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Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian: A Romance dated In Shelley anonymously published a pamphlet called " The Necessity of Atheism ", which was brought to the attention of the university administration, and he was called to appear before the college's fellows, including the Dean, George Rowley. The rediscovery in mid of Shelley's long-lost " Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things "—a long, strident anti-monarchical and anti-war poem printed in in London by Crosby and Company as "by a gentleman of the University of Oxford" and dedicated to Harriet Westbrook—gives a new dimension to the expulsion, reinforcing Hogg's implication of political motives "an affair of party".

His refusal to do so led to a falling-out with his father. Four months after being sent down from Oxford, on 28 August , the year-old Shelley eloped to Scotland with the year-old Harriet Westbrook, [14] a pupil at the same boarding school as Shelley's sisters, whom his father had forbidden him to see.

Harriet Westbrook had been writing Shelley passionate letters threatening to kill herself because of her unhappiness at the school and at home. Shelley, heartbroken after the failure of his romance with his cousin , Harriet Grove, cut off from his mother and sisters, and convinced he had not long to live, impulsively decided to rescue Westbrook and make her his beneficiary.

Sir Timothy Shelley, however, outraged that his son had married beneath him Harriet's father, though prosperous, had kept a tavern , revoked Shelley's allowance and refused ever to receive the couple at Field Place. Harriet also insisted that her sister Eliza, whom Shelley detested, live with them. Shelley was also at this time increasingly involved in an intense platonic relationship with Elizabeth Hitchener, a year-old unmarried schoolteacher of advanced views, with whom he had been corresponding.

Hitchener, whom Shelley called the "sister of my soul" and "my second self", [17] became his muse and confidante in the writing of his philosophical poem Queen Mab , a Utopian allegory. During this period, Shelley travelled to Keswick in England's Lake District , where he visited the poet Robert Southey , under the mistaken impression that Southey was still a political radical. Southey, who had himself been expelled from the Westminster School for opposing flogging, was taken with Shelley and predicted great things for him as a poet. He also informed Shelley that William Godwin , author of Political Justice , which had greatly influenced him in his youth, and which Shelley also admired, was still alive.

He wrote asking for more particulars about Shelley's income and began advising him to reconcile with Sir Timothy. Shelley was increasingly unhappy in his marriage to Harriet and particularly resented the influence of her older sister Eliza, who discouraged Harriet from breastfeeding their baby daughter Ianthe Elizabeth Shelley [—]. Shelley accused Harriet of having married him for his money. Craving more intellectual female companionship, he began spending more time away from home, among other things, studying Italian with Cornelia Turner and visiting the home and bookshop of William Godwin.

Eliza and Harriet moved back with their parents. Shelley's mentor Godwin had three highly educated daughters, two of whom, Fanny Imlay and Claire Clairmont , were his adopted step-daughters. Godwin's first wife, the celebrated feminist Mary Wollstonecraft , author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman , had died shortly after giving birth to Godwin's biological daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin , named after her mother. Fanny was the illegitimate daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and her lover, the diplomat speculator and writer, Gilbert Imlay.

Claire was the illegitimate daughter of Godwin's much younger second wife, Mary Jane Clairmont Godwin, whom Shelley considered a vulgar woman—"not a proper person to form the mind of a young girl", he is supposed to have said [25] —and Sir John Lethbridge. The brilliant Mary was being educated in Scotland when Shelley first became acquainted with the Godwin family. When she returned, Shelley fell madly in love with her, repeatedly threatening to commit suicide if she did not return his affections. The older sister Fanny was left behind, to her great dismay, for she, too, may have fallen in love with Shelley.

The three sailed to Europe, and made their way across France to Switzerland on foot, reading aloud from the works of Rousseau , Shakespeare , and Mary's mother, Mary Wollstonecraft an account of their travels was subsequently published by the Shelleys. After six weeks, homesick and destitute, the three young people returned to England. The enraged William Godwin refused to see them, though he still demanded money, to be given to him under another name, to avoid scandal. It attracted little attention at the time, but has now come to be recognised as his first major achievement. At this point in his writing career, Shelley was deeply influenced by the poetry of Wordsworth.

In mid Shelley and Mary made a second trip to Switzerland. They were prompted to do this by Mary's stepsister Claire Clairmont, who, in competition with her sister, had initiated a liaison with Lord Byron the previous April just before his self-exile on the continent. Byron's interest in her had waned, and Claire used the opportunity of introducing him to Mary and Shelley to act as bait to lure him to Geneva. The couple and Byron rented neighbouring houses on the shores of Lake Geneva. Regular conversation with Byron had an invigorating effect on Shelley's output of poetry.

While on a boating tour the two took together, Shelley was inspired to write his Hymn to Intellectual Beauty , often considered his first significant production since Alastor. Shelley also encouraged Byron to begin an epic poem on a contemporary subject, advice that resulted in Byron's composition of Don Juan. In Claire gave birth to a daughter by Byron, Alba, later renamed Allegra , whom Shelley offered to support, making provisions for her and for Claire in his will.

After Shelley's and Mary's return to England, Fanny Imlay , Mary's half-sister and Claire's stepsister, despondent over her exclusion from the Shelley household and perhaps unhappy at being omitted from Shelley's will, travelled from Godwin's household in London to kill herself in Wales in early October. Shelley had made generous provision for Harriet and their children in his will and had paid her a monthly allowance as had her father.

Many years later, in , Claire Clairmont claimed to Edward John Trelawny, a biographer of Shelley, that just before her death Harriet left her children with her sister Elizabeth, and believed herself to have been abandoned by a new lover, year-old Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Maxwell, who had been deployed abroad, after a landlady refused to forward his letters to her.

The marriage was intended partly to help secure Shelley's custody of his children by Harriet and partly to placate Godwin, who had coldly refused to speak to his daughter for two years, and who now received the couple. The courts, however, awarded custody of Shelley and Harriet's children to foster parents, on the grounds that Shelley had abandoned his first wife for Mary without cause and was an atheist. Shelley took part in the literary circle that surrounded Leigh Hunt , and during this period he met John Keats.

