Imatges de pÓgina
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the "locks" of Typhon,1 the vanguard of the tempest. In gathered mass behind, the congregated might of vapours is rising to vault the heaven like a sepulchral dome. Nothing can be closer than the absolute truth to the working of the clouds that fly before the main body of a storm, which is here kept in the midst of these daring comparisons of the imagination.

The same delight in the indefinite and changeful aspects of Nature appears in Shelley's power of describing vast landscapes, such as that seen at noontide from the Euganean Hills, or that which the poet in Alastor looks upon from the edge of the mountain precipice. Both swim in the kind of light that makes all objects undefined, deep noon, and sunset light.

Kindred to this is Shelley's pleasure in the intricate, changeful, and incessant weaving and unweaving of nature's life in a great forest. In the Recollection it is the Pisan Pineta he describes, and that is a painting directly after Nature. But he has his own ideal forest, of which he tells in Alastor, in Rosalind and Helen, in the Triumph of Life, and again and again in the Prometheus. It is no narrow wood, but a universe of forest; full of all trees and flowers, in which are streams, and pools, and lakes, and lawny glades, and hills, and caverns; and in whose multitudinous scenery Shelley's imagination

1 I wonder that Mr. Ruskin has not quoted this verse in the "Angel of the Sea" (Modern Painters, vol. v.) Shelley's lines might well form a text for that chapter.

could lose and find itself without an end. The special love of caverns, with their dim recesses, adds another characteristic touch. These then,-The scenery of the sky, of the forest, of the vast plain,—are the aspects of nature Shelley loved the most, and out of the weakness that elsewhere made him too indefinite, and too uncertain through desire of change, for Wordsworth's special kind of descriptive power, arose the force with which he realised them.

2. Again, just because Shelley had no wish to conceive of Nature as involved in one definite thought, he had the power of conceiving the life of separate things in Nature with astonishing individuality. When he wrote of the Cloud, or of Arethusa, or of the Moon, or of the Earth, as distinct existences, he was not led away from their solitary personality by any universal existence in which they were merged, or by the necessity of adding to these any tinge of humanity, any elements of thought or love, such as the Pantheist is almost sure to add. His imagination was free to realise pure Nature, and the power by which he does this, as well as the work done, are quite unique in modern poetry. Theology, with its one Creator of the Universe; Pantheism, with its "one spirit's plastic stress;" Science with its one Energy, forbid the modern poet, whose mind is settled into any one of these three views, to see anything in Nature as having a separate life of its own. He cannot, as a Greek could do, divide the life of the Air from that of the

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Earth, of the cloud from that of the stream. But Shelley, able to loosen himself from all these modern conceptions which unite the various universe, could and did, when he pleased, divide and subdivide the life of Nature in the same way as a Greek—and this is the cause why even in the midst of wholly modern imagery and a modern manner, one is conscious of a Greek note in many passages of his poetry of Nature. The little poem on the Dawn might be conceived by a primitive Aryan. It is a Nature myth. But Shelley's conceptions of the life of these natural things are less human than even the Homeric Greek or early Indian poet would have made them. They described the work of Nature in terms of human act. Shelley's spirits of the Earth and Moon are utterly apart from our world of thought and from our life. Of this class of poems The Cloud is the most perfect example. It describes the life of the Cloud as it might have been a million years before man came on earth. The "sanguine Sunrise " and the "orbed Maiden," the moon, who are the playmates of the cloud, are pure elemental beings.

The same observation is true if we take a poem on a living thing in Nature, like The Skylark, into which human sentiment is introduced.

longs to Shelley, not to the lark.
but it is not our joy.
we come near it."

The sentiment beThe bird has joy, It is "unbodied joy," nor 66 can Wordsworth's Skylark is truer, 1 See p. 152.

perhaps, to the everyday life of the bird, and the poet remembers, because he loves his own home, that the singer will return to its nest; but Shelley sees and hears the bird who, in its hour of inspired singing, will not recollect that it has a home. Wordsworth humanises the whole spirit of “the pilgrim of the sky”—“ True to the kindred points of heaven and home." Shelley never brings the bird into contact with us at all. It is left in the sky, singing; it will never leave the sky. It is the archetype of the lark we seem to listen to, and yet we cannot conceive it, we have no power"What thou art we know not." The flowers in the Sensitive Plant have the same apartness from humanity, and are wholly different beings and in a different world from the Daisy or the Celandine of Wordsworth. It is only the Sensitive Plant, and that is Shelley himself, which has an inner sympathy with the Lady of the garden.

Shelley, then, could isolate and perceive distinct existences in Nature as if he were himself one of these existences. It was a strange power, and we naturally cannot love with a human love things so represented. In Wordsworth's poems we touch the human heart of flowers and birds. In Shelley's we touch "Shapes that haunt Thought's wildernesses." Yet it is quite possible, though we cannot feel affection for Shelley's Cloud or Bird, that they are both truer to the actual fact of things than Wordsworth made his birds and clouds. Strip off the imaginative clothing from The

Cloud, and Science will support every word of it. Let the Skylark sing, let the flowers grow, for their own joy alone. In truth, what sympathy have they, what sympathy has Nature with Man? We may not like to think of Nature in this way; we are left quite cold by The Cloud, and by the spirits of the Earth and Moon in the Prometheus; and if we are not left as cold by The Skylark, it is because we are made to think of our own sorrow, not because we care for the bird. But whether we like or no to see Nature in this fashion, we should be grateful for these unique representations, and to the poet who was able to make them. In this matter also Shelley's want of a central and uniting Thought in Nature made his strength.

The other side of Shelley's relation to Nature is a remarkable contrast to this statement. When he was absorbed in his own being, and writing poems which concerned himself alone, he makes Nature the mere image of his own feelings, the creature of his mood. In his "life alone doth Nature live." This was the natural result, at these times, of his intellectual rejection of such Pantheism as enabled Wordsworth always to distinguish between himself and the Nature he perceived. The Nature Wordsworth saw we can love well, because it is not ourselves-never a reflection of ourselves. The Nature such as Shelley saw in Alastor is not easy to love, because it is ourselves in other form. For this reason also we are not able

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