Nile shall pursue his changeless way;
         Those Pyramids shall fall.
     Yea! not a stone shall stand to tell                            130
         The spot whereon they stood;
     Their very site shall be forgotten,
         As is their builder's name!

        'Behold yon sterile spot,
     Where now the wandering Arab's tent
         Flaps in the desert blast!
     There once old Salem's haughty fane
   Reared high to heaven its thousand golden domes,
     And in the blushing face of day
       Exposed its shameful glory.                                   140
   Oh! many a widow, many an orphan cursed
   The building of that fane; and many a father,
   Worn out with toil and slavery, implored
   The poor man's God to sweep it from the earth
   And spare his children the detested task
   Of piling stone on stone and poisoning
         The choicest days of life
         To soothe a dotard's vanity.
   There an inhuman and uncultured race
   Howled hideous praises to their Demon-God;                        150
   They rushed to war, tore from the mother's womb
   The unborn child--old age and infancy
   Promiscuous perished; their victorious arms
   Left not a soul to breathe. Oh! they were fiends!
   But what was he who taught them that the God
   Of Nature and benevolence had given
   A special sanction to the trade of blood?
   His name and theirs are fading, and the tales
   Of this barbarian nation, which imposture
   Recites till terror credits, are pursuing                         160
     Itself into forgetfulness.

    'Where Athens, Rome, and Sparta stood,
     There is a moral desert now.
     The mean and miserable huts,
     The yet more wretched palaces,
     Contrasted with those ancient fanes
     Now crumbling to oblivion,--
     The long and lonely colonnades
     Through which the ghost of Freedom stalks,--
       Seem like a well-known tune,                                  170
   Which in some dear scene we have loved to hear,
       Remembered now in sadness.
       But, oh! how much more changed,
       How gloomier is the contrast
       Of human nature there!
   Where Socrates expired, a tyrant's slave,
   A coward and a fool, spreads death around--
       Then, shuddering, meets his own.
     Where Cicero and Antoninus lived,
     A cowled and hypocritical monk                                  180
         Prays, curses and deceives.

      'Spirit! ten thousand years
       Have scarcely passed away,
   Since in the waste, where now the savage drinks
   His enemy's blood, and, aping Europe's sons,
       Wakes the unholy song of war,
           Arose a stately city,
   Metropolis of the western continent.
     There, now, the mossy column-stone,
   Indented by time's unrelaxing grasp,                              190
       Which once appeared to brave
       All, save its country's ruin,--
       There the wide forest scene,
   Rude in the uncultivated loveliness
       Of gardens long run wild,--
   Seems, to the unwilling sojourner whose steps
     Chance in that desert has delayed,
   Thus to have stood since earth was what it is.
     Yet once it was the busiest haunt,
   Whither, as to a common centre, flocked                           200
     Strangers, and ships, and merchandise;
       Once peace and freedom blest
       The cultivated plain;
       But wealth, that curse of man,
   Blighted the bud of its prosperity;
   Virtue and wisdom, truth and liberty,
   Fled, to return not, until man shall know
     That they alone can give the bliss
       Worthy a soul that claims
       Its kindred with eternity.                                    210

    'There 's not one atom of yon earth
       But once was living man;
     Nor the minutest drop of rain,
     That hangeth in its thinnest cloud,
       But flowed in human veins;
       And from the burning plains
       Where Libyan monsters yell,
       From the most gloomy glens
       Of Greenland's sunless clime,
       To where the golden fields                                    220
       Of fertile England spread
       Their harvest to the day,
       Thou canst not find one spot
       Whereon no city stood.

      'How strange is human pride!
     I tell thee that those living things,
     To whom the fragile blade of grass
       That springeth in the morn
       And perisheth ere noon,
       Is an unbounded world;                                        230
     I tell thee that those viewless beings,
     Whose mansion is the smallest particle
       Of the impassive atmosphere,
       Think, feel and live like man;
     That their affections and antipathies,
       Like his, produce the laws
       Ruling their moral state;
       And the minutest throb
     That through their frame diffuses
       The slightest, faintest motion,                               240
       Is fixed and indispensable
       As the majestic laws
       That rule yon rolling orbs.'

       The Fairy paused. The Spirit,
   In ecstasy of admiration, felt
   All knowledge of the past revived; the events
       Of old and wondrous times,
   Which dim tradition interruptedly
   Teaches the credulous vulgar, were unfolded
     In just perspective to the view;                                250
     Yet dim from their infinitude.
       The Spirit seemed to stand
   High on an isolated pinnacle;
   The flood of ages combating below,
   The depth of the unbounded universe
       Above, and all around
     Nature's unchanging harmony.

      'Fairy!' the Spirit said,
       And on the Queen of Spells
       Fixed her ethereal eyes,
      'I thank thee. Thou hast given
   A boon which I will not resign, and taught
   A lesson not to be unlearned. I know
   The past, and thence I will essay to glean
   A warning for the future, so that man
   May profit by his errors and derive
       Experience from his folly;                                     10
   For, when the power of imparting joy
   Is equal to the will, the human soul
       Requires no other heaven.'

      'Turn thee, surpassing Spirit!
       Much yet remains unscanned.
       Thou knowest how great is man,
       Thou knowest his imbecility;
       Yet learn thou what he is;
       Yet learn the lofty destiny
       Which restless Time prepares                                   20
       For every living soul.

   'Behold a gorgeous palace that amid
   Yon populous city rears its thousand towers
   And seems itself a city. Gloomy troops
   Of sentinels in stern and silent ranks
   Encompass it around; the dweller there
   Cannot be free and happy; hearest thou not
   The curses of the fatherless, the groans
   Of those who have no friend? He passes on--
   The King, the wearer of a gilded chain                             30
   That binds his soul to abjectness, the fool
   Whom courtiers nickname monarch, whilst a slave
   Even to the basest appetites--that man
   Heeds not the shriek of penury; he smiles
   At the deep curses which the destitute
   Mutter in secret, and a sullen joy
   Pervades his bloodless heart when thousands groan
   But for those morsels which his wantonness
   Wastes in unjoyous revelry, to save
   All that they love from famine; when he hears                      40
   The tale of horror, to some ready-made face
   Of hypocritical assent he turns,
   Smothering the glow of shame, that, spite of him,
   Flushes his bloated cheek.

                               Now to the meal
   Of silence, grandeur and excess he drags
   His palled unwilling appetite. If gold,
   Gleaming around, and numerous viands culled
   From every clime could force the loathing sense
   To overcome satiety,--if wealth
   The spring it draws from poisons not,--or vice,                    50
   Unfeeling, stubborn vice, converteth not
   Its food to deadliest venom; then that king
   Is happy; and the peasant who fulfils
   His unforced task, when he returns at even
   And by the blazing fagot meets again
   Her welcome for whom all his toil is sped,
   Tastes not a sweeter meal.

                               Behold him now
   Stretched on the gorgeous couch; his fevered brain
   Reels dizzily awhile; but ah! too soon
   The slumber of intemperance subsides,                              60
   And conscience, that undying serpent, calls
   Her venomous brood to their nocturnal task.
   Listen! he speaks! oh! mark that frenzied eye--
   Oh! mark that deadly visage!'

                                  'No cessation!
   Oh! must this last forever! Awful death,
   I wish, yet fear to clasp thee!--Not one moment
   Of dreamless sleep! O dear and blessèd Peace,
   Why dost thou shroud thy vestal purity
   In penury and dungeons? Wherefore lurkest
   With danger, death, and solitude; yet shun'st                      70
   The palace I have built thee? Sacred Peace!
   Oh, visit me but once,--but pitying shed
   One drop of balm upon my withered soul!'

   'Vain man! that palace is the virtuous heart,
   And Peace defileth not her snowy robes
   In such a shed as thine. Hark! yet he mutters;
   His slumbers are but varied agonies;
   They prey like scorpions on the springs of life.
   There needeth not the hell that bigots frame
   To punish those who err; earth in itself                           80
   Contains at once the evil and the cure;
   And all-sufficing Nature can chastise
   Those who transgress her law; she only knows
   How justly to proportion to the fault
   The punishment it merits.

                              Is it strange
   That this poor wretch should pride him in his woe?
   Take pleasure in his abjectness, and hug
   The scorpion that consumes him? Is it strange
   That, placed on a conspicuous throne of thorns,
   Grasping an iron sceptre, and immured                              90
   Within a splendid prison whose stern bounds
   Shut him from all that's good or dear on earth,
   His soul asserts not its humanity?
   That man's mild nature rises not in war
   Against a king's employ? No--'tis not strange.
   He, like the vulgar, thinks, feels, acts, and lives
   Just as his father did; the unconquered powers
   Of precedent and custom interpose
   Between a king and virtue. Stranger yet,
   To those who know not Nature nor deduce                           100
   The future from the present, it may seem,
   That not one slave, who suffers from the crimes
   Of this unnatural being, not one wretch,
   Whose children famish and whose nuptial bed
   Is earth's unpitying bosom, rears an arm
   To dash him from his throne!

                                 Those gilded flies
   That, basking in the sunshine of a court,
   Fatten on its corruption! what are they?--
   The drones of the community; they feed
   On the mechanic's labor; the starved hind                         110
   For them compels the stubborn glebe to yield
   Its unshared harvests; and yon squalid form,
   Leaner than fleshless misery, that wastes
   A sunless life in the unwholesome mine,
   Drags out in labor a protracted death
   To glut their grandeur; many faint with toil
   That few may know the cares and woe of sloth.

   Whence, thinkest thou, kings and parasites arose?
   Whence that unnatural line of drones who heap
   Toil and unvanquishable penury                                    120
   On those who build their palaces and bring
   Their daily bread?--From vice, black loathsome vice;
   From rapine, madness, treachery, and wrong;
   From all that genders misery, and makes
   Of earth this thorny wilderness; from lust,
   Revenge, and murder.--And when reason's voice,
   Loud as the voice of Nature, shall have waked
   The nations; and mankind perceive that vice
   Is discord, war and misery; that virtue
   Is peace and happiness and harmony;                               130
   When man's maturer nature shall disdain
   The playthings of its childhood;--kingly glare
   Will lose its power to dazzle, its authority
   Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne
   Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,
   Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood's trade
   Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
   As that of truth is now.

                             Where is the fame
   Which the vain-glorious mighty of the earth
   Seek to eternize? Oh! the faintest sound                          140
   From time's light footfall, the minutest wave
   That swells the flood of ages, whelms in nothing
   The unsubstantial bubble. Ay! to-day
   Stern is the tyrant's mandate, red the gaze
   That flashes desolation, strong the arm
   That scatters multitudes. To-morrow comes!
   That mandate is a thunder-peal that died
   In ages past; that gaze, a transient flash
   On which the midnight closed; and on that arm
   The worm has made his meal.

                                The virtuous man,                    150
   Who, great in his humility as kings
   Are little in their grandeur; he who leads
   Invincibly a life of resolute good
   And stands amid the silent dungeon-depths
   More free and fearless than the trembling judge
   Who, clothed in venal power, vainly strove
   To bind the impassive spirit;--when he falls,
   His mild eye beams benevolence no more;
   Withered the hand outstretched but to relieve;
   Sunk reason's simple eloquence that rolled                        160
   But to appall the guilty. Yes! the grave
   Hath quenched that eye and death's relentless frost
   Withered that arm; but the unfading fame
   Which virtue hangs upon its votary's tomb,
   The deathless memory of that man whom kings
   Call to their minds and tremble, the remembrance
   With which the happy spirit contemplates
   Its well-spent pilgrimage on earth,
   Shall never pass away.

   'Nature rejects the monarch, not the man;                         170
   The subject, not the citizen; for kings
   And subjects, mutual foes, forever play
   A losing game into each other's hands,
   Whose stakes are vice and misery. The man
   Of virtuous soul commands not, nor obeys.
   Power, like a desolating pestilence,
   Pollutes whate'er it touches; and obedience,
   Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,
   Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame
   A mechanized automaton.

                            When Nero                                180
   High over flaming Rome with savage joy
   Lowered like a fiend, drank with enraptured ear
   The shrieks of agonizing death, beheld
   The frightful desolation spread, and felt
   A new-created sense within his soul
   Thrill to the sight and vibrate to the sound,--
   Thinkest thou his grandeur had not overcome
   The force of human kindness? And when Rome
   With one stern blow hurled not the tyrant down,
   Crushed not the arm red with her dearest blood,                   190
   Had not submissive abjectness destroyed
   Nature's suggestions?

                          Look on yonder earth:
   The golden harvests spring; the unfailing sun
   Sheds light and life; the fruits, the flowers, the trees,
   Arise in due succession; all things speak
   Peace, harmony and love. The universe,
   In Nature's silent eloquence, declares
   That all fulfil the works of love and joy,--
   All but the outcast, Man. He fabricates
   The sword which stabs his peace; he cherisheth                    200
   The snakes that gnaw his heart; he raiseth up
   The tyrant whose delight is in his woe,
   Whose sport is in his agony. Yon sun,
   Lights it the great alone? Yon silver beams,
   Sleep they less sweetly on the cottage thatch
   Than on the dome of kings? Is mother earth
   A step-dame to her numerous sons who earn
   Her unshared gifts with unremitting toil;
   A mother only to those puling babes
   Who, nursed in ease and luxury, make men                          210
   The playthings of their babyhood and mar
   In self-important childishness that peace
   Which men alone appreciate?

      'Spirit of Nature, no!
   The pure diffusion of thy essence throbs
     Alike in every human heart.
       Thou aye erectest there
     Thy throne of power unappealable;
     Thou art the judge beneath whose nod
     Man's brief and frail authority                                 220
       Is powerless as the wind
       That passeth idly by;
     Thine the tribunal which surpasseth
       The show of human justice
       As God surpasses man!

      'Spirit of Nature! thou
   Life of interminable multitudes;
     Soul of those mighty spheres
   Whose changeless paths through Heaven's deep silence lie;
     Soul of that smallest being,                                    230
       The dwelling of whose life
     Is one faint April sun-gleam;--
       Man, like these passive things,
   Thy will unconsciously fulfilleth;
     Like theirs, his age of endless peace,
       Which time is fast maturing,
       Will swiftly, surely, come;
   And the unbounded frame which thou pervadest,
       Will be without a flaw
     Marring its perfect symmetry!                                   240

   'How beautiful this night! the balmiest sigh,
   Which vernal zephyrs breathe in evening's ear,
   Were discord to the speaking quietude
   That wraps this moveless scene. Heaven's ebon vault,
   Studded with stars unutterably bright,
   Through which the moon's unclouded grandeur rolls,
   Seems like a canopy which love had spread
   To curtain her sleeping world. Yon gentle hills.
   Robed in a garment of untrodden snow;
   Yon darksome rocks, whence icicles depend                          10
   So stainless that their white and glittering spires
   Tinge not the moon's pure beam; yon castled steep
   Whose banner hangeth o'er the time-worn tower
   So idly that rapt fancy deemeth it
   A metaphor of peace;--all form a scene
   Where musing solitude might love to lift
   Her soul above this sphere of earthliness;
   Where silence undisturbed might watch alone--
   So cold, so bright, so still.

                                  The orb of day
   In southern climes o'er ocean's waveless field                     20
   Sinks sweetly smiling; not the faintest breath
   Steals o'er the unruffled deep; the clouds of eve
   Reflect unmoved the lingering beam of day;
   And Vesper's image on the western main
   Is beautifully still. To-morrow comes:
   Cloud upon cloud, in dark and deepening mass,
   Roll o'er the blackened waters; the deep roar
   Of distant thunder mutters awfully;
   Tempest unfolds its pinion o'er the gloom
   That shrouds the boiling surge; the pitiless fiend,                30
   With all his winds and lightnings, tracks his prey;
   The torn deep yawns,--the vessel finds a grave
   Beneath its jagged gulf.

                             Ah! whence yon glare
   That fires the arch of heaven? that dark red smoke
   Blotting the silver moon? The stars are quenched
   In darkness, and the pure and spangling snow
   Gleams faintly through the gloom that gathers round.
   Hark to that roar whose swift and deafening peals
   In countless echoes through the mountains ring,
   Startling pale Midnight on her starry throne!                      40
   Now swells the intermingling din; the jar
   Frequent and frightful of the bursting bomb;
   The falling beam, the shriek, the groan, the shout,
   The ceaseless clangor, and the rush of men
   Inebriate with rage:--loud and more loud
   The discord grows; till pale Death shuts the scene
   And o'er the conqueror and the conquered draws
   His cold and bloody shroud.--Of all the men
   Whom day's departing beam saw blooming there
   In proud and vigorous health; of all the hearts                    50
   That beat with anxious life at sunset there;
   How few survive, how few are beating now!
   All is deep silence, like the fearful calm
   That slumbers in the storm's portentous pause;
   Save when the frantic wail of widowed love
   Comes shuddering on the blast, or the faint moan
   With which some soul bursts from the frame of clay
   Wrapt round its struggling powers.

                                       The gray morn
   Dawns on the mournful scene; the sulphurous smoke
   Before the icy wind slow rolls away,                               60
   And the bright beams of frosty morning dance
   Along the spangling snow. There tracks of blood
   Even to the forest's depth, and scattered arms,
   And lifeless warriors, whose hard lineaments
   Death's self could change not, mark the dreadful path
   Of the outsallying victors; far behind
   Black ashes note where their proud city stood.
   Within yon forest is a gloomy glen--
   Each tree which guards its darkness from the day,
   Waves o'er a warrior's tomb.

                                 I see thee shrink,                   70
   Surpassing Spirit!--wert thou human else?
   I see a shade of doubt and horror fleet
   Across thy stainless features; yet fear not;
   This is no unconnected misery,
   Nor stands uncaused and irretrievable.
   Man's evil nature, that apology
   Which kings who rule, and cowards who crouch, set up
   For their unnumbered crimes, sheds not the blood
   Which desolates the discord-wasted land.
   From kings and priests and statesmen war arose,                    80
   Whose safety is man's deep unbettered woe,
   Whose grandeur his debasement. Let the axe
   Strike at the root, the poison-tree will fall;
   And where its venomed exhalations spread
   Ruin, and death, and woe, where millions lay
   Quenching the serpent's famine, and their bones
   Bleaching unburied in the putrid blast,
   A garden shall arise, in loveliness
   Surpassing fabled Eden.

                            Hath Nature's soul,--
   That formed this world so beautiful, that spread                   90
   Earth's lap with plenty, and life's smallest chord
   Strung to unchanging unison, that gave
   The happy birds their dwelling in the grove,
   That yielded to the wanderers of the deep
   The lovely silence of the unfathomed main,
   And filled the meanest worm that crawls in dust
   With spirit, thought and love,--on Man alone,
   Partial in causeless malice, wantonly
   Heaped ruin, vice, and slavery; his soul
   Blasted with withering curses; placed afar                        100
   The meteor-happiness, that shuns his grasp,
   But serving on the frightful gulf to glare
   Rent wide beneath his footsteps?

   Kings, priests and statesmen blast the human flower
   Even in its tender bud; their influence darts
   Like subtle poison through the bloodless veins
   Of desolate society. The child,
   Ere he can lisp his mother's sacred name,
   Swells with the unnatural pride of crime, and lifts
   His baby-sword even in a hero's mood.                             110
   This infant arm becomes the bloodiest scourge
   Of devastated earth; whilst specious names,
   Learnt in soft childhood's unsuspecting hour,
   Serve as the sophisms with which manhood dims
   Bright reason's ray and sanctifies the sword
   Upraised to shed a brother's innocent blood.
   Let priest-led slaves cease to proclaim that man
   Inherits vice and misery, when force
   And falsehood hang even o'er the cradled babe,
   Stifling with rudest grasp all natural good.                      120

   'Ah! to the stranger-soul, when first it peeps
   From its new tenement and looks abroad
   For happiness and sympathy, how stern
   And desolate a tract is this wide world!
   How withered all the buds of natural good!
   No shade, no shelter from the sweeping storms
   Of pitiless power! On its wretched frame
   Poisoned, perchance, by the disease and woe
   Heaped on the wretched parent whence it sprung
   By morals, law and custom, the pure winds                         130
   Of heaven, that renovate the insect tribes,
   May breathe not. The untainting light of day
   May visit not its longings. It is bound
   Ere it has life; yea, all the chains are forged
   Long ere its being; all liberty and love
   And peace is torn from its defencelessness;
   Cursed from its birth, even from its cradle doomed
   To abjectness and bondage!

   'Throughout this varied and eternal world
   Soul is the only element, the block                               140
   That for uncounted ages has remained.
   The moveless pillar of a mountain's weight
   Is active living spirit. Every grain
   Is sentient both in unity and part,
   And the minutest atom comprehends
   A world of loves and hatreds; these beget
   Evil and good; hence truth and falsehood spring;
   Hence will and thought and action, all the germs
   Of pain or pleasure, sympathy or hate,
   That variegate the eternal universe.                              150
   Soul is not more polluted than the beams
   Of heaven's pure orb ere round their rapid lines
   The taint of earth-born atmospheres arise.