Shelley's major production during this time was Laon and Cythna ; or, The Revolution of the Golden City , a long narrative poem in which he attacked religion and featured a pair of incestuous lovers. It was hastily withdrawn after only a few copies were published. It was later edited and reissued as The Revolt of Islam in Shelley wrote two revolutionary political tracts under the nom de plume , "The Hermit of Marlow". On Boxing Day , presumably prompted by travellers' reports of Giovanni Battista Belzoni 's success where the French had failed in removing the 'half sunk and shattered visage' of the so-called ' Young Memnon ' from the Ramesseum at Thebes , Shelley and his friend Horace Smith began a poem each about the Memnon or 'Ozymandias,' Diodorus 's 'King of Kings', who in an inscription on the base of his statue challenged all comers to 'surpass my works'.

During the latter part of the year, he wrote Julian and Maddalo , a lightly disguised rendering of his boat trips and conversations with Byron in Venice, finishing with a visit to a madhouse. This poem marked the appearance of Shelley's "urbane style". He then began the long verse drama Prometheus Unbound , a re-writing of the lost play by the ancient Greek poet Aeschylus , which features talking mountains and a petulant spirit who overthrows Jupiter. Tragedy struck, however, first in when Shelley's infant daughter Clara Everina died during yet another household move, and then in when his son Will died of fever most likely malaria in Rome.

A baby girl, Elena Adelaide Shelley, was born on 27 December in Naples , Italy, and registered there as the daughter of Shelley and a woman named "Marina Padurin". However, the identity of the mother is an unsolved mystery. Some scholars speculate that her true mother was actually Claire Clairmont or Elise Foggi, a nursemaid for the Shelley family.

Other scholars postulate that she was a foundling Shelley adopted in hopes of distracting Mary after the death of Clara. However, Elena was placed with foster parents a few days after her birth and the Shelley family moved on to yet another Italian city, leaving her behind. The Shelleys moved between various Italian cities during these years; in later they were living in Florence , in a pensione on the Via Valfonda.

Here they received two visitors, a Sophia Stacey and her much older travelling companion, Corbet Parry-Jones to be described by Mary as "an ignorant little Welshwoman". Sophia had for three years in her youth been ward of the poet's aunt and uncle. The pair moved into the same pensione and stayed for about two months.

During this period Mary gave birth to another son; Sophia is credited with suggesting that he be named after the city of his birth, so he became Percy Florence Shelley , later Sir Percy. Shelley also wrote his "Ode to Sophia Stacey" during this time. They then moved to Pisa, largely at the suggestion of its resident Margaret King , who, as a former pupil of Mary Wollstonecraft, took a maternal interest in the younger Mary and her companions. This "no nonsense grande dame " [35] and her common-law husband George William Tighe inspired the poet with "a new-found sense of radicalism".

Tighe was an agricultural theorist, and provided the younger man with a great deal of material on chemistry, biology and statistics. In this year, prompted among other causes by the Peterloo Massacre , he wrote his best-known political poems: The Masque of Anarchy and Men of England. Around this time period, he wrote the essay The Philosophical View of Reform , which was his most thorough exposition of his political views to that date. In , hearing of John Keats 's illness from a friend, Shelley wrote him a letter inviting him to join him at his residence at Pisa.

Keats replied with hopes of seeing him, but instead, arrangements were made for Keats to travel to Rome with the artist Joseph Severn. Inspired by the death of Keats, in Shelley wrote the elegy Adonais. Shelley developed a very strong affection towards Jane and addressed a number of poems to her. In Shelley arranged for Leigh Hunt, the British poet and editor who had been one of his chief supporters in England, to come to Italy with his family.

He meant for the three of them—himself, Byron and Hunt—to create a journal, which would be called The Liberal. With Hunt as editor, their controversial writings would be disseminated, and the journal would act as a counter-blast to conservative periodicals such as Blackwood's Magazine and The Quarterly Review. He replied:. On one occasion I had to fetch or take to Byron some copy for the paper which my father, himself and Shelley, jointly conducted. I found him seated on a lounge feasting himself from a drum of figs. He asked me if I would like a fig. Now, in that, Leno, consists the difference, Shelley would have handed me the drum and allowed me to help myself.

On 8 July , less than a month before his 30th birthday, Shelley drowned in a sudden storm on the Gulf of Spezia while returning from Leghorn Livorno to Lerici in his sailing boat, the Don Juan. He was returning from having set up The Liberal with the newly arrived Leigh Hunt. However, according to Mary Shelley's testimony, Shelley changed it to Ariel , which annoyed Byron, who forced the painting of the words "Don Juan" on the mainsail. The vessel, an open boat, was custom-built in Genoa for Shelley. It did not capsize but sank; Mary Shelley declared in her "Note on Poems of " that the design had a defect and that the boat was never seaworthy.

In fact the Don Juan was seaworthy; the sinking was due to a severe storm and poor seamanship of the three men on board. Some believed his death was not accidental, that Shelley was depressed and wanted to die; others suggested he simply did not know how to navigate. More fantastical theories, including the possibility of pirates mistaking the boat for Byron's, also circulated.

Two other Englishmen were with Shelley on the boat. However, the liferaft was unused and still attached to the boat. The bodies were found completely clothed, including boots. In his Recollections of the Last Days of Shelley and Byron , Trelawny noted that the shirt in which Williams's body was clad was "partly drawn over the head, as if the wearer had been in the act of taking it off [ Shelley's body was washed ashore and later, in keeping with quarantine regulations, was cremated on the beach near Viareggio.

In Shelley's pocket was a small book of Keats' poetry. Upon hearing this, Byron never one to give compliments said of Shelley: "I never met a man who wasn't a beast in comparison to him". The day after the news of his death reached England, the Tory newspaper The Courier printed: "Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned; now he knows whether there is God or no.

In pre-Victorian times it was English custom that women would not attend funerals for health reasons. Mary Shelley did not attend but was featured in the painting, kneeling at the left-hand side. Leigh Hunt stayed in the carriage during the ceremony but is also pictured. Also, Trelawny, in his account of the recovery of Shelley's body, records that "the face and hands, and parts of the body not protected by the dress, were fleshless," and by the time that the party returned to the beach for the cremation, the body was even further decomposed.

