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With the etherial footsteps, trembled not :
The light and crimson mists,
Through that unearthly dwelling,
Of virtue and of wisdom. Equally beautiful, but of a more tangible character, is the poet's description of the golden age which he anticipates. It is of too great length to be extracted here, but what follows may serve as a specimen :
Then, where, through distant ages, long in pride
And merriment were resonant around. “ The Revolt of Islam,” is still more disfigured by its allegorical tendency. Laon and Cythna are not living beings, but mere impersonations of certain modes of thought. None of the other characters stand palpably forward ; they are mere names attached to vague abstractions. The machinery of the tale is extravagant and unattractive; as was, indeed, to be expected from one who had wilfully turned from the contemplation of human life to gaze upon an ideal system of his own. Unacquainted with the realities of society, Shelley fails in conveying distinct perceptions of any very great oppression from which his hero and heroine came to relieve their fellows. He lavishes epithets of abuse upon the social state which they laboured to remove, but he conveys to our mind no distinct image of it; and, in poetry, distinct perception, or strong feeling, are every thing. The ameliorated social institutions which they strove to introduce, are pictured with equal faintness. The pillar to the summit of which Laon is chained, and the sub-marine cavern in which Cythna is imprisoned, are stiff school-boy exaggerations.
Amid all these draw-backs, there is much in this poem to repay perusal. The wild conception of the spiritual world to which the poet is conveyed to learn the tale, and the unearthly circumstances under which it is narrated, keep the mind in a state of ghostly awe. The earthly interest hangs suspended in the impalpable medium of what Shakspeare terms the “ metaphysical” world, as this solid globe in the vacuity of space; and this fact is brought home to our consciousness. Then the poet exercises the control of creative imagination over the elements of earth, air, fire and water, forming them into most gorgeous pictures. And although the human interest of the poem, as already noticed, be weak, there creeps notwithstanding over this young world, rising out of the chaos of a yet unformed mind, the gentle warming breeze of a benevolent spirit.
To this kind of composition Shelley reverted, in one of his latest writings ; one, indeed, which was left incomplete at his death,
,-" The Triumph of Life.” This attempt to give a deeper meaning to the spectacles, the reality of which delighted the beginning of the seventeenth century, and a description of which forms one of Spenser's finest passages, is not, in its unfinished state, a fair subject of criticism. We feel tempted, however, to extract the introduction, which is one of those idealized pictures of the beauties of internal nature, in which Shelley surpassed all his contemporaries.
Swift as a spirit hastening to his task
In this same poem occurs one of the most masterly pictures of the fantastic manner in which images shift in dreams, to be met with, in the whole range of poetry. In reading it, we dream ourselves, and undergo the illusion.
I would have added is all here amiss ?--
We come now to a number of Shelley's poems belonging to a class much in favour with the present generation, and which have by some one been termed, rather affectedly “ moods of my own mind." Poems of this kind owe much of their popularity to a not very intellectual feature of the public taste ; the gossiping desire to know as much as possible about the author of the work. This has given rise to a coxcombical, theatrical, and egotistical style of poetry, in which the poet aims at effect, less by picturesque excellence of thought and imagery, than by parading himself in attitudes before his readers. With this silly weakness, “ moods of my own mind” are in generally deeply tainted. This style of poem, has, however, been employed at times, by minds of a wider caliber for embodying chance inspirations, for which they could not find a suitable place in any of their works. Such productions are analogous to the sketches and studies of the artist; and if thrown out by a master, snatch, at times, a grace beyond the reach of laboured art. Such are in general Shelley's effusions of this sort. Even those, in which the per. sonality of the poet figures, are destitute of the sickening egotism attendant upon the similar compositions of others. He was too honest a visionary for this. His day-dreams were in his eyes more important than himself. Thus, in his Alastor, composed about the period of his separation from the first Mrs. Shelley, we have the picture of a mind which feels itself alone in the world ; which with eager capacity of love, and an overpowering impulse towards exchange of thoughts, had never yet found a being capable of understanding it, or whose qualities approximated in any degree to those pre-figured by the feverish longings of its desire. To one who reads this poem, without acquaintance with the events of Shelley's life, it presents the appearance of a huge panorama of Titanic forms, “ enfolding sunny spots of greenery.” The pathless ocean, the dark subterraneous whirlpool, the giant twilight crags, load us as with the desart's loneliness : we admire and wonder, but we cannot comprehend. A knowledge of his character and history, by hinting the state in which his mind must have been when he composed this poem, is the key to its real meaning. The reflection of the poet's yearnings, first gives life and unity to this congregation of huge imaginings. It is the picture of his utter loneliness that constitutes its chief melancholy charm. Yet there is a universality in the portrait, a banishing of all petty individual traits, that removes it entirely from the degrading association of those paltry coxcombries to which it stands so nearly allied.
