Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/14

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viii
PREFATORY NOTE.

pressing adequately and at length the results of his mature meditations upon his favourite poet is much to be regretted. A great and perfect picture might have been painted by his hand: what I have gathered together here are the few sketches—not perfect indeed, yet showing the touch of the master—which alone fate (unkind to him in this as in much else) allowed him to accomplish.

The Poem with which this volume begins, and which has not hitherto been printed, was written in 1861. It was thus a comparatively early work, and therefore the reader will hardly expect to find displayed in it the wonderful power and finished execution which characterise "The City of Dreadful Night," written ten or twelve years later, when the author's intellect was in its fullest vigour and maturity. Nevertheless it is a very interesting production, with many fine and eloquent passages. It is high praise to say of it that it is not unworthy of its subject, for the best poem that could be written on Shelley could be no more than worthy of its theme. Excluding Swinburne's "Cor Cordium" because of its brevity, I know of no other poem on Shelley which can compare with that here given.

The Essay which follows the Poem was also an early work. It was published in 1860, but it is likely enough that it was written a year or two earlier. It would perhaps be a mistake to assert that this Essay was the first in which the genius of Shelley was fully and unreservedly acknowledged; but it is certain that few critics before 1860 ever ventured to praise him, without making large abatements and qualifications. Of Shelley it may be said that he suffered in his person in his lifetime, and in his fame after his death, for the benefit of the Poets who have succeeded him. How much louder