Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/40

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.
22
SHELLEY.

poets, and exalts him to sit with Isaiah and Dante as one of that small choir of chief singers who are called transcendant? It is that of which I but now spoke; it is that of which he is so often accused under the name of mysticism. I dare affirm that no great writer is less obscure in manner, in expression, than he: obscure in matter he is, and ever must be, to those in whom is not developed the faculty correlative to those ideas in whose expression he supremely delights. Were the most of us born deaf, we should reprobate as obscure and mystical those gifted men who dilated upon the ravishment of music. And to the ideal or spiritual harmonies, perfect and eternal, to whose rhythm and melody the universe is attuned, so that it is fitly named Cosmos,—to these we are most of us deaf; and whoever with reverence and love and rapture is devoted to their celebration—be it Plato or Swedenborg, Emerson or Shelley—shall for ever to the great mass be as one who is speaking in an unknown tongue, or who is raving of phantasies which have no foundation in reality.

Therefore the accusations of mysticism but ignorantly affirm that he was most intensely and purely a poet. Plato in the "Ion" (Shelley's translation), says:—"For the authors of those great poems which we admire, do not attain to excellence through the rules of any art; but they utter their beautiful melodies of verse in a state of inspiration, and, as it were, possessed by a spirit not their own." And again, "For a poet is indeed a thing ethereally light, winged and sacred; nor can he compose anything worth calling poetry until he becomes inspired, and, as it were, mad. . . For whilst a man retains any portion of the thing called reason, he is utterly incompetent to produce poetry or to vaticinate." This great