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Yet if we could scorn
Hate and pride and fear;
Not to shed a tear,
Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
That in books are found,
Teach me half the gladness,
That thy brain must know;
From my lips would flow,
“ In the spring of 1820,” says Mrs. Shelley,“ we spent a week or two near Leghorn, borrowing the house of some friends, who were absent on a journey to England. It was on a beautiful summer evening, while wandering among the lanes where myrtle hedges were the bowers of the fire-flies, that we heard the carolling of the skylark, which inspired one of the most beautiful of his poems.”—Moxon's edition of 1840, p. 278.
Shelley chose the measure of this poem with great felicity. The earnest hurry of the four short lines, followed by the long effusiveness of the Alexandrine, expresses the eagerness and continuity of the lark. There is a luxury of the latter kind in Shakspeare's song, produced by the reduplication of the rhymes :
Hark! hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings,
And Phæbus 'gins ise
On chalic'd flowers that lies :
To ope their golden eyes :
My lady sweet, arise.
“ Chalic'd flowers that lies,” is an ungrammatical license in use with the most scholarly writers of the time; and, to say
the truth, it was a slovenly one ; though there is all the difference in the world between the license of power and that of poverty.
1“ In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.”—During the preva-lence of the unimaginative and unmusical poetry of the last century, it was thought an Alexandrine should always be cut in halves, for the greater sweetness; that is to say, monotony. The truth is, the pause may be thrown anywhere, or even entirely omitted, as in the unhesitating and characteristic instance before us. See also the eighth stanza. The Alexandrines throughout the poem evince the nicest musical feeling.
2 Like a high-born maiden
Mark the accents on the word “ love-laden,” so beautifully carrying on the stress into the next line
Soothing her ldve-låden
The music of the whole stanza is of the loveliest sweetness; of energy in the midst of softness; of dulcitude and variety. Not a sound of a vowel in the quatrain resembles that of another, except in the rhymes; while the very sameness or repetition of the sounds in the Alexandrine intimates the revolvement and continuity of the music which the lady is playing. Observe, for instance (for nothing is too minute to dwell upon in such beauty), the contrast of the i and o in “high-born;" the difference of the a in “maiden” from that in “palace;' the strong opposition of maiden to tower (making the rhyme more vigorous in proportion to the general softness); then the new differences in soothing, love-laden, soul, and secret, all diverse from one another, and from the whole strain; and finally, the strain itself, winding up in the Alexandrine with a cadence of particular repetitions, which constitutes nevertheless a new difference on that account, and by the prolongation of the tone.
“ It gives a very echo to the seat
Where love is throned.”
There is another passage of Shakspeare which it more particularly calls to mind ;-—the
Ditties highly penn'd,
But as Shakspeare was not writing lyrically in this passage, nor desirous to fill it with so much love and sentiment, it is no irreverence to say that the modern excels it. The music is car. ried on into the first two lines of the next stanza :
Like a glow-worm golden
In a dell of dew;
a melody as happy in its alliteration as in what may be termed its counterpoint. And the coloring of this stanza is as beautiful as the music.
3“ Thou scorner of the ground.”-A most noble and emphatic close of the stanza. Not that the lark, in any vulgar sense of the word, “scorns" the ground, for he dwells upon it: but that, like the poet, nobody can take leave of common-places with more heavenly triumph.
A GARISH DAY.
(SAID BY A POTENT RUFFIAN.)
The all-beholding sun yet shines; I hear
CONTEMPLATION OF VIOLENCE.
(BY A MAN NOT BAD.)
Spare me now.
A ROCK AND A CHASM.
I remember, Two miles on this side of the fort, the road Crosses a deep ravine: 't is rough and narrow, And winds with short turns down the precipice; And in its depth there is a mighty rock, Which has, from unimaginable years, Sustain’d itself with terror and with toil Over a gulf, and with the agony With which it clings seems slowly coming down ; Even as a wretched soul, hour after hour, Clings to the mass of life; yet clinging, leans, And, leaning, makes more dark the dread abyss In which it fears to fall. Beneath this crag, Huge as despair, as if in weariness, The melancholy mountain yawns. Below You hear, but see not, an impetuous torrent Raging among the caverns: and a bridge Crosses the chasm; and high above these grow, With intersecting trunks, from crag to crag, Cedars, and yews, and pines; whose tangled hair Is matted in one solid roof of shade By the dark ivy's twine. At noon-day here 'Tis twilight, and at sunset blackest night.
Sweet lamp! my moth-like muse has burnt its wings;
EXISTENCE IN SPACE.
Life, like a dome of many-colored glass,
One word is too often profaned
For me to profane it ;
For thee to disdain it.