The Project Gutenberg EBook of Peter Bell the Third, by Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Title: Peter Bell the Third

Author: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Release Date: January 20, 2010 [EBook #4697]
Last Updated: February 6, 2013

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII


Produced by Sue Asscher, and David Widger


By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(Miching Mallecho)

 Is it a party in a parlour,
 Crammed just as they on earth were crammed,
 Some sipping punch—some sipping tea;
 But, as you by their faces see,
 All silent, and all—damned!
 "Peter Bell", by W. WORDSWORTH.

 OPHELIA.—What means this, my lord?
 HAMLET.—Marry, this is Miching Mallecho; it means mischief.













DEAR TOM—Allow me to request you to introduce Mr. Peter Bell to the respectable family of the Fudges. Although he may fall short of those very considerable personages in the more active properties which characterize the Rat and the Apostate, I suspect that even you, their historian, will confess that he surpasses them in the more peculiarly legitimate qualification of intolerable dulness.

You know Mr. Examiner Hunt; well—it was he who presented me to two of the Mr. Bells. My intimacy with the younger Mr. Bell naturally sprung from this introduction to his brothers. And in presenting him to you, I have the satisfaction of being able to assure you that he is considerably the dullest of the three.

There is this particular advantage in an acquaintance with any one of the Peter Bells, that if you know one Peter Bell, you know three Peter Bells; they are not one, but three; not three, but one. An awful mystery, which, after having caused torrents of blood, and having been hymned by groans enough to deafen the music of the spheres, is at length illustrated to the satisfaction of all parties in the theological world, by the nature of Mr. Peter Bell.

Peter is a polyhedric Peter, or a Peter with many sides. He changes colours like a chameleon, and his coat like a snake. He is a Proteus of a Peter. He was at first sublime, pathetic, impressive, profound; then dull; then prosy and dull; and now dull—oh so very dull! it is an ultra-legitimate dulness.

You will perceive that it is not necessary to consider Hell and the Devil as supernatural machinery. The whole scene of my epic is in 'this world which is'—so Peter informed us before his conversion to "White Obi"—

     'The world of all of us, AND WHERE

Let me observe that I have spent six or seven days in composing this sublime piece; the orb of my moonlike genius has made the fourth part of its revolution round the dull earth which you inhabit, driving you mad, while it has retained its calmness and its splendour, and I have been fitting this its last phase 'to occupy a permanent station in the literature of my country.'

Your works, indeed, dear Tom, sell better; but mine are far superior. The public is no judge; posterity sets all to rights.

Allow me to observe that so much has been written of Peter Bell, that the present history can be considered only, like the Iliad, as a continuation of that series of cyclic poems, which have already been candidates for bestowing immortality upon, at the same time that they receive it from, his character and adventures. In this point of view I have violated no rule of syntax in beginning my composition with a conjunction; the full stop which closes the poem continued by me being, like the full stops at the end of the Iliad and Odyssey, a full stop of a very qualified import.

Hoping that the immortality which you have given to the Fudges, you will receive from them; and in the firm expectation, that when London shall be an habitation of bitterns; when St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey shall stand, shapeless and nameless ruins, in the midst of an unpeopled marsh; when the piers of Waterloo Bridge shall become the nuclei of islets of reeds and osiers, and cast the jagged shadows of their broken arches on the solitary stream, some transatlantic commentator will be weighing in the scales of some new and now unimagined system of criticism, the respective merits of the Bells and the Fudges, and their historians. I remain, dear Tom, yours sincerely,


December 1, 1819.

P.S.—Pray excuse the date of place; so soon as the profits of the publication come in, I mean to hire lodgings in a more respectable street.


