Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

With Sketches Of Sussex Characters, Remarkable Incidents &c

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246                 Glimpses of Our Ancestors.
house. The paper in which Shelley set forth those opinions —often spoken of as a pamphlet—consisted of two pages and was a mere thesis—a challenge to discuss certain abstract points, after the fashion of those theologians of .the Middle Ages who used to pin their propositions to the gates of a Monastery or University. The author of it was 18 years of age and younger even in experience than in years; for, though he had spent the usual time at school and at College (Eton), to which latter he went at 13, he had never associated much with his fellow-students, and, opposing himself to the practice of fagging, then in full vigour at that place of educa­tion, he became an object of suspicion to the Masters and of dislike to those boys who did not understand him, though he won the affection and admiration of another and a higher class. What his feelings were at this period he himself has described in the dedication of his poem, " The Revolt of Islam:"—
Thoughts of great deeds were mine, dear friend, when first The clouds which wrap this world from youth did pass. I do remember well the hour which burst My spirit's sleep : a fresh May dawn it was, When I walk'd forth upon the glittering grass, And wept, I knew not why ; until there rose From the near school-room voices that, alas ! Were but one echo from a world of woes— The harsh and grating strife of tyrants and of foes.
And then I clasp'd my hands and look'd around; But none was near to mock my streaming eyes, Which pour'd their warm drops on the sunny ground ; So, without shame, I spake :—" I will be wise, And just, and free, and mild, if in me lies Such power; for I grow weary to behold The selfish and the strong still tyrannise Without reproach or check." I then controll'd My tears; my heart grew calm ; and I was meek and bold.
And from that hour did I, with earnest thought, Heap knowledge from forbidden mines of lore; Yet nothing that my tyrants knew or taught I cared to learn ; but from that secret store Wrought linked armour for my soul, before It might walk forth, to war among mankind. Thus, power and hope were strengthen'd more and more Within me, till there came upon my mind A sense of loneliness, a thirst with which I pined.
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