In his graphic account of the cremation, he writes of Byron being unable to face the scene, and withdrawing to the beach. Shelley's ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome , near an ancient pyramid in the city walls. Some weeks after Shelley's ashes had been buried, Trelawny had come to Rome, had not liked his friend's position among a number of other graves, and had purchased what seemed to him a better plot near the old wall.

The ashes were exhumed and moved to their present location. Trelawny had purchased the adjacent plot, and over 60 years later his remains were placed there. Shelley's widow Mary bought a cliff-top home at Boscombe , Bournemouth , in She intended to live there with her son, Percy, and his wife Jane, and had the remains of her own parents moved from their London burial place at St Pancras Old Church to an underground mausoleum in the town.

His page has not, says Mr. Lines such as While the deep-burnish'd foliage overhead Splinter'd the silver arrows of the moon may owe their felicity to phrase rather than to feeling. The Mediterranean landscape in A Southern Night may seem almost too exquisitely elaborated. Yet who can think of Arnold's poetry as a whole without feeling that Nature is always behind it as a living background? Yes, the spray is on thy cloak and hair or the scent-laden water-meadows along Thames, or the pine forests on the flank of Etna, or an English garden in June, or Oxus, its mists and fens and 'the hush'd Chorasmian waste '.

It brings rather that lull in the hot race Wherein he doth for ever chase That flying and 4 elusive shadow, Rest. An air of coolness plays upon his face And an unwonted calm pervades his breast ; and then if after protesting against italics in poetry we may italicize where, for once, Arnold missed the opportunity And then he thinks he knows The Hills where his life rose, And the Sea where it goes. They are printed in chronological order, and when more than one version of any poem is available the latest version is printed in the text, and all earlier verbal variations are noted at the bottom of the page.

The order of the poems in this edition being chrono- logical, the reader should remember that the text of for example the version of The Forsaken Merman must be reconstructed from the footnotes, the text as here printed being that of the latest available edition, viz.

Arnold's own notes are printed at the end of the book, and a few others have been added, some textual, others giving brief explanations of allusions in the text or references for passages quoted. Wise has kindly given permission for his privately printed edition of Alaric at Rome to be used as the basis of the present reprint of the poem, no copy of the original issue being accessible ; and the Horatian Echo is included by kind permission of the Rev.

To the same. An Episode. From Schiller. Srtetram II. Sseult ot SrelanD ill. Sseult of ffirtttaitB. Ebe Castle II. Cbe Cburcb in. To My Friends. The Lake III. A Dream. To Marguerite To a Friend. Written in Emerson's Essays To George Cruikshank, Esq. To a Republican Friend. Continued 62 VII. Religious Isolation. To the Same. The World's Triumphs Tristram II. Cbe Caetle II. Gbe Gbutcb. Cbe Comb. To My Friends 63 II.


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A Dream Parting V. A Farewell VI. To Marguerite VII. Shakespeare 58 III. Continued 62 VI. An Episode I. Sending II. The Last Glen II. The River II. Too Late. Separation IV. On the Rhine V. A Dream IV. Isolation VIII. To a Friend 40 II. Brandan Eraser's Magazine, July, Eeprinted and The rest are now published for the first time. I have, in the present collection, omitted the Poem from which the volume published in took its title. I have done so, not because the subject of it was a Sicilian Greek born between two and three thousand years ago, although many persons would think this a sufficient reason.

Neither have I done so 10 because I had, in my own opinion, failed in the deline- ation which I intended to effect. I intended to deline- ate the feelings of one of the last of the Greek religious philosophers, one of the family of Orpheus and Musaeus, having survived his fellows, living on into a time when the habits of Greek thought and feeling had begun fast to change, character to dwindle, the influence of the Sophists to prevail. What those who are familiar only with the great monuments of early Greek genius suppose to be its exclusive characteristics, have disappeared ; the calm, the cheerfulness, the disinter- ested objectivity have disappeared : the dialogue of the mind with itself has commenced ; modern problems, have presented themselves ; we hear already the doubts, we witness the discouragement, of Hamlet and of Faust.

The representation of such a man's feelings must be 30 interesting, if consistently drawn. We all naturally take pleasure, says Aristotle, in any imitation or repre- sentation whatever : this is the basis of our love of Preface, Title] Preface to the First Edition Every representation therefore which is consistently drawn may be supposed to be interesting, inasmuch as it gratifies this natural interest in knowledge of all kinds. What is not interesting, is that which does not add to our knowledge of any kind ; that which is vaguely conceived and loosely drawn ; a representation 10 which is general, indeterminate, and faint, instead of being particular, precise, and firm.

Any accurate representation may therefore be ex- pected to be interesting ; but, if the representation be a poetical one, more than this is demanded. It is demanded, not only that it shall interest, but also that it shall inspirit and rejoice the reader : that it shall convey a charm, and infuse delight. For the Muses, as Hesiod says, were born that they might be l a for- getfulness of evils, and a truce from cares': and it is 20 not enough that the Poet should add to the knowledge of men, it is required of him also that he should add to their happiness.

The right Art is that alone, which creates the highest enjoyment. A poetical work, therefore, is not yet justified when it has been shown to be an accurate, and therefore interesting representation ; it has to be shown also that it is a representation from which men can derive en- 30 joyment. In presence of the most tragic circumstances, represented in a work of Art, the feeling of enjoyment, as is well known, may still subsist : the representation of the most utter calamity, of the liveliest anguish, is not sufficient to destroy it : the more tragic the situa- tion, the deeper becomes the enjoyment ; and the situation is more tragic in proportion as it becomes more terrible.

What then are the situations, from the representa- tion of which, though accurate, no poetical enjoyment 40 can be derived? They are those in which the suffer- ing finds no vent in action ; in which a continuous state of mental distress is prolonged, unrelieved by incident, PREFACE 3 hope, or resistance ; in which there is everything to be endured, nothing to be done.