 Peter Bells, one, two and three,
 O'er the wide world wandering be.—
 First, the antenatal Peter,
 Wrapped in weeds of the same metre,
 The so-long-predestined raiment                                 5
 Clothed in which to walk his way meant
 The second Peter; whose ambition
 Is to link the proposition,
 As the mean of two extremes—
 (This was learned from Aldric's themes)                         10
 Shielding from the guilt of schism
 The orthodoxal syllogism;
 The First Peter—he who was
 Like the shadow in the glass
 Of the second, yet unripe,                                      15
 His substantial antitype.—

 Then came Peter Bell the Second,
 Who henceforward must be reckoned
 The body of a double soul,
 And that portion of the whole                                   20
 Without which the rest would seem
 Ends of a disjointed dream.—
 And the Third is he who has
 O'er the grave been forced to pass
 To the other side, which is,—                                  25
 Go and try else,—just like this.

 Peter Bell the First was Peter
 Smugger, milder, softer, neater,
 Like the soul before it is
 Born from THAT world into THIS.                                 30
 The next Peter Bell was he,
 Predevote, like you and me,
 To good or evil as may come;
 His was the severer doom,—
 For he was an evil Cotter,                                      35
 And a polygamic Potter.
 And the last is Peter Bell,
 Damned since our first parents fell,
 Damned eternally to Hell—
 Surely he deserves it well!                                     40


 And Peter Bell, when he had been
 With fresh-imported Hell-fire warmed,
 Grew serious—from his dress and mien
 'Twas very plainly to be seen
 Peter was quite reformed.                                       5

 His eyes turned up, his mouth turned down;
 His accent caught a nasal twang;
 He oiled his hair; there might be heard
 The grace of God in every word
 Which Peter said or sang.                                       10

 But Peter now grew old, and had
 An ill no doctor could unravel:
 His torments almost drove him mad;—
 Some said it was a fever bad—
 Some swore it was the gravel.                                   15

 His holy friends then came about,
 And with long preaching and persuasion
 Convinced the patient that, without
 The smallest shadow of a doubt,
 He was predestined to damnation.                                20

 They said—'Thy name is Peter Bell;
 Thy skin is of a brimstone hue;
 Alive or dead—ay, sick or well—
 The one God made to rhyme with hell;
 The other, I think, rhymes with you.                            25

 Then Peter set up such a yell!—
 The nurse, who with some water gruel
 Was climbing up the stairs, as well
 As her old legs could climb them—fell,
 And broke them both—the fall was cruel.                        30

 The Parson from the casement lept
 Into the lake of Windermere—
 And many an eel—though no adept
 In God's right reason for it—kept
 Gnawing his kidneys half a year.                                35

 And all the rest rushed through the door
 And tumbled over one another,
 And broke their skulls.—Upon the floor
 Meanwhile sat Peter Bell, and swore,
 And cursed his father and his mother;                           40

 And raved of God, and sin, and death,
 Blaspheming like an infidel;
 And said, that with his clenched teeth
 He'd seize the earth from underneath,
 And drag it with him down to hell.                              45

 As he was speaking came a spasm,
 And wrenched his gnashing teeth asunder;
 Like one who sees a strange phantasm
 He lay,—there was a silent chasm
 Between his upper jaw and under.                                50

 And yellow death lay on his face;
 And a fixed smile that was not human
 Told, as I understand the case,
 That he was gone to the wrong place:—
 I heard all this from the old woman.                            55

 Then there came down from Langdale Pike
 A cloud, with lightning, wind and hail;
 It swept over the mountains like
 An ocean,—and I heard it strike
 The woods and crags of Grasmere vale.                           60

 And I saw the black storm come
 Nearer, minute after minute;
 Its thunder made the cataracts dumb;
 With hiss, and clash, and hollow hum,
 It neared as if the Devil was in it.                            65

 The Devil WAS in it:—he had bought
 Peter for half-a-crown; and when
 The storm which bore him vanished, nought
 That in the house that storm had caught
 Was ever seen again.                                            70

 The gaping neighbours came next day—
 They found all vanished from the shore:
 The Bible, whence he used to pray,
 Half scorched under a hen-coop lay;
 Smashed glass—and nothing more!                                75


