Percy Shelley: Poems

Peter Bell The Third: Part 3



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?(2)


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'! (1)

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.