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and affection. He was an elegant scholar and a return by the breakers of that sea which was
much scientific knowledge, he was unrivalled in He spent a week at Pisa, employed in kind of
the justness and extent of his observations on fices towards his friend, and enjoying with keen natural objects; he knew every plant by its name, delight the renewal of their intercourse. He then and was familiar with the history and habits of embarked with Mr Williams, the chosen and every production of the earth; he could interpret beloved sharer of his pleasures and of his fate, to without a fault each appearance in the sky, and return to us. We waited for them in vain; the the varied phænomena of heaven and earth filled sea by its restless moaning seemed to desire to him with deep emotion. He made his study and inform us of what we would not learn :--)
-but a reading-room of the shadowed copse, the stream, veil may well be drawn over such misery. The the lake and the water-fall. ill health and con- real anguish of these moments transcended all the tinual pain preyed upon his powers; and the fictions that the most glowing imagination ever solitule in which we lived, particularly on our pourtrayed : our seclusion, the savage vature of first arrival in Italy, although congenial to his the inhabitants of the surrounding villages, and feelings, must frequently have weighed upon his our immediate vicinity to the troubled sea, comspirits : those beautiful and affecting · Lines, bined to embue with strange horror our days of written in dejection at Naples,' were composed at uncertainty. The truth was at last known,-a such an interval; but when in health, his spirits truth that made our loved and lovely laly appear were buoyant and youthful to au extraordinary a tomb, its sky a pall. Every heart echoed the degree.
deep lament; and my only consolation was in the « Such was his love foi nature, that every page praise and earnest love that each voice bestowed of his poetry is associated in the ininds of his and each countenance demonstrated for him we friends with the loveliest scer:es of the conntries had lost, -- not, I fondly hope, for ever : his which he inhabited. In early life he visited the unearthly and elevated nature is a pledge of the most beautiful parts of this country and Ireland. continuation of his being, although in an altered Afterwards the Alps of Switzerland became his form. Rome received his ashes; they are deposited inspirers. "Prometheus Unbound' was written beneath its weed-grown wall, and the world's among the deserted and flower-grown ruins of sole monument' is enriched by his remains. Rome; and when he made his home under the a“ Julian and Maddalo,' “The Witch of Atlas,' Pisan hills, their roofless recesses harboured him and most of the Translations, were written some as he composed “The Witch of Atlas,'' Adonais,' years ago, and, with the exception of The Cyclops,' and “Hellas. In the wild but beautiful Bay of and the Scenes from the Magico Prodigioso,' Spezia, the winds and waves which he loved may be considered as having received the author's became his playmates. His days were chiefly ultimate corrections. “The Triumph of Life' was spent on the water; the management of his boat, his last work, and was left in so unfinished a its alterations and improvements, were his prin- state, that I arranged it in its present form with cipal occupation. At night, when the unclouded great difficulty. Many of the Miscellaneous Poems, moon shone on the calm sea, he often
yent alone written on the spur of the occasion, and never in his little shallop to the rocky cases that bor-retouched, I found among his manuscript books, dered it, and sitting beneath their shelter wrote and have carefully copied : I have subjoined, 'The Triumph of Life,' the last of his productions. whenever I have been able, the date of their The beauty but strangeness of this lonely place, composition. the refined pleasure which he felt in the com
« I do not know whether the critics will reprepanionship of a few selected friends, our entire hend the insertion of some of the most impersequestration from the rest of the world, all con- fect among these; but I frankly own, that I have tributed to render this period of his life one of been more actuated by the fear lest any monument continued enjoyment. I am convinced that the of his genius should escape me, than the wish of two months we passed there were the happiest he presenting nothing but what was complete to the had ever known : his health even rapidly im- fastidious reader. I feel secure that the Lovers of proved, and he was never better than when I last Shelley's Poetry (who know how more than any saw bim, full of spirits and joy, embark for Leg- other poet of the present day every line and horn, that he might there welcome Leigh Hunt to word he wrote is instinct with peculiar beauty) Italy. I was to have accompanied him, but illness will pardon and thank me : 1 consecrate this confined me to my room, and thus put the seal on volume to them. my misfortune. His vessel bore out of sight with
MARY W. SHELLEY. a favourable wind, and I remained awaiting his
London, June 1st, 1824.»