 The Devil, I safely can aver,
 Has neither hoof, nor tail, nor sting;
 Nor is he, as some sages swear,
 A spirit, neither here nor there,
 In nothing—yet in everything.                                  80

 He is—what we are; for sometimes
 The Devil is a gentleman;
 At others a bard bartering rhymes
 For sack; a statesman spinning crimes;
 A swindler, living as he can;                                   85

 A thief, who cometh in the night,
 With whole boots and net pantaloons,
 Like some one whom it were not right
 To mention;—or the luckless wight
 From whom he steals nine silver spoons.                         90

 But in this case he did appear
 Like a slop-merchant from Wapping,
 And with smug face, and eye severe,
 On every side did perk and peer
 Till he saw Peter dead or napping.                              95

 He had on an upper Benjamin
 (For he was of the driving schism)
 In the which he wrapped his skin
 From the storm he travelled in,
 For fear of rheumatism.                                         100

 He called the ghost out of the corse;—
 It was exceedingly like Peter,—
 Only its voice was hollow and hoarse—
 It had a queerish look of course—
 Its dress too was a little neater.                              105

 The Devil knew not his name and lot;
 Peter knew not that he was Bell:
 Each had an upper stream of thought,
 Which made all seem as it was not;
 Fitting itself to all things well.                              110

 Peter thought he had parents dear,
 Brothers, sisters, cousins, cronies,
 In the fens of Lincolnshire;
 He perhaps had found them there
 Had he gone and boldly shown his                                115

 Solemn phiz in his own village;
 Where he thought oft when a boy
 He'd clomb the orchard walls to pillage
 The produce of his neighbour's tillage,
 With marvellous pride and joy.                                  120

 And the Devil thought he had,
 'Mid the misery and confusion
 Of an unjust war, just made
 A fortune by the gainful trade
 Of giving soldiers rations bad—                                125
 The world is full of strange delusion—

 That he had a mansion planned
 In a square like Grosvenor Square,
 That he was aping fashion, and
 That he now came to Westmoreland                                130
 To see what was romantic there.

 And all this, though quite ideal,—
 Ready at a breath to vanish,—
 Was a state not more unreal
 Than the peace he could not feel,                               135
 Or the care he could not banish.

 After a little conversation,
 The Devil told Peter, if he chose,
 He'd bring him to the world of fashion
 By giving him a situation                                       140
 In his own service—and new clothes.

 And Peter bowed, quite pleased and proud,
 And after waiting some few days
 For a new livery—dirty yellow
 Turned up with black—the wretched fellow                       145
 Was bowled to Hell in the Devil's chaise.


 Hell is a city much like London—
 A populous and a smoky city;
 There are all sorts of people undone,
 And there is little or no fun done;                             150
 Small justice shown, and still less pity.

 There is a Castles, and a Canning,
 A Cobbett, and a Castlereagh;
 All sorts of caitiff corpses planning
 All sorts of cozening for trepanning                            155
 Corpses less corrupt than they.

 There is a ***, who has lost
 His wits, or sold them, none knows which;
 He walks about a double ghost,
 And though as thin as Fraud almost—                            160
 Ever grows more grim and rich.

 There is a Chancery Court; a King;
 A manufacturing mob; a set
 Of thieves who by themselves are sent
 Similar thieves to represent;                                   165
 An army; and a public debt.

 Which last is a scheme of paper money,
 And means—being interpreted—
 'Bees, keep your wax—give us the honey,
 And we will plant, while skies are sunny,                       170
 Flowers, which in winter serve instead.'

 There is a great talk of revolution—
 And a great chance of despotism—
 German soldiers—camps—confusion—
 Tumults—lotteries—rage—delusion—                            175
 Gin—suicide—and methodism;

 Taxes too, on wine and bread,
 And meat, and beer, and tea, and cheese,
 From which those patriots pure are fed,
 Who gorge before they reel to bed                               180
 The tenfold essence of all these.

