remarks, "Mr. Forrest's Almanza is well conceived, and

Shelley's wife would not say that for him. "In all Shelley did," she says, "he at the time of doing it believed himself justified to his own conscience." Well, so much the worse for Shelley! Geniuses are not the only men who can find good reason for doing what they want to do. One of Shelley's critics suggests that the trouble was his introduction into personal conduct of the imagination which he ought to have saved for his writing. Perhaps we might explain Byron's misconduct by reminding ourselves of his club-foot, and applying one code of morals to men with club-feet and another to men with normal feet.


If we speak of the influence of the Bible on these men, it must be on their literary work; and when we find it there, it becomes peculiar mark of its power. They had little sense of it as moral law. Their consciences approved it and condemned themselves, or else their delicate literary taste sensed it as a book of power.


This is notably true of Shelley. When he was still a student in Oxford he committed himself to the opinion of another writer, that "the mind cannot believe in the existence of God." He tries to work that out fully in his notes on "Queen Mab." When he was hardly yet of age he himself wrote that "The genius of human happiness must tear every leaf from the accursed Book of God, ere man can read the inscription on its heart." He once said that his highest desire was that there should be a monument to himself somewhere in the Alps which should be only a great stone with its face smoothed and this short inscription cut in it, "Percy Bysshe Shelley, Atheist."


It would seem that whatever Shelley drew of strength or inspiration from the Bible would be by way of reaction; but it is not so. However he may have hated the "accursed Book of God," his wife tells in her note on "The Revolt of Islam" that Shelley "debated whether he should devote himself to poetry or metaphysics," and, resolving on the former, he "educated himself for it, engaging himself in the study of the poets of Greece, England, and Italy. To these, may be added," she goes on, "a constant perusal of portions of the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms, Job, Isaiah, and others, the sublime poetry of which filled him with delight." Not only did he catch the spirit of that poetry, but its phrases haunted his memory. In his best prose work, which he called A Defense of Poetry, there is an interesting revelation of the influence of his Bible reading upon him. Toward the end of the essay these two sentences occur: "It is inconsistent with this division of our subject to cite living poets, but posterity has done ample justice to the great names now referred to. Their errors have been weighed and found to have been dust in the balance; if their sins are as scarlet, they are now white as snow; they have been washed in the blood of the mediator and redeemer, Time." There is no more eloquent passage in the essay than the one of which this is part, and yet it is full of allusion to this Book from which all pages must be torn! Even in "Queen Mab" he makes Ahasuerus, the wandering Jew, recount the Bible story in such broad outlines as could be given only by a man who was familiar with it. When Shelley was in Italy and the word came to him of the massacre at Manchester, he wrote his "Masque of Anarchy." There are few more melodious lines of his writing than those which occur in this long poem in the section regarding freedom. Four of those lines are often quoted. They are at the very heart of Shelley's best work. Addressing freedom, he says:

"Thou art love: the rich have kissed Thy feet, and, like him following Christ, Gave their substance to the free, And through the rough world follow thee."

Page after page of Shelley reveals these half- conscious references to the Bible. There were two sources from which he received his passionate democracy. One was the treatment he received at Eton, and later at Oxford; the other is his frequent reading of the English Bible, even though he was in the spirit of rebellion against much of its teaching. In Browning's essay on Shelley, he reaches the amazing conclusion that "had Shelley lived, he would finally have ranged himself with the Christians," and seeks to justify it by showing that he was moving straight toward the positions of Paul and of David. Some of us may not see such rapid approach, but that Shelley felt the drawing of God in the universe is plain enough.

The influence of the Bible is still more marked on Byron. He spent his childhood years at Aberdeen. There his nurse trained him in the Bible; and, though he did not live by it, he never lost his love for it, nor his knowledge of it. He tells of his own experience in this way: "I am a great reader of those books [the Bible], and had read them through and through before I was eight years old; that is to say, the Old Testament, for the New struck me as a task, but the other as a pleasure."[1] One of the earliest bits of his work is a paraphrase of one of the Psalms. His physical infirmity put him at odds with the world, while his striking beauty drew to him a crowd of admirers who helped to poison every spring of his genius. Even so, he held his love for the Bible. While Shelley often spoke of it in contempt, while he prided himself on his divergence from the path of its teaching, Byron never did. He wandered far, but he always knew it; and, though he could hardly find terms to express his contempt for the Church, there is no line of Byron's writing which is a slur at the Bible. On the other hand, much of his work reveals a passion for the beauty of it as well as its truth. His most melodious writing is in that group of Hebrew melodies which were written to be sung. They demand far more than a passing knowledge of the Bible both for their writing and their understanding. There is a long list of them, but no one without a knowledge of the Bible would have known what he meant by his poem, "The Harp the Monarch Minstrel Swept." "Jephtha's Daughter" presumes upon a knowledge of the Old Testament story which would not come to one in a passing study of the Bible. "The Song of Saul Before his Last Battle" and the poem headed "Saul" could not have been written, nor can they be read intelligently by any one who does not know his Bible. Among Byron's dramas, two of which he thought most, were, "Heaven and Earth" and "Cain." When he was accused of perverting the Scripture in "Cain," he replied that he had only taken the Scripture at its face value. Both of the dramas are not only built directly out of Scriptural events, but imply a far wider knowledge of Scripture than their mere titles suggest.

[1] Taine, English Literature, II., 279.

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