1812
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

On Leaving London for Wales.

The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley. 2 Vols [By Edward Dowden.]

Percy Bysshe Shelley


Edward Dowden prints four of eight Spenserians from manuscript; the complete poem was not printed until 1966. The young poet declares, "I am the friend of the unfriended poor, | Let me not madly stain their righteous cause in gore" 1:318.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "Percy Bysshe Shelley, born in 1792, drowned in the Gulf of Lerici, on the Italian coast, July 8, 1823. No man, in his life, more thoroughly opposed the conventionalities of society. Hew have exhibited higher poetic genius" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:220n.

Ernest Dowden: "This poem of eight stanzas, of which I print four by permission of Mr. Esdaile, is entitled 'On leaving London for Wales.' Expressions in the piece seem to show that it was not written actually in presence of the Welsh landscape. It can only refer to the present occasion, or to the visit in 1811 to Cwm Elan. In all respects — including the reference to Snowdon — it seems to me to suit the autumn of 1812 better than the summer of 1811" 1:317n.

Neville Rogers: "The reference to Snowdon, and the poem generally, seem to fit the autumn of 1812 better than Shelley's visit to Cwm Elan in the previous year.... Shelley is here the disciple of Rousseau, seeking virtue among unspoiled people and places" Poems, ed. Rogers (1972) 364n.

Traugott Bohme sees the influence of Thomas Campbell's 'Stanzas to the Memory of the Spanish Patriots' (1808).



Hail to thee, Cambria! for the unfettered wind
Which from thy wilds even now methinks I feel,
Chasing the clouds that roll in wrath behind,
And tightening the soul's laxest nerves to steel;
True mountain Liberty alone may heal
The pain which Custom's obdurancies bring,
And he who dares in fancy even to steal
One draught from Snowdon's ever sacred spring
Blots out the unholiest rede of wordly witnessing.

And shall that soul, to selfish peace resigned,
So soon forget the woe its fellows share?
Can Snowdon's Lethe from the free-born mind
So soon the page of injured penury tear?
Does this fine mass of human passion dare
To sleep, unhonouring the patriot's fall,
Or life's sweet load in quietude to bear
While millions famish even in Luxury's hall,
And Tyranny high raised stern lowers over all?

No, Cambria! never may thy matchless vales
A heart so false to hope and virtue shield;
Nor ever may thy spirit-breathing gales
Waft freshness to the slaves who dare to yield.
For me! . . . the weapon that I burn to wield
I seek amid thy rocks to ruin hurled,
That Reason's flag may over Freedom's field,
Symbol of bloodless victory, wave unfurled,
A meteor-sign of love effulgent o'er the world.

———*———*———*———*———*———

Do thou, wild Cambria, calm each struggling thought;
Cast thy sweet veil of rocks and woods between,
That by the soul to indignation wrought
Mountains and dells be mingled with the scene;
Let me forever be what I have been,
But not forever at my needy door
Let Misery linger speechless, pale and lean;
I am the friend of the unfriended poor,
Let me not madly stain their righteous cause in gore.

[1:317-18]