 There are mincing women, mewing,
 (Like cats, who amant misere,)
 Of their own virtue, and pursuing
 Their gentler sisters to that ruin,                             185
 Without which—what were chastity?

 Lawyers—judges—old hobnobbers
 Are there—bailiffs—chancellors—
 Bishops—great and little robbers—
 Rhymesters—pamphleteers—stock-jobbers—                       190
 Men of glory in the wars,—

 Things whose trade is, over ladies
 To lean, and flirt, and stare, and simper,
 Till all that is divine in woman
 Grows cruel, courteous, smooth, inhuman,                        195
 Crucified 'twixt a smile and whimper.

 Thrusting, toiling, wailing, moiling,
 Frowning, preaching—such a riot!
 Each with never-ceasing labour,
 Whilst he thinks he cheats his neighbour,                       200
 Cheating his own heart of quiet.

 And all these meet at levees;—
 Dinners convivial and political;—
 Suppers of epic poets;—teas,
 Where small talk dies in agonies;—                             205
 Breakfasts professional and critical;

 Lunches and snacks so aldermanic
 That one would furnish forth ten dinners,
 Where reigns a Cretan-tongued panic,
 Lest news Russ, Dutch, or Alemannic                             210
 Should make some losers, and some winners—

 At conversazioni—balls—
 Conventicles—and drawing-rooms—
 Courts of law—committees—calls
 Of a morning—clubs—book-stalls—                              215
 Churches—masquerades—and tombs.
 And this is Hell—and in this smother
 All are damnable and damned;
 Each one damning, damns the other;
 They are damned by one another,                                 220
 By none other are they damned.

 'Tis a lie to say, 'God damns'!
 Where was Heaven's Attorney General
 When they first gave out such flams?
 Let there be an end of shams,                                   225
 They are mines of poisonous mineral.

 Statesmen damn themselves to be
 Cursed; and lawyers damn their souls
 To the auction of a fee;
 Churchmen damn themselves to see                                230
 God's sweet love in burning coals.

 The rich are damned, beyond all cure,
 To taunt, and starve, and trample on
 The weak and wretched; and the poor
 Damn their broken hearts to endure                              235
 Stripe on stripe, with groan on groan.

 Sometimes the poor are damned indeed
 To take,—not means for being blessed,—
 But Cobbett's snuff, revenge; that weed
 From which the worms that it doth feed                          240
 Squeeze less than they before possessed.

 And some few, like we know who,
 Damned—but God alone knows why—
 To believe their minds are given
 To make this ugly Hell a Heaven;                                245
 In which faith they live and die.

 Thus, as in a town, plague-stricken,
 Each man be he sound or no
 Must indifferently sicken;
 As when day begins to thicken,                                  250
 None knows a pigeon from a crow,—

 So good and bad, sane and mad,
 The oppressor and the oppressed;
 Those who weep to see what others
 Smile to inflict upon their brothers;                           255
 Lovers, haters, worst and best;

 All are damned—they breathe an air,
 Thick, infected, joy-dispelling:
 Each pursues what seems most fair,
 Mining like moles, through mind, and there                      260
 Scoop palace-caverns vast, where Care
 In throned state is ever dwelling.


 Lo. Peter in Hell's Grosvenor Square,
 A footman in the Devil's service!
 And the misjudging world would swear                            265
 That every man in service there
 To virtue would prefer vice.

 But Peter, though now damned, was not
 What Peter was before damnation.
 Men oftentimes prepare a lot                                    270
 Which ere it finds them, is not what
 Suits with their genuine station.

 All things that Peter saw and felt
 Had a peculiar aspect to him;
 And when they came within the belt                              275
 Of his own nature, seemed to melt,
 Like cloud to cloud, into him.

 And so the outward world uniting
 To that within him, he became
 Considerably uninviting                                         280
 To those who, meditation slighting,
 Were moulded in a different frame.

