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thought by thought, she quenched them, and all that was, seemed, as he gazed, as if it had been not. That is the swift succession of aspiration, thought, and feeling, each dying as its successor is born, which we know when we are young, and the sense, then also ours, of all the outward world becoming, in the pursuit of the ideal, as if it had no real being. At last the mystery of life which cannot be repressed, begins to stir within the youth. He can no longer resist the fatal question all must ask, and-" Show whence I came, he cries, and where I am, and why." "Arise and quench thy thirst," the Shape replies; and as he drank the cup, this Dream of youth grew dim, and her light-a light of heaven that hereafter glimmered only, forever sought again, forever lost-waned in the glare of the Masque of Life that now rushed through the forest. It is the entrance into manhood, life as it is in the world of action. He sees and it seems the answer to his question—the car in which Life itself is borne, its captives, and those who played, or gazed; or followed, or out-speeded the car—all as yet young. He himself plunges into "the thickest billows of that living storm," but before the chariot had begun to climb the steep of middle age a new wonder grew.
The weariness, the cruel working of life's secret, begins to exhaust and destroy all the pleasure, all the eagerness, with which men at the first follow the chariot of Life. The way in which Shelley images this change, and the cause he assigns for it, are as imaginative
as they are original. grove, dense flocks of phantoms, of various quality and shape, who hid in the capes of kings, and rode across the tiara of popes; and some were old anatomies that hatched broods, and whose dead eyes took power and gave it to those who ruined earth; and some fell like flashes of discoloured snow on the bosoms of the young and were melted by the glow which they extinguished; and others, like small gnats, thronged about the brows of lawyer, statesman, priest, and theorist. Shelley invents all kinds
Shadows began to people the
of them, and each has its meaning. These are the
"Of that great crowd sent forth incessantly
Shadows as they were, form was given them by the creative rays of the car, for all the thoughts and feelings of men are moulded by the mystery of life. And so moulded, and darkening all the ways of the pageant with the sense of the deep mystery that gave them
shape, they did their work, and hour by hour the unconquerable secret, embodied in the forms given to it by the infinite questioning of men, destroyed its victims.
From every form the beauty slowly waned;
And long before the day of life
Was old, the joy which waked like heaven's glance
And some grew weary of the ghastly dance,
And those fell soonest who had done most creative work; who had thought and felt and expressed the most-the more passionate, whether for good or evil, the worse off.
Those soonest from whose forms most shadows passed,
"Then what is Life ?" I cried.
And with that cry all that Shelley wrote is ended.