SHELLEY AND HIS POETRY:
from 'The Attempt' and attributed to
This article is from an 1848 issue of a circulating manuscript newspaper,
The Attempt. The paper was commenced in 1846 at Uxbridge,
Middlesex, by a group of radical workers who, in 1845 had started a Young
Men's Improvement Society led by John Bedford Leno, a printer. Leno
later became branch secretary of the local Chartists. In 1849 The
Attempt became a printed journal, the Uxbridge Pioneer.
Massey supported the Society by donating some books to their library and
contributing items for their newspaper.
This article, although unsigned, is recognisable by Massey's
undeveloped immature style, and contains more appreciation than critical
commentary. His handwriting is distinctive, and many letter
formations remained virtually unchanged throughout his life. The
letters 'a', 'k', 'd', 'r' and the lower middle-zone down-stroke
disconnections can be particularly noted (see the sample below), even when
his writing was less formal and more rapid. Accordingly, the article can, with confidence, be attributed to Massey,
and is the earliest example of his prose style found so far.
The rather large quantity of quoted poetry in the article has been
considerably reduced in order to show better his earliest prose style.
Spelling is unchanged, and punctuation also, except where it is unclear.
As this was a circulating newspaper only in manuscript, and not for
printing, it received no editing.
The last item, a poem: "We're many, our Tyrants are few" is included in
Massey's Voices of Freedom and Lyrics of Love, 1851. It had by then been
revised, and the punctuation corrected.
Acknowledgement is given to the Central Library Uxbridge,
Local Studies Department, who hold copies of The Attempt.
David Shaw, March, 2006.
Glorious, but Illstarr'd Shelley! This greatly-gifted, but, malign'd
being was born, in the County of Suffolk, August the 4th 1792, he was
first Educated at Eton, afterwards at Oxford, where his wild opinions and
resistance to all established Authority caused his expulsion!
At the early age of 15, he had written 2 prose Romances, and ere he was
seventeen he had Publish'd a volume of Political Poems, and, challeng'd
all the Elders of the College to a theological controversy. He has
pourtray'd his young imprefsions in some sweet, and touching lines, to
"I do remember well the hour, which burst
My Spirit's sleep, a fresh May-dawn it was -
When I walk'd forth upon the glittering grafs.
And wept I knew not why!"
"And from that hour, did I with earnest Thought,
Heap knowledge from forbidden mines of lore:
Yet, nothing that my tyrants knew or taught,
I cared to learn, but from that hidden shore
Wrought linke'd armour for my Soul, before -
It might go forth to war among Mankind."
At the age of
17 fragile in health and frame, of the purest moral habits, - full of
devoted generosity, - and boundlefs kindnefs, glowing with ardour to
attain Wisdom, resolved at every personal sacrifice to do right - He was
treated as a Reprobate, cast forth as a Criminal! The cause was, he
believed his Opinions true, and, he loved Truth, with a Martyr's love;
this Sacrifice, was demanded of a Youth 17 years of Age! and he shrank not
from it, but pafs'd the ordeal nobly; truly, has he said:
"Most wretched Men -
Are cradled into poetry, by wrong.
They learn in Suffering, what they teach in Song!"
wrote, and thought, during the whole of his existence: he loved to call
himself "Atheist," and there were thousands ready to seize the name, and
howl "Atheist," and Law stepp'd in - to deprive him of the Guardian-ship
of his two dear-lov'd Children: Oh God, was it not enough to make the
brain go Mad: to tear the bleeding tendrills of Love - thus from his
Shelley was neither Deist, Atheist or Infidel: He was as purely a
Religious Poet as David, the sweet singer of Israel! Religious in
the most sacred and Universal sense of the word, True! He did not
pin his faith to Creeeds - he did not believe in forms or Dogmas - which
Priestcraft hath set its blind Seal upon: but, he keenly felt the "O'ermastering
flame" with him the Creator: was not a God of parts & Pafsions, but the
pulse Divine - and breathing Spirit of the whole Universe: his Dreams were
God-like therefore of God!