 And he scorned them, and they scorned him;
 And he scorned all they did; and they
 Did all that men of their own trim                              285
 Are wont to do to please their whim,
 Drinking, lying, swearing, play.

 Such were his fellow-servants; thus
 His virtue, like our own, was built
 Too much on that indignant fuss                                 290
 Hypocrite Pride stirs up in us
 To bully one another's guilt.

 He had a mind which was somehow
 At once circumference and centre
 Of all he might or feel or know;                                295
 Nothing went ever out, although
 Something did ever enter.

 He had as much imagination
 As a pint-pot;—he never could
 Fancy another situation,                                        300
 From which to dart his contemplation,
 Than that wherein he stood.

 Yet his was individual mind,
 And new created all he saw
 In a new manner, and refined                                    305
 Those new creations, and combined
 Them, by a master-spirit's law.

 Thus—though unimaginative—
 An apprehension clear, intense,
 Of his mind's work, had made alive                              310
 The things it wrought on; I believe
 Wakening a sort of thought in sense.

 But from the first 'twas Peter's drift
 To be a kind of moral eunuch,
 He touched the hem of Nature's shift,                           315
 Felt faint—and never dared uplift
 The closest, all-concealing tunic.

 She laughed the while, with an arch smile,
 And kissed him with a sister's kiss,
 And said—My best Diogenes,                                     320
 I love you well—but, if you please,
 Tempt not again my deepest bliss.

 ''Tis you are cold—for I, not coy,
 Yield love for love, frank, warm, and true;
 And Burns, a Scottish peasant boy—                             325
 His errors prove it—knew my joy
 More, learned friend, than you.

 'Boeca bacciata non perde ventura,
 Anzi rinnuova come fa la luna:—
 So thought Boccaccio, whose sweet words might cure a              330
 Male prude, like you, from what you now endure, a
 Low-tide in soul, like a stagnant laguna.

 Then Peter rubbed his eyes severe.
 And smoothed his spacious forehead down
 With his broad palm;—'twixt love and fear,                     335
 He looked, as he no doubt felt, queer,
 And in his dream sate down.

 The Devil was no uncommon creature;
 A leaden-witted thief—just huddled
 Out of the dross and scum of nature;                            340
 A toad-like lump of limb and feature,
 With mind, and heart, and fancy muddled.

 He was that heavy, dull, cold thing,
 The spirit of evil well may be:
 A drone too base to have a sting;                               345
 Who gluts, and grimes his lazy wing,
 And calls lust, luxury.

 Now he was quite the kind of wight
 Round whom collect, at a fixed aera,
 Venison, turtle, hock, and claret,—                            350
 Good cheer—and those who come to share it—
 And best East Indian madeira!

 It was his fancy to invite
 Men of science, wit, and learning,
 Who came to lend each other light;                              355
 He proudly thought that his gold's might
 Had set those spirits burning.

 And men of learning, science, wit,
 Considered him as you and I
 Think of some rotten tree, and sit                              360
 Lounging and dining under it,
 Exposed to the wide sky.

 And all the while with loose fat smile,
 The willing wretch sat winking there,
 Believing 'twas his power that made                             365
 That jovial scene—and that all paid
 Homage to his unnoticed chair.

 Though to be sure this place was Hell;
 He was the Devil—and all they—
 What though the claret circled well,                            370
 And wit, like ocean, rose and fell?—
 Were damned eternally.


 Among the guests who often stayed
 Till the Devil's petits-soupers,
 A man there came, fair as a maid,                               375
 And Peter noted what he said,
 Standing behind his master's chair.

 He was a mighty poet—and
 A subtle-souled psychologist;
 All things he seemed to understand,                             380
 Of old or new—of sea or land—
 But his own mind—which was a mist.

 This was a man who might have turned
 Hell into Heaven—and so in gladness
 A Heaven unto himself have earned;                              385
 But he in shadows undiscerned
 Trusted.—and damned himself to madness.