   'Man is of soul and body, formed for deeds
   Of high resolve; on fancy's boldest wing
   To soar unwearied, fearlessly to turn
   The keenest pangs to peacefulness, and taste
   The joys which mingled sense and spirit yield;
   Or he is formed for abjectness and woe,
   To grovel on the dunghill of his fears,                           160
   To shrink at every sound, to quench the flame
   Of natural love in sensualism, to know
   That hour as blest when on his worthless days
   The frozen hand of death shall set its seal,
   Yet fear the cure, though hating the disease.
   The one is man that shall hereafter be;
   The other, man as vice has made him now.

   'War is the statesman's game, the priest's delight,
   The lawyer's jest, the hired assassin's trade,
   And to those royal murderers whose mean thrones                   170
   Are bought by crimes of treachery and gore,
   The bread they eat, the staff on which they lean.
   Guards, garbed in blood-red livery, surround
   Their palaces, participate the crimes
   That force defends and from a nation's rage
   Secures the crown, which all the curses reach
   That famine, frenzy, woe and penury breathe.
   These are the hired bravos who defend
   The tyrant's throne--the bullies of his fear;
   These are the sinks and channels of worst vice,                   180
   The refuse of society, the dregs
   Of all that is most vile; their cold hearts blend
   Deceit with sternness, ignorance with pride,
   All that is mean and villainous with rage
   Which hopelessness of good and self-contempt
   Alone might kindle; they are decked in wealth,
   Honor and power, then are sent abroad
   To do their work. The pestilence that stalks
   In gloomy triumph through some eastern land
   Is less destroying. They cajole with gold                         190
   And promises of fame the thoughtless youth
   Already crushed with servitude; he knows
   His wretchedness too late, and cherishes
   Repentance for his ruin, when his doom
   Is sealed in gold and blood!
   Those too the tyrant serve, who, skilled to snare
   The feet of justice in the toils of law,
   Stand ready to oppress the weaker still,
   And right or wrong will vindicate for gold,
   Sneering at public virtue, which beneath                          200
   Their pitiless tread lies torn and trampled where
   Honor sits smiling at the sale of truth.

   'Then grave and hoary-headed hypocrites,
   Without a hope, a passion or a love,
   Who through a life of luxury and lies
   Have crept by flattery to the seats of power,
   Support the system whence their honors flow.
   They have three words--well tyrants know their use,
   Well pay them for the loan with usury
   Torn from a bleeding world!--God, Hell and Heaven:                210
   A vengeful, pitiless, and almighty fiend,
   Whose mercy is a nickname for the rage
   Of tameless tigers hungering for blood;
   Hell, a red gulf of everlasting fire,
   Where poisonous and undying worms prolong
   Eternal misery to those hapless slaves
   Whose life has been a penance for its crimes;
   And Heaven, a meed for those who dare belie
   Their human nature, quake, believe and cringe
   Before the mockeries of earthly power.                            220

   'These tools the tyrant tempers to his work,
   Wields in his wrath, and as he wills destroys,
   Omnipotent in wickedness; the while
   Youth springs, age moulders, manhood tamely does
   His bidding, bribed by short-lived joys to lend
   Force to the weakness of his trembling arm.
   They rise, they fall; one generation comes
   Yielding its harvest to destruction's scythe.
   It fades, another blossoms; yet behold!
   Red glows the tyrant's stamp-mark on its bloom,                   230
   Withering and cankering deep its passive prime.
   He has invented lying words and modes,
   Empty and vain as his own coreless heart;
   Evasive meanings, nothings of much sound,
   To lure the heedless victim to the toils
   Spread round the valley of its paradise.

   'Look to thyself, priest, conqueror or prince!
   Whether thy trade is falsehood, and thy lusts
   Deep wallow in the earnings of the poor,
   With whom thy master was; or thou delight'st                      240
   In numbering o'er the myriads of thy slain,
   All misery weighing nothing in the scale
   Against thy short-lived fame; or thou dost load
   With cowardice and crime the groaning land,
   A pomp-fed king. Look to thy wretched self!
   Ay, art thou not the veriest slave that e'er
   Crawled on the loathing earth? Are not thy days
   Days of unsatisfying listlessness?
   Dost thou not cry, ere night's long rack is o'er,
   "When will the morning come?" Is not thy youth                    250
   A vain and feverish dream of sensualism?
   Thy manhood blighted with unripe disease?
   Are not thy views of unregretted death
   Drear, comfortless and horrible? Thy mind,
   Is it not morbid as thy nerveless frame,
   Incapable of judgment, hope or love?
   And dost thou wish the errors to survive,
   That bar thee from all sympathies of good,
   After the miserable interest
   Thou hold'st in their protraction? When the grave                 260
   Has swallowed up thy memory and thyself,
   Dost thou desire the bane that poisons earth
   To twine its roots around thy coffined clay,
   Spring from thy bones, and blossom on thy tomb,
   That of its fruit thy babes may eat and die?

   'Thus do the generations of the earth
   Go to the grave and issue from the womb,
   Surviving still the imperishable change
   That renovates the world; even as the leaves
   Which the keen frost-wind of the waning year
   Has scattered on the forest-soil and heaped
   For many seasons there--though long they choke,
   Loading with loathsome rottenness the land,
   All germs of promise, yet when the tall trees
   From which they fell, shorn of their lovely shapes,                10
   Lie level with the earth to moulder there,
   They fertilize the land they long deformed;
   Till from the breathing lawn a forest springs
   Of youth, integrity and loveliness,
   Like that which gave it life, to spring and die.
   Thus suicidal selfishness, that blights
   The fairest feelings of the opening heart,
   Is destined to decay, whilst from the soil
   Shall spring all virtue, all delight, all love,
   And judgment cease to wage unnatural war                           20
   With passion's unsubduable array.
   Twin-sister of Religion, Selfishness!
   Rival in crime and falsehood, aping all
   The wanton horrors of her bloody play;
   Yet frozen, unimpassioned, spiritless,
   Shunning the light, and owning not its name,
   Compelled by its deformity to screen
   With flimsy veil of justice and of right
   Its unattractive lineaments that scare
   All save the brood of ignorance; at once                           30
   The cause and the effect of tyranny;
   Unblushing, hardened, sensual and vile;
   Dead to all love but of its abjectness;
   With heart impassive by more noble powers
   Than unshared pleasure, sordid gain, or fame;
   Despising its own miserable being,
   Which still it longs, yet fears, to disenthrall.

   'Hence commerce springs, the venal interchange
   Of all that human art or Nature yield;
   Which wealth should purchase not, but want demand,                 40
   And natural kindness hasten to supply
   From the full fountain of its boundless love,
   Forever stifled, drained and tainted now.
   Commerce! beneath whose poison-breathing shade
   No solitary virtue dares to spring,
   But poverty and wealth with equal hand
   Scatter their withering curses, and unfold
   The doors of premature and violent death
   To pining famine and full-fed disease,
   To all that shares the lot of human life,                          50
   Which, poisoned body and soul, scarce drags the chain
   That lengthens as it goes and clanks behind.

   'Commerce has set the mark of selfishness,
   The signet of its all-enslaving power,
   Upon a shining ore, and called it gold;
   Before whose image bow the vulgar great,
   The vainly rich, the miserable proud,
   The mob of peasants, nobles, priests and kings,
   And with blind feelings reverence the power
   That grinds them to the dust of misery.                            60
   But in the temple of their hireling hearts
   Gold is a living god and rules in scorn
   All earthly things but virtue.

   'Since tyrants by the sale of human life
   Heap luxuries to their sensualism, and fame
   To their wide-wasting and insatiate pride,
   Success has sanctioned to a credulous world
   The ruin, the disgrace, the woe of war.
   His hosts of blind and unresisting dupes
   The despot numbers; from his cabinet                               70
   These puppets of his schemes he moves at will,
   Even as the slaves by force or famine driven,
   Beneath a vulgar master, to perform
   A task of cold and brutal drudgery;--
   Hardened to hope, insensible to fear,
   Scarce living pulleys of a dead machine,
   Mere wheels of work and articles of trade,
   That grace the proud and noisy pomp of wealth!

   'The harmony and happiness of man
   Yields to the wealth of nations; that which lifts                  80
   His nature to the heaven of its pride,
   Is bartered for the poison of his soul;
   The weight that drags to earth his towering hopes,
   Blighting all prospect but of selfish gain,
   Withering all passion but of slavish fear,
   Extinguishing all free and generous love
   Of enterprise and daring, even the pulse
   That fancy kindles in the beating heart
   To mingle with sensation, it destroys,--
   Leaves nothing but the sordid lust of self,                        90
   The grovelling hope of interest and gold,
   Unqualified, unmingled, unredeemed
   Even by hypocrisy.

                       And statesmen boast
   Of wealth! The wordy eloquence that lives
   After the ruin of their hearts, can gild
   The bitter poison of a nation's woe;
   Can turn the worship of the servile mob
   To their corrupt and glaring idol, fame,
   From virtue, trampled by its iron tread,--
   Although its dazzling pedestal be raised                          100
   Amid the horrors of a limb-strewn field,
   With desolated dwellings smoking round.
   The man of ease, who, by his warm fireside,
   To deeds of charitable intercourse
   And bare fulfilment of the common laws
   Of decency and prejudice confines
   The struggling nature of his human heart,
   Is duped by their cold sophistry; he sheds
   A passing tear perchance upon the wreck
   Of earthly peace, when near his dwelling's door                   110
   The frightful waves are driven,--when his son
   Is murdered by the tyrant, or religion
   Drives his wife raving mad. But the poor man
   Whose life is misery, and fear and care;
   Whom the morn wakens but to fruitless toil;
   Who ever hears his famished offspring's scream;
   Whom their pale mother's uncomplaining gaze
   Forever meets, and the proud rich man's eye
   Flashing command, and the heart-breaking scene
   Of thousands like himself;--he little heeds                       120
   The rhetoric of tyranny; his hate
   Is quenchless as his wrongs; he laughs to scorn
   The vain and bitter mockery of words,
   Feeling the horror of the tyrant's deeds,
   And unrestrained but by the arm of power,
   That knows and dreads his enmity.

   'The iron rod of penury still compels
   Her wretched slave to bow the knee to wealth,
   And poison, with unprofitable toil,
   A life too void of solace to confirm                              130
   The very chains that bind him to his doom.
   Nature, impartial in munificence,
   Has gifted man with all-subduing will.
   Matter, with all its transitory shapes,
   Lies subjected and plastic at his feet,
   That, weak from bondage, tremble as they tread.
   How many a rustic Milton has passed by,
   Stifling the speechless longings of his heart,
   In unremitting drudgery and care!
   How many a vulgar Cato has compelled                              140
   His energies, no longer tameless then,
   To mould a pin or fabricate a nail!
   How many a Newton, to whose passive ken
   Those mighty spheres that gem infinity
   Were only specks of tinsel fixed in heaven
   To light the midnights of his native town!

   'Yet every heart contains perfection's germ.
   The wisest of the sages of the earth,
   That ever from the stores of reason drew
   Science and truth, and virtue's dreadless tone,                   150
   Were but a weak and inexperienced boy,
   Proud, sensual, unimpassioned, unimbued
   With pure desire and universal love,
   Compared to that high being, of cloudless brain,
   Untainted passion, elevated will,
   Which death (who even would linger long in awe
   Within his noble presence and beneath
   His changeless eye-beam) might alone subdue.
   Him, every slave now dragging through the filth
   Of some corrupted city his sad life,                              160
   Pining with famine, swoln with luxury,
   Blunting the keenness of his spiritual sense
   With narrow schemings and unworthy cares,
   Or madly rushing through all violent crime
   To move the deep stagnation of his soul,--
   Might imitate and equal.

                             But mean lust
   Has bound its chains so tight about the earth
   That all within it but the virtuous man
   Is venal; gold or fame will surely reach
   The price prefixed by Selfishness to all                          170
   But him of resolute and unchanging will;
   Whom nor the plaudits of a servile crowd,
   Nor the vile joys of tainting luxury,
   Can bribe to yield his elevated soul
   To Tyranny or Falsehood, though they wield
   With blood-red hand the sceptre of the world.

   'All things are sold: the very light of heaven
   Is venal; earth's unsparing gifts of love,
   The smallest and most despicable things
   That lurk in the abysses of the deep,                             180
   All objects of our life, even life itself,
   And the poor pittance which the laws allow
   Of liberty, the fellowship of man,
   Those duties which his heart of human love
   Should urge him to perform instinctively,
   Are bought and sold as in a public mart
   Of undisguising Selfishness, that sets
   On each its price, the stamp-mark of her reign.
   Even love is sold; the solace of all woe
   Is turned to deadliest agony, old age                             190
   Shivers in selfish beauty's loathing arms,
   And youth's corrupted impulses prepare
   A life of horror from the blighting bane
   Of commerce; whilst the pestilence that springs
   From unenjoying sensualism, has filled
   All human life with hydra-headed woes.

   'Falsehood demands but gold to pay the pangs
   Of outraged conscience; for the slavish priest
   Sets no great value on his hireling faith;
   A little passing pomp, some servile souls,                        200
   Whom cowardice itself might safely chain
   Or the spare mite of avarice could bribe
   To deck the triumph of their languid zeal,
   Can make him minister to tyranny.
   More daring crime requires a loftier meed.
   Without a shudder the slave-soldier lends
   His arm to murderous deeds, and steels his heart,
   When the dread eloquence of dying men,
   Low mingling on the lonely field of fame,
   Assails that nature whose applause he sells                       210
   For the gross blessings of the patriot mob,
   For the vile gratitude of heartless kings,
   And for a cold world's good word,--viler still!

   'There is a nobler glory which survives
   Until our being fades, and, solacing
   All human care, accompanies its change;
   Deserts not virtue in the dungeon's gloom,
   And in the precincts of the palace guides
   Its footsteps through that labyrinth of crime;
   Imbues his lineaments with dauntlessness,                         220
   Even when from power's avenging hand he takes
   Its sweetest, last and noblest title--death;
   --The consciousness of good, which neither gold,
   Nor sordid fame, nor hope of heavenly bliss,
   Can purchase; but a life of resolute good,
   Unalterable will, quenchless desire
   Of universal happiness, the heart
   That beats with it in unison, the brain
   Whose ever-wakeful wisdom toils to change
   Reason's rich stores for its eternal weal.                        230

   'This commerce of sincerest virtue needs
   No meditative signs of selfishness,
   No jealous intercourse of wretched gain,
   No balancings of prudence, cold and long;
   In just and equal measure all is weighed,
   One scale contains the sum of human weal,
   And one, the good man's heart.

                                   How vainly seek
   The selfish for that happiness denied
   To aught but virtue! Blind and hardened, they,
   Who hope for peace amid the storms of care,                       240
   Who covet power they know not how to use,
   And sigh for pleasure they refuse to give,--
   Madly they frustrate still their own designs;
   And, where they hope that quiet to enjoy
   Which virtue pictures, bitterness of soul,
   Pining regrets, and vain repentances,
   Disease, disgust and lassitude pervade
   Their valueless and miserable lives.

   'But hoary-headed selfishness has felt
   Its death-blow and is tottering to the grave;                     250
   A brighter morn awaits the human day,
   When every transfer of earth's natural gifts
   Shall be a commerce of good words and works;
   When poverty and wealth, the thirst of fame,
   The fear of infamy, disease and woe,
   War with its million horrors, and fierce hell,
   Shall live but in the memory of time,
   Who, like a penitent libertine, shall start,
   Look back, and shudder at his younger years.'

           All touch, all eye, all ear,
   The Spirit felt the Fairy's burning speech.
       O'er the thin texture of its frame
   The varying periods painted changing glows,
           As on a summer even,
   When soul-enfolding music floats around,
       The stainless mirror of the lake
       Re-images the eastern gloom,
   Mingling convulsively its purple hues
           With sunset's burnished gold.                              10
           Then thus the Spirit spoke:
   'It is a wild and miserable world!
           Thorny, and full of care,
   Which every fiend can make his prey at will!
       O Fairy! in the lapse of years,
           Is there no hope in store?
           Will yon vast suns roll on
       Interminably, still illuming
       The night of so many wretched souls,
           And see no hope for them?                                  20
   Will not the universal Spirit e'er
   Revivify this withered limb of Heaven?'

           The Fairy calmly smiled
   In comfort, and a kindling gleam of hope
   Suffused the Spirit's lineaments.
   'Oh! rest thee tranquil; chase those fearful doubts
   Which ne'er could rack an everlasting soul
   That sees the chains which bind it to its doom.
   Yes! crime and misery are in yonder earth,
           Falsehood, mistake and lust;                               30
           But the eternal world
   Contains at once the evil and the cure.
   Some eminent in virtue shall start up,
           Even in perversest time;
   The truths of their pure lips, that never die,
   Shall bind the scorpion falsehood with a wreath
           Of ever-living flame,
   Until the monster sting itself to death.

     'How sweet a scene will earth become!
   Of purest spirits a pure dwelling-place,                           40
   Symphonious with the planetary spheres;
   When man, with changeless Nature coalescing,
   Will undertake regeneration's work,
   When its ungenial poles no longer point
           To the red and baleful sun
           That faintly twinkles there!

          'Spirit, on yonder earth,
     Falsehood now triumphs; deadly power
   Has fixed its seal upon the lip of truth!
       Madness and misery are there!                                  50
   The happiest is most wretched! Yet confide
   Until pure health-drops from the cup of joy
   Fall like a dew of balm upon the world.
   Now, to the scene I show, in silence turn,
   And read the blood-stained charter of all woe,
   Which Nature soon with recreating hand
   Will blot in mercy from the book of earth.
   How bold the flight of passion's wandering wing,
   How swift the step of reason's firmer tread,
   How calm and sweet the victories of life,                          60
   How terrorless the triumph of the grave!
   How powerless were the mightiest monarch's arm,
   Vain his loud threat, and impotent his frown!
   How ludicrous the priest's dogmatic roar!
   The weight of his exterminating curse
   How light! and his affected charity,
   To suit the pressure of the changing times,
   What palpable deceit!--but for thy aid,
   Religion! but for thee, prolific fiend,
   Who peoplest earth with demons, hell with men,                     70
   And heaven with slaves!

   'Thou taintest all thou lookest upon!--the stars,
   Which on thy cradle beamed so brightly sweet,
   Were gods to the distempered playfulness
   Of thy untutored infancy; the trees,
   The grass, the clouds, the mountains and the sea,
   All living things that walk, swim, creep or fly,
   Were gods; the sun had homage, and the moon
   Her worshipper. Then thou becamest, a boy,
   More daring in thy frenzies; every shape,                          80
   Monstrous or vast, or beautifully wild,
   Which from sensation's relics fancy culls;
   The spirits of the air, the shuddering ghost,
   The genii of the elements, the powers
   That give a shape to Nature's varied works,
   Had life and place in the corrupt belief
   Of thy blind heart; yet still thy youthful hands
   Were pure of human blood. Then manhood gave
   Its strength and ardor to thy frenzied brain;
   Thine eager gaze scanned the stupendous scene,                     90
   Whose wonders mocked the knowledge of thy pride;
   Their everlasting and unchanging laws
   Reproached thine ignorance. Awhile thou stood'st
   Baffled and gloomy; then thou didst sum up
   The elements of all that thou didst know;
   The changing seasons, winter's leafless reign,
   The budding of the heaven-breathing trees,
   The eternal orbs that beautify the night,
   The sunrise, and the setting of the moon,
   Earthquakes and wars, and poisons and disease,                    100
   And all their causes, to an abstract point
   Converging thou didst bend, and called it God!
   The self-sufficing, the omnipotent,
   The merciful, and the avenging God!
   Who, prototype of human misrule, sits
   High in heaven's realm, upon a golden throne,
   Even like an earthly king; and whose dread work,
   Hell, gapes forever for the unhappy slaves
   Of fate, whom he created in his sport
   To triumph in their torments when they fell!                      110
   Earth heard the name; earth trembled as the smoke
   Of his revenge ascended up to heaven,
   Blotting the constellations; and the cries
   Of millions butchered in sweet confidence
   And unsuspecting peace, even when the bonds
   Of safety were confirmed by wordy oaths
   Sworn in his dreadful name, rung through the land;
   Whilst innocent babes writhed on thy stubborn spear,
   And thou didst laugh to hear the mother's shriek
   Of maniac gladness, as the sacred steel                           120
   Felt cold in her torn entrails!