In such situations there is inevitably something morbid, in the descrip- tion of them something monotonous. When they occur in actual life, they are painful, not tragic ; the representation of them in poetry is painful also. To this class of situations, poetically faulty as it appears to me, that of Empedocles, as I have endea- voured to represent him, belongs ; and I have there- fore excluded the Poem from the present collection. I have done so, because I was anxious to avow that the sole reason for its exclusion was that which has been stated above ; and that it has not been excluded in deference to the opinion which many critics of the present day appear to entertain against subjects chosen from distant times and countries : against the choice, in short, of any subjects but modern ones.

It is worth examining, inasmuch as it is a fair sample of a class of critical dicta everywhere current at the present day, having a philosophical form and air, but no real basis in fact ; and which are calculated to 20 vitiate the judgement of readers of poetry, while they exert, so far as they are adopted, a misleading influence on the practice of those who write it.


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What are the eternal objects of Poetry, among all nations and at all times? They are actions ; human actions ; possessing an inherent interest in themselves, and which are to be communicated in an interesting manner by the art of the Poet. Vainly will the latter 1 In The Spectator of April 2nd, The words quoted were not used with reference to poems of mine. The Poet, then, has in the first place to select an excellent action ; and what actions are the most excel- lent? Those, certainly, which most powerfully appeal 10 to the great primary human affections : to those ele- mentary feelings which subsist permanently in the race, and which are independent of time.

These feelings are permanent and the same ; that which interests them is permanent and the same also. The modern- ness or antiquity of an action, therefore, has nothing to do with its fitness for poetical representation ; this depends upon its inherent qualities. To the elemen- tary part of our nature, to our passions, that which is great and passionate is eternally interesting ; and 20 interesting solely in proportion to its greatness and to its passion. A great human action of a thousand years ago is more interesting to it than a smaller human action of to-day, even though upon the representation of this last the most consummate skill may have been expended, and though it has the advantage of appeal- ing by its modern language, familiar manners, and contemporary allusions, to all our transient feelings arid interests.

These, however, have no right to demand of a poetical work that it shall satisfy them ; their 30 claims are to be directed elsewhere. Poetical works belong to the domain of our permanent passions : let them interest these, and the voice of all subordinate claims upon them is at once silenced. We have the domestic epic dealing with the details of modern life which pass daily under our eyes ; we have poems representing modern personages in 40 contact with the problems of modern life, moral, in- tellectual, and social ; these works have been produced by poets the most distinguished of their nation and PEEFACE 5 time ; yetl fearlessly assert that Hermann and Dorothea, Childe Harold, Jocelyn, The Excursion, leave the reader cold in comparison with the effect produced upon him by the latter books of the Iliad, by the Orestea, or by the episode of Dido.

And why is this? Simply because in the three latter cases the action is greater, the personages nobler, the situations more intense: and this is the true basis of the interest in a poetical work, and this alone. It may be urged, however, that past actions may be 10 interesting in themselves, but that they are not to be adopted by the modern Poet, because it is impossible for him to have them clearly present to his own mind, and he cannot therefore feel them deeply, nor repre- sent them forcibly.

But this is not necessarily the case. The externals of a past action, indeed, he cannot know with the precision of a contemporary ; but his business is with its essentials. The outward man of Oedipus or of Macbeth, the houses in which they lived, the ceremonies of their courts, he cannot accurately 20 figure to himself ; but neither do they essentially con- cern him. His business is with their inward man ; with their feelings and behaviour in certain tragic situations, which engage their passions as men ; these have in them nothing local and casual ; they are as accessible to the modern Poet as to a contemporary.

The date of an action, then, signifies nothing : the action itself, its selection and construction, this is what is all-important.

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This the Greeks understood far more clearly than we do. The radical difference between 30 their poetical theory and ours consists, as it appears to me, in this : that, with them, the poetical character of the action in itself, and the conduct of it, was the first consideration ; with us, attention is fixed mainly on the value of the separate thoughts and images which occur in the treatment of an action. They regarded the whole ; we regard the parts.

With them, the action predominated over the expression of it ; with us, the expression predominates over the action. Not that they failed in expression, or were inattentive to it ; 40 on the contrary, they are the highest models of expres- sion, the unapproached masters of the grand style : but 6 PREFACE their expression is so excellent because it is so admir- ably kept in its right degree of prominence ; because it is so simple and so well subordinated ; because it draws its force directly from the pregnancy of the matter which it conveys.

For what reason was the Greek tragic poet confined to so limited a range of subjects? Because there are so few actions which unite in themselves, in the highest degree, the conditions of excellence: and it was not thought that on any but 10 an excellent subject could an excellent Poem be con- structed. A few actions, therefore, eminently adapted for tragedy, maintained almost exclusive possession of the Greek tragic stage ; their significance appeared inexhaustible ; they were as permanent problems, perpetually offered to the genius of every fresh poet.

This too is the reason of what appears to us moderns a certain baldness of expression in Greek tragedy ; of the triviality with which we often reproach the remarks of the chorus, where it takes part in the dialogue : that 20 the action itself, the situation of Orestes, or Merope, or Alcmaeon, was to stand the central point of interest, unforgotten, absorbing, principal ; that no accessories were for a moment to distract the spectator's attention from this ; that the tone of the parts was to be perpetu- ally kept down, in order not to impair the grandiose effect of the whole.

The terrible old mythic story on which the drama was founded stood, before he entered the theatre, traced in its bare outlines upon the specta- tor's mind ; it stood in his memory, as a group of statu- 30 ary, faintly seen, at the end of a long and dark vista : then came the Poet, embodying outlines, developing situations, not a word wasted, not a sentiment caprici- ously thrown in : stroke upon stroke, the drama pro- ceeded : the light deepened upon the group ; more and more it revealed itself to the rivetted gaze of the spec- tator : until at last, when the final words were spoken, it stood before him in broad sunlight, a model of immortal beauty.

This was what a Greek critic demanded ; this was 40 what a Greek poet endeavoured to effect. It signified nothing to what time an action belonged ; we do not find that the Persae occupied a particularly high rank PREFACE 7 among the dramas of Aeschylus, because it represented a matter of contemporary interest : this was not what a cultivated Athenian required ; he required that the permanent elements of his nature should be moved ; and dramas of which the action, though taken from a long-distant mythic time, yet was calculated to accom- plish this in a higher degree than that of the Persae, stood higher in his estimation accordingly.

