Imatges de pÓgina
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tomb; while the etherial gloom that poured forth from this dread Shape tempered the fierce light in which the chariot moved. Every image in this allegorical representation tells of the mystery of life, the unfathomable riddle that none could penetrate, but which conquered and led all captive. It is this thought which is the foundation of the Poem. The deep concealment is doubled by the further imagery. The Charioteer is a four-faced Shadow-Time itself, perhaps, with its three faces that look into the present, the past, and the future; but its eyes are banded so that it cannot see while in the service of Life. The winged shapes that draw the car are lost to sight in thick lightnings. And the Charioteer guides the car blindly, so that its course is aimless. Life itself knows not where it is conducted. Before the car is the wild dance of youth, seeking in tempestuous pleasure to find the secret of Life, and outspeeding Life; behind it, the foul and impotent dance of age, still cleaving to Life, still limping to reach the glare of Life's light; and the youths and maidens are overtaken and trampled by the car of Life into foam like the barren sea-foam, and the old sink into corrupted dust.1 These are the common crew who have only sought to live according to impulse and desires.

There are others, however, who do not belong to the two bands before and behind, but are dragged, chained captives, along with the triumphal car. These

1 The whole of this may be compared with Tennyson's Vision of Sin.

are they who tried to know what Life was, or to conquer it; who laboured, but in vain; who died and never knew the secret.

All those who had grown old in power
Or misery, all who had their age subdued
By action or by suffering,

Only a few are

alike the famous and the infamous. not seen there, are not captives-the Prophets of Mankind, who touched the world with flame, and then fled back to their native noon; who put aside the diadem; who were not victims of Life, because they despised all that Life could offer; who conquered its secret by not caring to penetrate it, of whom the types were they of Athens and Jerusalem-Socrates and Christ.

In his trance Shelley asks, What is this? And a Shape, like an old root by the wayside, who is Rousseau, answers him that it is the pageantry of Life's Triumph, and that if Shelley can forbear to join the dance-as he does forbear-he will unfold that to which this deep scorn- this thing worthy of deep scorn-has led him and his companions. “Then, if you want further knowledge, follow the car; for me, I am weary, nor would corruption now inherit so much of Rousseau

"if the spark with which Heaven lit my spirit
Had been with purer sentiment supplied."

Who are those chained to the car? Shelley asks.

"The wise, the great, the unforgotten," who were wise, but did not know themselves. Their love, their might, that won for them empire, "could not repress the mystery within." For at the last, that fierce mystery shrouded in the car, Life, and the question what it is, arose in their soul and conquered them, and deep night swallowed them.

Napoleon is then seen, and all the conquerors of the world by force of arms or intellect, chained to Life's car and vanquished by its scornful secret. I myself, speaks Rousseau, was overcome by my own heart alone, that nothing in the world could temper to its object.1

The course of the vision is here interrupted by two speeches of Shelley's, and both of them are meant to mark his present apartness from the throng of Life and his disdain of those who, through desire of conquest or fame, were slaves to Life. The last of these speeches, and Rousseau's answer to it, are steeped in Shelley's passionate sense that humanity was but an imagery of an eternal Oneness behind it, which, reflected in the ever-changing mirror of circumstance and nature, made its infinite variety. But all the reflections are reflections, nothing more. thought is in Adonais, lii. Here, it is

Figures ever new

The same

Rise on the bubble, paint them as you may;

1 How close to truth!

We have but thrown, as those before us threw,
Our shadows on it as it passed away.

Then he sees, captives also, "the mighty phantoms of an elder day." Plato expiating his too great feeling of joy and of sorrow, not his own master, whom Life conquered at last by love; Aristotle, Alexander, whose conquests the Life of the world finally made nought; the Elder Bards, “who quelled

"The passions which they sung, as by their strain
May well be known: their living melody

Tempers its own contagion to the vein

Of those who are infected with it.'

Even these, who quelled passions, are captive to Life, because they were too curious of the passions, and because they knew their work would stir in others the passions they themselves subdued. But they are of a higher cast than Rousseau, who, like Shelley, "suffered what he wrote," and whose words have seeds of misery.

Then the dreamer sees the Emperors of Rome and her great Bishops, whose power was given but to destroy; and, sick at heart, turns again to Rousseau (if, as I think, there is no long break here in the poem, and the "leader” mentioned is still Rousseau and not another), and asks him how his course began and why. Rousseau then tells his tale and that of the pageant; and portions of the story are so like what Shelley has at other times said of his own life, that it seems as if he would have partly

told his own story in the tale that Rousseau tells. Rousseau thinks that if Shelley would become actor or victim instead of spectator in this wretchedness, and follow the Conqueror—

What thou wouldst be taught I then may learn

From thee.

That is, he would learn from Shelley's fate to understand his own.

A new phase of the allegory now begins; the story of a single life and its overthrow by Life. Rousseau describes himself asleep at the portals of this and of the antenatal world, a place here imaged as a cavern, through which flows a stream in which all things are forgotten. All those who are in the pageant of life have also been, as we understand at the end, asleep in this oblivious valley. When he arose into being, in infancy, he says that all things around kept the trace of some diviner light than that of earth, and melodies that confused the sense of earthly things were heard. conception of reminiscence. by the brightness of morning that floods the cavern, and then, a Shape all light stood before him, flinging freshness, and in her hand a cup of nepenthe. It is the Spirit of the aspirations and dreams of youth, the vision of Beauty Shelley saw, the Vision which, in different forms, all the creators see. She leads the youth forth out of the cave, and as he follows her all his thoughts were strewn under her feet like embers, and,

This is the half Platonic
Boyhood comes, imaged

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