 He spoke of poetry, and how
 'Divine it was—a light—a love—
 A spirit which like wind doth blow                              390
 As it listeth, to and fro;
 A dew rained down from God above;

 'A power which comes and goes like dream,
 And which none can ever trace—
 Heaven's light on earth—Truth's brightest beam.'               395
 And when he ceased there lay the gleam
 Of those words upon his face.

 Now Peter, when he heard such talk,
 Would, heedless of a broken pate,
 Stand like a man asleep, or balk                                400
 Some wishing guest of knife or fork,
 Or drop and break his master's plate.

 At night he oft would start and wake
 Like a lover, and began
 In a wild measure songs to make                                 405
 On moor, and glen, and rocky lake,
 And on the heart of man—

 And on the universal sky—
 And the wide earth's bosom green,—
 And the sweet, strange mystery                                  410
 Of what beyond these things may lie,
 And yet remain unseen.

 For in his thought he visited
 The spots in which, ere dead and damned,
 He his wayward life had led;                                    415
 Yet knew not whence the thoughts were fed
 Which thus his fancy crammed.

 And these obscure remembrances
 Stirred such harmony in Peter,
 That, whensoever he should please,                              420
 He could speak of rocks and trees
 In poetic metre.

 For though it was without a sense
 Of memory, yet he remembered well
 Many a ditch and quick-set fence;                               425
 Of lakes he had intelligence,
 He knew something of heath and fell.

 He had also dim recollections
 Of pedlars tramping on their rounds;
 Milk-pans and pails; and odd collections                        430
 Of saws, and proverbs; and reflections
 Old parsons make in burying-grounds.

 But Peter's verse was clear, and came
 Announcing from the frozen hearth
 Of a cold age, that none might tame                             435
 The soul of that diviner flame
 It augured to the Earth:

 Like gentle rains, on the dry plains,
 Making that green which late was gray,
 Or like the sudden moon, that stains                            440
 Some gloomy chamber's window-panes
 With a broad light like day.

 For language was in Peter's hand
 Like clay while he was yet a potter;
 And he made songs for all the land,                             445
 Sweet both to feel and understand,
 As pipkins late to mountain Cotter.

 And Mr. —, the bookseller,
 Gave twenty pounds for some;—then scorning
 A footman's yellow coat to wear,                                450
 Peter, too proud of heart, I fear,
 Instantly gave the Devil warning.

 Whereat the Devil took offence,
 And swore in his soul a great oath then,
 'That for his damned impertinence                               455
 He'd bring him to a proper sense
 Of what was due to gentlemen!'


 'O that mine enemy had written
 A book!'—cried Job:—a fearful curse,
 If to the Arab, as the Briton,                                  460
 'Twas galling to be critic-bitten:—
 The Devil to Peter wished no worse.

 When Peter's next new book found vent,
 The Devil to all the first Reviews
 A copy of it slyly sent,                                        465
 With five-pound note as compliment,
 And this short notice—'Pray abuse.'

 Then seriatim, month and quarter,
 Appeared such mad tirades.—One said—
 'Peter seduced Mrs. Foy's daughter,                             470
 Then drowned the mother in Ullswater,
 The last thing as he went to bed.'

 Another—'Let him shave his head!
 Where's Dr. Willis?—Or is he joking?
 What does the rascal mean or hope,                              475
 No longer imitating Pope,
 In that barbarian Shakespeare poking?'

 One more, 'Is incest not enough?
 And must there be adultery too?
 Grace after meat? Miscreant and Liar!                           480
 Thief! Blackguard! Scoundrel! Fool! hell-fire
 Is twenty times too good for you.

 'By that last book of yours WE think
 You've double damned yourself to scorn;
 We warned you whilst yet on the brink                           485
 You stood. From your black name will shrink
 The babe that is unborn.'

 All these Reviews the Devil made
 Up in a parcel, which he had
 Safely to Peter's house conveyed.                               490
 For carriage, tenpence Peter paid—
 Untied them—read them—went half mad.