The Greeks felt, no doubt, with their exquisite sagacity of taste, that an action of present times was too near them, too 10 much mixed up with what was accidental and passing, to form a sufficiently grand, detached, and self-subsis- tent object for a tragic poem : such objects belonged to the domain of the comic poet, and of the lighter kinds of poetry. For the more serious kinds, for prag- matic poetry, to use an excellent expression of Polybius, they were more difficult and severe in the range of subjects which they permitted.

How different a way of thinking from this is ours! We can hardly at the present day understand what 30 Menander meant, when he told a man who inquired as to the progress of his comedy that he had finished it, not having yet written a single line, because he had constructed the action of it in his mind.

A modern critic would have assured him that the merit of his piece depended on the brilliant things which arose under his pen as he went along. We have poems which seem to exist merely for the sake of single lines and passages ; not for the sake of producing any total- impression. We have critics who seem to direct their 40 18 inserts after permitted, and omits beloio, the sentence: 'But for all kinds of poetry alike.

I verily think that the majority of them do not in their hearts believe that there is such a thing as a total- impression to be derived from a poem at all, or to be demanded from a poet ; they think the term a common- place of metaphysical criticism. They will permit the Poet to select any action he pleases, and to suffer that action to go as it will, provided he gratifies them with 10 occasional bursts of fine writing, and with a shower of isolated thoughts and images.

That is, they permit him to leave their poetical sense ungratified, provided that he gratifies their rhetorical sense and their curiosity. Of his neglecting to gratify these, there is little danger ; he needs rather to be warned against the danger of attempting to gratify these alone ; he needs rather to be perpetually reminded to prefer his action to every- thing else ; so to treat this, as to permit its inherent excellences to develop themselves, without interruption 20 from the intrusion of his personal peculiarities : most fortunate, when he most entirely succeeds in effacing himself, and in enabling a noble action to subsist as it did in nature.

But the modern critic not only permits a false practice ; he absolutely prescribes false aims. An allegory of the 30 state of one's own mind, the highest problem of an art which imitates actions! No assuredly, it is not, it never can be so : no great poetical work has ever been produced with such an aim. Faust itself, in which something of the kind is attempted, wonderful passages as it contains, and in spite of the unsurpassed beauty of the scenes which relate to Margaret, Faust itself, judged as a whole, and judged strictly as a poetical work, is defective : its illustrious author, the greatest poet of modern times, the greatest critic of all times, 40 would have been the first to acknowledge it ; he only defended his work, indeed, by asserting it to be ' some- thing incommensurable.

Such a guide the English writer at the present day will nowhere find. Failing this, all that can be looked for, all indeed that can be desired, is, that his attention should be fixed on excellent models ; that he may reproduce, at any rate, something of their excellence, by penetrating himself with their works and by catching their spirit, if he cannot be taught to pro- duce what is excellent independently. Foremost among these models for the English writer stands Shakespeare : a name the greatest perhaps of all 20 poetical names ; a name never to be mentioned with- out reverence.

I will venture, however, to express a doubt, whether the influence of his works, excellent and fruitful for the readers of poetry, for the great majority, has been of unmixed advantage to the writers of it. Shakespeare indeed chose excellent subjects ; the world could afford no better than Macbeth, or Romeo and Juliet, or Othello : he had no theory respecting the necessity of choosing subjects of present import, or the paramount interest attaching to allegories 30 of the state of one's own mind ; like all great poets, he knew well what constituted a poetical action ; like them, wherever he found such an action, he took it ; like them, too, he found his best in past times.

But to these general characteristics of all great poets he added a special one of his own ; a gift, namely, of happy, abundant, and ingenious expression, eminent and unrivalled : so eminent as irresistibly to strike the attention first in him, and even to throw into compara- tive shade his other excellences as a poet. Here has 40 been the mischief.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

These other excellences were his fundamental excellences as a poet ; what distinguishes 10 PEEFACE the artist from the mere amateur, says Goethe, is Architect onice in the highest sense ; that power of execution, which creates, forms, and constitutes : not the profoundness of single thoughts, not the richness of imagery, not the abundance of illustration. But these attractive accessories of a poetical work being more easily seized than the spirit of the whole, and these accessories being possessed by Shakespeare in an unequalled degree, a young writer having recourse to 10 Shakespeare as his model runs great risk of being van- quished and absorbed by them, and, in consequence, of reproducing, according to the measure of his power, these, and these alone.

Of this preponderating quality of Shakespeare's genius, accordingly, almost the whole of modern English poetry has, it appears to me, felt the influence. To the exclusive attention on the part of his imitators to this it is in a great degree owing, that of the majority of modern poetical works the details alone are valuable, the composition worthless. Let me give an instance of what I mean.

I will take it from the works of the very chief among those who seem to have been formed in the school of Shake- speare : of one whose exquisite genius and pathetic death render him for ever interesting. I will take the poem of Isabella, or the Pot of Basil, by Keatg. I choose this rather than the Endymion, because the 30 latter work which a modern critic has classed with the Fairy Queen!

The poem of Isabella, then, is a perfect treasure-house of graceful and felicitous words and images : almost in every stanza there occurs one of those vivid and picturesque turns of expression, by which the object is made to flash upon the eye of the mind, and which thrill the reader with a sudden delight. The action in itself is an excellent one ; but so feebly is it conceived by the Poet, so loosely constructed, that the effect produced by it, in and for itself, is absolutely null. Let the reader, after he has finished the poem of Keats, turn to the same story in the Decameron : he will then feel how preg- nant and interesting the same action has become in the hands of a great artist, who above all things delineates his object ; who subordinates expression to that which it is designed to express.

These excellences, the funda- mental excellences of poetical art, Shakespeare no doubt possessed them possessed many of them in a splendid degree ; but it may perhaps be doubted whether even he himself did not sometimes give scope to hia faculty of expression to the prejudice of a higher poetical duty. For we must never forget that Shake- 20 speare is the great poet he is from his skill in discerning and firmly conceiving an excellent action, from his power of intensely feeling a situation, of intimately associating himself with a character ; not from his gift of expression, which rather even leads him astray, de- generating sometimes into a fondness for curiosity of expression, into an irritability of fancy, which seems to make it impossible for him to say a thing plainly, even when the press of the action demands the very directest language, or its level character the very sim- 3C plest.

