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lofty and creative genius-quitting the glorious calling of discovering and announcing the beautiful and good, to support and propagate ignorant prejudices and pernicious errors; imparting to the unenlightened, not that ardour for truth and spirit of toleration which Shelley looked on as the sources of the moral improvement and happiness of mankind, but false and injurious opinions, that evil was good, and that ignorance and force were the best allies of purity and virtue. His idea was that a man gifted, even as transcendently as the author of Peter Bell, with the highest qualities of genius, must, if he fostered such errors, be infected with dullness. This poem was written as a warning-not as a narration of the reality. He was unacquainted personally with Wordsworth, or with Coleridge (to whom he alludes in the fifth part of the poem), and therefore, I repeat, his poem is purely ideal ;-it contains something of criticism on the compositions of those great poets, but nothing injurious to the men themselves.
No poem contains more of Shelley's peculiar views with regard to the errors into which many of the wisest have fallen, and the pernicious effects of certain opinions on society. Much of it is beautifully written: and, though, like the burlesque drama of Swellfoot, it must be looked on as a plaything, it has so much merit and poetryso much of himself in it—that it cannot fail to interest greatly, and by right belongs to the world for whose instruction and benefit it was written.
OR, SWELLFOOT THE TYRANT.
A TRAGEDY, IN TWO ACTS.
Choose Reform or Civil War,
When through thy streets, instead of hare with dogs,
THIS tragedy is one of a triad, or system of three plays (an arrangement according to which the Greeks were accustomed to connect their dramatic representations) elucidating the wonderful and appalling fortunes of the Swellfoot dynasty. It was evidently written by some learned Theban; and, from its characteristic dullness, apparently before the duties on the importation of Attic salt had been repealed by the Bootarchs. The tenderness with which he treats the Pigs proves him to have been a sus Baotia, possibly Epicuri de grege porcus; for, as the poet observes,
"A fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind."
No liberty has been taken with the translation of this remarkable piece of antiquity, except the suppressing a seditious and blasphemous chorus of the Pigs and Bulls at the last act. The word Hoydipouse (or more properly Edipus) has been rendered
literally Swellfoot, without its having been conceived necessary to determine whether a swelling of the hind or the fore feet of the Swinish Monarch is particularly indicated.
Should the remaining portions of this tragedy be found, entitled Swellfoot in Angaria and Charité, the translator might be tempted to give them to the reading public.
SCENE I.-A magnificent Temple, built of thigh-bones and death's-heads, and tiled with scalps. Over the altar the statue of Famine, veiled; a number of Boars, Sows, and Sucking Pigs, crowned with thistle, shamrock, and oak, sitting on the steps, and clinging round the altar of the Temple.
Enter SWELLFOOT, in his royal robes, without perceiving the Pigs. Swell foot. THOU supreme Goddess, by whose power divine These graceful limbs are clothed in proud array
[He contemplates himself with satisfaction.
Of gold and purple, and this kingly paunch
Of their Eleusis, hail!
The Swine. Eigh! eigh! eigh! eigh!
Ha! what are ye,
Who, crowned with leaves devoted to the Furies,
Cling round this sacred shrine?
Swine. Aigh! aigh! aigh!
What! ye that are
The very beasts that, offered at her altar
With blood and groans, salt-cake and fat and inwards,
Ever propitiate her reluctant will
When taxes are withheld?
Swine. Ugh! ugh! ugh!
What! ye who grub
With filthy snouts my red potatoes up
THE SWINE-SEMICHORUS I.
If 'twere your kingly will
Us wretched Swine to kill,
What should we yield to thee?
Swellfoot. Why, skin and bones, and some few hairs for mortar.
CHORUS OF SWINE.
I have heard your Laureate sing
That pity was a royal thing.
Under your mighty ancestors, we Pigs
Were blessed as nightingales on myrtle sprigs,
Or grasshoppers that live on noonday dew,
And sung, old annals tell, as sweetly too.
But now our sties are fallen in, we catch
The murrain and the mange, the scab and itch;
My Pigs, 'tis in vain to tug!
I could almost eat my litter!
I suck, but no milk will come from the dug.
Our skin and our bones would be bitter.
We fight for this rag of greasy rug,
Though a trough of wash would be fitter.
Happier Swine were they than we,
Drowned in the Gadarean sea !—
I wish that Pity would drive out the devils
To bind your mortar with, or fill our colons
Enter a GUard.
Your sacred Majesty?
Swellfoot. Call in the Jews, Solomon the court porkman, Moses the sow-gelder, and Zephaniah the hog-butcher.
Guard. They are in waiting, sire.
Enter SOLOMON, MOSES, and ZEPHANIAH.
Swellfoot. Out with your knife, old Moses, and spay those Sows
[The Pigs run about in consternation.
That load the earth with Pigs; cut close and deep.
Moral restraint I see has no effect,
Nor prostitution, nor our own example,
Starvation, typhus-fever, war, nor prison.
This was the art which the Arch-priest of Famine
Hinted at in his charge to the Theban clergy.
Keep the Boars quiet, else—
Let your Majesty
That fat Hog's throat; the brute seems overfed.
Zephaniah. Your sacred Majesty, he has the dropsy;
He has not half an inch of wholesome fat
'Tis all the same;—
He'll serve instead of riot-money when
Our murmuring troops bivouaque in Thebes streets;
And January winds, after a day
Of butchering, will make them relish carrion.
Now, Solomon, I'll sell you in a lump
The whole kit of them.
I could not give—
Why, your Majesty,
Kill them out of the way;
That shall be price enough. And let me hear
[Exeunt, driving in the Swine.
Enter MAMMON, the Arch-Priest; and PYRGANAX, Chief of the Council of Wizards.
Pyrganax. The future looks as black as death; a cloud, Dark as the frown of Hell, hangs over it.
The troops grow mutinous-the revenue fails
There's something rotten in us-for the level
Of the state slopes, its very bases topple ;
The boldest turn their backs upon themselves!
Mammon. Why, what's the matter, my dear fellow, now? Do the troops mutiny?—decimate some regiments;
Does money fail?-come to my mint-coin paper,
Till gold be at a discount, and, ashamed
To show his bilious face, go purge himself,
In emulation of her vestal whiteness.
Pyrganax. Oh would that this were all! The oracle!
And whether I was dead-drunk or inspired
I cannot well remember-nor, in truth,
The oracle itself.