forty years after his death, do we begin to discern his true glory. It is well that this glory is such as can afford to wait for recognition; that it is one of the permanent stars of heaven, not a rocket to be ruined by a night of storm and rain. I confess that I have long been filled with astonishment and indignation at the manner in which he is treated by the majority of our best living writers. Emerson is serenely throned above hearing him at all; Carlyle only hears him "shriek hysterically;" Mrs. Browning discovers him "blind with his white ideal;" Messrs. Ruskin and Kingsley treat him much as senior schoolboys treat the youngster who easily "walks over their heads" in class,—with reluctant tribute of admiration copiously qualified with sneers, pinches, and kicks. Even Bulwer (who, intellectually worthless as he is, now and then serves well as a straw to show how the wind blows among the higher and more educated classes), even Bulwer can venture to look down upon him with pity, to pat him patronisingly on the back, to sneer at him—in "Ernest Maltravers"—with a sneer founded upon a maimed quotation. It was only the other day that a person thought it worth while to send to the Times the discovery that Shelley, in his mock-heroic preface to "Peter Bell" had anticipated Macaulay's famous New Zealander! Now, I do not expect that Shelley—any more than piety and lofty thought and heroic action—will ever be extensively popular; I admit that to himself more than to most poets are his own grand words applicable,—"the jury that sits in judgment upon a poet, belonging as he does to all time, must be composed of his peers: it must be impanneled by time from the selectest of the wise of many generations." Yet it was to be expected that men
Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/33
This page has been validated.