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Chant of Demnoszorzon in “ Prometheus Inbound can hardly be compares with anything outside of Shakespeare or the Bible. -- The Canci" is as terrible, as nobie, and as simple as any of Marlowe's trazein, “ Arlonais," an elegy on Keats, is one of the four greatest prems of its class in English, the others being Milton's Lycidas." Gray's " Elegy in a Country Churchyard," and Tennyson's "In Memoriam."
It is by his shorter poems, however, that Shelley is best known. Swinburne calls them scraps of heaven and shreds of paradise. The “ Ode to the West Wind” is one of the supreme poems of all time, beyond and outside and above all criticism, all praise, and all thanksgiving. The “ Letter to Maria Gisborne," the “Hymn to Hermes," and the "Witch of Atlas " are joyous and high-spirited little masterpieces. The “ Ode to Liberty" and the “Ode to Naples” are noble Expressions of the hatred of tyranny and the faith in republican government which from first to last characterized their author. “ Arethusa," “ The Cloud,” and “The Sensitive Plant" are fascinating fancies. But the " Ode to a Skylark” is perhaps the best, as it is certainly the best known, of Shelley's poems.
Coleridge, whose disciple Shelley was, lived twice as long as his pupil but did not do a twentieth part of Shelley's good work. How good that work was may be guessed from the following extracts and quotations: “ The thunder and the hiss of homeless streams."
The Spirit of Solitude. “Three thousand years of sleep-unsheltered hours."
Prometheus Unbound. “Thy words are like a cloud of winged snakes.”
Ibid. “The path through which that lovely twain
Have past by cedar, pine, and yew,
Is curtained out from Heaven's ide ue.
Ibid. "Life, like a dorne of many-colored glass,
Julian and Maddalo.
“For Winter came; the wind was his whip;
The Sensitive Plant.
“O wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind ?”
Ode to the West Wind. “In songs whose music cannot pass away, Though it must flow forever."
Ode to Liberty. “King-deluded Germany."
Ibid. “Hail to thee, blithe spirit !
Bird thou never wert,
Pourest thy full heart
To a Skylark. We look before and after,
And pine for what is not ;
With some pain is fraught;
Ibid. "Shakespeare, Sidney, Spenser, and the rest Who made our land an island of the blest."
To Maria Gisborne. “As the ghost of Homer sings Round Scamander's wasting springs; As divinest Shakespeare's might Fills Avon and the world with light.”
The Euganean Hills. Our boat is asleep on Serchio's Stream: Its sails are folded like thoughts in a dream."
The Boat on the Serchio. "I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: 'Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
The Cloud. Macaulay, whose judgment of poets and poetry is usually sound, says of Shelley: “ The strong imagination of Shelley made him an idolater in his own despite. Out of the most indefinite terms of a hard, cold, dark metaphysical system he made a gorgeous Pantheon, full of beautiful, majestic, and godlike forms. He turned atheism itself into a mythology rich with visions as glorious as the gods that live in the marble of Phidias or the virgin saints that smile on us from the canvas of Murillo. The Spirit of Beauty, the Principle of Good, the Principle of Evil, when he treated of them, ceased to be abstractions. They took shape and color. They were no longer mere words, but 'intelligible forms '; 'fair humanities ’; objects of love, of adoration, or of fear. As there can be no stronger sign of a mind destitute of the poetical faculty than that tendency which was so common among the writers of the French school to turn images into abstraction—Venus, for example, into Love; Minerva into Wisdom; Mars into War; Bacchus into Festivity--so there can be no stronger sign of a mind truly poetical than a disposition to reverse this abstracting process and to make individuals out of generalities. Some of the metaphysical and ethical theories of Shelley were certainly most absurd and pernicious. But we doubt whether any modern poet has possessed in an equal degree some of the highest qualities of the great ancient masters. His poetry seems not to have been an art but an inspiration. Had he lived to the full age of man he might not improbably have given to the world some great work of the very highest rank in design and execution."
QUESTIONS AND EXERCISES 1. Read Shelley's “Masque of Anarchy." What effect do you believe it
had upon the conservative England of one hundred years ago ? 2. Who wrote “Frankenstein”? 3. How large a gap in form, in thought, in subject-matter, is there between
the poetry of Pope and that of Shelley ?
4. Shelley was a radical; from your English history discover the attitude
of English statesmen to radicalism between the years 1815-1825. 5. How true an estimate of Shelley was Matthew Arnold's a pale ineffec
tual spirit, beating his luminous wings in the void”? 6. Shelley's note was essentially lyrical. How great a part has lyricism
played in the poetry of the romantic movement ? 7. Compare Shelley's spirit to Byron's. In what were they alike and how
did they differ? 8. In what poem are the following lines :
“Life, like a dome of many colored glass Stains the white radiance of eternity”? 9. Macaulay said of Shelley: “His poetry seems not to have been an art
but an inspiration.” Discuss this thought. 10. Write a two-hundred-word composition upon the life and poetry of
Suggested Readings.—“The Cloud,” “To a Skylark,” “ Ode to the West Wind,” and “ Adonaïs ” will give the reader but a taste of the consistent beauty of this poet. Dowden's “Life of Shelley” is excellent; T. J. Hogg's®“ Shelley at Oxford” is a delightful contemporary account.
JOHN KEATS (1795–1821) "His fragment of “Hyperion " seems actually inspired by the Titans and is as sublime as Æschylus.”—Byron.
“ John Keats was one of those sweet and glorious spirits who descend like the argel messengers of old, to discharge some divine command, not to dwell here."-W. Howitt.
SOMEBODY has said of John Keats that, after he grew up, he was unable to write bad poetry. He certainly produced some of the most exquisite verse of all time. He was the eldest son of a London stable-keeper. His education, owing to the death of both his parents, stopped short in his fifteenth year.
He was then apprenticed to a surgeon at Edmonton, where he worked until, in 1814, he removed to London in order to be near the hospitals. His passion for poetry led him, however, to abandon the medical profession and subsist on his small inheritance. In 1817 he published a volume of poems, which contained the famous sonnet, “On first looking into Chapman's Homer." Early in 1818 this was followed by his first long poem, "Endymion,” which he himself condemned as immature and which “ Blackwood's Magazine” and the “Quarterly Review"attacked so savagely that the story arose that his death was due to their fury. This legend has been kept alive by Byron's famous quatrain:
“Who killed John Keats ?
I,' says the Quarterly,
So savage and tartarly,
''Twas one of my feats.' As a matter of fact they disturbed him little. Instead of worrying about the opinions of obscure hack writers or attempting to reply to their criticisms, he composed during 1818–1819 an answer which forever silenced them. In other words, he wrote “ Isabella,” “Hyperion,” « The Eve of St. Agnes," "Lamia," several wonderful odes, a number of scarcely less wonderful sonnets, “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” and “The Eve of St. Mark.” In the midst of these labors