   'Religion! thou wert then in manhood's prime;
   But age crept on; one God would not suffice
   For senile puerility; thou framedst
   A tale to suit thy dotage and to glut
   Thy misery-thirsting soul, that the mad fiend
   Thy wickedness had pictured might afford
   A plea for sating the unnatural thirst
   For murder, rapine, violence and crime,
   That still consumed thy being, even when                          130
   Thou heard'st the step of fate; that flames might light
   Thy funeral scene; and the shrill horrent shrieks
   Of parents dying on the pile that burned
   To light their children to thy paths, the roar
   Of the encircling flames, the exulting cries
   Of thine apostles loud commingling there,
         Might sate thine hungry ear
         Even on the bed of death!

   'But now contempt is mocking thy gray hairs;
   Thou art descending to the darksome grave,                        140
   Unhonored and unpitied but by those
   Whose pride is passing by like thine, and sheds,
   Like thine, a glare that fades before the sun
   Of truth, and shines but in the dreadful night
   That long has lowered above the ruined world.

   'Throughout these infinite orbs of mingling light
   Of which yon earth is one, is wide diffused
   A Spirit of activity and life,
   That knows no term, cessation or decay;
   That fades not when the lamp of earthly life,                     150
   Extinguished in the dampness of the grave,
   Awhile there slumbers, more than when the babe
   In the dim newness of its being feels
   The impulses of sublunary things,
   And all is wonder to unpractised sense;
   But, active, steadfast and eternal, still
   Guides the fierce whirlwind, in the tempest roars,
   Cheers in the day, breathes in the balmy groves,
   Strengthens in health, and poisons in disease;
   And in the storm of change, that ceaselessly                      160
   Rolls round the eternal universe and shakes
   Its undecaying battlement, presides,
   Apportioning with irresistible law
   The place each spring of its machine shall fill;
   So that, when waves on waves tumultuous heap
   Confusion to the clouds, and fiercely driven
   Heaven's lightnings scorch the uprooted ocean-fords--
   Whilst, to the eye of shipwrecked mariner,
   Lone sitting on the bare and shuddering rock,
   All seems unlinked contingency and chance--                       170
   No atom of this turbulence fulfils
   A vague and unnecessitated task
   Or acts but as it must and ought to act.
   Even the minutest molecule of light,
   That in an April sunbeam's fleeting glow
   Fulfils its destined though invisible work,
   The universal Spirit guides; nor less
   When merciless ambition, or mad zeal,
   Has led two hosts of dupes to battle-field,
   That, blind, they there may dig each other's graves               180
   And call the sad work glory, does it rule
   All passions; not a thought, a will, an act,
   No working of the tyrant's moody mind,
   Nor one misgiving of the slaves who boast
   Their servitude to hide the shame they feel,
   Nor the events enchaining every will,
   That from the depths of unrecorded time
   Have drawn all-influencing virtue, pass
   Unrecognized or unforeseen by thee,
   Soul of the Universe! eternal spring                              190
   Of life and death, of happiness and woe,
   Of all that chequers the phantasmal scene
   That floats before our eyes in wavering light,
   Which gleams but on the darkness of our prison
       Whose chains and massy walls
       We feel but cannot see.

   'Spirit of Nature! all-sufficing Power,
   Necessity! thou mother of the world!
   Unlike the God of human error, thou
   Requirest no prayers or praises; the caprice                      200
   Of man's weak will belongs no more to thee
   Than do the changeful passions of his breast
   To thy unvarying harmony; the slave,
   Whose horrible lusts spread misery o'er the world,
   And the good man, who lifts with virtuous pride
   His being in the sight of happiness
   That springs from his own works; the poison-tree,
   Beneath whose shade all life is withered up,
   And the fair oak, whose leafy dome affords
   A temple where the vows of happy love                             210
   Are registered, are equal in thy sight;
   No love, no hate thou cherishest; revenge
   And favoritism, and worst desire of fame
   Thou knowest not; all that the wide world contains
   Are but thy passive instruments, and thou
   Regard'st them all with an impartial eye,
   Whose joy or pain thy nature cannot feel,
     Because thou hast not human sense,
     Because thou art not human mind.

    'Yes! when the sweeping storm of time                            220
   Has sung its death-dirge o'er the ruined fanes
   And broken altars of the almighty fiend,
   Whose name usurps thy honors, and the blood
   Through centuries clotted there has floated down
   The tainted flood of ages, shalt thou live
   Unchangeable! A shrine is raised to thee,
     Which nor the tempest breath of time,
     Nor the interminable flood
     Over earth's slight pageant rolling,
         Availeth to destroy,--                                      230
   The sensitive extension of the world;
     That wondrous and eternal fane,
   Where pain and pleasure, good and evil join,
   To do the will of strong necessity,
     And life, in multitudinous shapes,
   Still pressing forward where no term can be,
     Like hungry and unresting flame
   Curls round the eternal columns of its strength.'

   'I was an infant when my mother went
   To see an atheist burned. She took me there.
   The dark-robed priests were met around the pile;
   The multitude was gazing silently;
   And as the culprit passed with dauntless mien,
   Tempered disdain in his unaltering eye,
   Mixed with a quiet smile, shone calmly forth;
   The thirsty fire crept round his manly limbs;
   His resolute eyes were scorched to blindness soon;
   His death-pang rent my heart! the insensate mob                    10
   Uttered a cry of triumph, and I wept.
   "Weep not, child!" cried my mother, "for that man
   Has said, There is no God."'

                                'There is no God!
   Nature confirms the faith his death-groan sealed.
   Let heaven and earth, let man's revolving race,
   His ceaseless generations, tell their tale;
   Let every part depending on the chain
   That links it to the whole, point to the hand
   That grasps its term! Let every seed that falls
   In silent eloquence unfold its store                               20
   Of argument; infinity within,
   Infinity without, belie creation;
   The exterminable spirit it contains
   Is Nature's only God; but human pride
   Is skilful to invent most serious names
   To hide its ignorance.
                           'The name of God
   Has fenced about all crime with holiness,
   Himself the creature of his worshippers,
   Whose names and attributes and passions change,
   Seeva, Buddh, Foh, Jehovah, God, or Lord,                          30
   Even with the human dupes who build his shrines,
   Still serving o'er the war-polluted world
   For desolation's watchword; whether hosts
   Stain his death-blushing chariot-wheels, as on
   Triumphantly they roll, whilst Brahmins raise
   A sacred hymn to mingle with the groans;
   Or countless partners of his power divide
   His tyranny to weakness; or the smoke
   Of burning towns, the cries of female helplessness,
   Unarmed old age, and youth, and infancy,                           40
   Horribly massacred, ascend to heaven
   In honor of his name; or, last and worst,
   Earth groans beneath religion's iron age,
   And priests dare babble of a God of peace,
   Even whilst their hands are red with guiltless blood,
   Murdering the while, uprooting every germ
   Of truth, exterminating, spoiling all,
   Making the earth a slaughter-house!

          'O Spirit! through the sense
   By which thy inner nature was apprised                             50
     Of outward shows, vague dreams have rolled,
     And varied reminiscences have waked
           Tablets that never fade;
     All things have been imprinted there,
     The stars, the sea, the earth, the sky,
     Even the unshapeliest lineaments
       Of wild and fleeting visions
           Have left a record there
           To testify of earth.

   'These are my empire, for to me is given                           60
   The wonders of the human world to keep,
   And fancy's thin creations to endow
   With manner, being and reality;
   Therefore a wondrous phantom from the dreams
   Of human error's dense and purblind faith
   I will evoke, to meet thy questioning.
           Ahasuerus, rise!'

           A strange and woe-worn wight
       Arose beside the battlement,
           And stood unmoving there.                                  70
   His inessential figure cast no shade
           Upon the golden floor;
   His port and mien bore mark of many years,
   And chronicles of untold ancientness
   Were legible within his beamless eye;
       Yet his cheek bore the mark of youth;
   Freshness and vigor knit his manly frame;
   The wisdom of old age was mingled there
       With youth's primeval dauntlessness;
           And inexpressible woe,                                     80
   Chastened by fearless resignation, gave
   An awful grace to his all-speaking brow.

          'Is there a God?'

   'Is there a God!--ay, an almighty God,
   And vengeful as almighty! Once his voice
   Was heard on earth; earth shuddered at the sound;
   The fiery-visaged firmament expressed
   Abhorrence, and the grave of Nature yawned
   To swallow all the dauntless and the good
   That dared to hurl defiance at his throne,                         90
   Girt as it was with power. None but slaves
   Survived,--cold-blooded slaves, who did the work
   Of tyrannous omnipotence; whose souls
   No honest indignation ever urged
   To elevated daring, to one deed
   Which gross and sensual self did not pollute.
   These slaves built temples for the omnipotent fiend,
   Gorgeous and vast; the costly altars smoked
   With human blood, and hideous pæans rung
   Through all the long-drawn aisles. A murderer heard               100
   His voice in Egypt, one whose gifts and arts
   Had raised him to his eminence in power,
   Accomplice of omnipotence in crime
   And confidant of the all-knowing one.
         These were Jehovah's words.

   '"From an eternity of idleness
   I, God, awoke; in seven days' toil made earth
   From nothing; rested, and created man;
   I placed him in a paradise, and there
   Planted the tree of evil, so that he                              110
   Might eat and perish, and my soul procure
   Wherewith to sate its malice and to turn,
   Even like a heartless conqueror of the earth,
   All misery to my fame. The race of men,
   Chosen to my honor, with impunity
   May sate the lusts I planted in their heart.
   Here I command thee hence to lead them on,
   Until with hardened feet their conquering troops
   Wade on the promised soil through woman's blood,
   And make my name be dreaded through the land.                     120
   Yet ever-burning flame and ceaseless woe
   Shall be the doom of their eternal souls,
   With every soul on this ungrateful earth,
   Virtuous or vicious, weak or strong,--even all
   Shall perish, to fulfil the blind revenge
   (Which you, to men, call justice) of their God."

                          'The murderer's brow
   Quivered with horror.

                          '"God omnipotent,
   Is there no mercy? must our punishment
   Be endless? will long ages roll away,                             130
   And see no term? Oh! wherefore hast thou made
   In mockery and wrath this evil earth?
   Mercy becomes the powerful--be but just!
   O God! repent and save!"

                          '"One way remains:
   I will beget a son and he shall bear
   The sins of all the world; he shall arise
   In an unnoticed corner of the earth,
   And there shall die upon a cross, and purge
   The universal crime; so that the few
   On whom my grace descends, those who are marked                   140
   As vessels to the honor of their God,
   May credit this strange sacrifice and save
   Their souls alive. Millions shall live and die,
   Who ne'er shall call upon their Saviour's name,
   But, unredeemed, go to the gaping grave,
   Thousands shall deem it an old woman's tale,
   Such as the nurses frighten babes withal;
   These in a gulf of anguish and of flame
   Shall curse their reprobation endlessly,
   Yet tenfold pangs shall force them to avow,                       150
   Even on their beds of torment where they howl,
   My honor and the justice of their doom.
   What then avail their virtuous deeds, their thoughts
   Of purity, with radiant genius bright
   Or lit with human reason's earthly ray?
   Many are called, but few will I elect.
   Do thou my bidding, Moses!"

                         'Even the murderer's cheek
   Was blanched with horror, and his quivering lips
   Scarce faintly uttered--"O almighty one,
   I tremble and obey!"                                              160

   'O Spirit! centuries have set their seal
   On this heart of many wounds, and loaded brain,
   Since the Incarnate came; humbly he came,
   Veiling his horrible Godhead in the shape
   Of man, scorned by the world, his name unheard
   Save by the rabble of his native town,
   Even as a parish demagogue. He led
   The crowd; he taught them justice, truth and peace,
   In semblance; but he lit within their souls
   The quenchless flames of zeal, and blessed the sword              170
   He brought on earth to satiate with the blood
   Of truth and freedom his malignant soul
   At length his mortal frame was led to death.
   I stood beside him; on the torturing cross
   No pain assailed his unterrestrial sense;
   And yet he groaned. Indignantly I summed
   The massacres and miseries which his name
   Had sanctioned in my country, and I cried,
   "Go! go!" in mockery.
   A smile of godlike malice reillumined                             180
   His fading lineaments. "I go," he cried,
   "But thou shalt wander o'er the unquiet earth
   Eternally." The dampness of the grave
   Bathed my imperishable front. I fell,
   And long lay tranced upon the charmèd soil.
   When I awoke hell burned within my brain
   Which staggered on its seat; for all around
   The mouldering relics of my kindred lay,
   Even as the Almighty's ire arrested them,
   And in their various attitudes of death                           190
   My murdered children's mute and eyeless skulls
   Glared ghastily upon me.

                             But my soul,
   From sight and sense of the polluting woe
   Of tyranny, had long learned to prefer
   Hell's freedom to the servitude of heaven.
   Therefore I rose, and dauntlessly began
   My lonely and unending pilgrimage,
   Resolved to wage unweariable war
   With my almighty tyrant and to hurl
   Defiance at his impotence to harm                                 200
   Beyond the curse I bore. The very hand,
   That barred my passage to the peaceful grave,
   Has crushed the earth to misery, and given
   Its empire to the chosen of his slaves.
   These I have seen, even from the earliest dawn
   Of weak, unstable and precarious power,
   Then preaching peace, as now they practise war;
   So, when they turned but from the massacre
   Of unoffending infidels to quench
   Their thirst for ruin in the very blood                           210
   That flowed in their own veins, and pitiless zeal
   Froze every human feeling as the wife
   Sheathed in her husband's heart the sacred steel,
   Even whilst its hopes were dreaming of her love;
   And friends to friends, brothers to brothers stood
   Opposed in bloodiest battle-field, and war,
   Scarce satiable by fate's last death-draught, waged,
   Drunk from the wine-press of the Almighty's wrath;
   Whilst the red cross, in mockery of peace,
   Pointed to victory! When the fray was done,                       220
   No remnant of the exterminated faith
   Survived to tell its ruin, but the flesh,
   With putrid smoke poisoning the atmosphere,
   That rotted on the half-extinguished pile.

   'Yes! I have seen God's worshippers unsheathe
   The sword of his revenge, when grace descended,
   Confirming all unnatural impulses,
   To sanctify their desolating deeds;
   And frantic priests waved the ill-omened cross
   O'er the unhappy earth; then shone the sun                        230
   On showers of gore from the upflashing steel
   Of safe assassination, and all crime
   Made stingless by the spirits of the Lord,
   And blood-red rainbows canopied the land.

   'Spirit! no year of my eventful being
   Has passed unstained by crime and misery,
   Which flows from God's own faith. I 've marked his slaves
   With tongues, whose lies are venomous, beguile
   The insensate mob, and, whilst one hand was red
   With murder, feign to stretch the other out                       240
   For brotherhood and peace; and that they now
   Babble of love and mercy, whilst their deeds
   Are marked with all the narrowness and crime
   That freedom's young arm dare not yet chastise,
   Reason may claim our gratitude, who now,
   Establishing the imperishable throne
   Of truth and stubborn virtue, maketh vain
   The unprevailing malice of my foe,
   Whose bootless rage heaps torments for the brave,
   Adds impotent eternities to pain,                                 250
   Whilst keenest disappointment racks his breast
   To see the smiles of peace around them play,
   To frustrate or to sanctify their doom.

   'Thus have I stood,--through a wild waste of years
   Struggling with whirlwinds of mad agony,
   Yet peaceful, and serene, and self-enshrined,
   Mocking my powerless tyrant's horrible curse
   With stubborn and unalterable will,
   Even as a giant oak, which heaven's fierce flame
   Had scathèd in the wilderness, to stand                           260
   A monument of fadeless ruin there;
   Yet peacefully and movelessly it braves
   The midnight conflict of the wintry storm,
     As in the sunlight's calm it spreads
     Its worn and withered arms on high
   To meet the quiet of a summer's noon.'

       The Fairy waved her wand;
       Ahasuerus fled
   Fast as the shapes of mingled shade and mist,
   That lurk in the glens of a twilight grove,                       270
       Flee from the morning beam;--
       The matter of which dreams are made
       Not more endowed with actual life
       Than this phantasmal portraiture
       Of wandering human thought.

   'The present and the past thou hast beheld.
   It was a desolate sight. Now, Spirit, learn,
     The secrets of the future.--Time!
   Unfold the brooding pinion of thy gloom,
   Render thou up thy half-devoured babes,
   And from the cradles of eternity,
   Where millions lie lulled to their portioned sleep
   By the deep murmuring stream of passing things,
   Tear thou that gloomy shroud.--Spirit, behold
       Thy glorious destiny!'                                         10

       Joy to the Spirit came.
   Through the wide rent in Time's eternal veil,
   Hope was seen beaming through the mists of fear;
       Earth was no longer hell;
       Love, freedom, health had given
   Their ripeness to the manhood of its prime,
       And all its pulses beat
   Symphonious to the planetary spheres;
       Then dulcet music swelled
   Concordant with the life-strings of the soul;                      20
   It throbbed in sweet and languid beatings there,
   Catching new life from transitory death;
   Like the vague sighings of a wind at even
   That wakes the wavelets of the slumbering sea
   And dies on the creation of its breath,
   And sinks and rises, falls and swells by fits,
     Was the pure stream of feeling
     That sprung from these sweet notes,
   And o'er the Spirit's human sympathies
   With mild and gentle motion calmly flowed.                         30

       Joy to the Spirit came,--
     Such joy as when a lover sees
   The chosen of his soul in happiness
       And witnesses her peace
   Whose woe to him were bitterer than death;
       Sees her unfaded cheek
   Glow mantling in first luxury of health,
       Thrills with her lovely eyes,
   Which like two stars amid the heaving main
       Sparkle through liquid bliss.                                  40

   Then in her triumph spoke the Fairy Queen:
   'I will not call the ghost of ages gone
   To unfold the frightful secrets of its lore;
       The present now is past,
   And those events that desolate the earth
   Have faded from the memory of Time,
   Who dares not give reality to that
   Whose being I annul. To me is given
   The wonders of the human world to keep,
   Space, matter, time and mind. Futurity                             50
   Exposes now its treasure; let the sight
   Renew and strengthen all thy failing hope.
   O human Spirit! spur thee to the goal
   Where virtue fixes universal peace,
   And, 'midst the ebb and flow of human things,
   Show somewhat stable, somewhat certain still,
   A light-house o'er the wild of dreary waves.

    'The habitable earth is full of bliss;
   Those wastes of frozen billows that were hurled
   By everlasting snow-storms round the poles,                        60
   Where matter dared not vegetate or live,
   But ceaseless frost round the vast solitude
   Bound its broad zone of stillness, are unloosed;
   And fragrant zephyrs there from spicy isles
   Ruffle the placid ocean-deep, that rolls
   Its broad, bright surges to the sloping sand,
   Whose roar is wakened into echoings sweet
   To murmur through the heaven-breathing groves
   And melodize with man's blest nature there.

   'Those deserts of immeasurable sand,                               70
   Whose age-collected fervors scarce allowed
   A bird to live, a blade of grass to spring,
   Where the shrill chirp of the green lizard's love
   Broke on the sultry silentness alone,
   Now teem with countless rills and shady woods,
   Cornfields and pastures and white cottages;
   And where the startled wilderness beheld
   A savage conqueror stained in kindred blood,
   A tigress sating with the flesh of lambs
   The unnatural famine of her toothless cubs,                        80
   Whilst shouts and howlings through the desert rang,--
   Sloping and smooth the daisy-spangled lawn,
   Offering sweet incense to the sunrise, smiles
   To see a babe before his mother's door,
       Sharing his morning's meal
     With the green and golden basilisk
       That comes to lick his feet.

   'Those trackless deeps, where many a weary sail
   Has seen above the illimitable plain
   Morning on night and night on morning rise,                        90
   Whilst still no land to greet the wanderer spread
   Its shadowy mountains on the sun-bright sea,
   Where the loud roarings of the tempest-waves
   So long have mingled with the gusty wind
   In melancholy loneliness, and swept
   The desert of those ocean solitudes
   But vocal to the sea-bird's harrowing shriek,
   The bellowing monster, and the rushing storm;
   Now to the sweet and many-mingling sounds
   Of kindliest human impulses respond.                              100
   Those lonely realms bright garden-isles begem,
   With lightsome clouds and shining seas between,
   And fertile valleys, resonant with bliss,
   Whilst green woods overcanopy the wave,
   Which like a toil-worn laborer leaps to shore
   To meet the kisses of the flowrets there.

   'All things are recreated, and the flame
   Of consentaneous love inspires all life.
   The fertile bosom of the earth gives suck
   To myriads, who still grow beneath her care,                      110
   Rewarding her with their pure perfectness;
   The balmy breathings of the wind inhale
   Her virtues and diffuse them all abroad;
   Health floats amid the gentle atmosphere,
   Glows in the fruits and mantles on the stream;
   No storms deform the beaming brow of heaven,
   Nor scatter in the freshness of its pride
   The foliage of the ever-verdant trees;
   But fruits are ever ripe, flowers ever fair,
   And autumn proudly bears her matron grace,                        120
   Kindling a flush on the fair cheek of spring,
   Whose virgin bloom beneath the ruddy fruit
   Reflects its tint and blushes into love.