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY,
The Revolt of Islam;
IN TWELVE CANTOS,
improve mankind; the rapid effects of the application of that tendency; the awakening of an immense nation
from their slavery and degradation to a true sense of The Poem which I now present to the world, is an at- moral digoily and freedom ; the bloodless dethronement tempt from which I scarcely dare to expect success, and of their oppressors, and the unveiling of the religious in which a writer of established fame might fail without frauds by which they had been deluded in to submission; disgrace. It is an experiment on the temper of the the tranquillity of successful patriotism, and the unipublic mind, as to how far a thirst for a happier con- versal toleration and benevolence of true philanthropy; dition of moral and political society survives, among the the treachery and bar of hired soldiers; vice not enlightened and refined, the tempests which have shaken the object of punishment and hatred, but kindness and the aye in which we live. I have sought to enlist the pity; the faithlessness of tyrants ; the confederacy of the harmony of metrical language, the etherial combina- Rulers of the World, and the restoration of the expelled tions of the fancy, the rapid and subtle transitions of Dynasty by foreign arms ; the massacre and exterminahuman passion, all those elements which essentially tion of the Patriots, and the victory of established compose a Poem, in the cause of a liberal and compre-power; the consequences of legitimate despotism, civil hensive morality; and in the view of kindling within war, famine, plague, superstition, and an utter exthe bosoms of my readers, a virtuous enthusiasm for tinction of the domestic affections; the judicial murder those doctrines of liberty and justice, that faith and of the advocates of Liberty; the temporary triumph of hope in something good, which neither violence, nor oppression, that secure earnest of its final and inevitable misrepresentation, nor prejudice, can ever totally extin- fall; the transient nature of ignorance and
error, and guish among mankind.
the eternity of genius and virtue. 'Such is the series For this purpose I have chosen a story of human pas- of delineations of which the Poem consists. And if the sion in its most universal character, diversified with lofty passions with which it has been my scope to dismoving and romantic adventures, and appealing, in tinguish this story, shall not excite in the reader a gecontempt of all artificial opinions or institutions, to the nerous impulse, an ardent thirst for excellence, an common sympathies of every human breast. I have interest profound and strong, such as belongs to no made no attempt to recommend the motives which I meaner desires-- let not the failure be imputed to a would substitute for those at present governing mankind natural unfitness for human sympathy in these sublime by methodical and systematic argument. I would only and animating themes. It is the business of the poet to awaken the feelings so that the reader should see the communicate to others the pleasure and the enthusiasm beauty of true virtue, and be incited to those inquiries arising out of those images and feelings, in the vivid which have led to my moral and political creed, and presence of which within his own mind, consists at that of some of the sublimest intellects in the world, once his inspiration and his reward. The Poem therefore (with the exception of the first The panic which, like an epidemic transport, seized Canto, which is purely introductory), is narrative, not upon all classes of men during the excesses consequent didactic. It is a succession of pictures illustrating the upon the French Revolution, is gradually giving place growth and progress of individual mind aspiring after to sanity. It has ceased to be believed, that whole genecxcellence, and devoted to the love of mankind; its in- rations of mankind ought to consign themselves to a fluence in refining and making pure the most daring hopeless inheritance of ignorance and misery, because and uncommon impulses of the imagination, the under a nation of men who had been dupes and slaves for standing, and the senses; its impatience at all the centuries, were incapable of conducting themselves with oppressions which are done under the sun;n its ten the wisdom and tranquillity of freemco so soon as some dency to awaken public hope and to enlighten and of their fetters were partially loosened. That their con
duct could not have been marked by any other charac- kind into a security of everlasting triumph. Our works ters than ferocity and thoughtlessness, is the historical of fiction and poetry have been overshadowed by the fact from which liberty derives all its recommendations, same infectious gloom. But mankind appear to me to and falsehood the worst features of its deformity. There be emerging from their trance. I am aware, methinks, is a reflux in the lide of human things which bears the of a slow, gradual, silent change. In that belief I have shipwrecked hopes of men into a secure haven, after the composed the following Poem. storms are past. Methinks, those who now live have I do not presume to enter into competition with our survived an age of despair.
