Slike strani


These words exchanged, the news sent off
To Peter, home the Devil hied,—
Took to his bed. He had no cough,
No doctor,-meat and drink enough,—
Yet that same night he died.


The Devil's corpse was leaded down;
His decent heirs enjoyed his pelf,
Mourning-coaches many a one
Followed his hearse along the town :-
Where was the Devil himself?


When Peter heard of his promotion,
His eyes grew like two stars for bliss.
There was a bow of sleek devotion
Engendering in his back; each motion
Seemed a Lord's shoe to kiss.


He hired a house, bought plate, and made
A genteel drive up to his door,
With sifted gravel neatly laid,—
As if defying all who said

Peter was ever poor.


But a disease soon struck into
The very life and soul of Peter.
He walked about-slept-had the hue
Of health upon his cheeks-and few

Dug better-none a heartier eater :


And yet a strange and horrid curse

Clung upon Peter, night and day.

Month after month the thing grew worse, And deadlier than in this my verse

I can find strength to say.


Peter was dull-(he was at first

Dull)-oh so dull, so very dull!

Whether he talked, wrote, or rehearsed,
Still with his dullness was he cursed-
Dull-beyond all conception, dull.


No one could read his books—no mortal,

But a few natural friends, would hear him; The parson came not near his portal;

His state was like that of the immortal

Described by Swift-no man could bear him.


His sister, wife, and children, yawned,

With a long, slow, and drear ennui

All human patience far beyond;

Their hopes of heaven each would have pawned Anywhere else to be.


But in his verse and in his prose

The essence of his dullness was
Concentred and compressed so close
'Twould have made Guatimozin doze
On his red gridiron of brass.


A printer's boy, folding those pages,
Fell slumbrously upon one side,

Like those famed Seven who slept three ages.
To wakeful frenzy's vigil rages,

As opiates, were the same applied.


Even the Reviewers who were hired

To do the work of his reviewing, With adamantine nerves, grew tired ;— Gaping and torpid they retired,

To dream of what they should be doing.


And worse and worse the drowsy curse
Yawned in him till it grew a pest;

A wide contagious atmosphere

Creeping like cold through all things near;
A power to infect and to infest.


His servant-maids and dogs grew dull;
His kitten, late a sportive elf;
The woods and lakes so beautiful
Of dim stupidity were full;
All grew dull as Peter's self.


The earth under his feet, the springs
Which lived within it a quick life-
The air, the winds of many wings
That fan it with new murmurings—
Were dead to their harmonious strife.


The birds and beasts within the wood,
The insects and each creeping thing,
Were now a silent multitude;

Love's work was left unwrought—no brood
Near Peter's house took wing.


And every neighbouring cottager
Stupidly yawned upon the other;

No jackass brayed; no little cur
Cocked up his ears; no man would stir
To save a dying mother.


Yet all from that charmed district went
But some half-idiot and half-knave,
Who, rather than pay any rent,
Would live with marvellous content
Over his father's grave.


No bailiff dared within that space,

For fear of the dull charm, to enter;

A man would bear upon his face,
For fifteen months, in any case,

The yawn of such a venture.


Seven miles above-below-around

This pest of dullness holds its sway;

A ghastly life without a sound.

To Peter's soul the spell is bound-
How should it ever pass away?


P. 3.

And a polygamic Potter.

The oldest scholiasts read

"A dodecagamic Potter."

This is at once more descriptive and more megalophonous,-but the alliteration of the text had captivated the vulgar ear of the herd of later commentators.

P. 4

He oiled his hair.

To those who have not duly appreciated the distinction between Whale and Russia oil, this attribute might rather seem to belong to the Dandy than the Evangelic. The effect, when to the windward, is indeed so similar that it requires a subtle naturalist to discriminate the animals. They belong, however, to distinct genera. P. 9

Like cats, who amant miserè.

One of the attributes in Linnæus's description of the Cat. To a similar cause the caterwauling of more than one species of this genus is to be referred ;-except, indeed, that the poor quadruped is compelled to quarrel with its own pleasures, whilst the biped is supposed only to quarrel with those of others.

P. 9.

Of their own virtue, and pursuing
Their gentler sisters to that ruin

Without which-what were chastity?

What would this husk and excuse for a virtue be without its kernel prostitution, or the kernel prostitution without this husk of a virtue? I wonder the women of the town do not form an association, like the Society for the Suppression of Vice, for the support of what may be called the "King, Church, and Constitution," of their order. But this subject is almost too horrible for a joke.

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This libel on our national oath, and this accusation of all our countrymen of being in the daily practice of solemnly asseverating the most enormous falsehood, I fear deserves the notice of a more active Attorney General than that here alluded to.


P. 19.

From God's own voice.

Vox populi vox Dei. As Mr. Godwin truly observes of a more famous saying, of some merit as a popular maxim, but totally destitute of philosophical accuracy.

P. 20.

When the book came, the Devil sent

It to P. Verbovale Esquire.

Quasi, Qui valet verba-i. e. all the words which have been, are, or may be, expended by, for, against, with, or on, him. A sufficient proof of the utility of this history. Peter's progenitor who selected this name seems to have possessed a pure anticipated cognition of the nature and modesty of this ornament of his posterity.

P. 22.

As when he tramped beside the Otter.

A famous river in the new Atlantis of the Dynastophilic Pantisocratists.

P. 22.

Shades like a rainbow's rise and flee,

Mixed with a certain hungry wish.

See the description of the beautiful colours produced during the agonizing death of a number of trout, in the fourth part of a long poem in blank verse, published within a few years. That poem contains curious evidence of the gradual hardening of a strong but circumscribed sensibility, of the perversion of a penetrating but panic-stricken understanding. The author might have derived a lesson which he had probably forgotten from these sweet and sublime verses:

"The lesson, Shepherd, let us two divide,

Taught both by what she shows and what conceals-
Never to blend our pleasure or our pride

With sorrow of the meanest thing that feels."

P. 24.

It was thou, Devil, dining with pure intent.

It is curious to observe how often extremes meet. Cobbett and Peter use the same language for a different purpose: Peter is indeed a sort of metrical Cobbet. Cobbett is, however, more mischievous than Peter, because he pollutes a holy and now unconquerable cause with the principles of legitimate murder; whilst the other only makes a bad one ridiculous and odious. If either Peter or Cobbett should see this note, each will feel more indignation at being compared to the other than at any censure implied in the moral perversion laid to their charge.


In this new edition I have added Peter Bell the Third. A critique on Wordsworth's Peter Bell reached us at Leghorn, which amused Shelley exceedingly, and suggested this poem.

I need scarcely observe that nothing personal to the author of Peter Bell is intended in this poem. No man ever admired Wordsworth's poetry more; he read it perpetually, and taught others to appreciate its beauties. This poem is, like all others written by Shelley, ideal. He conceived the idealism of a poet-a man of


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