Page:Shelley, a poem, with other writings (Thomson, Debell).djvu/42

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SHELLEY.

whether the God come down serene and stately as Jove, when a swan he wooed Leda; or with overwhelming might insupportably burning, as when he consumed Semele.

These distinctive marks of the highest poetry I find displayed in the works of Shelley more gloriously than in those of any other poet in our language. As we must study Shakespeare for knowledge of idealised human nature, and Fielding for knowledge of human nature unidealised, and Carlyle's "French Revolution" as the unapproached model of history, and Currer Bell's "Villette" to learn the highest capabilities of the novel, and Ruskin for the true philosophy of art, and Emerson for quintessential philosophy; so must we study, and so will future men more and more study, Shelley for quintessential poetry. It was a good nomenclator who first called him the poet of poets.

He was not thirty when he died. Had he but lived for another thirty years—? In the purity of our fervent youth I think we all consecrate ourselves to an early death; but the gods cannot love us all with a partial love, and most of us must dwindle down through age and decrepitude into the grave. But Shelley, while singing of the Millennial Future, and chanting the beatitudes of our free and pure and love-united posterity, knew with undeceiving prescience that he could not live to see even the first straight steps taken towards the glorious goal. The tomb which he selected and described with almost passionate tenderness in 1821, received his ashes in 1822. And so may we trust that the prophecy of 1821 was fulfilled in 1822:—


"The breath whose might I have invoked in song
Descends on me; my spirit's bark is driven