Imatges de pÓgina

poetic fancy. In the worship of nature, in the contemplation of her glory and magnificence, he could understand his own littleness in comparison; which produced in him alternately a feeling of impatience and something akin to despair, with the aspiration to be something greater than he was; an aspiration which, with him, partook more of the character of one rebelling against, than of one desiring to fulfil his destiny.

Here his power ended, his philosophy was far from being elevated, and a not over- refined theory of materialism bounded the horizon of his speculations.

With an intellect far less grasping than his companion, he had never risen, either by accident or his own inherent energies, into the more untrodden ways of thought which become the principal charm in the study of "Divine philosophy."

With Shelley it was far otherwise, he lived and breathed in an atmosphere of spiritualism; all his thoughts were imbued with it, all his conversation, on whatever topic, partook of that peculiar characteristic.

In poetry, in politics, in philosophy, the same

dreamy abstractions perpetually presented themselves with the desire to grasp those subtleties of thought which for ever elude at the moment they appear accomplished.

Everything, as it passed through the glowing alembic of his mind, was refined into a splendid idealism; his intercourse with the real and actual world, served but to quicken his imagination into new vigour and new life, leading him into new worlds of thought.

In the worship of Nature, he for ever turned from her sublimities to the contemplation of that unseen Power, whose presence they declared; therefore it was, that the material universe stood to him but as a manifestation of the spiritual.

He looked from the one up towards the other, from the palpable to the impalpable, from the part to the great whole, from the finite to the infinite, which he invested with all the attributes of love; the fountain from which all things flowed, and to which all things must return.

While his more comprehensive mind thus grasped at subjects which were at once novel and startling to his companion, the greater variety and extent of his reading, gave additional

force and energy to his manner, and had the effect, not only of winning his respect, but of commanding his esteem; moreover, the susceptible mind of the noble poet, ever open to receive new impressions, was strongly fascinated by speculations which appealed so directly to his imagination, and his attention was soon turned from worldly topics and associations, to the higher aspirations of Shelley.


Influence of Shelley on the mind of Byron-Dr. Polidori

His jealousy of Shelley-His vanity-His caprices -His dramatic talents-Challenges Shelley to a duel -Plan of voyage round the lake-Mortification of Polidori-His quarrel with Byron-Timely reconciliation.

THEY thus lived in great harmony, and Byron has remarked that he passed that summer more rationally than any other period of his life; and all he wrote in Switzerland bears evidence of the strong influence Shelley exercised over his mind. His attention was directed to subjects more worthy of his genius and intellect, his fancy became more elevated and refined, if not strongly imbued with much of the rich idealism of Shelley.

[ocr errors]

In their poetical interchange of thought and feeling, the two poets might have dreamed away their existence in peaceful seclusion on the lake and in the neighbourhood of Geneva, had it not been for the frequent interruption of Polidori, who daily became more jealous of the close intimacy he observed growing up between them.

Travelling with Lord Byron as his physician, whose principal companion he had hitherto been, the doctor regarded Shelley from the first as one usurping his own place in the esteem of the noble poet; a singularity best understood in the fact that he cherished the idea that he himself was a great poet, if not the greatest of the three.

Having possessed his mind of this strange delusion, he seems to have become oblivious of the capacity in which he was engaged, and to have regarded himself less as the physician than as the associate in letters of his patron; but his ill-regulated mind, no less than his humble capacities, did little to foster such a feeling in the mind of Byron, towards whom he conducted himself in such a manner as often to call forth all his forbearance and self-control, when the

« AnteriorContinua »