1822 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Anonymous, "Trash" Morning Post (22 October 1822).



A report lately obtained some currency that Mr. SHELLEY, who was stated to have been accidentally drowned, had been treacherously murdered. We never mentioned this rumour, because we did not believe it; but some malignant attacks made on him lately by pretended friends, almost incline us now to give it some attention. First, with ridiculous brutality, the deceased Blasphemer was quizzed by being knick-named a "Seraphick Being," and now the parties follow up this attack by publishing some wretched doggrel on this subject. COLMAN says, every man is anxious to distinguish himself in some way—

One tells you how a town is to be taken,
A second o'er the fair sex boasts his power;
Another brags he'll eat six pounds of bacon
For half a crown in half an hour.

Now, since every man has this wish to gain notice, we are less surprized at Mr. SHELLEY'S dealing in irrreligious verse, if the trash which his assassins (assassins of his literary character) have put forth, be really from his pen, then we might have been, for we can easily conceive that such a writer confined to morality and decency, would never have been able to attain even momentary distinction.

Not to waste time, we give a small sample of his verse—

The columns of the "evergreen palaces"
Are spoilt and shattered,
The roots crack, and stretch and groan;
[Well might they groan.]
And ruinously overthrown.

"'Are' ruinously overthrown," was meant, but that would not suit his metre.

And trunks are crushed and shattered
[Trunks are shattered as well as columns.]
By the fierce blast's unconquerable stress
Over each other "crack" and "crash" they all
["All" what?]
In terrible and "intertangled" fall;
And through the ruins of the shaken mountain
The "airs" hiss and howl.
"It" is not the "voice of the fountain,"
Nor the "wolf" in his midnight prowl.

To enjoy such "poetry," it perhaps is not necessary to understand it, so we shall not enquire what the "evergreen palaces" are (perhaps, they are like those bowers seen at the Nursery, in the New-road); nor shall we enlarge on the sublime "crack and crash" with which we are told that they are "intertangled." What we are charmed with, is the tidings that the "Airs hiss and howl." And then, that "it," the "Airs," is not the "voice of fountain!" What a beautiful surprize is here afforded to the reader. Who would ever have surmised that the hissing and howling of the airs, were not the voice of the fountain? But then we are further told that it is not "the wolf in his midnight prowl," from which we collect that the soft murmurs of a fountain are marvellous like the midnight howling of a wolf! This we had not the pleasure of knowing before. We can now account for the murmuring fountains being so constantly associated with luxurious slumber.

One more magnificent specimen and we have done. Let the lovers of Namby Pamby read the following:

Honour her to whom honour is due,
Old Mother Baubo, honour to you;
An able sow with old Baubo upon her,
Is worthy of glory and worthy of honour.

What can be more delectably nonsensical than this honouring and glorifying an "able Sow?" We except the charming nursery strain—

Cowardly, cowardly custard,
Eat your father's mustard!