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only versions of Greek dramas that give any idea of the original. The translations from Faust, by Shelley, shew how intimately he had thought himself unto the works of that great author,
Shelley's more finished larger poems are Rosalind and Helen, Adonais, Hellas, Prometheus Unbound, and the Cenci. The first-mentioned although cast in the narrative form, and human in its interest, is still deeply tinged with his original vice, his controversial tendency. The versification is sweet and fluent, but in other respects it is scarcely worthy of Shelley. The Hellas, he himself tells
written at the suggestion of the events of the moment, is a mere improvise.” It contains some magnificent passages. The opening chorus, in particular, is beautiful, but too long for insertion here. The Adonais is also a child of occasion—a lament for Keates. It has much of Milton's Lycidas in the flow of its verse, although the structure of the stanza be different ; nor does its imagery, or the constant under-tone of simple subdued pathos which pervades the poem, render it unworthy to stand in competition with that “melodious tear.”
In his “ Cenci,” Shelley first displayed to the world the full extent of his genius. Medwin tells us, that while “ The Revolt of Islam” and others of his poems were thrown off by him, almost without exertion, the “ Cenci ” was the product of severe and continuous labour. Its solid worth confirms the story. It is worthy to rank among the most successful efforts of dramatic art in the English language ; and the fragments which have been given to the world of the unfinished drama, “Charles the First,” shew that it was no chance burst, no happy acci. dent. Shelley had occupied the field of the drama, and would have maintained it. He had the power of subduing the expressions of agony to the modulations of harmony, without lessening their power or diminishing the sympathy they were likely to excite. He could be alternately homely and magnificent. He knew how to check that overflowing of poetical thought which was natural to him, in order to give character to his dialogue ; and this restraint, by compressing his thoughts, gave them a spring and elasticity which are felt unseen, Lastly, he saw clearly the distinction between the narrative and dramatic, and allows his characters to be seen and heard as the necessity of his art dictates. They but appear—the chain of causation which links their appearances is supplied, involuntarily, by the mind of the be. holder.
The story of the “ Cenci.” is 00 well known to need repetition here. The characters are boldly expressed both by their words and actions. Not a syllable is attributed to them which the forwarding of the action does not call for. Not a scene is introduced in which some event does not occur to forward the catastrophe. The characters are discriminated by a delicate metaphysical tact. Old Cenci and Beatrice are the marked and prominent characters, and are distinguished not merely as male from female-good from evil—but as old from young. They are akin in power : but the power of Cenci is that of a full-grown petrified soul which advances not; the power of Beatrice is growing, it increases with every struggle, every opportunity of display. Even the feebler characters differ in their feebleness-Gracoma too feeble to be virtuous, Orsino too feeble to be successfully a villain, the Pope too feeble to be just. How truly dramatic is the execution of the piece will be felt in the breathless horror of the murder scenes.
Olimpio.-How feel you to this work?
Marzio.-As one who thinks
Olim. It is the white reflection of your own,
Mar.-Is that their natural hue ?
Olim.--Or 'tis my hate, and the deferred desire
Mar.—You are inclined then to this business ?
Enter Beatrice and Lucretia below.
Beatr.-Are ye resolved ?
Mar. Is all
Lucr. I mixed an opiate with his drink :
Beatr.--That his death will be
Olim.-We are resolved.
Mar. As to the how this act
Beatr. Well, follow !
Beatr.—Ye conscience-stricken cravens, rock to rest
Come, follow !
An Apartment in the Castle. Enter Beatrice and Lucretia.
Lucr.–They are about it now.
Beatr.-List ! 'tis the tread of feet
Beatr.-0, fear not
Enter Olimpio and Marzio.
Is it accomplished ?
Olim.-We dare not kill an old and sleeping man ;
Mar. But I was bolder; for I chid Olimpio,
Beatr.-Miserable slaves !
Hadst thou a tongue to say,
Olim.-Stop, for God's sake!
(Exeunt Olim, and Mar.)
How pale thou art !
Lucr.-Would it were done!
Mar.- We strangled him that there might be no blood ;
Beatr.- Giving them a bag of coin. )
( Clothes him in a rich mantle.)
(A horn is sounded.)
Beatr. Some tedious guest is coming.
Lucr.-The drawbridge is let down; there is a tramp Of horses in the court; Ay, hide yourselves !
(Exeunt Olim and Mar.)
Beatr.-- Let us retire to counterfeit deep rest ;
( Exeunt.) The Prometheus is dramatic in form only ; there is little or no human interest in it. The sphere of action is the universe; the actors the gigantic creatures of the poet's imagination. Love, hatred, fear, the beauty of the elements and the human form,—these in the abstract are the materials employed by the poet, but he has fused them in the glowing furnace of his own mind, cast them in more gigantic moulds, and given them new purposes and relations. It is indeed a gigantic work, worthy, from the might and magnitude of its conceptions, to rank beside Æschylus. The great and good Titan, the tyrant Jove, the mysterious all-absorbing Demigorgon, are adequate to the infinity they are created to fill. The Oceanides and other lovely spirits cluster in undying beauty around these colossal beings. And on the outward form of the poem the author has lavished all the riches of his sweet majestic and varying versification. The Prometheus is a poem that never can be popular, The habits of thought presupposed in those to whom it addresses itself exist only in minds which have been long devoted to literature. But those who can appreciate must ever regard it as a mine of the richest beauties of poetry. Perfect we cannot call it ; for, independently of one or two wanton defiances of feelings which may (and ought to) find place in the most cultivated minds, the consummation is imperfect. Man being finite, cannot comprehend infinite good, and all attempts to clothe such an idea in a bodily form must be unsuccessful.
Words vainly attempt to describe a poem which can be known only from repeated perusals. Those who can find pleasure in rich combinations of melodious measures giving voice to crowding images of beauty, abstracted from every thing that is of the earth earthy, will relish the revels of the Hours and Spirits, after the delivery of Prometheus.
Scene, a Part of the Forest near the Cave of PROMETHEUS. PAnthea and love are sleeping; they awaken gradually during the First Song.
Voice of Unseen Spirits.
In the depths of the dawn,
Beyond his blue dwelling,
But where are ye?
Here, oh here :
We bear the bier
Of the dead Hours be,
Strew, oh, strew
Hair, not yew !
Be the faded flowers
Of Death's bare bowers
Haste, oh, haste !
As shades are chased, Trembling, by day, from heaven's blue waste,
We melt away,
Like dissolving spray, From the children of a diviner day,
With the lullaby
Of winds that die
Ione.-What dark forms were they?
Panthea.-The past Hours weak and grey,
Panthen. They have past ;
Ione.-Whither, oh, whither?
Voice of Unseen Spirits.
Waves assemble on ocean,
They are gathered and driven
They shake with emotion,
But where are ye?
Fresh music are flinging,
The storms mock the mountains
But where are ye?
Semichorus of Hours.
A Voice. In the deep ?
Semichorus I.-An hundred ages we have been kept
Semichorus II.-.Worse than his visions were !
Semichorns II.-As the billows leap in the morning beams!
Pierce with song heaven's silent light,
To check its flight ere the cave of night. Once the hungry Hours were hounds
Which chased the day like a bleeding deer, And it limped and stumbled with many wounds
Through the nightly dels of the desert year.