We have called the imagery of this poem Titanic, and the following passage must stand here to vindicate the term.
On every side now rose
Scattering its waters to the passing winds.
sunny spots of greenery," of which we spoke, the follow. ing is an exquisite specimen.
Of azure sky, darting between their chasms;
(To be continued.)
CANT.There is no country in Europe where, what Jeanie Deans, in her interview with Queen Caroline, is pleased to term, “ light life and conversation," is more severely dealt with than in “moral England." Quarter Sessions and the Tread Mill bear signal evidence to our tenderness for female virtue,—our disgust towards laxity of morals; and the horrible crime of infanticide, so prevalent among the lower classes, is universally at ributed, by our Jurists, to the purity of our moral code, and the severity of its enforcement. All this is very fine. It writes well,-it talks well,-it assists in sticking an additional peacock's feather into the strutting daw of our national pride. But is it not advisable that the limitations of such laws and statutes should be more accurately defined ? We know them to be applicable to the labouring classes ; we believe them to extend to the commercial and professional classes; but it appears uncertain how far they stop short of “ The Order;" and whether the wives of Esquires and Knights Bannerets, and even Baronets, are not included in an act of impunity. To what other influence can we ascribe the ardour with which Countess Guiccioli has been recently welcomed in the coteries of fashionable life? The mistress of an illustrious poet may be a very poetical personage ; and, as in the instance in question, a very pleasing one; but there can be no reason for committing Jenny Dobbs to the House of Correction and prison discipline, in retribution of the very circumstance which opens all the noble mansions in London to an Italian Countess. Byron's biographers and personal friends, have taken care that this lady's connexion with the noble poet, should be sufficiently bruited to the world; and from the Pope, downwards, we believe there is not an old woman in England or Italy, unaware of the state of the case. We cannot, therefore, but admire the consistency displayed by those wives and mothers of our nobility who are so scandalized by any lapse of discretion among the housemaids, in courting the society, and presenting to the friendship of their daughters, a lady living in separation from her husband, on grounds too notorious to be overlooked ; or rather on grounds which constitute her sole claim to the notice of the world.
THE BYRON GALLELY.-In walking through a forest, it is easy to detect the spot where a noble tree has been felled to earth, by the innumerable shoots and seedlings that owe their existence to its pristine vigour; and, if evidence were wanting of the influence exercised over the public mind by the two literary giants of the century,—Scott and Byron, it might be found in the abundant offsets springing up in their place,-emanations from their former grandeur. Not a city, for instance, not a village, not a villa, visited by the noble Childe, in the course of his poetical or mortal pilgrimage, but has become hallowed ground to his contemporaries, and been made a subject for the pencil and the graver. Not a word that ever fell from his lips, but is cherished like some fragment of art,—some sketch by Vandyke, or outline by Michael Angelo. Covetous as he was of glory, surely even the shade of Byron must be, by this time, appeased by the excess of incense burning upon his altars. We can fancy, indeed, that (like the majestic ghost depicted by the poet in the Elysian fields, as averting its face on the approach of a faithless friend,) it might turn with disgust from certain former companions who have made a merchandize of his memory : but could the bard of Don Juan return to earth, we have little doubt he would be in perfect good humour with a world that has erected so stupendous a pyramid in his honour. It must be admitted tliat the stones thrown on the cairn are individually of small account; but the homage is the same. Byron has, in fact, been canonized