Shelley, With a Codicil

— Pasted into an old commonplace book is a page, in the late Dr. Thomas William Parsons’ delicate large-spaced handwriting, which will have an interest for all lovers of Shelley who knew that other humanist poet of ours, gone away, even as he walked among us, unapprebended save by a few, or, in a favorite phrase of his, by a “ blessed few.” In an idle and affectionate hour, when (as it seems supererogatory to remind the public to whom “ Dante’s man ” confided so very little) there was no thought of more than one reader, Dr. Parsons pleased himself by affixing its final stanza to that sweet and famous fragment of Shelley’s called The World’s Wanderers : —

“ Tell me, thou star, whose wings of light
Speed thee in thy fiery flight,
In what cavern of the night
Will thy pinions close now ?
“ Tell me, moon, thou pale and gray
Pilgrim of heaven’s homeless way,
In what depth of night or day
Seekeat thou repose now ?
“ Weary wind who wanderest
Like the world’s rejected guest,
Hast thou still some secret nest
On the tree or billow? ”

There the divine little lyric breaks in twain. It bears the date of 1820, Sixty-five years after, a reverent and elder hand sought to match it with these four Shelleyan lines : —

“ Spirit of man, O drifting worn
Wreck outgrown of ages, torn
By many terrors ! is thy bourne
A prison or a pillow ? ”

“ For so,” wrote Dr. Parsons playfully, in copying his step-brother verses for a young girl to whom Shelley was the breath of life, — “so do I complete the rhyme, if not the sense, of that had man, —

‘ The Kirk maun call him sae ’! ”

Beautifully, at any rate, does this daring last touch of as exquisite a poet as the New World ever bred compare with another superadded quatrain which is to be read in books. Does any one recall Kirke White’s gentle moral quite needlessly hitched to Go, Lovely Rose ? That, moreover, was a finished song, which Shelley’s was not; and alas ! it failed, in the nineteenth century, to enrich itself in Waller’s own manner.