It must have been a high, Ideal faith that bore him onward thro' much
Persecution. Of all Poets he is the Poet for Poets, and no Poetry
more than Shelly's flings out that light that never was seen on sea or
He is not a Popular Poet - but he can bide his time, for, he will be
popular Centuries hence; when the divinity of our human nature shall have
overcome its transfiguring Pafsions: when his own Belief - that Good shall
eventually banish Evil from the World, shall have taken pofsefsion of
Men's understandings. Then must Shelly's poetry be popular, and
Scripture avers this time shall come.
He does not administer to the burning Pafsions of the Sensualist, but,
some of his low sweet music - as with the kifs of young love! touches the
purest Feelings we are susceptible of: and again he flashes forth Thoughts
that stir the blood like the sound of a Trumpet! in the cause of Liberty.
In his "Revolt of Islam" occurs the following Grand Stanzas:
"It shall be thus no more, too long, too long.
Sons of the glorious Dead! have ye lain bound
In darknefs, and in ruin, Hope is strong,
Justice and Truth, their wingéd Child have found.
Awake! arise! untill the mighty sound
Of your career, shall scatter in its gust
The thrones of the Opprefsors, and the ground
Hide the last altar's unregulated dust,
Whose Idol hath so long, betray'd your impious trust.
The Tyrants of the golden City tremble,
At voices which are heard about the streets.
The Ministers of fraud can scarce difsemble
The lies of their own hearts!
Murderers are pale upon their judgement seats,
And gold grows vile, even to the wealthy crone
And laughter fills the fane, and curses shake the Throne!"
from the same
"Then suddenly I stood, a wingèd Thought
Before th' Immortal Senate!"
it not? Who dares to say he believed not in the Immortality of the
Soul? In the poem of "Queen Mab" which has been styled his "Glory as
a Poet, but his shame as a Man", we find the following:
Lanthe's soul, it stood,
All beautiful, in naked purity,
Each stain of earthlinefs, had pafs'd away!"
The Fairy and
Spirit are now standing on the over-hanging battlements, scanning with
spiritual eyes, the Universe that stretched beneath them.
"Behold! the Fairy cried,
Palmyra's ruin'd Pallaces.
Behold! where Grandeur frown'd,
Behold! where Pleasure smiled, What now remains?
Behold! you sterile spot! where now, the
Wandering Arabs tent flaps in the Desert blast.
Where once Old Salem's haughty fanes
Rear'd high to heaven their thousand golden domes
And in the blushing face of Day
Expressed its shameful Glory."
"Where Athens , Rome and Sparta stood,
There is a moral desert now.
Where Socrates expir'd a Tyrant's slave,
A Coward, and a Fool, spread Death around."
"Whence thinkest thou, Kings and parasites arose?
Whence that unnatural line of drones?
Who heap unvanquishable misery,
On those who build their Pallaces and bring
Their daily bread from vice, black, loathsome vice
From Rapine, Madnefs, Treachery & Wrong?
And when Reason's voice,
Loud as the voice of Nature, shall awake the Nations!
When Man's maturer nature shall disdain
The play things of its Childhood, kingly glare
Shall lose its pow'r to dazzle, its authority
Will silently pafs by; the gorgeous Throne
Shall stand unnoticed, in the regal hall,
Fast falling to decay, whilst Falsehood's trade
Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
As that of Truth is now"!
We humbly opine
it to be equal to the "Prometheus Bound" of Eschylus; and if any works
should be rescued from the wreck of this Planet when Time shall be no
more, surely Shelly's "Prometheus Unbound" shall win a place in the
Archive of the Immortals. We scarcely know what to chose, from mid this
field of richest Imagery.
In "The Masque of Anarchy" is one simple line we cannot pafs by unnoticed.