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Hallam, than whom it is impossible to find a saner and more judicious critic, has had the courage for at the present day it needs courage to remark, how extremely and faultily difficult Shakespeare's lan- guage often is. It is so : you may find main scenes in some of his greatest tragedies, King Lear for instance, where the language is so artificial, so curiously tortured, and so difficult, that every speech has to be read two or three times before its meaning can be comprehended.

This over-curiousness of expression is indeed but the 40 excessive employment of a wonderful gift of the power of saying a thing in a happier way than any 12 PREFACE other man ; nevertheless, it is carried so far that one understands what M. Guizot meant, when he said that Shakespeare appears in his language to have tried all styles except that of simplicity.

He has not the severe and scrupulous self-restraint of the ancients, partly no doubt, because he had a far less cultivated and exacting audience : he has indeed a far wider range than they had, a far richer fertility of thought ; in this respect he rises above them : in his strong conception of his 10 subject, in the genuine way in which he is penetrated with it, he resembles them, and is unlike the moderns : but in the accurate limitation of it, the conscientious rejection of superfluities, the simple and rigorous development of it from the first line of his work to the last, he falls below them, and comes nearer to the moderns.

In his chief works, besides what he has of his own, he has the elementary soundness of the ancients ; he has their important action and their large and broad manner : but he has not their purity 20 of method. He is therefore a less safe model ; for what he has of his own is personal, and inseparable from his own rich nature ; it may be imitated and exaggerated, it cannot be learned or applied as an art ; he is above all suggestive ; more valuable, therefore, to young writers as men than as artists. But clearness of arrange- ment, rigour of development, simplicity of style these may to a certain extent be learned : and these may, I am convinced, be learned best from the ancients, who al- though infinitely less suggestive than Shakespeare, are 30 thus, to the artist, more instructive.

What, then, it will be asked, are the ancients to bo our sole models? Not, certainly, that which is narrow in the ancients, nor that in which we can no longer sympathize. An action like the action of the Antigone of Sophocles, which turns upon the conflict between the heroine's duty to her brother's corpse and that to the laws of her country, is no longer one in which 40 it is possible that we should feel a deep interest. I am speaking too, it will be remembered, not of the best sources of intellectual stimulus for the general PEEFACE 13 reader, but of the best models of instruction for the individual writer.

This last may certainly learn of the ancients, better than anywhere else, three things which it is vitally important for him to know : the all-im- portance of the choice of a subject ; the necessity of accurate construction ; and the subordinate character of expression. He will learn from them how unspeak- ably superior is the effect of the one moral impression left by a great action treated as a whole, to the effect produced by the most striking single thought or by the 10 happiest image.

As he penetrates into the spirit of the great classical works, as he becomes gradually aware of their intense significance, their noble simplicity, and their calm pathos, he will be convinced that it is this effect, unity and profoundness of moral impression, at which the ancient Poets aimed ; that it is this which constitutes the grandeur of their works, and which makes them immortal. He will desire to direct his own efforts towards producing the same effect. Above all, he will deliver himself from the jargon of modern 20 criticism, and escape the danger of producing poetical works conceived in the spirit of the passing time, and which partake of its transitoriness.

The present age makes great claims upon us : we owe it service, it will not be satisfied without our admiration. I know not how it is, but their commerce with the ancients appears to me to produce, in those who constantly practise it, a steadying and composing effect upon their judgement, not of literary works only, but of men and events in general.

They are like 30 persons who have had a very weighty and impressive experience : they are more truly than others under the empire of facts, and more independent of the language current among those with whom they live. They wish neither to applaud nor to revile their age : they wish to know what it is, what it can give them, and whether this is what they want.

If they are endeavouring to practise any art, they remember the plain and simple proceedings of the old artists, who attained their grand results by penetrating themselves with some noble and significant action, not by inflating themselves with a belief in the pre-eminent importance and greatness of their own times.

They do not talk of their mission, nor of interpreting their age, nor of the coming Poet ; all this, they know, is the mere delirium of vanity ; their business is not to 10 praise their age, but to afford to the men who live in it the highest pleasure which they are capable of feeling.

If asked to afford this by means of subjects drawn from the age itself, they ask what special fitness the present age has for supplying them : they are told that it is an era of progress, an age commissioned to carry out the great ideas of industrial development and social amelioration. They reply that with all this they can do nothing ; that the elements they need for the exercise of their art are great actions, calculated power- 20 fully and delightfully to affect what is permanent in the human soul ; that so far as the present age can supply such actions, they will gladly make use of them ; but that an age wanting in moral grandeur can with difficulty supply such, and an age of spiritual discom- fort with difficulty be powerfully and delightfully affected by them.

A host of voices will indignantly rejoin that the pre- sent age is inferior to the past neither in moral gran- deur nor in spiritual health. He who possesses the 30 discipline I speak of will content himself with remem- bering the judgements passed upon the present age, in this respect, by the two men, the one of strongest head, the other of widest culture, whom it has produced ; by Goethe and by Niebuhr. It will be sufficient for him that he knows the opinions held by these two great men respecting the present age and its literature ; and that he feels assured in his own mind that their aims and demands upon life were such as he would wish, at any rate, his own to be ; and their judgement as to 40 what is impeding and disabling such as he may safely the two men.

He will not, however, maintain a hostile atti- tude towards the false pretensions of his age ; he will content himself with not being overwhelmed by them. He will esteem himself fortunate if he can succeed in banishing from his mind all feelings of contradiction, and irritation, and impatience ; in order to delight himself with the contemplation of some noble action of a heroic time, and to enable others, through his repre- sentation of it, to delight in it also.