 'What!' cried he, 'this is my reward
 For nights of thought, and days, of toil?
 Do poets, but to be abhorred                                    495
 By men of whom they never heard,
 Consume their spirits' oil?

 'What have I done to them?—and who
 IS Mrs. Foy? 'Tis very cruel
 To speak of me and Betty so!                                    500
 Adultery! God defend me! Oh!
 I've half a mind to fight a duel.

 'Or,' cried he, a grave look collecting,
 'Is it my genius, like the moon,
 Sets those who stand her face inspecting,                       505
 That face within their brain reflecting,
 Like a crazed bell-chime, out of tune?'

 For Peter did not know the town,
 But thought, as country readers do,
 For half a guinea or a crown,                                   510
 He bought oblivion or renown
 From God's own voice in a review.

 All Peter did on this occasion
 Was, writing some sad stuff in prose.
 It is a dangerous invasion                                      515
 When poets criticize; their station
 Is to delight, not pose.

 The Devil then sent to Leipsic fair
 For Born's translation of Kant's book;
 A world of words, tail foremost, where                          520
 Right—wrong—false—true—and foul—and fair
 As in a lottery-wheel are shook.

 Five thousand crammed octavo pages
 Of German psychologics,—he
 Who his furor verborum assuages                                 525
 Thereon, deserves just seven months' wages
 More than will e'er be due to me.

 I looked on them nine several days,
 And then I saw that they were bad;
 A friend, too, spoke in their dispraise,—                      530
 He never read them;—with amaze
 I found Sir William Drummond had.

 When the book came, the Devil sent
 It to P. Verbovale, Esquire,
 With a brief note of compliment,                                535
 By that night's Carlisle mail. It went,
 And set his soul on fire.

 Fire, which ex luce praebens fumum,
 Made him beyond the bottom see
 Of truth's clear well—when I and you, Ma'am,                   540
 Go, as we shall do, subter humum,
 We may know more than he.

 Now Peter ran to seed in soul
 Into a walking paradox;
 For he was neither part nor whole,                              545
 Nor good, nor bad—nor knave nor fool;
 —Among the woods and rocks

 Furious he rode, where late he ran,
 Lashing and spurring his tame hobby;
 Turned to a formal puritan,                                     550
 A solemn and unsexual man,—
 He half believed "White Obi".

 This steed in vision he would ride,
 High trotting over nine-inch bridges,
 With Flibbertigibbet, imp of pride,                             555
 Mocking and mowing by his side—
 A mad-brained goblin for a guide—
 Over corn-fields, gates, and hedges.

 After these ghastly rides, he came
 Home to his heart, and found from thence                        560
 Much stolen of its accustomed flame;
 His thoughts grew weak, drowsy, and lame
 Of their intelligence.

 To Peter's view, all seemed one hue;
 He was no Whig, he was no Tory;                                 565
 No Deist and no Christian he;—
 He got so subtle, that to be
 Nothing, was all his glory.

 One single point in his belief
 From his organization sprung,                                   570
 The heart-enrooted faith, the chief
 Ear in his doctrines' blighted sheaf,
 That 'Happiness is wrong';

 So thought Calvin and Dominic;
 So think their fierce successors, who                           575
 Even now would neither stint nor stick
 Our flesh from off our bones to pick,
 If they might 'do their do.'

 His morals thus were undermined:—
 The old Peter—the hard, old Potter—                           580
 Was born anew within his mind;
 He grew dull, harsh, sly, unrefined,
 As when he tramped beside the Otter.

 In the death hues of agony
 Lambently flashing from a fish,                                 585
 Now Peter felt amused to see
 Shades like a rainbow's rise and flee,
 Mixed with a certain hungry wish.

