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braces not a well-proportioned poem, a pleasing or majestic whole, but a tedious and unsymmetrical piece of declamation, interspersed with out-breakings of the most gorgeous and powerful imagination. These, however, are, in a great measure, lost, from not being properly grouped. But for this fault the poem must have ranked high in the descriptive class. The approach of the Fairy, the disembodying of the soul, the voyage through the realms of space, the exhibition of the world's workings, and the return, form a bold and well-proportioned frame-work, with which some of the descriptions harmonize well in splendour and grandeur of conception. We may instance the bold idea of introducing the Wandering Jew as a phantasm of the human mind,—the gloomy gran. deur of the conception is unsurpassed. We prefer, however, laying before our readers the glowing picture of etherial beauty and spiritual voluptuousness with which the poet has presented us in the palace of Mab the Fairy.
If solitude hath ever led thy steps
And thou hast lingered there,
Until the sun's broad orb
Thou must have marked the lines
Hung o'er tu, sinking sphere :
Towering like rocks of jet
When the sun's highest point
Shaded with deepest purple, gleam
Like islands on a dark blue sea ;
And furled its wearied wing
Within the Fairy's fane.
Nor the feathery curtains
Paving that gorgeous dome,
Its floors of flashing light,
Floating on a silver sea;
And pearly battlements around
The Fairy and the Spirit
Those golden clouds
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 impersona. tions 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 wlich 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
and all things that in them wear
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. Of the “ sunny spots of greenery,” of which we spoke, the following is an exquisite specimen.