I am far indeed from making any claim, for myself, 10 that I possess this discipline ; or for the following Poems, that they breathe its spirit. But I say, that in the sincere endeavour to learn and practise, amid the bewildering confusion of our times, what is sound and true in poetical art, I seemed to myself to find the only sure guidance, the only solid footing, among the ancients. They, at any rate, knew what they wanted in Art, and we do not. It is this uncertainty which is disheartening, and not hostile criticism. How often have I felt this when reading words of disparagement 20 or of cavil : that it is the uncertainty as to what is really to be aimed at which makes our difficulty, not the dissatisfaction of the critic, who himself suffers from the same uncertainty.

Non me tua fervida let-rent Dicta : Dii me terrent, et Jupiter hostis. Two kinds of dilettanti, says Goethe, there are in poetry : he who neglects the indispensable mechanical part, and thinks he has done enough if he shows spirituality and feeling ; and he who seeks to arrive at poetry merely by mechanism, in which he can acquire 30 an artisan's readiness, and is without soul and matter. And he adds, that the first does most harm to Art, and the last to himself. If we must be dilettanti : if it is impossible for us, under the circumstances amidst which we live, to think clearly, to feel nobly, and to delineate firmly : if we cannot attain to the mastery of the great artists let us, at least, have so much respect for our Art as to prefer it to ourselves : let us not be- wilder our successors : let us transmit to them the practice of Poetry, with its boundaries and wholesome 40 regulative laws, under which excellent works may again, perhaps, at some future time, be produced, not 16 PEEFACE yet fallen into oblivion through our neglect, not yet condemned and cancelled by the influence of their eternal enemy, Caprice.

October 'l, Reprinted I must not, however, be supposed insensible to the force of much 10 that has been alleged against portions of it, or unaware that it contains many things incompletely stated, many things which need limitation. It leaves, too, untouched the question, how far, and in what manner, the opinions there expressed respecting the choice of sub- jects apply to lyric poetry ; that region of the poetical field which is chiefly cultivated at present. But neither have I time now to supply these deficiencies, nor is this the proper place for attempting it : on one or two points alone I wish to offer, in the briefest 20 possible way, some explanation.

An objection has been ably urged to the classing to- gether, as subjects equally belonging to a past time, Oedipus and Macbeth.

Percy Bysshe Shelley - Wikipedia

And it is no doubt true that to Shakespeare, standing on the verge of the middle ages, the epoch of Macbeth was more familiar than that of Oedipus. But I was speaking of actions as they presented themselves to us moderns : and it will hardly be said that the European mind, since Voltaire, has much more affinity with the times of Macbeth than 30 with those of Oedipus.


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  • Title] Preface Alcestis or Joan of Arc, Charlemagne or Agamemnon one of these is not really nearer to us now than another ; each can be made present only by an act of poetic imagination : but this man's imagination has an affinity for one of them, and that man's for another.

    It has been said that I wish to limit the Poet in his choice of subjects to the period of Greek and Roman antiquity : but it is not so : I only counsel him to 10 choose for his subjects great actions, without regarding to what time they belong. Nor do I deny that the poetic faculty can and does manifest itself in treating the most trifling action, the most hopeless subject. But it is a pity that power should be wasted ; and that the Poet should be compelled to impart interest and force to his subject, instead of receiving them from it, and thereby doubling his impressiveness.

    There is, it has been excellently said, an immortal strength in the stories of great actions : the most gifted poet, then , 20 may well be glad to supplement with it that mortal weakness, which, in presence of the vast spectacle of life and the world, he must for ever feel to be his individual portion. Again, with respect to the study of the classical writers of antiquity : it has been said that we should emulate rather than imitate them. I make no objection : all I say is, let us study them.

    They can help to cure us of what is, it seems to me, the great vice of our intellect, manifesting itself in our incredible vagaries 30 in literature, in art, in religion, in morals ; namely, that it is fantastic, and wants sanity. Sanity that is the great virtue of the ancient literature : the want of that is the great defect of the modern, in spite of all its variety and power. It is impossible to read care- fully the great ancients, without losing something of our caprice and eccentricity and to emulate them we must at least read them.

    Pub- lished at Rugby the same year. Childe Harold. I UNWELCOME shroud of the forgotten dead, Oblivion's dreary fountain, where art thou : Why speed'st thou not thy deathlike wave to shed O'er humbled pride, and self-reproaching woe : Or time's stern hand, why blots it not away The saddening tale that tells of sorrow and decay? IV But thou, imperial City! VII Yet stains there are to blot thy brightest page, And wither half the laurels on thy tomb ; A glorious manhood, yet a dim old age, And years of crime, and nothingness, and gloom : And then that mightiest crash, that giant fall, 41 Ambition's boldest dream might sober and appal.

    VIII Thou wondrous chaos, where together dwell Present and past, the living and the dead, Thou shattered mass, whose glorious ruins tell The vanisht might of that discrowned head : Where all we see, or do, or hear, or say, Seems strangely echoed back by tones of yesterday : IX Thou solemn grave, where every step we tread Treads on the slumbering dust of other years ; 50 The while there sleeps within thy precincts dread What once had human passions, hopes, and fears ; And memory's gushing tide swells deep and full And makes thy very ruin fresh and beautiful.

    XII Yes, in such eloquent silence didst thou lie When the Goth stooped upon his stricken prey, And the deep hues of an Italian sky Flasht on the rude barbarian's wild array : 70 While full and ceaseless as the ocean roll, Horde after horde streamed up thy frowning Capitol. XIII Twice, ere that day of shame, the embattled foe Had gazed in wonder on that glorious sight ; Twice had the eternal city bowed her low In sullen homage to the invader's might : Twice had the pageant of that vast array Swept, from thy walls, Rome, on its triumphant way.

    XIV Twice, from without thy bulwarks, hath the din Of Gothic clarion smote thy startled ear ; SO Anger, and strife, and sickness are within, Famine and sorrow are no strangers here : Twice hath the cloud hung o'er thee, twice been stayed Even in the act to burst, twice threatened, twice delayed. The world hath bowed to Rome, oh! XVI Therefore arise and arm thee! Arise and arm thee! XVII Hast thou not marked on a wild autumn day When the wind slumbereth in a sudden lull, What deathlike stillness o'er the landscape lay, How calmly sad, how sadly beautiful ; How each bright tint of tree, and flower, and heath Were mingling with the sere and withered hues of death?