   'The lion now forgets to thirst for blood;
   There might you see him sporting in the sun
   Beside the dreadless kid; his claws are sheathed,
   His teeth are harmless, custom's force has made
   His nature as the nature of a lamb.
   Like passion's fruit, the nightshade's tempting bane
   Poisons no more the pleasure it bestows;                          130
   All bitterness is past; the cup of joy
   Unmingled mantles to the goblet's brim
   And courts the thirsty lips it fled before.

     But chief, ambiguous man, he that can know
   More misery, and dream more joy than all;
   Whose keen sensations thrill within his breast
   To mingle with a loftier instinct there,
   Lending their power to pleasure and to pain,
   Yet raising, sharpening, and refining each;
   Who stands amid the ever-varying world,                           140
   The burden or the glory of the earth;
   He chief perceives the change; his being notes
   The gradual renovation and defines
   Each movement of its progress on his mind.

   'Man, where the gloom of the long polar night
   Lowers o'er the snow-clad rocks and frozen soil,
   Where scarce the hardiest herb that braves the frost
   Basks in the moonlight's ineffectual glow,
   Shrank with the plants, and darkened with the night;
   His chilled and narrow energies, his heart                        150
   Insensible to courage, truth or love,
   His stunted stature and imbecile frame,
   Marked him for some abortion of the earth,
   Fit compeer of the bears that roamed around,
   Whose habits and enjoyments were his own;
   His life a feverish dream of stagnant woe,
   Whose meagre wants, but scantily fulfilled,
   Apprised him ever of the joyless length
   Which his short being's wretchedness had reached;
   His death a pang which famine, cold and toil                      160
   Long on the mind, whilst yet the vital spark
   Clung to the body stubbornly, had brought:
   All was inflicted here that earth's revenge
   Could wreak on the infringers of her law;
   One curse alone was spared--the name of God.

   'Nor, where the tropics bound the realms of day
   With a broad belt of mingling cloud and flame,
   Where blue mists through the unmoving atmosphere
   Scattered the seeds of pestilence and fed
   Unnatural vegetation, where the land                              170
   Teemed with all earthquake, tempest and disease,
   Was man a nobler being; slavery
   Had crushed him to his country's blood-stained dust;
   Or he was bartered for the fame of power,
   Which, all internal impulses destroying,
   Makes human will an article of trade;
   Or he was changed with Christians for their gold
   And dragged to distant isles, where to the sound
   Of the flesh-mangling scourge he does the work
   Of all-polluting luxury and wealth,                               180
   Which doubly visits on the tyrants' heads
   The long-protracted fulness of their woe;
   Or he was led to legal butchery,
   To turn to worms beneath that burning sun
   Where kings first leagued against the rights of men
   And priests first traded with the name of God.

   'Even where the milder zone afforded man
   A seeming shelter, yet contagion there,
   Blighting his being with unnumbered ills,
   Spread like a quenchless fire; nor truth till late                190
   Availed to arrest its progress or create
   That peace which first in bloodless victory waved
   Her snowy standard o'er this favored clime;
   There man was long the train-bearer of slaves,
   The mimic of surrounding misery,
   The jackal of ambition's lion-rage,
   The bloodhound of religion's hungry zeal.

   'Here now the human being stands adorning
   This loveliest earth with taintless body and mind;
   Blest from his birth with all bland impulses,                     200
   Which gently in his noble bosom wake
   All kindly passions and all pure desires.
   Him, still from hope to hope the bliss pursuing
   Which from the exhaustless store of human weal
   Draws on the virtuous mind, the thoughts that rise
   In time-destroying infiniteness gift
   With self-enshrined eternity, that mocks
   The unprevailing hoariness of age;
   And man, once fleeting o'er the transient scene
   Swift as an unremembered vision, stands                           210
   Immortal upon earth; no longer now
   He slays the lamb that looks him in the face,
   And horribly devours his mangled flesh,
   Which, still avenging Nature's broken law,
   Kindled all putrid humors in his frame,
   All evil passions and all vain belief,
   Hatred, despair and loathing in his mind,
   The germs of misery, death, disease and crime.
   No longer now the wingèd habitants,
   That in the woods their sweet lives sing away,                    220
   Flee from the form of man; but gather round,
   And prune their sunny feathers on the hands
   Which little children stretch in friendly sport
   Towards these dreadless partners of their play.
   All things are void of terror; man has lost
   His terrible prerogative, and stands
   An equal amidst equals; happiness
   And science dawn, though late, upon the earth;
   Peace cheers the mind, health renovates the frame;
   Disease and pleasure cease to mingle here,                        230
   Reason and passion cease to combat there;
   Whilst each unfettered o'er the earth extend
   Their all-subduing energies, and wield
   The sceptre of a vast dominion there;
   Whilst every shape and mode of matter lends
   Its force to the omnipotence of mind,
   Which from its dark mine drags the gem of truth
   To decorate its paradise of peace.'

   'O happy Earth, reality of Heaven!
   To which those restless souls that ceaselessly
   Throng through the human universe, aspire!
   Thou consummation of all mortal hope!
   Thou glorious prize of blindly working will,
   Whose rays, diffused throughout all space and time,
   Verge to one point and blend forever there!
   Of purest spirits thou pure dwelling-place
   Where care and sorrow, impotence and crime,
   Languor, disease and ignorance dare not come!                      10
   O happy Earth, reality of Heaven!

   'Genius has seen thee in her passionate dreams;
   And dim forebodings of thy loveliness,
   Haunting the human heart, have there entwined
   Those rooted hopes of some sweet place of bliss,
   Where friends and lovers meet to part no more.
   Thou art the end of all desire and will,
   The product of all action; and the souls,
   That by the paths of an aspiring change
   Have reached thy haven of perpetual peace,                         20
   There rest from the eternity of toil
   That framed the fabric of thy perfectness.

   'Even Time, the conqueror, fled thee in his fear;
   That hoary giant, who in lonely pride
   So long had ruled the world that nations fell
   Beneath his silent footstep. Pyramids,
   That for millenniums had withstood the tide
   Of human things, his storm-breath drove in sand
   Across that desert where their stones survived
   The name of him whose pride had heaped them there.                 30
   Yon monarch, in his solitary pomp,
   Was but the mushroom of a summer day,
   That his light-wingèd footstep pressed to dust;
   Time was the king of earth; all things gave way
   Before him but the fixed and virtuous will,
   The sacred sympathies of soul and sense,
   That mocked his fury and prepared his fall.

   'Yet slow and gradual dawned the morn of love;
   Long lay the clouds of darkness o'er the scene,
   Till from its native heaven they rolled away:                      40
   First, crime triumphant o'er all hope careered
   Unblushing, undisguising, bold and strong,
   Whilst falsehood, tricked in virtue's attributes,
   Long sanctified all deeds of vice and woe,
   Till, done by her own venomous sting to death,
   She left the moral world without a law,
   No longer fettering passion's fearless wing,
   Nor searing reason with the brand of God.
   Then steadily the happy ferment worked;
   Reason was free; and wild though passion went                      50
   Through tangled glens and wood-embosomed meads,
   Gathering a garland of the strangest flowers,
   Yet, like the bee returning to her queen,
   She bound the sweetest on her sister's brow,
   Who meek and sober kissed the sportive child,
   No longer trembling at the broken rod.

   'Mild was the slow necessity of death.
   The tranquil spirit failed beneath its grasp,
   Without a groan, almost without a fear,
   Calm as a voyager to some distant land,                            60
   And full of wonder, full of hope as he.
   The deadly germs of languor and disease
   Died in the human frame, and purity
   Blessed with all gifts her earthly worshippers.
   How vigorous then the athletic form of age!
   How clear its open and unwrinkled brow!
   Where neither avarice, cunning, pride or care
   Had stamped the seal of gray deformity
   On all the mingling lineaments of time.
   How lovely the intrepid front of youth,                            70
   Which meek-eyed courage decked with freshest grace;
   Courage of soul, that dreaded not a name,
   And elevated will, that journeyed on
   Through life's phantasmal scene in fearlessness,
   With virtue, love and pleasure, hand in hand!

   'Then, that sweet bondage which is freedom's self,
   And rivets with sensation's softest tie
   The kindred sympathies of human souls,
   Needed no fetters of tyrannic law.
   Those delicate and timid impulses                                  80
   In Nature's primal modesty arose,
   And with undoubting confidence disclosed
   The growing longings of its dawning love,
   Unchecked by dull and selfish chastity,
   That virtue of the cheaply virtuous,
   Who pride themselves in senselessness and frost.
   No longer prostitution's venomed bane
   Poisoned the springs of happiness and life;
   Woman and man, in confidence and love,
   Equal and free and pure together trod                              90
   The mountain-paths of virtue, which no more
   Were stained with blood from many a pilgrim's feet.

   'Then, where, through distant ages, long in pride
   The palace of the monarch-slave had mocked
   Famine's faint groan and penury's silent tear,
   A heap of crumbling ruins stood, and threw
   Year after year their stones upon the field,
   Wakening a lonely echo; and the leaves
   Of the old thorn, that on the topmost tower
   Usurped the royal ensign's grandeur, shook                        100
   In the stern storm that swayed the topmost tower,
   And whispered strange tales in the whirlwind's ear.

   'Low through the lone cathedral's roofless aisles
   The melancholy winds a death-dirge sung.
   It were a sight of awfulness to see
   The works of faith and slavery, so vast,
   So sumptuous, yet so perishing withal,
   Even as the corpse that rests beneath its wall!
   A thousand mourners deck the pomp of death
   To-day, the breathing marble glows above                          110
   To decorate its memory, and tongues
   Are busy of its life; to-morrow, worms
   In silence and in darkness seize their prey.

   'Within the massy prison's mouldering courts,
   Fearless and free the ruddy children played,
   Weaving gay chaplets for their innocent brows
   With the green ivy and the red wall-flower
   That mock the dungeon's unavailing gloom;
   The ponderous chains and gratings of strong iron
   There rusted amid heaps of broken stone                           120
   That mingled slowly with their native earth;
   There the broad beam of day, which feebly once
   Lighted the cheek of lean captivity
   With a pale and sickly glare, then freely shone
   On the pure smiles of infant playfulness;
   No more the shuddering voice of hoarse despair
   Pealed through the echoing vaults, but soothing notes
   Of ivy-fingered winds and gladsome birds
   And merriment were resonant around.

   'These ruins soon left not a wreck behind;                        130
   Their elements, wide-scattered o'er the globe,
   To happier shapes were moulded, and became
   Ministrant to all blissful impulses;
   Thus human things were perfected, and earth,
   Even as a child beneath its mother's love,
   Was strengthened in all excellence, and grew
   Fairer and nobler with each passing year.

   'Now Time his dusky pennons o'er the scene
   Closes in steadfast darkness, and the past
   Fades from our charmèd sight. My task is done;                    140
   Thy lore is learned. Earth's wonders are thine own
   With all the fear and all the hope they bring.
   My spells are passed; the present now recurs.
   Ah me! a pathless wilderness remains
   Yet unsubdued by man's reclaiming hand.

   'Yet, human Spirit! bravely hold thy course;
   Let virtue teach thee firmly to pursue
   The gradual paths of an aspiring change;
   For birth and life and death, and that strange state
   Before the naked soul has found its home,                         150
   All tend to perfect happiness, and urge
   The restless wheels of being on their way,
   Whose flashing spokes, instinct with infinite life,
   Bicker and burn to gain their destined goal;
   For birth but wakes the spirit to the sense
   Of outward shows, whose unexperienced shape
   New modes of passion to its frame may lend;
   Life is its state of action, and the store
   Of all events is aggregated there
   That variegate the eternal universe;                              160
   Death is a gate of dreariness and gloom,
   That leads to azure isles and beaming skies
   And happy regions of eternal hope.
   Therefore, O Spirit! fearlessly bear on.
   Though storms may break the primrose on its stalk,
   Though frosts may blight the freshness of its bloom,
   Yet spring's awakening breath will woo the earth
   To feed with kindliest dews its favorite flower,
   That blooms in mossy bank and darksome glens,
   Lighting the greenwood with its sunny smile.                      170

   'Fear not then, Spirit, death's disrobing hand,
   So welcome when the tyrant is awake,
   So welcome when the bigot's hell-torch burns;
   'T is but the voyage of a darksome hour,
   The transient gulf-dream of a startling sleep.
   Death is no foe to virtue; earth has seen
   Love's brightest roses on the scaffold bloom,
   Mingling with freedom's fadeless laurels there,
   And presaging the truth of visioned bliss.
   Are there not hopes within thee, which this scene                 180
   Of linked and gradual being has confirmed?
   Whose stingings bade thy heart look further still,
   When, to the moonlight walk by Henry led,
   Sweetly and sadly thou didst talk of death?
   And wilt thou rudely tear them from thy breast,
   Listening supinely to a bigot's creed,
   Or tamely crouching to the tyrant's rod,
   Whose iron thongs are red with human gore?
   Never: but bravely bearing on, thy will
   Is destined an eternal war to wage                                190
   With tyranny and falsehood, and uproot
   The germs of misery from the human heart.
   Thine is the hand whose piety would soothe
   The thorny pillow of unhappy crime,
   Whose impotence an easy pardon gains,
   Watching its wanderings as a friend's disease;
   Thine is the brow whose mildness would defy
   Its fiercest rage, and brave its sternest will,
   When fenced by power and master of the world.
   Thou art sincere and good; of resolute mind,                      200
   Free from heart-withering custom's cold control,
   Of passion lofty, pure and unsubdued.
   Earth's pride and meanness could not vanquish thee,
   And therefore art thou worthy of the boon
   Which thou hast now received; virtue shall keep
   Thy footsteps in the path that thou hast trod,
   And many days of beaming hope shall bless
   Thy spotless life of sweet and sacred love.
   Go, happy one, and give that bosom joy,
     Whose sleepless spirit waits to catch                           210
     Light, life and rapture from thy smile!'

     The Fairy waves her wand of charm.
   Speechless with bliss the Spirit mounts the car,
     That rolled beside the battlement,
   Bending her beamy eyes in thankfulness.
     Again the enchanted steeds were yoked;
     Again the burning wheels inflame
   The steep descent of heaven's untrodden way.
     Fast and far the chariot flew;
     The vast and fiery globes that rolled                           220
     Around the Fairy's palace-gate
   Lessened by slow degrees, and soon appeared
   Such tiny twinklers as the planet orbs
   That there attendant on the solar power
   With borrowed light pursued their narrower way.

       Earth floated then below;
     The chariot paused a moment there;
       The Spirit then descended;
   The restless coursers pawed the ungenial soil,
   Snuffed the gross air, and then, their errand done,               230
   Unfurled their pinions to the winds of heaven.

     The Body and the Soul united then.
   A gentle start convulsed Ianthe's frame;
   Her veiny eyelids quietly unclosed;
   Moveless awhile the dark blue orbs remained.
   She looked around in wonder, and beheld
   Henry, who kneeled in silence by her couch,
   Watching her sleep with looks of speechless love,
       And the bright beaming stars
       That through the casement shone.                              240

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Posted by saformo on 14th diciembre 2010

The Necessity of Atheism

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

As a brief summary of Shelley’s attitude toward the Christian religion, I may be allowed to quote from what I have written elsewhere. [Percy Bysshe shelley, Poet and Pioneer (Watts & Co., 1913]

“I regard Shelley’s early ‘atheism’ and later Pantheism, as simply the negative and the affirmative side of the same progressive but harmonious life-creed. In his earlier years his disposition was towards a vehement denial of a theology which he never ceased to detest; in his maturer years he made more frequent reference to the great World Spirit in whom he had from the first believed. He grew wiser in the exercise of his religious faith, but the faith was the same throughout; there, was progression, but no essential change.”

The sequence of his thought on the Subject may be clearly traced in several of his essays. In “The Necessity of Atheism,” the tract which led to his expulsion from Oxford University, we see Shelley in his youthful mood of open denial and defiance. It has been suggested that the pamphlet was originally intended by its author to be a hoax; but such an explanation entirely misapprehends not only the facts of the case, but the character of Shelley himself. This was long ago pointed out by De guincey: “He affronted the armies of Christendom. Had it been possible for him to be jesting, it would not have been noble; but here, even in the most monstrous of his undertakings — here, as always, he was perfectly sincere and single-minded.” That this is true may be seen not only from the internal evidence of “The Necessity” itself, but from the fact that the conclusion which, Shelley meant to be drawn, from the dialogue “A Refutation of Deism,” published in 1814, was that there is no middle course between accepting revealed religion and disbelieving in the existence of a deity — another way of stating the necessity of atheism.

Shelley resembled Blake in the contrast of feeling with which he regarded the Christian religion and its founder. For the human character of Christ he could feel the deepest veneration, as may be seen not only from the “Essay on Christianity,” but from the “Letter to Lord Ellenborough” (1812), and also from the notes to “Hellas” and passages in that poem and in “Prometheus Unbound”; but he held that the spirit of established Christianity was wholly out of harmony with that of Christ, and that a similarity to Christ was one of the qualities most detested by the modern Christian. The dogmas of the Christian faith were always repudiated by him, and there is no warrant whatever in his writings for the strange pretension that, had he lived longer, his objections to Christianity might in some way have been overcome.

In conclusion, it may be said that Shelley’s prose, if, not great in itself, is the prose of a great poet, for which reason it possesses an interest that is not likely to fail. It is the key to the right understanding of his. intellect, as his poetry is the highest expression of his genius.

The Necessity Of Atheism

[NOTE — The Necessity of Atheism was published by Shelley in 1811. In 1813 he printed a revised and expanded version of it as one of the notes to his poem Queen Mab. The revised and expanded version is the one here reprinted.]

There Is No God

This negation must be understood solely to affect a creative Deity. The hypothesis of a pervading Spirit co-eternal with the universe remains unshaken.

A close examination of the validity of the proofs adduced to support any proposition is the only secure way of attaining truth, on the advantages of which it is unnecessary to descant: our knowledge of the existence, of a Deity is a subject of such importance that it cannot be too minutely investigated; in consequence of this conviction we proceed briefly and impartially to examine the proofs which have been adduced. It is necessary first to consider the nature of belief.

When a proposition is offered to the mind, It perceives the agreement or disagreement of the ideas of which it is composed. A perception of their agreement is termed belief. Many obstacles frequently prevent this perception from being immediate; these the mind attempts to remove in order that the perception may be distinct. The mind is active in the investigation in order to perfect the state of perception of the relation which the component ideas of the proposition bear to each, which is passive; the investigation being confused with the perception has induced many falsely to imagine that the mind is active in belief. — that belief is an act of volition, — in consequence of which it may be regulated by the mind. Pursuing, continuing this mistake, they have attached a degree of criminality to disbelief; of which, in its nature, it is incapable: it is equally incapable of merit.

Belief, then, is a passion, the strength of which, like every other passion, is in precise proportion to the degrees of excitement.

The degrees of excitement are three.

The senses are the sources of all knowledge to the mind; consequently their evidence claims the strongest assent.

The decision of the mind, founded upon our own experience, derived from these sources, claims the next degree.

The experience of others, which addresses itself to the former one, occupies the lowest degree.

(A graduated scale, on which should be marked the capabilities of propositions to approach to the test of the senses, would be a just barometer of the belief which ought to be attached to them.)

Consequently no testimony can be admitted which is contrary to reason; reason is founded on the evidence of our senses.

Every proof may be referred to one of these three divisions: it is to be considered what arguments we receive from each of them, which should convince us of the existence of a Deity.

1st, The evidence of the senses. If the Deity should appear to us, if he should convince our senses of his existence, this revelation would necessarily command belief. Those to whom the Deity has thus appeared have the strongest possible conviction of his existence. But the God of Theologians is incapable of local visibility.

2d, Reason. It is urged that man knows that whatever is must either have had a beginning, or have existed from all eternity, he also knows that whatever is not eternal must have had a cause. When this reasoning is applied to the universe, it is necessary to prove that it was created: until that is clearly demonstrated we may reasonably suppose that it has endured from all eternity. We must prove design before we can infer a designer. The only idea which we can form of causation is derivable from the constant conjunction of objects, and the consequent inference of one from the other. In a base where two propositions are diametrically opposite, the mind believes that which is least incomprehensible; — it is easier to suppose that the universe has existed from all eternity than to conceive a being beyond its limits capable of creating it: if the mind sinks beneath the weight of one, is it an alleviation to increase the intolerability of the burthen?