We deem it worth a dozen homilies speaking to the People, ennumerating
what Earth's bloody Tyrants have done, he pleads affectionately, thus -
"Do not thus when ye are Strong!" It is one of those sentences that come
home as tho' we put our ear to Nature's bosom. and heard her hearts
Here's a Song for lovers' lips, Ladies' ears and Love's bower:
"The fountains mingle with the river,
And the river with the ocean,
The wind of heaven, mix for ever
With a sweet emotion.
Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law divine
In each other's being mingle,
Why not I with thine?
See! the mountains kifs high heaven,
And the waves clasp one another.
No sister Flower would be forgiven
If, it disdain'd its brother.
And, the Sunbeams kifs the earth
And the moonbeams kifs the sea.
What are all these kifsings worth
If thou kifs not me?"
it not? Shelly has been beautifully call'd the "Immortal Child" this poem
was compos'd in the last year but one of his short life, and his Spirit
seems to the last, fresh from the hand of God, still dewy with Infancy,
still breathing of the sunny dells of Paradise, ever young, it is said,
"Whom the Gods love die young", and he was not born to endure thro' long.
"The wearinefs, the fever and the fret,
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan."
drowned in the bay of Spezia July 8th 1824. A volume of Keats's Poems were
found open next his heart; his body was reduced to ashes by fire, on the
Sea-shore, and immured in the Protestant burial-ground of the old seven-hill'd
City Rome, under the pyramid which is the tomb of Cestius; it is a lovely
spot, where the violets and Daisies weave the slumbering Dead an
everlasting Crown, blooming all the year long, the earth is ever drench'd
in beauty, and heaven seems allways blue! This divinest of Climates is a
fit resting place for this true Poet; in his own words, "it might make one
in love with Death, to think one should be Buried in so sweet a Spot"!
"After life's fitful fever he sleeps well."
But the burst
of indignation, which broke from his heart, in a long agonizing cry, hath
made Kings and Priests tremble. They have curs'd him, but their Curses
have rebounded upon their own heads; his Thoughts are like lightenings
alive in the bosom of the People; already is earth labouring with the
weighty workings which he prophesied and whoever may sound the hour of its
birth, great is the impulse he has given to the Power that moves the
After six hours banquetting on Poetry we heard strange voices lisping
within us, and after some few rockings in our seat, and sundry turns round
the house, we discover'd that it was no conspiracy talking treason, but
the following -
"We're many, our Tyrants are few."
Behold. the Morn's breaking above, boys.
Bathing earth in a warm, rosy show'r.
Heaven seemeth o'erflowing with love, Boys,
And light kisfeth the lowliest Flower.
The sunbeams light Poverty's home, boys,
As well as the proud princly hall.
And thus in a day that shall come, boys
Mind shall light th' heartchambers of All.
Oh, look for the noble in soul, boys,
And grasp ye the hand of the true.
Then on! for the glorious goal, boys.
We're many, our Tyrants are few!
The flag of the Free, shall wave out, Boys!
O'er the dark-ruin'd towers of Wrong,
And the People shall wake with a shout, Boys,
And the poor man's heart break into song.
Bright Truth's garb of sunshine shall deck them
Who rule - in our hearts enthroned,
And the Crown that they wear, shall make them
Peerlefs, - among Peers birth-renown'd.
And they shall be noble in Soul, Boys,
Warm-grasping the hand of the True.
Then on for this Glorious goal, Boys.
We're many, our Tyrants but few.
Disdain with a noble scorn, Boys,
The bugbears that Priestcraft hath wrought,
They'll vanish like Phantoms forlorn, Boys,
In the morning-light of Thought.
Never fear tho' men curse and upbraid us
Never wince neath the hireling's gibe.
They'd flatter and fawn, aye, and aid us,
Were we rich enough to bribe!
But look for the noble in soul, Boys,
And grasp ye the hand of the True.
Then on for the glorious goal, Boys,
We're many, our Tyrants but few!"