Percy Shelley: Poems

Peter Bell The Third: Part 2



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.