The other argument, which is founded on a Man’s knowledge of his own existence, stands thus. A man knows not only that he now is, but that once he was not; consequently there must have been a cause. But our idea of causation is alone derivable from the constant conjunction of objects and the consequent Inference of one from the other; and, reasoning experimentally, we can only infer from effects caused adequate to those effects. But there certainly is a generative power which is effected by certain instruments: we cannot prove that it is inherent in these instruments” nor is the contrary hypothesis capable of demonstration: we admit that the generative power is incomprehensible; but to suppose that the same effect is produced by an eternal, omniscient, omnipotent being leaves the cause in the same obscurity, but renders it more incomprehensible.

3d, Testimony. It is required that testimony should not be contrary to reason. The testimony that the Deity convinces the senses of men of his existence can only be admitted by us, if our mind considers it less probable, that these men should have been deceived than that the Deity should have appeared to them. Our reason can never admit the testimony of men, who not only declare that they were eye-witnesses of miracles, but that the Deity was irrational; for he commanded that he should be believed, he proposed the highest rewards for, faith, eternal punishments for disbelief. We can only command voluntary actions; belief is not an act of volition; the mind is ever passive, or involuntarily active; from this it is evident that we have no sufficient testimony, or rather that testimony is insufficient to prove the being of a God. It has been before shown that it cannot be deduced from reason. They alone, then, who have been convinced by the evidence of the senses can believe it.

Hence it is evident that, having no proofs from either of the three sources of conviction, the mind cannot believe the existence of a creative God: it is also evident that, as belief is a passion of the mind, no degree of criminality is attachable to disbelief; and that they only are reprehensible who neglect to remove the false medium through which their mind views any subject of discussion. Every reflecting mind must acknowledge that there is no proof of the existence of a Deity.

God is an hypothesis, and, as such, stands in need of proof: the onus probandi rests on the theist. Sir Isaac Newton says: Hypotheses non fingo, quicquid enim ex phaenomenis non deducitur hypothesis, vocanda est, et hypothesis vel metaphysicae, vel physicae, vel qualitatum occultarum, seu mechanicae, in philosophia locum non habent. To all proofs of the existence of a creative God apply this valuable rule. We see a variety of bodies possessing a variety of powers: we merely know their effects; we are in a estate of ignorance with respect to their essences and causes. These Newton calls the phenomena of things; but the pride of philosophy is unwilling to admit its ignorance of their causes. From the phenomena, which are the objects of our attempt to infer a cause, which we call God, and gratuitously endow it with all negative and contradictory qualities. From this hypothesis we invent this general name, to conceal our ignorance of causes and essences. The being called God by no means answers with the conditions prescribed by Newton; it bears every mark of a veil woven by philosophical conceit, to hide the ignorance of philosophers even from themselves. They borrow the threads of its texture from the anthropomorphism of the vulgar. Words have been used by sophists for the same purposes, from the occult qualities of the peripatetics to the effuvium of Boyle and the crinities or nebulae of Herschel. God is represented as infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; he is contained under every predicate in non that the logic of ignorance could fabricate. Even his worshippers allow that it is impossible to form any idea of him: they exclaim with the French poet,

Pour dire ce qu’il est, il faut etre lui-meme.

Lord Bacon says that atheism leaves to man reason, philosophy, natural piety, laws, reputation, and everything that can serve to conduct him to virtue; but superstition destroys all these, and erects itself into a tyranny over the understandings of men: hence atheism never disturbs the government, but renders man more clear- sighted, since he sees nothing beyond the boundaries of the present life. — Bacon’s Moral Essays.

The [Beginning here, and to the paragraph ending with Systeme de la Nature,” Shelley wrote in French. A free translation has been substituted.] first theology of man made him first fear and adore the elements themselves, the gross and material objects of nature; he next paid homage to the agents controlling the elements, lower genies, heroes or men gifted with great qualities. By force of reflection he sought to simplify things by submitting all nature to a single agent, spirit, or universal soul, which, gave movement to nature and all its branches. Mounting from cause to cause, mortal man has ended by seeing nothing; and it is in this obscurity that he has placed his God; it is in this darksome abyss that his uneasy imagination has always labored to fabricate chimeras, which will continue to afflict him until his knowledge of nature chases these phantoms which he has always so adored.

If we wish to explain our ideas of the Divinity we shall be obliged to admit that, by the word God, man has never been able to designate but the most hidden, the most distant and the most unknown cause of the effects which he saw; he has made use of his word only when the play of natural and known causes ceased to be visible to him; as soon as he lost the thread of these causes, or when his mind could no longer follow the chain, he cut the difficulty and ended his researches by calling God the last of the causes, that is to say, that which is beyond all causes that he knew; thus he but assigned a vague denomination to an unknown cause, at which his laziness or the limits of his knowledge forced him to stop. Every time we say that God is the author of some phenomenon, that signifies that we are ignorant of how such a phenomenon was able to operate by the aid of forces or causes that we know in nature. It is thus that the generality of mankind, whose lot is ignorance, attributes to the Divinity, not only the unusual effects which strike them, but moreover the most simple events, of which the causes are the most simple to understand by whomever is able to study them. In a word, man has always respected unknown causes, surprising effects that his ignorance kept him from unraveling. It was on this debris of nature that man raised the imaginary colossus of the Divinity.

If ignorance of nature gave birth to gods, knowledge of nature is made for their destruction. In proportion as man taught himself, his strength and his resources augmented with his knowledge; science, the arts, industry, furnished him assistance; experience reassured him or procured for him means of resistance to the efforts of many causes which ceased to alarm as soon as they became understood. In a word, his terrors dissipated in the same proportion as his mind became enlightened. The educated man ceases to be superstitious.

It is only by hearsay (by word of mouth passed down from generation to generation) that whole peoples adore the God of their fathers and of their priests: authority, confidence, submission and custom with them take the place of conviction or of proofs: they prostrate themselves and pray, because their fathers taught them to prostrate themselves and pray: but why did their fathers fall on their knees? That is because, in primitive times, their legislators and their guides made it their duty. “Adore and believe,” they said, “the gods whom you cannot understand; have confidence in our profound wisdom; we know more than you about Divinity.” But why should I come to you? It is because God willed it thus; it is because God will punish you if you dare resist. But this God, is not he, then, the thing in question? However, man has always traveled in this vicious circle; his slothful mind has always made him find it easier to accept the judgment of others. All religious nations are founded solely on authority; all the religions of the world forbid examination and do not want one to reason; authority wants one to believe in God; this God is himself founded only on the authority of a few men who pretend to know him, and to come in his name and announce him on earth. A God made by man undoubtedly has need of man to make himself known to man.

Should it not, then, be for the priests, the inspired, the metaphysicians that should be reserved the conviction of the existence of a God, which they, nevertheless, say is so necessary for all mankind? But Can you find any harmony in the theological opinions of the different inspired ones or thinkers scattered over the earth? They themselves, who make a profession of adoring the same God, are they in Agreement? Are they content with the proofs that their colleagues bring of his existence? Do they subscribe unanimously to the ideas they present on nature, on his conduct, on the manner of understanding his pretended oracles? Is there a country on earth where the science of God is really perfect? Has this science anywhere taken the consistency and uniformity that we the see the science of man assume, even in the most futile crafts, the most despised trades. These words mind immateriality, creation, predestination and grace; this mass of subtle distinctions with which theology to everywhere filled; these so ingenious inventions, imagined by thinkers who have succeeded one another for so many centuries, have only, alas! confused things all the more, and never has man’s most necessary science, up to this time acquired the slightest fixity. For thousands of years the lazy dreamers have perpetually relieved one another to meditate on the Divinity, to divine his secret will, to invent the proper hypothesis to develop this important enigma. Their slight success has not discouraged the theological vanity: one always speaks of God: one has his throat cut for God: and this sublime being still remains the most unknown and the most discussed.

Man would have been too happy, if, limiting himself to the visible objects which interested him, he had employed, to perfect his real sciences, his laws, his morals, his education, one-half the efforts he has put into his researches on the Divinity. He would have been still wiser and still more fortunate if he had been satisfied to let his jobless guides quarrel among themselves, sounding depths capable of rendering them dizzy, without himself mixing in their senseless disputes. But it is the essence of ignorance to attach importance to that which it does not understand. Human vanity is so constituted that it stiffens before difficulties. The more an object conceals itself from our eyes, the greater the effort we make to seize it, because it pricks our pride, it excites our curiosity and it appears interesting. In fighting for his God everyone, in fact, fights only for the interests of his own vanity, which, of all the passions produced by the mal-organization of society, is the quickest to take offense, and the most capable of committing the greatest follies.

If, leaving for a moment the annoying idea that theology gives of a capricious God, whose partial and despotic decrees decide the fate of mankind, we wish to fix our eyes only on the pretended goodness, which all men, even trembling before this God, agree is ascribing to him, if we allow him the purpose that is lent him of having worked only for his own glory, of exacting the homage of intelligent beings; of seeking only in his works the well-being of mankind; how reconcile these views and these dispositions with the ignorance truly invincible in which this God, so glorious and so good, leaves the majority of mankind in regard to God himself? If God wishes to be known, cherished, thanked, why does he not show himself under his favorable features to all these intelligent beings by whom he wishes to be loved and adored? Why not manifest himself to the whole earth in an unequivocal manner, much more capable of convincing us than these private revelations which seem to accuse the Divinity of an annoying partiality for some of his creatures? The all-powerful, should he not heave more convincing means by which to show man than these ridiculous metamorphoses, these pretended incarnations, which are attested by writers so little in agreement among themselves? In place of so many miracles, invented to prove the divine mission of so many legislators revered by the different people of the world, the Sovereign of these spirits, could he not convince the human mind in an instant of the things he wished to make known to it? Instead of hanging the sun in the vault of the firmament, instead of scattering stars without order, and the constellations which fill space, would it not have been more in conformity with the views of a God so jealous of his glory and so well-intentioned for mankind, to write, in a manner not subject to dispute, his name, his attributes, his permanent wishes in ineffaceable characters, equally understandable to all the inhabitants of the earth? No one would then be able to doubt the existence of God, of his clear will, of his visible intentions. Under the eyes of this so terrible God no one would have the audacity to violate his commands, no mortal would dare risk attracting his anger: finally, no man would have the effrontery to impose on his name or to interpret his will according to his own fancy.

In fact, even while admitting the existence of the theological God, and the reality of his so discordant attributes which they impute to him, one can conclude nothing to authorize the conduct or the cult which one is prescribed to render him. Theology is truly the sieve of the Danaides. By dint of contradictory qualities and hazarded assertions it has, that is to say, so handicapped its God that it has made it impossible for him to act. If he is infinitely good, what reason should we have to fear him? If he is infinitely wise, why should we have doubts concerning our future? If he knows all, why warn him of our needs and fatigue him with our prayers? If he is everywhere, why erect temples to him? If he is just, why fear that he will punish the creatures that he has, filled with weaknesses? If grace does everything for them, what reason would he have for recompensing them? If he is all-powerful, how offend him, how resist him? If he is reasonable, how can he be angry at the blind, to whom he has given the liberty of being unreasonable? If he is immovable, by what right do we pretend to make him change his decrees? If he is inconceivable, why occupy ourselves with him? IF HE HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS THE UNIVERSE NOT CONVINCED? If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest. — Systame de la Nature. London, 1781.

The enlightened and benevolent Pliny thus Publicly professes himself an atheist, — Quapropter effigiem Del formamque quaerere imbecillitatis humanae reor. Quisquis est Deus (si modo est alius) et quacunque in parte, totus est gensus, totus est visus, totus auditus, totus animae, totus animi, totus sul. … Imperfectae vero in homine naturae praecipua solatia, ne deum quidem omnia. Namque nec sibi protest mortem consciscere, si velit, quod homini dedit optimum in tantis vitae poenis; nee mortales aeternitate donare, aut revocare defunctos; nec facere ut qui vixit non vixerit, qui honores gessit non gesserit, nullumque habere In praeteritum ius praeterquam oblivionts, atque (ut. facetis quoque argumentis societas haec cum, deo compuletur) ut bis dena viginti non sint, et multa similiter efficere non posse. — Per quaedeclaratur haud dubie naturae potentiam id quoque ease quod Deum vocamus. — Plin. Nat. Hist. cap. de Deo.

The consistent Newtonian is necessarily an atheist. See Sir W. Drummond’s Academical Questions, chap. iii. — Sir W. seems to consider the atheism to which it leads as a sufficient presumption of the falsehood of the system of gravitation; but surely it is more consistent with the good faith of philosophy to admit a deduction from facts than an hypothesis incapable of proof, although it might militate, with the obstinate preconceptions of the mob. Had this author, instead of inveighing against the guilt and absurdity of atheism, demonstrated its falsehood, his conduct would have, been more suited to the modesty of the skeptic and the toleration of the philosopher.

Omnia enim per Dei potentiam facta aunt: imo quia naturae potentia nulla est nisi ipsa Dei potentia. Certum est nos eatenus Dei potentiam non intelligere, quatenus causas naturales ignoramus; adeoque stulte ad eandem Dei potentism recurritur, quando rei alicuius causam naturalem, sive est, ipsam Dei potentiam ignoramusd — Spinoza, Tract. Theologico-Pol. chap 1. P. 14.

On Life

Life and the world, or whatever we call that which we are and feel, is an astonishing thing. The mist of familiarity obscures from us the wonder of our being. We are struck with admiration at some of its transient modifications, but it is itself the great miracle. What are changes of empires, the wreck of dynasties, with the opinions which support them; what is the birth and the extinction of religious and of political systems, to life? What are the revolutions of the globe which we inhabit, and the operations of the elements of which it is composed, compared with life? What is the universe of stars, and suns, of which this inhabited earth is one, and their motions, and their destiny, compared with life? Life, the great miracle, we admire not because it is so miraculous. It is well that we are thus shielded by the familiarity of what is at once so certain and so unfathomable, from an astonishment which would otherwise absorb and overawe the functions of that which is its object.

If any artist, I do not say had executed, but had merely conceived in his mind the system of the sun, and the stars, and planets, they not existing, and had painted to us in words, or upon canvas, the spectacle now afforded by the nightly cope of heaven, and illustrated it by the wisdom of astronomy, great would be our admiration. Or had he imagined the scenery of this earth, the mountains, the seas, and the rivers; the grass, and the flowers, and the variety of the forms and masses of the leaves of the woods, and the colors which attend the setting and the rising sun, and the hues of the atmosphere, turbid or serene, these things not before existing, truly we should have been astonished, and it would not have been a vain boast to have said of such a man, “Non merita nome di creatore, se non Iddio ed il Poeta.” But how these things are looked on with little wonder, and to be conscious of them with intense delight is esteemed to be the distinguishing mark of a refined and extraordinary person. The multitude of men care not for them. It is thus with Life — that which includes all.

What is life? Thoughts and feelings arise, with or without, our will, and we employ words to express them. We are born, and our birth is unremembered, and our infancy remembered but in fragments; we live on, and in living we lose the apprehension of life. How vain is it to think that words can penetrate the mystery of our being! Rightly used they may make evident our ignorance to ourselves; and this is much. For what are we? Whence do we come? and whither do we go? Is birth the commencement, is death the conclusion of our being? What is birth and death?

The most refined abstractions of logic conduct to a view of life, which, though startling to the apprehension, is, in fact, that which the habitual sense of its repeated combinations has extinguished in us. It strips, as it were, the painted curtain from this scene of things. I confess that I am one of those who am unable to refuse my assent to the conclusion of those philosophers who assert that nothing exists but as it is perceived.

It is a decision against which all our persuasions struggle, and we must be long convicted before we can be convinced that the solid universe of external things is “such stuff as dreams are made of.” The shocking absurdities of the popular philosophy of mind and matter, its fatal consequences in morals, and their violent dogmatism concerning the source of all things, had early conducted me to materialism. This materialism is a seducing system to young and superficial minds. It allows its disciples to talk, and dispenses them from thinking. But I was discontented with such a view of things as it afforded; man is a being of high aspirations, “looking both before and after,” whose “thoughts wander through eternity,” disclaiming alliance with transience and decay: incapable of imagining to himself annihilation; existing but in the future and the past; being, not what he is, but what he has been and all be. Whatever may be his true and final destination, there is a spirit within him at enmity with nothingness and dissolution. This is the character of all life and being. Each is at once the center and the circumference; the point to which all things are referred, and the line in which all things are contained. Such contemplations as these, materialism and the popular philosophy of mind and matter alike they are only consistent with the intellectual system.

It is absurd to enter into a long recapitulation of arguments sufficiently familiar to those inquiring minds, whom alone a writer on abstruse subjects can be conceived to address. Perhaps the most clear and vigorous statement of the intellectual system is to be found in Sir William Drummond’s Academical Questions. After such an exposition, it would be idle to translate into other words what could only lose its energy and fitness by the change. Examined point by point, and word by word, the most discriminating intellects have been able to discern no train of thoughts in the process of reasoning, which does not conduct inevitably to the conclusion which has been stated.

What follows from the admission? It establishes no new truth, it gives us no additional insight into our hidden nature, neither its action nor itself: Philosophy, impatient as it may be to build, has much work yet remaining as pioneer for the overgrowth of ages. it makes one step towards this object; it destroys error, and the roots of error. It leaves, what it is too often the duty of the reformer in political and ethical questions to leave, a vacancy. it reduces the mind to that freedom in which it would have acted, but for the misuse of words and signs, the instruments of its own creation. By signs, I would be understood in a wide sense, including what is properly meant by that term, and what I peculiarly mean. In this latter sense, almost all familiar objects are signs, standing, not for themselves, but for others, in their capacity of suggesting one thought which shall lead to a train of thoughts. Our whole life is thus an education of error.

Let us recollect our sensations as children. What a distinct and intense apprehension had we of the world and of ourselves! Many of the Circumstances of social life were then important to us which are now no longer so. But that is not the point of comparison on which I mean to insist. We less habitually distinguished all that we saw and felt, from ourselves. They seemed, as it were, to constitute one mass. There are some persons who, in this respect, are always children. Those who are subject to the state called reverie, feel as if their nature were dissolved into the surrounding universe, or as if the surrounding universe were absorbed into their being. They are conscious of no distinction. And these are states which precede, or accompany, or follow an unusually intense and vivid apprehension of life. As men grow up this power commonly decays, and they become mechanical and habitual agents. Thus feelings and then reasoning are the combined result of a multitude of entangled thoughts, and of a series of what are called impressions, planted by reiteration.

The view of life presented by the most refined deductions of the intellectual philosophy, to that of unity. Nothing exists but as it is perceived. The difference is merely nominal between those two classes of thought which are distinguished by the names of ideas and of external objects. Pursuing the same thread of reasoning, the existence of distinct individual minds, similar to that which is employed in now questioning its own nature, is likewise found to be a delusion. The words, I, you, they, are not signs of any actual difference subsisting between the assemblage of thoughts thus indicated, but are merely marks employed to denote the different modifications of the one mind.

Let it not be supposed that this doctrine conducts the monstrous presumption that I, the person who now write and think, am that one mind. I am but a portion of it. The words I, and you, and they are grammatical devices invented simply for arrangement, and totally devoid of the intense and exclusive sense usually attached to them. It is difficult to find terms adequate to express so subtle a conception as that to which the Intellectual Philosophy has conducted us. We are on that verge where words abandon us, and what wonder if we grow dizzy to look down the dark abyss of how little we know!

The relations of things remain unchanged, by whatever system. By the word things is to be understood any object of thought, that is, any thought upon which any other thought is employed, with an apprehension of distinction. The relations of these remain unchanged; and such is the material of our knowledge.

What is the cause of life? That is, how was it produced, or what agencies distinct from life have acted or act upon life? All recorded generations of mankind have wearily busied themselves in inventing answers to this question; and the result has been — Religion. Yet that the basis of all things cannot be, as the popular philosophy alleges, mind, is sufficiently evident. Mind, as far as we have any experience of its properties — and beyond that experience how vain is argument! — cannot create, it can only perceive. It is said also to be the cause. But cause is only a word expressing a certain state of the human mind with regard to the manner in which two thoughts are apprehended to be related to each other. If anyone desires to know how unsatisfactorily the popular philosophy employs itself upon this great question, they need only impartially reflect upon the manner in which thoughts develop themselves in their minds. It is infinitely improbable that the cause of mind, that is, of existence, is similar to mind.

On A Future State

It has been the persuasion of an immense majority of human beings in all ages and nations that we continue to live after death — that apparent termination of all the functions of sensitive and intellectual existence. Nor has mankind been contented with supposing that species of existence which some philosophers have asserted; namely, the resolution of the component parts of the mechanism of a living being into its elements, and the impossibility of the minutest particle of these sustaining the smallest diminution. They have clung to the idea that sensibility and thought, which they have distinguished from the objects of it, under the several names of spirit and matter, is, in its own nature, less susceptible of division and decay, and that, when the body is resolved into its elements, the principle which animated it will remain perpetual and unchanged. Some philosophers — and those to whom we are indebted for the most stupendous discoveries in physical science — suppose, on the other hand, that intelligence is the mere result of certain combinations among the particles of its objects; and those among them who believe that we live after death, recur to the interposition of a supernatural power, which shall overcome the tendency inherent in all material combinations, to dissipate and be absorbed into other forms.

