Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/36

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SHELLEY.

bration of which, however, Shelley displays an intense fervour of admiration and love which almost isolates him above his compeers.) The questions concerning the existence of God, the moral law of the universe, the immortality of the soul, the independent being of what is called the material world, the perfectibility of man; these and their kindred perpetually fascinate his mind to their investigation. It may be considered by many—and not without some show of reason—that mere addictedness to discourse on great subjects is no proof of a great mind: crude painters always daub "high art," adolescent journalists stoop to nothing below Epics; nay, Macaulay long since told us that the very speculations of which we speak are distinctive of immaturity both in nations and in men. Nevertheless, believing that the essence of poetry and philosophy is communication with the Infinite and the Eternal, I venture to conclude that to be strongly inclined to such communication is to be gifted with the first requisite for a poet and a philosopher. The valiant heart may prove victorious without the strong arm, but the strong arm without the valiant heart must be beaten ignominiously for ever.

(II.) But have his thoughts and his conceptions a magnanimity befitting these subjects? He upholds strenuously the Manichean doctrine, that the world is the battle-field of a good and an evil spirit, each aboriginal; of whom the evil has been and still is the more powerful, but the good shall ultimately triumph. Let those who scoff so liberally at this, account for the existence of evil and a devil created by an omnipotent all-holy God. How magnificent is his conception of these hostile powers, symbolised in the eagle and serpent,