Glimpses Of Our Ancestors In Sussex - online book

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Sussex Poets.                                 249
native country and never returned to it. He went to Italy, and there, in a climate which suited his delicate constitution and amidst scenery which excited his imagination, he com­posed those great poems and dramas,"Prometheus Unbound," "The Cenci," "Adonais" (the elegy to Keats), "The Witch of Atlas," " The Sensitive Plant," " The Ode to the Skylark," &c, &c, on which his poetic fame rests. " Queen Mab," the crude and premature, though marvellous, fruit of his youth, he never intended to publish. He himself condemns it, in stronger language than, perhaps, many of his critics would apply to it, as " a poem written by me at the age of 18—I dare say in a sufficiently intemperate spirit—but even then it was not intended for publication, and a few copies only were struck off to be distributed amongst my personal friends. I doubt not that it is perfectly worthless in point of literary composition, and that in all that concerns moral and political speculation, as well as in the subtle discriminations of metaphysical and religious doctrine, it is still more crude and immature."
Most certainly, Shelley lived to modify many of the extreme opinions which find expression in "Queen Mab;" and his later writings—prose and poetical—indeed, his whole life— clear him from that odious charge of atheism which his enemies sought, with a malice worthy of the irreligion they attributed to him, to fix on him. If anything were wanting to rebut such a calumny, it would be supplied in the unfinished "Essay on Christianity" found amongst Shelley's papers after his death, and attached by his daughter-in-law, Lady Shelley, to the " Shelley Memorials " published by her. It breathes the very spirit of Christianity, and vindicates its principles, though drawing a line between the great Master who pro­mulgated them, and those who followed Him and proposed to interpret and embody them.
Passing from the vexed subject of Shelley's religious opinions, never very fixed, and which most certainly were greatly modified in his later years, let us turn to the closing
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