Page images

Coleridge is the sweetest of our poets, Shelley is at once the most ethereal and most gorgeous; the one who has clothed his thoughts in draperies of the most evanescent and most magnificent words and imagery. Not Milton himself is more learned in Grecisms, or nicer in etymological propriety; and nobody, throughout, has a style so Orphic and primæval. His poetry is as full of mountains, seas, and skies, of light, and darkness, and the seasons, and all the elements of our being, as if Nature herself had written it, with the creation and its hopes newly cast around her; not, it must be confessed, without too indiscriminate a mixture of great and small, and a want of sufficient shade,a certain chaotic brilliancy, "dark with excess of light." Shelley (in the verses to a Lady with a Guitar) might well call himself Ariel. All the more enjoying part of his poetry is Ariel,-the "delicate" yet powerful "spirit," jealous of restraint, yet able to serve; living in the elements and the flowers; treading the "ooze of the salt deep," and running "on the sharp wind of the north;" feeling for creatures unlike himself; "flaming amazement" on them too, and singing exquisitest songs. Alas! and he suffered for years, as Ariel did in the cloven pine: but now he is out of it, and serving the purposes of Beneficence with a calmness befitting his knowledge and his love.



Hail to thee, blithe spirit!

Bird thou never wert,

That from heaven, or near it,

Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.'


Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest,

Like a cloud of fire!

The blue deep thou wingest,

And singing, still dost soar; and soaring, ever singest.


In the golden lightning

Of the sunken sun,

O'er which clouds are brightening,

Thou dost float and run;

Like an embodied joy, whose race has just begun.

The pale purple even


Melts round thy flight;

Like a star of heaven

In the broad day-light

Thou art unseen, but yet I hear thy shrill delight.


Keen as are the arrows

Of that silver sphere Whose intense lamp narrows

In the white dawn clear,

Until we hardly see, we feel that it is there.

All the earth and air


With thy voice is loud

As, when night is bare,

From one lonely cloud

The moon rains out her beams, and heaven is overflowed.


What thou art we know not?

What is most like thee?

From rainbow clouds there flow not

Drops so bright to see,

As from thy presence showers a rain of melody.

Like a poet hidden


In the light of thought, Singing hymns unbidden,

Till the world is wrought

To sympathy with hopes and fears it heeded not.


Like a high-born maiden 2

In a palace tower,

Soothing her love-laden

Soul in secret hour

With music sweet as love, which overflows her bower.


Like a glow-worm golden

In a dell of dew,

Scattering unbeholden

Its aërial hue

Among the flowers and grass, which screen it from the view.


Like a rose embowered

In its own green leaves,

By warm winds deflowered

Till the scent it gives

Makes faint with too much sweet these heavy-wingèd thieves.


Sound of vernal showers

On the twinkling grass,

Rain-awakened flowers,

All that ever was

Joyous, and clear, and fresh, thy music doth surpass.


Teach me, sprite or bird,

What sweet thoughts are thine :

I have never heard

Praise of love or wine

That panted forth a flood of rapture so divine.

Chorus hymeneal,


Or triumphal chaunt,

Match'd with thine would be all

But an empty vaunt—

A thing wherein we feel there is some hidden want.


What objects are the fountains

Of thy happy strain?

What fields, or waves, or mountains?

What shapes of sky or plain?

What love of thine own kind? What ignorance of pain?


With thy clear keen joyance

Languor cannot be :

Shadow of annoyance

Never came near thee:

Thou lovest; but ne'er knew love's sad satiety.

Waking or asleep,


Thou of death must deem

Things more true and deep

Than we mortals dream,

Or how could thy note flow in such a crystal stream?


We look before and after,

And pine for what is not;

Our sincerest laughter

With some pain is fraught;

Our sweetest songs are those which tell of saddest thought.


Yet if we could scorn

Hate and pride and fear;

If we were things born

Not to shed a tear,

I know not how thy joy we ever should come near.


Better than all measures

Of delightful sound,

Better than all treasures

That in books are found,

Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!3


Teach me half the gladness

That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness

From my lips would flow,

The world should listen then, as I am listening now.

"In the spring of 1820," says Mrs. Shelley, "we spent a week or two near Leghorn, borrowing the


« PreviousContinue »