« AnteriorContinua »
bias alike unassisted, and without check, the mind of the one soaring for ever heavenward, with only the dream-like consciousness of its associations with this lower sphere; the other, inclining for ever earthward, with but the occasional vivid and brilliant conception of its higher origin.
Both possessed the powerful elements of becoming great, and had their talents been properly directed, they might have become benefactors to their race, though it may be fairly doubted whether Byron's mind was
not the more practical of the two.
But extremes are useful to no one, and while Shelley was becoming more and more oblivious of earth in his dream-like philosophy, swathing himself in splendid and gorgeous visions that had their root and stem in the divine idea of love, Byron was fast narrowing his soul to the compass of a gourd, till he was beginning to centralize the universe in himself; viewing all things from that point of view, and railing against humanity because of his own individual suffering, which, after all, was not a tithe of that of his companion.
The first fortnight of their residence at Geneva, the two poets lived in the closest intimacy under the same roof, at the Sécheron, spending their mornings in their own intellectual circle, and their evenings on the lake, mostly accompanied by the ladies and Dr. Polidori, Lord Byron's travelling physician.
Shelley then removed to a little cottage on the opposite side of the Lake, called the Campagne Chapuis, exchanging, as he tells us, the view of Mont Blanc and her snowy aiguilles for the dark frowning Jura.
The lake was still at their feet, and a little harbour contained their boat, in which the party still enjoyed their evening excursions on the water ; but the brilliant skies that had first welcomed them, now changed for an almost perpetual rain, confining them much to their cottage.
The thunder-storms that here visited them were grand and terrific in the extreme.
“ We watch them,” says a letter, “as they approach from the opposite side of the lake, observing the lightning play among the clouds in various parts of the heavens, and dart in jagged
figures upon the piny heights of Jura, dark with the shadow of the overhanging cloud, while perhaps the sun is shining cheerily upon us.
“One night, we enjoyed a finer storm than I had ever before beheld. The lake was lit up.
, the pines on Jura made visible, and all the scene illuminated for an instant, when a pitchy blackness succeeded, and the thunder came in frightful bursts over our heads, amid the darkness."
Speaking of this thunder-storm, another letter, written by one of the party, says :
Apropos of thunder storms, we have had some very fine ones, one night in particular, when the lightnings were sent in quick succession from three different quarters of the sky—but by and by, you will see a very fine description of this same storm in the third canto of Childe Harold. I will not, therefore, mar your pleasure beforehand.” A description which must live in the memory of every reader.
Lord Byron had taken a cottage called the Belle Rive, which, standing on the high banks, rose immediately behind the Campagne Chapuis, but outstaying his new companion a fortnight at the Sécheron, he, despite the stormy weather which had set in, crossed the Lake every evening to visit him, accompanied by Polidori, returning in the stillness of night, breaking the silence which surrounded him, by singing the Tyrolese song of Liberty, which told his approach long before he was seen gliding over its darkened water s.
The passion for boating was remarkably strong in the two poets; and in this beautiful region, says Moore, they had more than ordinary temptations to indulge in it.
Not unfrequently their excursions were prolonged into the hours of moonlight; and Shelley was in the habit of lying down at the bottom of the boat gazing at the starry heavens, and surrendering himself to the sublime aspirations that arose out of the contemplation of all things that surrounded him, while Byron, as Moore tells us, would lean, abstractedly, over the side, lost in the all-absorbing task of moulding his thronging thoughts into shape.
Here everything was calculated to strike upon the finest chords of their natures, whether to lift up the soaring imagination of the one to the illimitable regions of the spiritual, or to awaken the faculties of the other to the grandeur and glory of the universe, as it appeared before him, a palpable reality
Their opposite pecularities of thought were brought at once into bold contrast, arising, as they did, out of the contemplation of the same objects, nor did they fail to exhibit themselves on various occasions.
Byron, naturally gloomy and melancholy, was more prone to look upon the dark than the bright side of existence; and the wrongs he had suffered did much, at this period of his life, to superinduce that tendency.
The tinge of morbid misanthropy which overhung his fine intellect, led him too much to separate himself from the rest of the world, and to judge of things as they affected him individually, thereby inducing a certain self-complacency, which could but narrow the circle of his ideas. He was of the earth, earthy; and as the earth
; was the theatre of his actions, so was it the boundary of his thoughts. He could compass the mystery and the majesty thereof, and could people it at will with bright creations of his own