    XVIII And thus, beneath the clear, calm vault of heaven In mournful loveliness that city lay, And thus, amid the glorious hues of even That city told of languor and decay : Till what at morning's hour lookt warm and bright Was cold and sad beneath that breathless, voiceless night. XIX Soon was that stillness broken : like the cry Of the hoarse onset of the surging wave, Or louder rush of whirlwinds sweeping by Was the wild shout those Gothic myriads gave, As towered on high, above their moonlit road, Scenes where a Caesar triumpht, or a Scipio trod.

    ALAKIC AT KOME 23 xx Think ye it strikes too slow, the sword of fate, Think ye the avenger loiters on his way, That your own hands must open wide the gate, And your own voice s guide him to his prey ; Alas, it needs not ; is it hard to know Fate's threat'nings are not vain, the spoiler comes not slow? XXII Oh yes! Yea, on your fathers' bones the avengers tread, Not this the time to weep upon the bier That holds the ashes of your hero-dead, If wreaths may twine for you, or laurels wave, They shall not deck your life, but sanctify your grave.

    XXIV Alas! Despair may teach Cowards to conquer and the weak to die ; Nor tongue of man, nor fear, nor shame can preach So stern a lesson as necessity, Yet here it speaks not. Yea, though all around Unhallowed feet are trampling on this haunted ground,. And lo! XXVII Yes, there he stood, upon that silent hill, And there beneath his feet his conquest lay : Unlike that ocean-city, gazing still Smilingly forth upon her sunny bay, But o'er her vanisht might and humbled pride Mourning, as widowed Venice o'er her Adrian tide.

    Float there not voices on the murmuring wind? XXIX Perchance his wandering heart was far away, Lost in dim memories of his early home, And his young dreams of conquest ; how to-day Beheld him master of Imperial Rome, Crowning his wildest hopes : perchance his eyes As they looked sternly on, beheld new victories, ALARICAT ROME 25 XXX New dreams of wide dominion, mightier, higher, Come floating up from the abyss of years ; Perchance that solemn sight might quench the fire Even of that ardent spirit ; hopes and fears Might well be mingling at that murmured sigh, Whispering from all around, 'All earthly things must die.

    XXXIII One little year ; that restless soul shall rest, That frame of vigour shall be crumbling clay, And tranquilly, above that troubled breast, The sunny waters hold their joyous way : And gently shall the murmuring ripples flow, Nor wake the weary soul that slumbers on below. If departed things Ever again put earthly likeness on, Here should a thousand forms on fancy's wings Float up to tell of ages that are gone : Yea, though hand touch thee not, nor eye should see, Still should the spirit hold communion, Rome, with thee! But oh! First published by J.

    Vincent, Oxford, Reprinted in Oxford Prize Poems, , and separately in Schrecklich ist es, deiner Wahrheit Sterbliches Gefass zu seyn. HIGH fate is theirs, ye sleepless waves, whose ear Learns Freedom's lesson from your voice of fear ; Whose spell-bound sense from childhood's hour hath known Familiar meanings in your mystic tone : Sounds of deep import voices that beguile Age of its tears and childhood of its smile, To yearn with speechless impulse to the free And gladsome greetings of the buoyant sea!

    High fate is theirs, who where the silent sky Stoops to the soaring mountains, live and die; 10 Who scale the cloud-capt height, or sink to rest In the deep stillness of its sheltering breast ; xVround whose feet the exulting waves have sung, The eternal hills their giant shadows flung. No wonders nurs'd thy childhood ; not for thee Did the waves chant their song of liberty! To mark with shiver'd crest the reeling wave Hide his torn head beneath his sunless cave ; Or hear, 'mid circling crags, the impatient cry Of the pent winds, that scream in agony!

    Yet all high sounds that mountain children hear Flash'd from thy soul upon thine inward ear ; All Freedom's mystic language storms that roar By hill or wave, the mountain or the shore, 30 All these had stirr'd thy spirit, and thine eye In common sights read secret sympathy ; Till all bright thoughts that hills or waves can yield, Deck'd the dull waste, and the familiar field ; Or wondrous sounds from tranquil skies were borne Far o'er the glistening sheets of windy corn : Skies that unbound by clasp of mountain chain.

    Slope stately down, and melt into the plain ; Sounds such as erst the lone wayfaring man Caught, as he journeyed, from the lips of Pan ;. Say not such dreams are idle : for the man Still toils to perfect what the child began ; And thoughts, that were but outlines, time engraves Deep on his life ; and childhood's baby waves, Made rough with care, become the changeful sea, Stemm'd by the strength of manhood fearlessly ; 50 And fleeting thoughts, that on the lonely wild Swept o'er the fancy of that heedless child, Perchance had quicken'd with a living truth The cold dull soil of his unfruitful youth ; Till, with his daily life, a life, that threw Its shadows o'er the future, flower'd and grew, With common cares unmingling, and apart.

    CROMWELL 29 Haunting the shrouded chambers of his heart ; Till life, unstirr'd by action, life became Threaded and lighten'd by a track of flame ; 60 An inward light, that, with its streaming ray, On the dark current of his changeless day Bound all his being with a silver chain Like a swift river through a silent plain! High thoughts were his, when by the gleaming flood, With heart new strung, and stern resolve, he stood ; Where rode the tall dark ships, whose loosen'd sail All idly flutter'd in the eastern gale ; High thoughts were his ; but Memory's glance the while Fell on the cherish'd past with tearful smile ; 70 And peaceful joys and gentler thoughts swept by, Like summer lightnings o'er a darken'd sky.

    The peace of childhood, and the thoughts that roam, Like loving shadows, round that childhood's home ; Joys that had come and vanish 'd, half unknown, Then slowly brighten'd, as the days had flown ; Years that were sweet or sad, becalm'd or toss'd On life's wild waves the living and the lost. Youth staiird with follies : and the thoughts of ill Crush'd, as they rose, by manhood's sterner will. SO Repentant prayers, that had been strong to save ; And the first sorrow, which is childhood's grave!

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