Let us trace the reasoning which in one and the other have conducted to these two opinions, and endeavor to discover what we ought to think on a question of such momentous interest. Let us analyze the ideas and feelings which constitute the contending beliefs, and watchfully establish a discrimination between words and thoughts. Let us bring the question to the test of experience and fact; and ask ourselves, considering our nature in its entire extent, what light we derive from a sustained and comprehensive view of its component parts, which may enable us to assert, with certainty,, that we do or do not live after death.

The examination of this subject requires that it should be stripped of all those accessory topics which adhere to it in the common opinion of men. The existence of a God, and a future state of rewards and punishments are totally foreign to the subject. If it be proved that the world is ruled by a Divine Power, no inference necessarily can be drawn from that circumstance in favor of a future state. It has been asserted, indeed, that as goodness and justice are to be numbered among the attributes of the Deity, he will undoubtedly compensate the virtuous who suffer during life, and that he will make every sensitive being, who does not deserve punishment, happy forever. But this view of the subject, which it would be tedious as well as superfluous to develop and expose, satisfies no person, and cuts the knot which we now seek to untie. Moreover, should it be proved, on the other hand, that the mysterious principle which regulates the proceedings of the universe, to neither intelligent nor sensitive, yet it is not an inconsistency to suppose at the same time, that the animating power survives the body which it has animated, by laws as independent of any supernatural agent as those through which it first became united with it. Nor, if a future state be clearly proved, does it follow that it will be a state of punishment or reward.

By the word death, we express that condition in which natures resembling ourselves apparently cease to be that which they are. We no longer hear them speak, nor see them move. If they have sensations and apprehensions, we no longer participate in them. We know no more than that those external organs, and all that fine texture of material frame, without which we have no experience that life or thought can subsist, are dissolved and scattered abroad. The body is placed under the earth, and after a certain period there remains no vestige even of its form. This is that contemplation of inexhaustible melancholy, whose shadow eclipses the brightness of the world. The common observer is struck with dejection of the spectacle. He contends in vain against the persuasion of the grave, that the dead indeed cease to be. The corpse at his feet is prophetic of his own destiny. Those who have preceded him, and whose voice was delightful to his ear; whose touch met his like sweet and subtle fire: whose aspect spread a visionary light upon his path — these he cannot meet again. The organs of sense are destroyed, and the intellectual operations dependent on them have perished with their sources. How can a corpse see or feel? its eyes are eaten out, and its heart is black and without motion. What intercourse can two heaps of putrid Clay and crumbling bones hold together? When you can discover where the fresh colors of the faded flower abide, or the music of the broken lyre seek life among the dead. Such are the anxious and fearful contemplations of the common observer, though the popular religion often prevents him from confessing them even to himself.

The natural philosopher, in addition to the sensations common to all men inspired by the event of death, believes that he sees with more certainty that it is attended with the annihilation of sentiment and thought. He observes the mental powers increase and fade with those of the body, and even accommodate themselves to the most transitory changes of our physical nature. Sleep suspends many of the faculties of the vital and intellectual principle; drunkenness and disease will either temporarily or permanently derange them. Madness or idiocy may utterly extinguish the most excellent and delicate of those powers. In old age the mind gradually withers; and as it grew and was strengthened with the body, so does it together with the body sink into decrepitude. Assuredly these are convincing evidences that so soon as the organs of the body are subjected to the laws of inanimate matter, sensation, and perception, and apprehension, are at an end. It is probable that what we call thought is not an actual being, but no more than the relation between certain parts of that infinitely varied mass, of which the rest of the universe is composed, and which ceases to exist so soon as those parts change their position with regard to each other. Thus color, and sound, and taste, and odor exist only relatively. But let thought be considered only as some peculiar substance, which permeates, and is the cause of, the animation of living beings. Why should that substance be assumed to be something essentially distinct from all others, and exempt from subjection to those laws from which no other substance is exempt? It differs, indeed, from all other substances, as electricity, and light, and magnetism, and the constituent parts of air and earth, severally differ from all others. Each of these is subject to change and decay, and to conversion into other forms. Yet the difference between light and earth is scarcely greater than that which exists between life, or thought, and fire. The difference between the two former was never alleged as an argument for eternal permanence of either, in that form under which they first might offer themselves to our notice. Why should the difference between the two latter substances be an argument for the prolongation of the existence of one and not the other, when the existence of both has arrived at their apparent termination? To say that fire exists without manifesting any of the properties of fire, such as light, heat, etc., or that the Principle of life exists without consciousness, or memory, or desire, or motive, is to resign, by an awkward distortion of language, the affirmative of the dispute. To say that the principle of life may exist in distribution among various forms, is to assert what cannot be proved to be either true or false, but which, were it true, annihilates all hope of existence after death, in any sense in which that event can belong to the hopes and fears of men. Suppose, however, that the intellectual and vital principle differs in the most marked and essential manner from all other known substances; that they have all some resemblance between themselves which it in no degree participates. In what manner can this concession be made an argument for its imperishabillity? All that we see or know perishes and is changed. Life and thought differ indeed from everything else. But that it survives that period, beyond which we have no experience of its existence, such distinction and dissimilarity affords no shadow of proof, and nothing but our own desires could have led us to conjecture or imagine.

Have we existed before birth? It is difficult to conceive the possibility of this. There is, in the generative principle of each animal and plant, a power which converts the substances homogeneous with itself. That is, the relations between certain elementary particles of matter undergo a change, and submit to new combinations. For when we use words: principle, power, cause, etc., we mean to express no real being, but only to class under those terms a certain series of coexisting phenomena; but let it be supposed that this principle is a certain substance which escapes the observation of the chemist and anatomist. It certainly may be; thought it is sufficiently unphilosophical to allege the possibility of an opinion as a proof of its truth. Does it see, hear, feel, before its combination with those organs on which sensation depends? Does it reason, imagine, apprehend, without those ideas which sensation alone can communicate? If we have not existed before birth; If, at the period when the parts of our nature on which thought and life depend, seem to be woven together; If there are no reasons to suppose that we have existed before that period at which our existence apparently commences, then there are no grounds for supposing that we shall continue to exist after our existence has apparently ceased. So far as thought and life is concerned, the same will take place with regard to us, individually considered, after death, as had taken place before our birth.

It is said that it is possible that we should continue to exist in some mode totally inconceivable to us at present. This is a most unreasonable presumption. It casts on the adherents of annihilation the burden of proving the negative of a question, the affirmative of which is not supported by a single argument, and which, by its very nature, lies beyond the experience of the human understanding. It is sufficiently easy. indeed, to form any proposition, concerning which we are ignorant, just not so absurd as not to be contradictory in itself, and defy refutation. The possibility of whatever enters into the wildest imagination to conceive is thus triumphantly vindicated. But it is enough that such assertions should be either contradictory to the known laws of nature, or exceed the limits of our experience, that their fallacy or irrelevancy to our consideration should be demonstrated. They persuade, indeed, only those who desire to be persuaded.

This desire to be forever as we are; the reluctance to a violent and unexperienced change, which is common to all the animated and inanimate combinations of the universe, is, indeed, the secret persuasion which has given birth to the opinions of a future state.

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Posted by saformo on 14th diciembre 2010


1789 14 July Storming of the Bastille in Paris.
1792 4 Aug Percy Bysshe Shelley (PBS) born at Field Place, Warnham, near Horsham, West Sussex, the eldest child of Timothy Shelley, M.P., and Elizabeth Pilfold Shelley, and eldest grandchild of (Percy) Bysshe Shelley, a wealthy landowner.
1793 January Execution of King Louis XVI .
February France declares war on England and Holland.
May Reign of Terror (May 1793-July 1794).
October Execution of Marie-Antoinette.
1794 May Habeas Corpus suspended in England (also in August 1799, April 1801, and 1803).
Oct.-Dec. London treason trials of Horne, Tooke, Hardy, and others, with their acquittals.
1796 Napoleon Bonaparte leads French army into Italy and defeats Austrians.
1797 29 Mar. William Godwin marries Mary Wollstonecraft.
30 Aug. Mary Wollstonecraft gives birth to Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Shelley-MWS).
10 Sept. Mary Wollstonecraft dies.
17 Oct Bonaparte imposes Treaty of Campo Formio on Austria.
1798 PBS studies with local clergyman, the Reverend Evan (“Taffy”) Edwards.
Feb.-Oct. The Irish Rebellion.
1 Aug. Nelson destroys French fleet at Battle ofthe Nile.
1799 October Napoleon returns to France–becomes first consul in November.
1800 Spring Act of Union of Great Britain and Ireland.
14 June Napoleon defeats Austrians at Marengo.
1801 February William Pitt ousted.
March Addington administration.
April Nelson bombards Copenhagen and destroys neutral Danish fleet to prevent it from falling into French Hands.
1802 PBS begins boarding school at Syon House Academy, Isleworth, on the Great Western Road in Thames Valley.
March Peace of Amiens between England and France.
August Napoleon’s title of First Consul (1799) extended for life.
October French invade Switzerland.
1803 May Renewal of war between France and England.
1804 May Napoleon declared Emperor of France.
Second Pitt administration begins.
September PBS begins studies at Eton (continues through spring of 1810).
1805 May Napoleon crowned King of Italy.
October Nelson’s victory (and death) at Trafalgar balances Napoleon’s defeat of the Austrians at Ulm the same mont and of both the Austrians and Russians at Austerlitz in December.
1806 Earliest possible year for any of PBS’s poems in The Esdaile Notebook (latest written 1813).
January Pitt’s death.
February National unity “Ministry of All the Talents.”
June Abolition of slave trade.
Bysshe Shelley created Sir Bysshe Shelley, baronet.
September Charles James Fox dies.
October Napoleon crushes Prussians at Jena-Auerstädt.
1807 March Duke of Portland’s coalition administration begins.
June Napoleon defeats Russians at Friedland.
July Napoleon and Czar Alexander sign Treaty of Tilsit.
1808 PBS begins corresponding with his Wiltshire cousin Harriet Grove (their “engagement” ends in 1810).
August British under Wellesley open Peninsular Campaign with victory at Vimera, but sign away advantages to French in Convention of Cintra (August 30).
1809 PBS writes five or six poems in The Esdaile Notebook.
October Spencer Perceval, a Tory, becomes Prime Minister.
1810 Spring PBS’s Gothic novel Zastrozzi published.
30 July PBS concludes his studies at Eaton.
Sept./Oct. PBS and his sister Elizabeth’s Original Poetry by “Victor” and “Cazire” published and withdrawn.
10 Oct. PBS begins studies at University College, Oxford, where he meets Thomas Jefferson Hogg shortly thereafter.
November PBS’s Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson published.
December St. Irvyne, PBS’s second Gothic novel, published.
1811 January PBS meets Harriet Westbrook.
?February PBS and Hogg write The Necessity of Atheism.
25 Mar. PBS and Hogg expelled from University College for refusing to answere questions about the authorship of The Necessity of Atheism.
25 Aug. PBS and Harriet Westbrook elope and are married in Edinburgh on 29 August.
October The Shelley’s arrive at York, where Hogg tries to seduce Harriet.
November Shelleys move to Keswick and are befriended by Southey.









February Early in the month, the Shelleys travel to Dublin.
In Dublin, PBS publishes two pamphlets, Address to the Irish People and Proposals for an Association of . . .Philanthropists.
Declaration of Rights printed.
6 Apr. Shelleys return to Wales.
May Spencer Perceval assassinated by an insane bankrupt–succeeded as Tory Prime Minister by Robert Banks Jenkins, 2nd Earl of Loverpool (who serves till his death in 1827).
June Shelleys move to Lynmouth, Devon, where PBS writes Letter to Lord Ellenborough.
Napoleon invades Russia.
September Shelleys, joined by Elizabeth Hitchener in July, go to Tremadoc, North Wales.
Napoleon wins Battle of Borodino and captures Moscow.
29 Sept. Sometime after this date, Shelleys and Hitchener go to London.
4 Oct. PBS meets William Godwin in London.
October Moscow is burned and French begin disastrous retreat, which continues during one of the coldest winters in European history.
November Mid-month, Shelleys, without Hitchener, return to Tremadoc.
1813 Napoleon tries unsuccessfully to defeat the Allies in Germany, with major battles at Dresden in August and Leipzig in October.
27 Feb. Shelleys flee Tremadoc and go to Ireland to recover manuscript of The Esdaile Notebook from printer there.
5 Apr. Shelleys return to London.
May Queen Mab issued.
23 June Ianthe Shelley born.
July Shelleys at Bracknell, with Newton-Boinville circle.
1814 January+ Early in the month, the Allies begin their invasion of France.
Jan. or Feb. PBS publishes A Refutation of Deism.
31 Mar. Allies capture Paris.
3 Apr. Napoleon deposed and then abdicates (4-6 April).
6 Apr. Louis XVIII proclaimed king.
27 July PBS and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (MWS) elope to war-ravaged France, accompanied by MWS’s step-sister, Mary Jane (later “Claire”) Clairmont (born ?April 27, 1798), after which they quickly remove to Switzerland.
13 Sept. From Switzerland they return to England, after journey down Rhine.
September Congress of Vienna convenes (continues, with interruptions, till June 1815).
30 Nov. PBS’s first son, Charles, born to Harriet.
1815 5 Jan. Sir Bysshe Shelley dies. During the subsequent 18 months, PBS is involved in negotiations with his father over the settlement of the will, ultimately receiving money to pay his debts (some cash he diverts to Godwin), as well as an annual income of 1,000 pounds (200 earmarked for Harriet; later 120 for her children).
January PBS involved with George Cannon and Theological Inquirer.
Jan.-Apr. PBS, MWS, Claire Clairmont, and Hogg engage in free-love experiment.
?22 Feb. MWS’s first child (a daughter) born prematurely–dies on March 6.
Feb./Mar. Napoleon returns to rule France for the Hundred Days in March through June.
18 June Waterloo.
August PBS and MWS settle near Bishopsgate.
September Shelleys travel by boat up the Thames with Peacock and Charles Clairmont.
Autumn/Winter PBS writes Alastor.
1816 24 Jan. William Shelley born.
February Alastor . . .and Other Poems published.
25 Apr. Byron leaves England.
May Princess Charlotte, only legitimate child of the Prince Regent (later George IV), marries Leopold of Saxe-Coburg.
PBS, MWS, and Claire Clairmont leave England for Geneva (arrive mid-May) and remain near Byron till August 29.
June PBS tours Lake Leman with Byron and writes “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.”
July Shelleys visit Mont Blanc and PBS writes “Mont Blanc.”
8 Sept. Shelleys reach Portsmouth, after which they settle at Bath.
9 Oct. Fanny Imlay (MWS’s half-sister) commits suicide in Wales.
2 Dec. A year of social unrest caused by unemployment, bad harvests, and food shortages culminates in Spa Fields Riot.
Harriet Shelley drowns herself (her body found December 10).
30 Dec. PBS and MWS marry.









12 Jan. Allegra Byron, Claire’s daughter, born at Bath.
5 Feb. PBS meets Keats and Reynolds at supper with Leigh Hunt.
23 Feb. PBS, MWS, William, and Claire Clairmont travel to Marlow.
4 Mar. Habeas Corpus suspended (till February 1818), after which opposition journalists flee or are imprisoned.
circa 14 Mar. PBS’s Proposal for Putting Reform to the Vote published.
27 Mar. Chancery Court denies PBS custody of his children (by Harriet) Ianthe and Charles.
28 Mar. Shelleys spend first night in Albion House, their permanent home while at Marlow.
?Mar.-Sept. PBS writes Laon and Cythna.
2 Sept. Clara Shelley born.
?Sept.-Dec. PBS drafts “Essay on Christianity.”
?Oct.-Nov. Laon and Cythna printed.
?Nov./Dec. History of a Six Weeks’ Tour by MWS and PBS published.
6 Nov. Princess Charlotte dies in Childbirth.
11-12 Nov. PBS writes (and perhaps publishes soon after) An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte.
December Revised version of Laon and Cythna published as The Revolt of Islam (dated 1818).
MWS’s Frankenstein published (dated 1818).
David Booth and W.T. Baxter break with the Shelleys.





?January PBS begins Rosalind and Helen.
12 Mar. After spending time in London, PBS and MWS leave for the Continent, accompanied by Claire Clairmont, three children, and two female servants–Amelia (Milly) Shields and Louise (Elise) Duvillard.
4 Apr. Shelley party reaches Milan April 4, visit the Italian lakes, send Allegra, with Elise, to Byron April 28, visit Pisa Livorno (Leghorn), and meet the Gisbornes in May.
June Shelleys move to Bagni di (Baths of) Lucca, where PBS translates Plato’s Symposium, writes “On Love,” and completes Rosalind and Helen.
17 Aug. PBS and Claire depart for Venice with hopes of convincing Byron to allow Claire to see Allegra.
27 Aug. The day after arriving in Venice, PBS visits Byron; sends letter to MWS summoning her and the children (with Milly and new servant, Paolo Foggi).
PBS settles at Este and begins Prometheus Unbound.
24 Sept. Little Clara Shelley dies.
?Sept.-11 Oct. PBS’s depression reflected in “Euganean Hills” and beginning of “Julian and Maddalo.”
12-31 Oct. Shelleys visit Venice.
Nov.-1 Dec. Shelleys travel to Rome and Naples, remaining in Naples till February 28, 1819, with excursions to Vesuvius, Paestum, etc.





5 Mar. Shelleys reach Rome.
Mar.-May PBS drafts Acts II-III of Prometheus.
7 June William Shelley dies.
10 June Shelleys flee to Livorno, where MWS remains in depression, while PBS writes The Cenci in summer (printed in Italy, it is sent to England for publication in 1820).
16 Aug. “Peterloo Massacre.”
September News of “Peterloo Massacre” provokes PBS to write Mask of Anarchy.
2 Oct. Shelleys move to Firenze (Florence), where son Percy Florence Shelley is born November 12 and where PBS finishes Prometheus (published August 1820).
Oct.-Nov. PBS writes “West Wind” and “Peter Bell the Third.”
?Dec.-Jan. PBS drafts “A Philosophical View of Reform.”
Dec./Jan. Parliament fears revolution and passes the “Six Acts” to repress dissent.









January George III dies and George IV succeeds.
January Spanish army revolts.
26 Jan. Shelleys move to Pisa.
February Cato Street conspiracy to Kill the English ministry foiled (leaders executed 1 May).
March PBS writes “Sensitive Plant.”
PBS writes “Ode to Liberty,” and “Sky-lark.”
Constitutional monarchy established in Spain.
June-Aug. Shelleys in England–live in Gisbornes’s house at Livorno.
ff. 16 June PBS writes “Letter to Maria Gisborne.”
July Constitutional revolution in Naples in July.
July Caroline of Brunswick, estranged wife of George IV, returns from Italy to England to claim her rights as queen; she is “tried” by House of Lords (August-November) but becomes a rallying point for the opposition.
August Prometheus Unbound published.
Aug.-Oct. At Bagni di San Giuliano (Bagni di Pisa), PBS writes “Witch of Atlas,” “Ode to Naples,” and Swellfoot the Tyrant (the last published and suppressed in November or December).
20 Oct. Claire Clairmont moves to Firenze.
October At end of month, flood forces Shelleys (with Medwin) to return to Pisa.
November Shelleys meet Teresa (“Emilia”) Viviani.
2 Dec. Shelleys meet Mavrocordato.





Jan.-Feb. PBS visits Teresa Viviani and writes Epipsychidion.
13 Jan. Shelleys meet Edward and Jane Williams who have recently arrived in Pisa.
Feb.-Mar. PBS writes “A Defence of Poetry.”
March Austrians crush Neapolitan liberals and restore hegemony throughout Italy.
March Greeks in Morea rise against Turkish rule.
April Expatriate Greeks from Russia invade Turkish provinces.
11 Apr. A letter from London informs PBS of Keats’s death (Rome, February 23).
May Early in the month, Williamses move to Pugnano, Shelleys to Bagni di San Giuliano, both on the River Serchio; Epipsychidion published anonymously.
May/June PBS writes Adonais (printed July).
August PBS visits Byron at Ravenna and urges him and the Gambas to move to Pisa.
August Gambas arrive in Pisa.
Oct.-Nov. PBS writes Hellas.
1 Nov. Byron arrives in Pisa.





