Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/125

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107
THE POEMS OF WILLIAM BLAKE.

strain. Here is a stanza which Edgar might have sung in the storm by the hovel on the heath—

Like a fiend in a cloud,
 With howling woe
After night I do crowd,
 And with night will go;
I turn my back to the East
Whence comforts have increased;
For light doth seize my brain
With frantic pain.

Mark the appalling power of the verb crowd, revealing as by a lightning-flash the ruins of sane personality, haunted and multitudinous, literally beside itself. Not one poet in twenty would have dared to use the word thus, and yet (although a careless reader might think it brought in merely for the sake of the rhyme) it was the very word to use. The address To the Muses, sweet, calm, and masterly, as if the matured utterance of a conviction well pondered and of no recent date, yet written by a mere boy, embodies the essence of all that Coleridge, Wordsworth, Keats, and Shelley many years afterwards taught and sang in vindication of Pre-Drydenism.

The poems in blank verse, To the Evening Star, To Spring, and To Summer, are perhaps even more wonderful than those in rhyme, considering the age of the writer and the epoch of our literature in which they were produced. With the exception of the Ode to Evening, I do not remember any blank verse of the century at all similar to them in tone. And the Ode of Collins, fine as it is, suffers greatly in the comparison with them; for it does not reach their noble breadth of conception and execution, and it is not quite free from then current affectations. These pieces are not perfect in art, but