greatest contemporary Poets. Yet I am unwilling to The French Revolution may be considered as one of tread in the footsteps of any who have preceded me. I those manifestations of a general state of feeling among have sought to avoid the imitation of any style of lancivilized mankind, produced by a defect of corres-guage or versification peculiar to the original minds of pondence between the knowledge existing in society and which it is the character, designing that even if what I the improvement, or gradual abolition of political in- have produced be worthless, it should still be properly stitutions. The year 1788 may be assumed as the epoch my own. Nor have I permitted any system relating to of one of the most important crises produced by this mere words, to divert the attention of the reader from feeling. The sympathies connected with that event ex- whatever interest I may have succeeded in creating, to tended to every bosom. The most generous and amiable my own ingenuity in contriving to disyuse them accordnatures were those which participated the most exten- ing to the rules of criticism. I have simply clothed my sively in these sympathies. But such a degree of un- thoughts in wliat appeared to me the most obvious and mingled good was expected, as it was impossible to appropriate language. A person familiar with nature, and realize. If the Revolution had been in every respect with the most celebrated productions of the human mind, prosperous, then misrule and superstition would lose can scarcely err in following the instinct, with respect half their claims to our abhorrence, as fetters which the to selection of language, produced by that familiarity. captive can unlock with the slightest motion of his fin There is an education peculiarly fitted for a Poet, fers, and which do not eat with poisonous rust into the without which, genius and sensibility can hardly fill the soul. The revulsion occasioned hy the atrocities of the circle of their capacitics. No education indeed cav endemagogues and the re-establishment of successive title to this appellation a dull and unobservant mind, tyrannies in France was terrible, and felt in the re or one, though neither dull nor unobservant, in which motest corner of the civilized world. Could they listen the channels of communication between thought and to the plea of reason who had groaned under the expression have been obstructed or closed. llow far it calamities of a social state, according to the provisions is my fortune to belong to either of the latter classes, I of which, one man riots in luxury whilst another cannot know. I aspire to be something better. The famishes for want of bread ? Can he who the day before circumstances of my accidental education have been was a trampled slave, suddenly become liberal-minded, favourable to this ambition. I have been familiar from forbearing, and independent? This is the consequence boyhood with mountains and lakes, and the sea, and of the habits of a state of society to be produced by the solitude of forests : Danger which sports upon the resolute perseverance and indefatigable hope, and long- brink of precipices, has been my playmate. I have trodsuffering and long-believing courage, and the system- den the glaciers of the Alps, and lived under the eye of atic efforts of generations of men of intellect and virtue. Mont Blanc. I have been a wanderer among distant fields. Such is the lesson which experience teaches now. But I have sailed down mighty rivers, and seen the sun rise and on the first reverses of hope in the progress of French set, and the stars come forth, whilst I have sailed night and liberty, the sanguine eagerness for good overleapt the day down a rapid stream among mountains. I have seen solution of these questions, and for a time extinguished populous cities, and have watched the passions which itself in the unexpectedness of their result. Thus many rise and spread, and sink and change amongst assemof the most ardent and tender-hearted of the wor
bled multitudes of men. I have seen the theatre of the shippers of public good, have been morally ruined by more visible ravages of tyranny and war, cities and what a partial glimpse of the events they deplored, ap- villages reduced to scattered groups of black and roofpeared to show as the melancholy desolation of all their less houses, and the naked inhabitants sitting famished cherished hopes. Hence gloom and misanthropy have upon their desolated thresholds. I have conversed with become the characteristics of the age in which we live, living men of genius. The poetry of ancient Greece and the solace of a disappointment that unconsciously finds Rome, and modern Italy, and our own country, has relief only in the wilful exaggeration of its own despair. been to me like external nature, a passion and an enjoyThis influence has tainted the literature of the age with ment. Such are the sources from which the materials the hopelessness of the minds from which it flows. for the imagery of my Poem have been drawn. I have Metaphysics,' and inquiries into moral and political considered Poetry in its most comprehensive sense, and science, have become little else than vain attempts to have read the Poets and the Historians, and the Metarevive exploded superstitions, or sophisms like those a physicians, whose writings have been accessible to me, of Mr Malthus, calculated to lull the oppressors of man- and have looked upon the beautiful and majestic "I ought to except Sir W. Drummond's - Academical Questions ;
scenery of the earth as common sources of those a volume of very acute and powerful metaphysical criticism.
elements which it is the province of the Poet to embody * It is remarkable, as a symptom of the revival of pablic hope, and combine. Yet the experience and the feelings to that Ir Malthus bas assigned, in the later editions of his work, an iddetinite dominion to moral restraint over the principle of popu
which I refer, do not in themselves constitute men lation. This concession answers all the inferences from his doctrine ! In this sense there may be such a thing as perfectibility in unfavourable to buman improvement, and reduces the . Essas ON works of fiction, notwithstanding the concession often made by the POPCLATIUS. to a commentary illustrative of the unanswerableness advocates of human improvement, that perfectibility is a term of POLITICAL JUSTICE.
applicable only to science.
Poets, but only prepares them to be the auditors of fortunate as their own. I have sought therefore to those who are. How far I shall be found to possess that write, as I believe that Homer, Shakspeare, and Milton more essential attribute of Poetry, the power of awaken- wrote, with an utter disregard of anonymous censure. ing in others sensations like those which animate my I am certain that calumny and misrepresentation, own bosom, is that which, to speak sincerely, I know though it may move me to compassion, cannot disturb not; and which, with an acquiescent and contented my peace. I shall understand the expressive silence of spirit, I expect to be taught by the effect which I shall those sagacious enemies who dare not trust themselves produce upon those whom I now address.
