Percy Shelley: Poems

Peter Bell The Third: Part 1



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