Percy Shelley: Poems

Peter Bell The Third: Prologue

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


_10 Aldric's] i.e. Aldrich's--a spelling adopted here by Woodberry.

(_36 The oldest scholiasts read--

A dodecagamic Potter.

This is at once more descriptive and more megalophonous,--but the

alliteration of the text had captivated the vulgar ear of the herd of

later commentators.--[SHELLEY'S NOTE.])