to speak. I shall endeavour to extract from the midst I have avoided, as I have said before, the imitation of of insult, and contempt, and maledictions, those adany contemporary style. But there must be a resem-monitions which may tend to correct whatever imperblance which does not depend upon their own will, fections such censurers may discover in this my first between all the writers of any particular age. They serious appeal to the Public. If certain Critics were as cannot escape from subjection to a common influence clear-sighted as they are malignant, how great would which arises out of an infinite combination of circum- be the benefit to be derived from their virulent writings! stances belonging to the times in which they live, As it is, I fear I shall be malicious enough to be amused though each is in a degree the author of the very in- with their paltry tricks and lame invectives. Should fluence by which his being is thus pervaded. Thus, the the Public judge that my composition is worthless, I tragic Poets of the age of Pericles; the Italian revivers of shall indeed bow before the tribunal from which Milton ancient learning; those mighty intellects of our own received his crown of immortality, and shall seek to country that succeeded the Reformation, the translators gather, if I live, strength from thai defeat, which may of the Bible, Shakspeare, Spenser, the Dramatists of the nerve me to some new enterprise of thought which may reign of Elizabeth, and Lord Bacon ;' the colder spirits not be worthless. I cannot conceive that Lucretius, of the interval that succeeded ;-all, resemble each when he meditated that poem whose doctrines are yet other, and differ from every other in their several the bases of our metaphysical knowledge, and whose classes. In this view of things, Ford can no more be cloquence has been the wonder of mankind, wrote in called the imitator of Shakspeare, than Shakspeare the awe of such censure as the hired sophists of the impure imitator of Ford. There were perhaps few other points and superstitious noblemen of Rome might affix to of resemblance between these lwo men, than that which what he should produce. It was at the period when the universal and inevitable influence of their age pro-Greece was led captive, and Asia made tributary to the duced. And this is an intluence which neither the Republic, fast verging itself to slavery and ruin, that a meanest scribbler, nor the sublimest genius of any æra multitude of Syrian captives, bigotted to the worship of can escape ; and which I have not attempted to escape. their obscene Ashtaroth, and the unworthy sliccessors
I have adopted the stanza of Spenser (a measure in- of Socrates and Zeno, found there a precarious subsistexpressibly beautiful), not because I consider it a finerence by administering, under the name of freedmen, to model of poetical harmony than the blank verse of the vices and vanities of the great. These wretched men Shakspeare and Milton, but because in the latter there were skilled to plead, with a superficial but plausible set is no shelter for mediocrity: you must either succeed or of sophisms, in favour of that contempt for virtue fail. This perhaps an aspiring spirit should desire. But which is the portion of slaves, and that faith in portents, I was enticed, also, by the brilliancy and magnificence the most fatal substitute for benevolence in the imagiof sound which a mind that has been nourished upon nations of men, which arising from the enslaved commusical thoughts, can produce by a just and harmo munities of the East, then first began to overwhelm the vious arrangement of the pauses of this measure. Yet western nations in its stream. Were these the kind of there will be found some instances where I have com men whose disapprobation the wise and lofty-minded pletely failed in this attempt, and one, which I bere Lucretius should have regarded with a salutary awe ? request the reader to consider as an erratum, where the latest and perhaps the meanest of those who follow there is left most inadvertently an alexandrine in the in his footsteps, would disdain to hold life on such middle of a stanza.
conditions. But in this, as in every other respect, I have written The Poem now presented to the Public occupied little fearlessly. It is the misfortune of this age, that its Wri- more than six months in the composition. That period ters, too thoughtless of immortality, are exquisitely sen- has been devoted to the task with unremitting ardour sible to temporary praise or blame. They write with and enthusiasm. I have exercised a watchful and earnest the fear of Reviews before their eyes. This system of criticism on my work as it grew under my hands. I criticism sprang up in that torpid interval when Poetry would willingly have sent it forth to the world with that was not. Poetry, and the art which professes to regu- perfection which long labour and revision is said to late and limit its powers, cannot subsist together.
bestow. But I found that if I should gain something Longinus could not have been the contemporary of in exactness by this method, I might lose much of the Homer, nor Boileau of Horace. Yet this species of cri- newness and energy of imagery and language as it flowed cicism never presumed to assert an understanding of its fresh from my mind. And although the mere compoown: it has always, unlike true science, followed, not sition occupied no more than six months, the thoughts preceded the opinion of mankind, and would even now thus arranged were slowly gathered in as many years. bribe with worthless adulation some of our greatest
I trust that the reader will carefully distinguish bePoets to impose gratuitous fetters on their own imagina-tween those opinions which have a dramatic propriety tions, and become unconscious accomplices in the daily in reference to the characters which they are designed murder of all genius either not so aspiring or not so
to elucidate, and such as are properly my own.
The erroneous and degrading idea which men have conceived Milton stands alone in the age which he illumined. of a Supreme Being, for instance, is spoken against, but