Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/34

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SHELLEY.

so noble as Kingsley and Ruskin could surrender themselves to generous sympathy with a most noble and generous life, could love and reverence a most loving and reverent spirit; although that life developed itself without the pale of their sanctuary and that spirit dispensed with the theological primer which they conceive necessary to education.

A poet, in our restricted sense of the term, may be defined, an inspired singer; the singing, the spontaneous musical utterance being essential to the poetical character. Great learning, profound thought, and keen moral insight may all enrich a volume, which shall yet, lacking this instinctive harmony, be no poem—Verse equally with prose may be unpoetic through this fatal want. Through it George Herbert is almost unread, and the "Heaven and Hell" of Swedenborg is a dull map instead of a transcendent picture; through it—tainting both, but in a less degree—the works of the Brownings are less popular than those of Tennyson, though they in all other noble qualities are so far his superiors.

In musicalness, in free and, as it were, living melody, the poems of Shelley are unsurpassed, and on the whole, I think, unequalled by any others in our literature. Compared with that of most others his language is as a river to a canal,—a river ever flowing "at its own sweet will," and whose music is the unpurposed result of its flowing. So subtly sweet and rich are the tones, so wonderfully are developed the perfect cadences, that the meaning of the words of the singing is lost and dissolved in the overwhelming rapture of the impression. I have often fancied, while reading them, that his words were really transparent, or that they throbbed with living