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NOTE ON EDIPUS TYRANNUS.
BY THE EDITOR.
In the brief journal I kept in those days, I find recorded, in August 1820, Shelley "begins Swellfoot the Tyrant, suggested by the pigs at the fair of San Giuliano." This was the period of Queen Caroline's landing in England, and the struggles made by Geo. IV. to get rid of her claims; which failing, Lord Castlereagh placed the "Green Bag" on the table of the House of Commons, demanding, in the King's name, that an inquiry should be instituted into his wife's conduct. These circumstances were the theme of all conversation among the English. We were then at the Baths of San Giuliano; a friend came to visit us on the day when a fair was held in the square, beneath our windows: Shelley read to us his Ode to Liberty; and was riotously accompanied by the grunting of a quantity of pigs brought for sale to the fair. He compared it to the "chorus of frogs" in the satiric drama of Aristophanes; and it being an hour of merriment, and one ludicrous association suggesting another, he imagined a political satirical drama on the circumstances of the day, to which the pigs would serve as chorus-and Swellfoot was begun. When finished, it was transmitted to England, printed and published anonymously; but stifled at the very dawn of its existence by the "Society for the Suppression of Vice," who threatened
to prosecute it, if not immediately withdrawn. The friend who had taken the trouble of bringing it out, of course did not think it worth the annoyance and expense of a contest, and it was laid aside.
Hesitation of whether it would do honour to Shelley prevented my publishing it at first; but I cannot bring myself to keep back anything he ever wrote, for each word is fraught with the peculiar views and sentiments which he believed to be beneficial to the human race; and the bright light of poetry irradiates every thought. The world has a right to the entire compositions of such a man; for it does not live and thrive by the out-worn lesson of the dullard or the hypocrite, but by the original free thoughts of men of Genius, who aspire to pluck bright truth
Or dive into the bottom of the deep,
Where fathom-line could never touch the ground,
truth. Even those who may dissent from his opinions will consider that he was a man of genius, and that the world will take more interest in his slightest word, than from the waters of Lethe, which are so eagerly prescribed as medicinal for all its wrongs and woes. This drama, however, must not be judged for more than was meant. It is a mere plaything of the imagination, which even may not excite smiles among many, who will not see wit in those combinations of thought which were full of the ridiculous to the author. But, like everything he wrote, it breathes that deep sympathy for the sorrows of humanity, and indignation against its oppressors, which make it worthy of his name.
A SUMMER-EVENING CHURCH-YARD,
THE wind has swept from the wide atmosphere
In duskier braids around the languid eyes of day:
Creep hand in hand from yon obscurest glen.
They breathe their spells towards the departing day,
Thou too, aërial Pile! whose pinnacles
Point from one shrine like pyramids of fire, Obeyest in silence their sweet solemn spells,
Clothing in hues of heaven thy dim and distant spire, Around whose lessening and invisible height Gather among the stars the clouds of night.
The dead are sleeping in their sepulchres:
And, mouldering as they sleep, a thrilling sound, Half sense, half thought, among the darkness stirs,
Breathed from their wormy beds all living things around, And mingling with the still night and mute sky
Its awful hush is felt inaudibly.
Thus solemnised and softened, death is mild
Sporting on graves, that death did hide from human sight
WE are as clouds that veil the midnight moon;
Night closes round, and they are lost for ever:
Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
We rest-A dream has power to poison sleep;
It is the same!-For, be it joy or sorrow,
There is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.-ECCLESIASTES.
THE pale, the cold, and the
Which the meteor beam of a starless night Sheds on a lonely and sea-girt isle,
Ere the dawning of morn's undoubted light, Is the flame of life so fickle and wan
That flits round our steps till their strength is gone.
O man! hold thee on in courage of soul
Through the stormy shades of thy worldly way, And the billows of cloud that around thee roll Shall sleep in the light of a wondrous day, Where hell and heaven shall leave thee free To the universe of destiny.
This world is the nurse of all we know,
This world is the mother of all we feel,
And the coming of death is a fearful blow,
To a brain unencompassed with nerves of steel;
The secret things of the grave are there,
All that is great and all that is strange