?January PBS works on “Charles the First.”
14 Jan. Edward John Trelawny arrives in Pisa.
“Pisan Circle,” centered on Byron and PBS, plans theatricals.
February Hellas published.
20 Apr. Allegra Byron dies.
30 Apr. Shelleys and Williamses move to San Terenzo, on Bay of Lerici.
12 May PBS’s boat, the Don Juan, arrives.
+ 20 May PBS writes “The Triumph of Life.”
16 June MWS miscarries.
1 July PBS and Williams sail to Leghorn to meet Hunts.
8 July PBS and Williams begin return voyage from Leghorn.
19 July Trelawny identifies two bodies, one near Via Reggio and the other three miles down the shore at Lericcio, as those of PBS and Williams.
Bodies temporarily buried.
13 Aug. Williams’s body cremated.
14 Aug. PBS’s body cremated.
September+ MWS and Hunts live together and near Byron at Albaro, outside Genoa (through July 1823).
1823 July MWS returns to England.
1824 June MWS’s edition of PBS’s Posthumous Poems published.
September Posthumous Poems suppressed at insistence of Sir Timothy Shelley.

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Posted by saformo on 14th diciembre 2010

The people most immediately influencing him.

A word again upon Byron here. In Byron we have the vague, generous and genuine aspirations in the abstract, which found their final expression in the bourgeois-democratic movement of 1848. In Shelley, there was more than the vague striving after freedom in the abstract, and therefore his ideas are finding expression in the social-democratic movement of our own day. Thus Shelley was on the side of the bourgeoisie when struggling for freedom, but ranged against them when in their turn they became the oppressors of the working-class. He saw more clearly than Byron, who seems scarcely to have seen it at all, that the epic of the nineteenth century was to be the contest between the possessing and the producing classes. And it is just this that removes hint from the category of Utopian Socialists, and makes him so far as it was possible in his time, a Socialist of modern days.

We have already referred to the influence of Baboeuf, (probably indirect), and of Rousseau. To these must of course be added the French “philosophes,” the Encyclopaedists, especially Holbach, or more accurately his “ghost” Diderot — Diderot, the intellectual “ghost” of everybody of his time.

Into any inquiry concerning the writer, that influenced Shelley’s politics and sociology the name of Godwin must necessarily enter prominently. Bowden’s Life, has made us all so thoroughly acquainted with the ill side of Godwin, that just now there may be a not unnatural tendency to forget the best of him. But whatever his colossal and pretentious meannesses and other like faults may have been, we have to remember that he wrote Political Justice, a work in itself of extraordinary power, and of special significance to us as the one that did more than any other to fashion Shelley’s thinking. Much has been made, scarcely too much can be made, of the influence of Godwin’s writings on Shelley. But not enough has been made of the influence upon him of the two Marys; Mary Wollstonecraft, and Mary Shelley. It was one of Shelley’s “delusions that are not delusions” that man and woman should be equal and united; and in his own life and that of his wife he not only saw this realised, but saw the possibility of that realisation in lives less keen and strong than theirs. All through his work this oneness with his wife shines out, and most notably in the dedication to that most didactic of poems, Laon and Cythna. Laon and Cythna are equal and united powers, brother and sister, husband and wife, friend and friend, man and woman. In the dedication to the history of their suffering, their work, their struggle, their triumph and their love, Mary is “his own heart’s home, his dear friend beautiful and calm and free.”

“And what art thou? I know, but dare not speak:
Time may interpret to his silent years,
Yet in the paleness of thy thoughful cheek,
And in the light thine ample forehead wears,
And in thy sweetest smiles and in thy tears,
And in thy gentle speech, a prophecy
Is whispered, to subdue my fondest fears;
And thro’ thine eyes, even in thy soul I see,
A camp of vestal fire burning internally.”
And in the next stanza to the one just quoted that other Mary is besung.
“One then left this earth
Whose life was like a setting planet mild,
Which clothed thee in the radiance undefiled,
Of its departing glory, still her fame
Shines on thee thro’ the tempests dark and wild,
Which shake these latter days.”

In a word, the world in general has treated the relative influences of Godwin on the one hand and of the two women on the other, pretty much as might have been expected with men for historians.

Probably the fact that he saw so much through the eyes of these two women quickened Shelley’s perception of women’s real position in society, and of the real cause of that position. This, which he only felt in the Harriet days, he would have understood fully of himself sooner or later. That this understanding came sooner, is in large measure due to the two Marys. One of them at least before him had seen in part that women’s social condition is a question of economics, not of religion or of sentiment. The woman is to the man as the producing class is to the possessing. Her “inferiority,” in its actuality and in its assumed existence, is the outcome of the holding of economic power by man to her exclusion. And this Shelley understood not only in its application to the most unfortunate of women, but in its application to every woman.

But note how in the Laon and Cythna it is (F. I. 108, xxi) “woman, (i.e. woman in general) outraged and polluted long.” Now truly he understands the position of woman, and how thoroughly he recognizes that in her degradation man is degraded, and that in dealing out justice to her man will be himself set free, the well-known Laon and Cythna passage will serve to illustrate.

“Can man be free if woman be a slave?
Chain one who lives, and breathes this boundless air
To the corruption of a closed grave!
Can they whose mates are beasts, condemned to bear
Scorn heavier far than toil or anguish, dare
To trample their oppressors? in their home
Among their babes, thou knowest a curse would wear
The shape of woman — hoary crime would come
Behind, and Fraud rebuild religion’s tottering dome .”

III. Tyranny and Liberty in the abstract. With these in the abstract the poets have always been busy. They have denounced the former in measured language and unmeasured terms. Yet they have been known to refuse their signatures to petitions asking for justice on behalf of seven men condemned to death upon police evidence of the worst kind. They have sung paeans in praise of liberty in the abstract, or in foreign lands. Yet they have written hymns against Ireland and for the Liberal Unionists. Shelley has not, to use a forcible colloquialism, “gone back on himself.” When we read the Ode to Liberty, or the 1819 Ode for the Spaniards, or the tremendous Liberty of 1820, we have not the sense of uneasiness that we have when reading Holy Cross Day or The Litany of Nations. This man is through and through foe to tyranny in the abstract and in the concrete form.

Of course in much of his work the ideas that exercise a malevolent despotism over men’s minds are attacked in general terms. Superstition and empire in all their forms Shelley hated, and therefore he again and again dealt with them as abstractions from those forms. Superstition, or an unfounded reverence for that which is unworthy of reverence, was to him, at first, mainly embodied in the superstition of religion. To the younger Shelley, l’infâme of Voltaire’s ecrasez l’infâme was to a great extent, as with Voltaire wholly, the priesthood. And the empire that he antagonised was at first that of kingship and that of personal tyranny. But even in his attacks on these he simultaneously assails the superstitious belief in the capitalistic system, and the empire of class. As time goes on, with increasing distinctness, he makes assault upon these, the most recent, and most dangerous foes of humanity. And always, every word that he has written against religious superstitions, and the despotism of individual rulers may be read as against economic superstition and the despotism of class. “The immense improvements of which by the extinction of certain moral superstitions [for moral we can also read economic] human society may be yet susceptible.” [Preface to Julian and Maddalo].

IV. Tyranny in the concrete. We must pass over, with a mere reference only, the songs for nations — for Mexico, Spain, Ireland, England. Of his attacks upon Napoleon mention has been made. In the Mask of Anarchy, Castlereagh, Sidmouth, Eldon, are all personally gibbeted. In each case, not only the mere man but the infamous principle he represents is the object of attack. Just as the Prince Regent to Shelley was embodied princeship, and Napoleon embodied personal greed and tyranny, so Castlereagh (the Chief Secretary for Ireland before he was War Minister), was embodied war and government; Sidmouth, Home Secretary at the Peterloo time, embodied officialism, Eldon embodied Law. He is for ever denouncing priest and king and statesman.

Kings priests and statesmen, blast the human flower,
Even in its tender bud; their influence darts
Like sudden poison, through the bloodless veins
Of desolate society — (Queen Mab)

But he scarcely ever fails to link with these the basis on which nowadays they all rest — our commercial system. See the Queen Mab passage beginning: —

Commerce has set the mark of selfishness
The signet of its all enslaving power.

It is not for nothing that in Charles I. the court fool puts together the shops and churches. “ The rainbow hung over the city with all its shops — and churches.”[This leads us to our next point.

V. His perception of the class-struggle. — More than anything else that makes us claim Shelley as a Socialist is his singular understanding of the facts that to-day tyranny resolves itself into the tyranny of the possessing class over the producing, and that to this tyranny in the ultimate analysis is traceable almost all evil and misery. He saw that the so-called middle-class is the real tyrant, the real danger at the present day. Those of us who belong to that class, in our delight at Shelley’s fierce onslaughts upon the higher members of it, aristocrats, monarchs, landowners, are apt to forget that de nobis etiam fabula narratur. Of us also he speaks. This point is of such importance that more quotations than usual must be taken to enforce it. From Edinburgh, in his first honeymoon he writes: — “Had he [Uncle Pilfold] not assisted us, we should still have been chained to the filth and commerce of Edinburgh. Vile as aristocracy is, commerce — purse-proud ignorance and illiterateness — is more contemptible.” From Keswick a few months later he writes of the Lake District: — “Though the face of the country is lovely, the people are detestable. The manufacturers, with their contamination, have crept into the peaceful vale, and deformed the loveliness of nature with human taint .”

Or take the end of a Keswick letter, 1811, to Miss Hitchener: — “The grovelling souls of heroes, aristocrats, and commercialists.” Even when he uses the phrase “privileged classes” in the Philosophic View of Reform , it is clear he is thinking of them as a whole in contradiction to the class destitute of every privilege. Two or three last quotations in this connection to show how he understood the relative positions, not only above and below but antagonistic of these two classes. The chorus of priests, Act ii. scene 2 of Swellfoot:Those who consume these fruits through thee (the goddess Famine) grow fat; those who produce these fruits through thee grow lean.” For a taste of the consequences to all and sundry, to whichever class they belong, of this class-antagonism a few stanzas from Peter Bell. Mary’s words may be quoted as summing up his position: “Shelley loved the people, and respected them as often more virtuous, as always more suffering, and, therefore more deserving of sympathy than the great. He believed that a clash between the two classes of society was inevitable, and he eagerly ranged himself on the people’s side.” — (Critical Notes)

VI. His understanding of the real meaning of things. — His acuteness of vision is not only seen in his marking off society into the two groups, but in his understanding the real meaning of phrases that are to most of us either formulae or cant. Let us take as many of these as space allows.

Anarchy. — Shelley saw and said that the Anarchy we are all so afraid of is very present with us. We live in the midst of it. Anarchy is God and King and Law in the Mask of Anarchy, and let us add is Capitalism.

Freedom. — The extraordinary statement that England is a free country was to Shelley the merest nonsense. “The white shore of Albion free no more …. The abortion with which she travaileth is the Liberty smitten to death.” Lines written during the Castlereagh administration . And he understood the significant fact in this connection that those who talk and write of English freedom and the like know they are talking and writing cant. The hollowness of the whole sham kept up by newspaper writers, parliamentary orators, and so forth, was as apparent to him sixty years ago as it is to-day to the dullest of us

Custom. — The general evil of that custom which is to most of us a law, the law, the only law of life, he was never weary of denouncing. “The chains, the icy chains of custom (Queen Mab) The “more eternal foe than force or fraud, old custom” (Fall of Bonaparte). And with the denunciation of custom, followed merely because it is custom, is the noble teaching of self-mastery, and the poet’s contradiction of the statement that under the new regime men will be machines, uniformity reign, and individuality be dead.

Cruelty of the governing class. — A tyrannical class like a tyrannical man stops at nothing in order to maintain its position of supremacy. No means are too insignificant, no weapon too ponderous. From the policeman’s “nark,” or spy not a member of the police force, to the machinery of a trial for treason, nothing comes amiss to the class that governs. Shelley knew what a mockery for the most part is a trial instituted by a government, whether in Ireland or in England. “A trial I think men call it” (Rosalind and Helen) .

In June 1817, a few operatives rose in Derbyshire. A score of dragoons put down the Derbyshire insurrection, an insurrection there is reason to believe put up by a Government spy. On November 7th 1817, three men, Brandreth, Turner, Ludlam, “were drawn on hurdles to the place of execution, and were hanged and decapitated in the presence of an excited and horror-stricken crowd” (Dowden’s Life). Against this judicial murder Shelley’s voice was lifted up, as it would be now in like case. For like cases are occurring, still occur in increasing numbers as the class struggle intensifies. In Ireland at Lisdoovarna, Constable Whelehan was murdered recently in a moonlighting raid. The raid had been planned by Cullinane, a Government spy. On Monday Dec. 12, 1887, one man was condemned to ten years’, four others to seven years’ penal servitude for an offence planned by a government spy. Against this sentence Shelley were he alive would, we are certain, protest. So would he have protested against the direct murders by the police at Michelstown, and Trafalgar Square. So would he have protested against the recent judicial murder in America of four men and the practical imprisonment for life of three others. The Chicago Anarchist meeting differed even from the Derbyshire insurrection of 1817. There was no rising, no talk of rising, no use of physical force by the people, no threat of it. Yet seven men were condemned on the evidence of the police, evidence that those who have read every word of it feel was not only insufficient to prove the guilt, but absolutely conclusive as to the innocence of the accused. Had Shelley been alive he would have been the first to sign the petition on behalf of the Chicago Anarchists.

Crime. — This phenomenon Shelley recognized as the natural result of social conditions. The criminal was to him as much a creature of the society in which the lived as the capitalist or the monarch. “Society,” said he, “grinds down poor wretches into the dust of abject poverty, till they are scarcely recognizable as human beings. In his literal discussions with Miss Hitchener Shelley more than once asks whether with a juster distribution of happiness, of toil and leisure, crime and the temptation to crime, would not almost cease to exist. And much that is called crime was to Shelley (the Preface to Laon and Cythna is but one evidence) only crime by convention.

Property. The opinion of Shelley as to that which could be rightly enjoyed as a person’s own property and what could only be enjoyed wrongly, will be in part gathered from a quotation which paraphrased in the more precise language of scientific Socialism reads thus: “A man has a right to anything that his own labour has produced, and that he does not intend to employ for the purpose of injuring his fellows. But no man can himself acquire a considerable aggregation of properly except at the expense of his fellows. He must either cheat a certain number out of the value of it, or take it by force.”

Again, note the conception of wealth in the Song to the Men of England: “The wealth ye find another keeps.”  The source of all wealth is human labour, and that not the labour of the possessors of that wealth.

As to that for which the working class work he quotes Godwin in the fifth note to Queen Mab.

Let us take as our last example of his understanding of the central position of Socialism, a quotation to be found in a letter to Miss Hitchner, dated December 15th, 1811. Shelley is discussing the entailment of his estate: “that I should entail £120,000 of command over labour, of power to remit this, to employ it for beneficent purposes, on one whom I know not.

We cannot expect even such a man as Shelley to have thought out in his time the full meaning of labour-power, labour, and the value of commodities. But undoubtedly he knew the real economic value of private property in the means of production and distribution, whether it was in machinery, land, funds, what not. He saw that this value lay in the command, absolute, merciless, unjust, over human labour. The Socialist believes that these means of production and distribution should be the property of the community. For the man or company that owns them has practically irresponsible control over the class that does not possess them.

The possessor can and does dictate terms to the man or woman of that non-possessing class. “You shall sell your labour to me. I will pay you only a fraction of its value in wage. The difference between that value and what I pay for your labour I pocket, as a member of the possessing class, and I am richer than before, not by labour of my own, but by your unpaid labour.” This was the teaching of Shelley. This is the teaching of Socialism, and therefore the teaching of Socialism, whether it is right or wrong, is also that of Shelley. We claim him as a Socialist.

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Posted by saformo on 14th diciembre 2010


The question to be considered is not whether Socialism is right or wrong, but whether Shelley was or was not a Socialist; and it may not be unfair to contend, that if it can be shown that Shelley was a Socialist, a prima facia case, at least, is in the judgment of every Shelley lover made out in favour of Socialism.

That the question at issue may be clearly understood, let us state in the briefest possible way what Socialism means to some of us. (1) That there are inequality and misery in the world; (2) that this social inequality, this misery of the many and this happiness of the few are the necessary outcome of our social conditions; (3) that the essence of these social conditions is that the mass of the people, the working class, produce and distribute all commodities, while the minority of the people, the middle and upper class possess these commodities; (4) that this initial tyranny of the possessing class over the producing class is based on the present wage-system, and now maintains all other forms of oppression, such as that of monarchy or clerical rule, or police despotism; (5) that this tyranny of the few over the many is only possible because the few have obtained possession of the land, the raw materials, the machinery, the banks, the railways, in a word, of all the means of production and distribution of commodities, and have, as a class, obtained possession of these by no superior virtue, effort or self-denial, but by either force or fraud (6) lastly, that the approaching change in “civilised” society will be a revolution, or in the words of Shelley “the system of human society as it exists at present must be overthrown from the foundations.” The two classes at present existing will be replaced be a single class consisting of the whole of the healthy and sane members of the community, possessing all the means of production and distribution in common, and working in common for the production and distribution of commodities.

Again let us say that we are not now concerned with the accuracy or inaccuracy of these principles. But we are concerned with the question whether they were, or were not, held by Shelley. If he enunciated views such as these, or even approximating to these, it is clear that we must admit that Shelley was a teacher as well as a poet. The large and interesting question whether a poet has or has not a right to be didactic as well as merely descriptive, analytical, musical, cannot be entered upon here. In passing we may note that poets have a habit of doing things whether they have the right or not.

For the purpose of our study the following plan is suggested. I. A note or two on Shelley himself and his own personality, as bearing on his relations to Socialism. II. On those, who, in this connection had most influence upon his thinking. III. His attacks on tyranny, and his singing for liberty, in the abstract. IV. And in the concrete. V. His clear perception of the class struggle. VI. His insight into the real meaning of such words as “freedom,’’ “justice,” “crime,” “labour,” “property,” to-day. VII. His practical, his exceedingly practical nature in respect to the remedies for the ills of society. VIII. His comprehension of the fact that a reconstruction of society is inevitable, is imminent. IX. His pictures of the future, “delusions that were no delusions,” as he says. X. A reference to the chief works in which his socialistic ideas found expression. We cannot hope in this article to deal with more than the first six of these divisions. The remaining four we shall be glad, if opportunity offers to consider upon some future occasion.

Shelley’s own Personality. He was the child of the French Revolution. “The wild-eyed women” thronging round the path of Cythna as she went through the great city were from the streets of Paris, and he, more than any other of his time, knew the real strength and beauty of this wild mother of his and ours. With his singular poetical and historical insight he saw the real significance of the holy struggle. Another singer of that melodious time, Byron, was also a child of the same Revolution. But his intellectual fore-runners were Voltaire and his school, and the Rousseau of the Nouvelle Héloise, whilst those of Shelley were Baboeuf and the Rousseau of the Contrat Social. It is a wise child that knows his own father. As Marx, who understood the poets as well as he understood the philosophers and economists, was wont to say: “The real difference between Byron and Shelley is this: those who understand them and love them rejoice that Byron died at thirty-six, because if he had lived he would have become a reactionary bourgeois; they grieve that Shelley died at twenty-nine, because he was essentially a revolutionist, and he would always have been one of the advanced guard of Socialism.”

The outbreak of the Revolution was only three years in advance of Shelley’s birth. Throughout Europe in the earlier part of this century reaction was in full swing. In England there were trials for blasphemy, trials for treason, suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, misery everywhere. Shelley saw — not as Professor Dowden alternately has it, “thought he saw” — in the French Revolution an incident of the movement towards a reconstruction of society. He flung himself into politics, and yet he never ceased singing.

Every poem of Shelley’s is stained with his intense individuality. Perhaps for our purpose the Lines written on the Euganean Hills, the Lionel of Rosalind and Helen, and Prince Athanase afford the best exemplars. But let us also keep in remembrance Mary Shelley’s testimony to the especial value of Peter Bell the Third, in respect to the social and religious views of her husband. “No poem contains more of Shelley’s peculiar views with regard to the errors into which many of the wisest have fallen, and of the pernicious effects of certain opinions on society … Though, like the burlesque drama of Swellfoot, it must be looked on as a plaything, it has … so much of himself in it that it cannot fail to interest greatly, and by right belongs to the world for whose instruction and benefit it was written.”

And now having quoted her we may quote himself upon himself. Whether wholly unconsciously, or with the modest self-consciousness of genius he has written, lines and lines that are word-portraits of himself. Of these only one or two familiar instances can be taken.

