Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/35

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SHELLEY.

lustres. Meaning is therein, firm and distinct, but "scarce visible through extreme loveliness;" so that the mind is often dazzled from perception of the surpassing grandeur and power of his creations. I doubt not that Apollo was mightier than Hercules, though his divine strength was veiled in the splendour of his symmetry and beauty more divine.

But when we have allowed that a man is pre-eminently a singer, the question naturally follows, what is the matter of his song? Does his royal robe of verse envelop a real king of men, or one who is intrinsically a slave? And here may fitly be adduced Wordsworth's remark, that the style is less the dress than the incarnation of the thought. Noble features have been informed by ignoble natures, and beautiful language has expressed thoughts impure and passions hateful; great hearts have pulsed in unsightly bodies, and grand ideas have found but crabbed utterance: yet still it is true that generally the countenance is a legible index to the spirit, and the style to the thought.

With this presumption in his favour, we enter upon four inquiries. (I.) What are the favourite subjects of Shelley's song—great or small? (II.) Is his treatment of these great-minded? (III.) Is it great-hearted? And, rising to the climax. (IV.) Is it such as to entitle him to the epithet inspired?

(I.) The favourite subjects of Shelley's song, the speculations to which his intellect continually gravitates from the petty interests of the hour, are certainly great and important above all others. (I omit one theme, whose treatment is common to all poets, so that we conceive it as inseparable from the poetic character,—the beauty and harmony of the visible universe: in the cele-