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Objects reflected in water. “Alast." 200, 213, 406, 457, 494 ; "Laon," III. xi. and VI. xxxiii. ;
« Prom.” III. iv. 78 and IV. 193; “Sens. Plant," I, 18; “West Wind," III. 33-35; "Invitation,” 50; “Recollection,” 53. Also compare "Prom.” II. i. 17. with Wordsworth, “Peele Castle," and cf. Shelley, “ Evening,” III. ; Liberty,”
VI; "Witch," LIX. Colour Contrast. “ Alast.” 137, “ Rosal.” 782; « Prom.” III. iii.
139; “Laon," I. xi.; “Witch," X.; “Marenghi," XIII.
Shelley and Coleridge. “Coleridge's affinity to Shelley is shown especially in his descriptions of transmitted light and colour,
and in his elaborate pictures of reflection in water.
But Coleridge does not appear to have, any more than Wordsworth or Milton, any examples of reflected light or colour as distinguished from the reflection of definite objects : Shelley's picture of the 'lake-reflected sun'illumining the “yellow bees in the ivy bloom' seems to be entirely his own.
The similarity between the two poets (Coleridge and S.) in their treatment of light does not seem to be the result of imitation on the part of the younger poet: the agreement is in spirit, not in detail. The love of light was instinctive in both, and was fostered by their surroundings. Coleridge learnt to observe and love the effects of transmitted and reflected light in the shady lanes, and by the rivulets and pools of his native Devon, while Shelley learnt the same lessons in the woods of Marlowe and in his boat on the Thames.”
Colour Sense-(Continued). An admirable study of Shelley's artistic use of colour is contained in Atlantic Monthly, LXX. (V. Ď. Scudder). The analysis follows.
Colour in Keats and Shelley. It is only in the nineteenth century that the poets have become great colourists; and no one but Keats can in this respect rival the greatness of Shelley. If Keats has more force of colour, Shelley has more purity. Keats' colouring is opaque, though brilliant, like that of a butterfly's wing; Shelley's is translucent, like an opal. Ruskin tells us that nature always paints her loveliest hues on aqueous or crystalline matter; and the very law of nature seems to be the instinct of Shelley.
Colour in “ Prometheus Unbound."
• Prometheus Unbound' has a higher function than to vivify the
poem, or to give us a series of exquisite vignettes. The drama, by the use of light and colour, is shaped to an organic whole. It shows the harmonious evolution
fr But the colour in
of a central theme; and this evolution is symbolically presented through the progress of the new cosmic day.” The writer develops this thesis skilfully and at some length in the remainder of the essay. Referring in more general terms to Shelley's nature poetry“It is in the treatment of nature that the distinctive powers of Shelley's poetry are most clearly seen. The · Prometheus' is in one sense a nature-drama. The Soul of Nature is herself one of the personages. We are transported from the wildest mountain scenery to the luxuriance of tropical valleys. Sky-cleaving peaks, glaciers, precipices, vast rivers, lakes, forests, meet us on every page. We have a sense that the drama is for the most part enacted on the heights, where the air is pure from earthly taint, and heaven and earth seem to blend. The sky scenery, above all, with its pomp and gloom of storm, its sunrise and sunset, its 'flocks of clouds in spring's delightful weather,' is as great as can be found in English poetry; yet the
bold outline work, the strong and broad treatment of Vastness
the vaster aspects of nature, reveal the poet less than and
the renderings of delicate detail, of fleeting sights and Delicacy.
sounds lost on a grosser perception. See “Prom.” I. 44-47 ; II. i. 83-86 ; II. v. 11-14; III. ii. 4-9; III. ii. 25-28; IV. 180-184 ; IV. 431-436.
The sensitiveness and passion for change which we have seen to be the notes of Shelley's temperament, are evident in every one of these passages. (Cf. supra, Stopford Brooke.) “It is doubtful whether any poet before our century, whatever his equipment, could so closely and finely have rendered the minutiæ of nature. >
The latest systematic presentation in English criticism of Shelley's nature poetry is contained in FRANCIS PALGRAVE'S Landscape in Poetry,' Macmillan & Co., 1897. The treatment is sketchy and unsatisfactory, and, if anything, hostile in tone. He objects that Shelley's landscape “is inevitably limited and dyed by the colours of his mind;
that no true poet of any age has left us so gigantic a mass of wasted effort, exuberance so Asiatic, such oceans (to speak out) of fluent, well-intended platitude." His shorter and chiefly his later lyrics show him to the best advantage. 6 Yet even here at times the matter is attenuated as the film of the soap-bubble, gaining through its very thinness its marvellous iridescent beauty. Shelley seems to go up and burst,' was Tennyson's remark on a passage of this character.
“In his best moods, where he has focussed his eye Vivifying
on his subject, it has that strange power of vitalizing Power.
abstractions and things of nature on which Macaulay has commented in his brilliant manner.
“We must not look in his landscape for human feeling Lack of
interfused as in Coleridge's, for the chord of true passion, Human Feeling.
or of the humanly pathetic, Shelley could scarcely strike ; nor again for Nature moralized and spiritualized, as by
Wordsworth ; Shelley's landscape is essentially descriptive, but raised Ito a life of its own by an imaginative power of perhaps unsurpassed pure vividness, and that personifying habit which we have just noticed.”
