Percy Shelley: Poems

Peter Bell The Third: Part 4



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.