He was one of —

“The sacred few who could not tame
Their spirits to the conquerors.”
[Triumph of Life].
“And then I clasped my hands and looked around —
But none was near to mock my streaming eyes,
Which poured their warm drops on the sunny ground —
So without shame, I spake: — “I will be wise,
And just, and free, and mild, if in me lies
Such power, for I grow weary to behold
The selfish and the strong still tyrannise
Without reproach or check.” I then controlled
My tears, my heart grew calm, and I was meek and bold.
“And from that hour did I with earnest thought
Heap knowledge from forbidden mines of lore,
Yet nothing that my tyrants knew or taught
I cared to learn, but from that secret store
Wrought linked armour for myself, before
It might walk forth to war among mankind;
Thus power and hope were strengthened more and more
Within me, till there came upon my mind
A sense of loneliness, a thirst with which I pined.”
[Laon and Cytha]

He was one of —

“Those who have struggled, and with resolute will
Vanquished earth’s pride and meanness, burst the chains,
The icy chains of custom, and have shone
The day-stars of their age.”
[Queen Mab.]

The dedication of The Cenci to Leigh Hunt may be taken as if Shelley was communing with his own heart.

“One more gentle, honourable, innocent and brave; one of more exalted toleration for all who do and think evil, and yet himself more free from evil; one who knows better how to receive and how to confer a benefit though he must ever confer far more than he can receive; one of simpler, and, in the highest sense of the word, of purer life and manners I never knew.”
[Dedication of The Cenci.]

Pure-minded, earnest-souled, didactic poet, philosopher, prophet, then he is. But add to this, if you will rightly estimate the immense significance of his advocacy of any political creed, the fact already noted of his extraordinary political insight; and add also, if you will rightly estimate the value of his adherence to any scientific truth, the fact that he had a certain conception of evolution long before it had been enunciated in clear language by Darwin, or had even entered seriously into the region of scientific possibilities. Of his acuteness as historical observer, one general instance has already been given in connection with the French Revolution. Yet another less obvious but even more astounding example is furnished by his poems on Napoleon. Shelley was the first, was indeed the only man of his time to see through Napoleon. The man whom every one in Europe at that period took for a hero or a monster, Shelley recognised as a mean man, a slight man, greedy for gold, as well as for the littleness of empire. His instinct divined a Napoleon “the little” in Napoleon “the great.” That which Michelet felt was true, that which it was left for Lanfrey to prove as a historical fact, the conception of Napoleon that is as different from the ordinary one, as an ordinary person is from Shelley, this “dreamer” had.

In 1816 we find him writing:

“I hated thee, fallen tyrant! I did groan
To think that a most unambitious slave,
Like thou, shouldst dance and revel on the grave
Of Liberty.”

and in 1821, the year of Napoleon’s death.

“Napoleon’s fierce spirit rolled,
In terror, and blood, and gold,
A torrent of ruin to death from his birth”

By instinct, intuition, whatever we are to call that fine faculty that feels truths before they are put into definite language, Shelley was an Evolutionist. He translated into his own pantheistic language the doctrine of the eternity of matter and the eternity of motion, of the infinite transformation of the different forms of matter into each other, of different forms of motion into each other, without any creation or destruction of either matter or motion. But that he held these scientific truths as part of his creed, there can be no doubt. You have the doctrine, certainly in a pantheistic form, but certainly there, in the letter to Miss Hitchener. “As the soul which now animates this frame was once the vivifying principle of the lowest link in the chain of existence, so is it ultimately destined to attain the highest.” (Letters VI., p.12).  In Queen Mab:

“Spirit of Nature! here!
In this interminable wilderness
Of worlds, at whose immensity
Even soaring fancy staggers,
Here is thy fitting temple.
Yet not the lightest leaf
That quivers to the passing breeze
Is less instinct with thee
Yet not the meanest worm
That lurks in graves and fattens on the dead
Less shares thy eternal breath .

Of the two great principles affecting the development of the individual and of the race, those of heredity and adaptation, he had a clear perception, although they as yet were neither accurately defined nor even named. He understood that men and peoples were the result of their ancestry and of their environment. Two prose fragments in illustration of this. One is: “But there must be a resemblance which does not depend upon their own will, between all the writers of any particular age. They cannot escape from subjection to a common influence which arises out of an infinite combination of circumstances belonging to the times in which they live, though each is in a degree the author of the very influence by which his being is thus pervaded. Thus, the tragic poets of the age of Pericles; the Italian revivers of learning; those mighty intellects of our own country that succeeded the Reformation, the translators of the Bible, Shakespeare, Spenser, the dramatists of the reign of Elizabeth, and Lord Bacon, the colder spirits of the interval that succeeded; all resemble each other and differ from every other in their several classes. In this view of things Ford can no more be called the imitator of Shakespeare, than Shakespeare the imitator of Ford. There were perhaps few other joints of resemblance between these two men, than that which the universal and inevitable influence of their age produced. And this is an influence which neither the meanest scribbler, nor the sublimest genius of any era can escape, and which I have not attempted to escape.” (F. I. p.57-58).

The other is:

“It is less the character of the individual than the situation in which he is placed which determines him to be honest or dishonest.”  (Letter to Hunt).

This extraordinary power of seeing things clearly and of seeing them in their right relations one to another, shown not alone in the artistic side of his nature, but in the scientific, the historical, the social, is a comfort and strength to us that hold in the main the beliefs, made more sacred to us in that they were his, and must give every lover of Shelley pause when he finds himself parting from the Master on any fundamental question of economics, of faith, of human life.


So now my summer-task is ended, Mary,
And I return to thee, mine own heart’s home;
As to his Queen some victor Knight of Faery,
Earning bright spoils for her enchanted dome;
Nor thou disdain, that ere my fame become _5
A star among the stars of mortal night,
If it indeed may cleave its natal gloom,
Its doubtful promise thus I would unite
With thy beloved name, thou Child of love and light.

The toil which stole from thee so many an hour, _10
Is ended,–and the fruit is at thy feet!
No longer where the woods to frame a bower
With interlaced branches mix and meet,
Or where with sound like many voices sweet,
Waterfalls leap among wild islands green, _15
Which framed for my lone boat a lone retreat
Of moss-grown trees and weeds, shall I be seen;
But beside thee, where still my heart has ever been.

Thoughts of great deeds were mine, dear Friend, when first
The clouds which wrap this world from youth did pass. _20
I do remember well the hour which burst
My spirit’s sleep. A fresh May-dawn it was,
When I walked forth upon the glittering grass,
And wept, I knew not why; until there rose
From the near schoolroom, voices that, alas! _25
Were but one echo from a world of woes–
The harsh and grating strife of tyrants and of foes.

And then I clasped my hands and looked around–
–But none was near to mock my streaming eyes,
Which poured their warm drops on the sunny ground– _30
So without shame I spake:–‘I will be wise,
And just, and free, and mild, if in me lies
Such power, for I grow weary to behold
The selfish and the strong still tyrannise
Without reproach or check.’ I then controlled _35
My tears, my heart grew calm, and I was meek and bold.

And from that hour did I with earnest thought
Heap knowledge from forbidden mines of lore;
Yet nothing that my tyrants knew or taught
I cared to learn, but from that secret store _40
Wrought linked armour for my soul, before
It might walk forth to war among mankind;
Thus power and hope were strengthened more and more
Within me, till there came upon my mind
A sense of loneliness, a thirst with which I pined. _45

Alas, that love should be a blight and snare
To those who seek all sympathies in one!–
Such once I sought in vain; then black despair,
The shadow of a starless night, was thrown
Over the world in which I moved alone:– _50
Yet never found I one not false to me,
Hard hearts, and cold, like weights of icy stone
Which crushed and withered mine, that could not be
Aught but a lifeless clod, until revived by thee.

Thou Friend, whose presence on my wintry heart _55
Fell, like bright Spring upon some herbless plain;
How beautiful and calm and free thou wert
In thy young wisdom, when the mortal chain
Of Custom thou didst burst and rend in twain,
And walked as free as light the clouds among, _60
Which many an envious slave then breathed in vain
From his dim dungeon, and my spirit sprung
To meet thee from the woes which had begirt it long!

No more alone through the world’s wilderness,
Although I trod the paths of high intent, _65
I journeyed now: no more companionless,
Where solitude is like despair, I went.–
There is the wisdom of a stern content
When Poverty can blight the just and good,
When Infamy dares mock the innocent, _70
And cherished friends turn with the multitude
To trample: this was ours, and we unshaken stood!

Now has descended a serener hour,
And with inconstant fortune, friends return;
Though suffering leaves the knowledge and the power _75
Which says:–Let scorn be not repaid with scorn.
And from thy side two gentle babes are born
To fill our home with smiles, and thus are we
Most fortunate beneath life’s beaming morn;
And these delights, and thou, have been to me _80
The parents of the Song I consecrate to thee.

Is it that now my inexperienced fingers
But strike the prelude of a loftier strain?
Or, must the lyre on which my spirit lingers
Soon pause in silence, ne’er to sound again, _85
Though it might shake the Anarch Custom’s reign,
And charm the minds of men to Truth’s own sway
Holier than was Amphion’s? I would fain
Reply in hope–but I am worn away,
And Death and Love are yet contending for their prey. _90

And what art thou? I know, but dare not speak:
Time may interpret to his silent years.
Yet in the paleness of thy thoughtful cheek,
And in the light thine ample forehead wears,
And in thy sweetest smiles, and in thy tears, _95
And in thy gentle speech, a prophecy
Is whispered, to subdue my fondest fears:
And through thine eyes, even in thy soul I see
A lamp of vestal fire burning internally.

They say that thou wert lovely from thy birth, _100
Of glorious parents thou aspiring Child.
I wonder not–for One then left this earth
Whose life was like a setting planet mild,
Which clothed thee in the radiance undefiled
Of its departing glory; still her fame _105
Shines on thee, through the tempests dark and wild
Which shake these latter days; and thou canst claim
The shelter, from thy Sire, of an immortal name.

One voice came forth from many a mighty spirit,
Which was the echo of three thousand years; _110
And the tumultuous world stood mute to hear it,
As some lone man who in a desert hears
The music of his home:–unwonted fears
Fell on the pale oppressors of our race,
And Faith, and Custom, and low-thoughted cares, _115
Like thunder-stricken dragons, for a space
Left the torn human heart, their food and dwelling-place.

Truth’s deathless voice pauses among mankind!
If there must be no response to my cry–
If men must rise and stamp with fury blind _120
On his pure name who loves them,–thou and I,
Sweet friend! can look from our tranquillity
Like lamps into the world’s tempestuous night,–
Two tranquil stars, while clouds are passing by
Which wrap them from the foundering seaman’s sight, _125
That burn from year to year with unextinguished light.


There was a youth, who, as with toil and travel,
Had grown quite weak and gray before his time;
Nor any could the restless griefs unravel

Which burned within him, withering up his prime
And goading him, like fiends, from land to land.                     
Not his the load of any secret crime,

For nought of ill his heart could understand,
But pity and wild sorrow for the same;--
Not his the thirst for glory or command,

Baffled with blast of hope-consuming shame;                          
Nor evil joys which fire the vulgar breast,
And quench in speedy smoke its feeble flame,

Had left within his soul their dark unrest:
Nor what religion fables of the grave
Feared he,--Philosophy's accepted guest.                             

For none than he a purer heart could have,
Or that loved good more for itself alone;
Of nought in heaven or earth was he the slave.

What sorrow, strange, and shadowy, and unknown,
Sent him, a hopeless wanderer, through mankind?--                    
If with a human sadness he did groan,

He had a gentle yet aspiring mind;
Just, innocent, with varied learning fed;
And such a glorious consolation find

In others' joy, when all their own is dead:                          
He loved, and laboured for his kind in grief,
And yet, unlike all others, it is said

That from such toil he never found relief.
Although a child of fortune and of power,
Of an ancestral name the orphan chief,                               

His soul had wedded Wisdom, and her dower
Is love and justice, clothed in which he sate
Apart from men, as in a lonely tower,

Pitying the tumult of their dark estate.--
Yet even in youth did he not e'er abuse                              
The strength of wealth or thought, to consecrate

Those false opinions which the harsh rich use
To blind the world they famish for their pride;
Nor did he hold from any man his dues,

But, like a steward in honest dealings tried,                        
With those who toiled and wept, the poor and wise,
His riches and his cares he did divide.

Fearless he was, and scorning all disguise,
What he dared do or think, though men might start,
He spoke with mild yet unaverted eyes;                               

Liberal he was of soul, and frank of heart,
And to his many friends--all loved him well--
Whate'er he knew or felt he would impart,

If words he found those inmost thoughts to tell;
If not, he smiled or wept; and his weak foes                         
He neither spurned nor hated--though with fell

And mortal hate their thousand voices rose,
They passed like aimless arrows from his ear--
Nor did his heart or mind its portal close

To those, or them, or any, whom life's sphere                        
May comprehend within its wide array.
What sadness made that vernal spirit sere?--

He knew not. Though his life, day after day,
Was failing like an unreplenished stream,
Though in his eyes a cloud and burthen lay,                          

Through which his soul, like Vesper's serene beam
Piercing the chasms of ever rising clouds,
Shone, softly burning; though his lips did seem

Like reeds which quiver in impetuous floods;
And through his sleep, and o'er each waking hour,                    
Thoughts after thoughts, unresting multitudes,

Were driven within him by some secret power,
Which bade them blaze, and live, and roll afar,
Like lights and sounds, from haunted tower to tower

O'er castled mountains borne, when tempest's war                     
Is levied by the night-contending winds,
And the pale dalesmen watch with eager ear;--

Though such were in his spirit, as the fiends
Which wake and feed an everliving woe,--
What was this grief, which ne'er in other minds                      

A mirror found,--he knew not--none could know;
But on whoe'er might question him he turned
The light of his frank eyes, as if to show

He knew not of the grief within that burned,
But asked forbearance with a mournful look;                          
Or spoke in words from which none ever learned

The cause of his disquietude; or shook
With spasms of silent passion; or turned pale:
So that his friends soon rarely undertook

To stir his secret pain without avail;--                             
For all who knew and loved him then perceived
That there was drawn an adamantine veil

Between his heart and mind,--both unrelieved
Wrought in his brain and bosom separate strife.
Some said that he was mad, others believed                           

That memories of an antenatal life
Made this, where now he dwelt, a penal hell;
And others said that such mysterious grief

From God's displeasure, like a darkness, fell
On souls like his, which owned no higher law                         
Than love; love calm, steadfast, invincible

By mortal fear or supernatural awe;
And others,--''Tis the shadow of a dream
Which the veiled eye of Memory never saw,

'But through the soul's abyss, like some dark stream                 
Through shattered mines and caverns underground,
Rolls, shaking its foundations; and no beam

'Of joy may rise, but it is quenched and drowned
In the dim whirlpools of this dream obscure;
Soon its exhausted waters will have found                            

'A lair of rest beneath thy spirit pure,
O Athanase!--in one so good and great,
Evil or tumult cannot long endure.

So spake they: idly of another's state
Babbling vain words and fond philosophy;                             
This was their consolation; such debate

Men held with one another; nor did he,
Like one who labours with a human woe,
Decline this talk: as if its theme might be

Another, not himself, he to and fro                                  
Questioned and canvassed it with subtlest wit;
And none but those who loved him best could know

That which he knew not, how it galled and bit
His weary mind, this converse vain and cold;
For like an eyeless nightmare grief did sit                          

Upon his being; a snake which fold by fold
Pressed out the life of life, a clinging fiend
Which clenched him if he stirred with deadlier hold;--
And so his grief remained--let it remain--untold. [1]

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Posted by saformo on 14th diciembre 2010


The English romantic poet Percy Shelley ranks as one of the greatest lyric poets in the history of English literature.

Early years

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born at Field Place near Horsham, Sussex, England, on August 4, 1792. He was the first son of a wealthy, country landowner. As a boy, Shelley felt harassed by his father. This abuse may have first sparked the flame of protest which, during his school days at Eton from 1804 until 1810, earned him the name of “Mad Shelley.” At school, however, he proved himself to be a very capable and intelligent student.

He also began writing some short fiction pieces.

In the course of his first and only year at Oxford University, in England (1810–1811), Shelley and a friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg issued a pamphlet provocatively entitled “The Necessity of Atheism (the belief that there is no God).” Both students were expelled from the university. This event intensified Shelley’s rebelliousness against accepted notions of law and order, both in his private life and in government. In the summer of 1811 Shelley met and married Harriet Westbrook.

Shelley’s first poems

Shelley attempted to communicate his views on politics other topics in the poem “Queen Mab” (1813). Though an immature poem, nevertheless, it contained the germ of his mature philosophy: that throughout the cosmos there is “widely diffused / A spirit of activity and life,” an omnipresent (being everywhere) energy that, unless misguided by people’s lust for power, can lead humankind to paradise.

By the summer of 1814 Shelley had become closely involved with Mary Godwin (1797–1851). In late July Shelley left his wife and ran away to continental Europe with Godwin. In 1816, they married. The same year, Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein .


When Shelley returned to England, he was increasingly driven to the realization that paradise was not just around the corner. This may have prompted the writing of “Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude” in December 1815. In this poem Shelley writes that poets are caught between the enticements of extreme idealism (visions for the improvement of humankind) and the awareness that the very nature of humans and the world prevents the achievement of this highest purpose.

Both Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” and “Mont Blanc,” were planned in 1816, during a stay in Geneva, Switzerland, and make an impressive statement of his belief in an everlasting, compassionate “Spirit,” the hidden source of splendor and harmony in nature and of moral activity in humans.

“The Revolt of Islam”

The winter of 1816 and 1817 was a period of great emotional disturbance for Shelley. Harriet, his wife, died, presumably by suicide, in December. The courts refused to grant Shelley the custody of their two children. In addition, he was beginning to worry about his health. However, there were encouragements as well. Shelley was gaining some recognition as an original and powerful poet.

During the spring and summer of 1817, Shelley composed his most ambitious poem to that date, “The Revolt of Islam.” In this work the theme of love between man and woman was skillfully woven into the wider pattern of humankind’s love-inspired struggle for brotherhood. The work demonstrates that Shelley had now come to a mature insight into the complex relationship between good and evil. A person’s recognition of his or her boundaries is the first step to wisdom and inner liberty. Martyrdom does not put an end to hope, for it is a victory of the spirit and a vital source of inspiration.

“Exile” and “Prometheus Unbound”

In March 1818 Percy and Mary Shelley left England, never to return. The bulk of the poet’s output was produced in Italy in the course of the last four years of his short life. Though life in Italy had its obvious rewards, this period was by no means one of pure happiness for Shelley. He was increasingly anxious about his health. He was beginning to resent the social ostracism (shunning) that had made him an exile. The exile itself was at times hard to bear, even though the political and social situations in England were most unattractive. Finally, his son William died in June 1819. A note of despair can be perceived in some of his minor poems, such as the “Stanzas Written in Dejection near Naples.” In “Prometheus Unbound” (1818–19), Shelley turned to myths (ancient stories that explain natural occurrences) to convey, in a more sensitive and complex way, the basic truth that had been expressed through the narrative technique of “The Revolt of Islam.”

Drama and social tracts

Like the other romantic poets, Shelley was aware of the limitations of poetry as a medium of mass communication. He, too, struggled to deliver his message to a larger audience. He experimented with stage drama in The Cenci (1819) a tragedy which illustrates the problems caused by humans’ lust for power, both physical and mental, in the sphere of domestic life.

Shelley’s interest, however, lay in wider issues, which he now began to tackle in satires (humorous pieces pointing out people’s weaknesses). He vented his social outrage in the stirring argument of The Masque of Anarchy (1819); in Peter Bell the Third (1819), a satire of the poet William Wordsworth (1770–1850); and in Oedipus Tyrannus, or Swell-Foot the Tyrant (1820), a mock tragedy on the royal British family.

In “Hellas” (1821), Shelley’s major political poem, Hellas celebrates the Greek war of liberation. It crowns a large series of minor poems in which Shelley, throughout his writing career, had hailed the spirit of liberty, not only among the oppressed classes of England but also among the oppressed nations of the world.

Final poems and prose works

Shelley’s concern with promoting the cause of freedom was genuine, but his personality found a more compatible outlet in his “visionary rhymes.” In his poems the almost mystical concepts of oneness and love, of poetry and brotherhood are expressed. Such themes remained the source of his inspiration to the last. As he was nearing his thirtieth year, he wrote with a more urgent yet less harsh sense of the unbridgeable gap between the ideal and the real. He movingly expressed this sense in “The Sensitive Plant” (1820) and in the poem that he composed on the death of John Keats (1795–1821), “Adonais” (1821).

Shelley’s The Defence of Poetry (1821) is one of the most eloquent prose assessments of the poet’s unique relation to the eternal. And, in 1822, he focused on the poet’s relation to earthly experience in The Triumph of Life. This work contains an impassioned condemnation of the corruption wrought by worldly life, whose “icy-cold stare” irresistibly obscures the “living flame” of imagination.

Shelley drowned in the Gulf of Spezia near Lerici, Italy, on July 8, 1822, shortly before his thirtieth birthday. He is regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the romantic age of art.

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