· Literal truth and fidelity of description is accorded to the landscape in the “Euganean Hills,” and to a few passages from his later lyrics.
I have now given the substance of the most important studies on the subject of Shelley's nature poetry, and in the course of this presentation have found it necessary to combat only the extreme views which obtain with reference to the poet's idealistic tendencies. To obtain a satisfactorily complete idea of Shelley's nature poetry, the existing criticism has to be extended and supplemented in many directions. With this end in view, I have endeavoured
1. To bring to bear upon the problem an entirely new method of examination (namely, the study of the Similes).
2. To supplement investigations such as Sweet's, whose only fault lies in their incompleteness.
1. A STUDY OF SHELLEY'S SIMILES.
I here advance a large amount of material, arranged in such a manner as to throw abundant light upon Shelley's treatment of beauty in the external world, to illustrate his preferences and the individual peculiarities of his genius, and to exhibit his marvellous skill in adapting the world of nature to the elucidation of subtle intellectual states.
The wealth of Shelley's figurative language, and the extraordinary range of his similes have stirred the wonder of critics, and led them to affirm in his poetry a brilliancy that blinds and dazzles with
I wish, on the contrary, to affirm their artistic perfection, as constantly subordinated to some defined and conscious æsthetic impulse.
Shelley's own opinion of the nature of his powers will serve as a valuable initial commentary upon this portion of my work. “And in this I have long believed that my power consists in sympathy, and that part of the imagination which relates to sympathy and contemplation. I am formed, if for anything not in common
with the herd of mankind, to apprehend minute and remote distinctions of feeling, whether relative to external nature or the living beings. which surround us, and to communicate the conceptions which result from considering either the moral or the material universe as whole.”— Letter to Godwin, December 11th, 1817.
It is clear, then, that we have in a systematic presentation of the similes an important factor which has never entered into the consideration of Shelley's Nature poetry; and in the light of his figurative language we may read the subtler operations of his mind, and see the paths upon which it was prone to run, in as far as human limitations grant us such an insight.
2. EXTENSION OF EXISTING CRITICISM.*
The following investigations are extended :
(a) Love of Indefiniteness and the Love of Change: In these characteristics of Shelley's genius, Stopford Brooke assumes to discover the key to his philosophy of Nature. The analysis is skilfully conducted, and it is impossible to dispute the fact that Shelley's changeful temperament is mirrored faithfully in his poetry. But while not actually challenging these results, it is possible to show that they are misapplied. It seemed necessary, therefore, to investigate afresh Shelley's philosophy of Nature, to connect it with his theory of Beauty, and to point at least to some permanent and abiding ideas which give character and solidity to Shelley's work in this direction.
(6) Shelley's Place in the Development of Nature Poetry. Sweet has made a general approach to this subject. In connection with Shelley's philosophy of Nature, more special reference than in Dr. Sweet's essay must be made to Shelley in his relation to Wordsworth, and in a lesser degree to Coleridge, Scott, Byron, and Keats.
(c) Colour in Shelley's Poetry. This has already received treatment in Section I.
It only remains, after the analysis of the colour similes given below, to supplement the categories which Sweet has established.
* NOTE. - This second section of the study, comprising II. 2 (a), (b), and (c), will be shortly published.
1. ANALYSIS OF THE SIMILES.
The total number of similes in Shelley's poetry is 1989. The above collection contains 1720, all of which have a bearing upon appearances of the external world, whether developed for the sake of their own beauty or subordinated to the illumination of subtle mental operations. This fact is in itself significant.
I now pass to a consideration of the various classes of simile in some detail. The basis of arrangement is not a merely artificial classification, but is founded upon the most prominent characteristic in every case; though all are broadly included within the generic title of Nature Similes.
(1) SIMILES OF COLOUR.* The similes in which colour is the most prominent feature number 425, whereas colour as a more subdued element may be observed in many more. Comparing this result proportionately with the similes arising from other senses than that of sight, we find that Similes of Sound amount to 210, while Similes of Odour naturally sink to 12. Examining the Similes of Colour more closely they fall into various natural subdivisions. (a) Cloud COLOUR.
It satisfies our preconceived idea of Shelley's poetry to discover that 59 similes involve more or less careful and beautiful cloud descriptions (always bearing in mind that many admirable cloud similes occur in other categories). By reference to 2, 3, 4, 9, 11, 13,
52, 59, we gain an insight into Shelley's habitual Descriptions method of describing human (or spiritual) forms. of men and
Here his tendency to idealization mars the concrete
presentation of form and feature. His women are filmy shapes of diaphanous vapour, and even his men are effeminate creations entirely wanting in masculine vigour, and impelled alone by the fierce unrest of the spiritual flame within. To confirm this statement further reference should be made to the following passages in the poems. Descriptions of Women.
See “Alastor,"175f; "Laon," II. xxiii., 'II. xxix., V. xxiiif, V. xliv. Descriptions of Men (or male spirits).
“Laon,” L. xlii, I. lvii., IV. xxix. ; “Rosalind," 909f, 1009f; “ Prince Ath.” passim.
Shelley's descriptions of men are certainly vitiated by this excessive idealism. Contrast, for example, the brawn and muscle of Goethe's “Prometheus," or of Tennyson's "Geraint
* The analysis which follows is in part an extension of Sweet's categories (see pp, 16, 17).