 So in his Country's dying face
 He looked—and, lovely as she lay,                              590
 Seeking in vain his last embrace,
 Wailing her own abandoned case,
 With hardened sneer he turned away:

 And coolly to his own soul said;—
 'Do you not think that we might make                            595
 A poem on her when she's dead:—
 Or, no—a thought is in my head—
 Her shroud for a new sheet I'll take:

 'My wife wants one.—Let who will bury
 This mangled corpse! And I and you,                             600
 My dearest Soul, will then make merry,
 As the Prince Regent did with Sherry,—'
 'Ay—and at last desert me too.'

 And so his Soul would not be gay,
 But moaned within him; like a fawn                              605
 Moaning within a cave, it lay
 Wounded and wasting, day by day,
 Till all its life of life was gone.

 As troubled skies stain waters clear,
 The storm in Peter's heart and mind                             610
 Now made his verses dark and queer:
 They were the ghosts of what they were,
 Shaking dim grave-clothes in the wind.

 For he now raved enormous folly,
 Of Baptisms, Sunday-schools, and Graves,                        615
 'Twould make George Colman melancholy
 To have heard him, like a male Molly,
 Chanting those stupid staves.

 Yet the Reviews, who heaped abuse
 On Peter while he wrote for freedom,                            620
 So soon as in his song they spy
 The folly which soothes tyranny,
 Praise him, for those who feed 'em.

 'He was a man, too great to scan;—
 A planet lost in truth's keen rays:—                           625
 His virtue, awful and prodigious;—
 He was the most sublime, religious,
 Pure-minded Poet of these days.'

 As soon as he read that, cried Peter,
 'Eureka! I have found the way                                   630
 To make a better thing of metre
 Than e'er was made by living creature
 Up to this blessed day.'

 Then Peter wrote odes to the Devil;—
 In one of which he meekly said:                                 635
 'May Carnage and Slaughter,
 Thy niece and thy daughter,
 May Rapine and Famine,
 Thy gorge ever cramming,
 Glut thee with living and dead!                                 640

 'May Death and Damnation,
 And Consternation,
 Flit up from Hell with pure intent!
 Slash them at Manchester,
 Glasgow, Leeds, and Chester;                                    645
 Drench all with blood from Avon to Trent.

 'Let thy body-guard yeomen
 Hew down babes and women,
 And laugh with bold triumph till Heaven be rent!
 When Moloch in Jewry                                            650
 Munched children with fury,
 It was thou, Devil, dining with pure intent.


 The Devil now knew his proper cue.—
 Soon as he read the ode, he drove
 To his friend Lord MacMurderchouse's,                           655
 A man of interest in both houses,
 And said:—'For money or for love,

 'Pray find some cure or sinecure;
 To feed from the superfluous taxes
 A friend of ours—a poet—fewer                                 660
 Have fluttered tamer to the lure
 Than he.' His lordship stands and racks his

 Stupid brains, while one might count
 As many beads as he had boroughs,—
 At length replies; from his mean front,                         665
 Like one who rubs out an account,
 Smoothing away the unmeaning furrows:

 'It happens fortunately, dear Sir,
 I can. I hope I need require
 No pledge from you, that he will stir                           670
 In our affairs;—like Oliver.
 That he'll be worthy of his hire.'

 These words exchanged, the news sent off
 To Peter, home the Devil hied,—
 Took to his bed; he had no cough,                               675
 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,                                   680
 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                               685
 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,—                               690
 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                             695
 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,                         700
 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—                        705
 Still with this dulness 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;                            710
 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;                                  715
 Their hopes of Heaven each would have pawned,
 Anywhere else to be.

 But in his verse, and in his prose,
 The essence of his dulness was
 Concentred and compressed so close,                             720
 '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.                    725
 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;—                           730
 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,                                   735
 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,                              740
 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,                               745
 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;                                    750
 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                                755
 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,                                   760
 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,                                 765
 For fifteen months in any case,
 The yawn of such a venture.

 Seven miles above—below—around—
 This pest of dulness holds its sway;
 A ghastly life without a sound;                                 770
 To Peter's soul the spell is bound—
 How should it ever pass away?

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