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A Volcano's Voice in Shelley Author(s): G. M. Matthews Source: ELH, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Sep., 1957), pp.

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There is still a periloustendencytowardsdualism in Shelley studies. Those preoccupiedby the poet's " symbols" maintain, or assume, that what is worth attention on the profoundest level in his workis to be sought in domes of poetic consciousness, veils of unreality,and caves of gnosticpower; Professor Grabo has made it clear that he regardseven Shelley's use of mystical. Those concernedwithhis social science as ultimately interests,on the other hand, concentrateon biography and and will not touch the symbolsat any price. Radical theory, If this division is justifiable,it would mean that Shelley's Left hand did not want to know what his Right hand was doing; that while his prose mind declaimed about Reform,his poetic soul was quietly navigating up the Stream of Life towards the Bases of Being (whateverthey are). A fair case has of coursebeen made out forShelleyas a poor mixed-upboy. that his overYet his lifeand lettershardlygive the impression of ridinginterestlay in the lifehistory the individual soul. It and poetryintended (so was poetryhe chose,not metaphysics; he said) to cast what weightwas possible " into the scale of that balance, which the Giant of Arthegallholds." 1 One of politicaldedication, two thingsmust be true: eitherthe writer's so often repeated, was essentiallysuperficialand the " sym" bolism" provesit, or else the " symbolism involvesmorethan gest, and shall tryto demonstrate suspect. I sup its interpreters fromone special field,that the latter alternativeis the right one. Yeats went so far as to judge Shelley's " symbols" by their" precision" and it is now commonlyassumed that his

1 Letter of

26 Jan 1819. W. B. Yeats, Ideas of Good and Evil, London 1903, 115, 128.

G. M. Matthews


" constant(if recurrent allusions stand for" something pretty in moralor spiritual not always fullydefinable) and reality, so can be deciphered against patternselaboratedby earlier or intoPlatonictruth. mystics, read as an independent insight can Before thisassumption be modified, certain characteristics of theseallusions require re-emphasis. " 1) Shelley's" symbols do not, broadlyspeaking, stand " for" anything the systematic in mannerin whichthe Cross, for example,stands for Christianity. findout all that To or one must winter, intoxication, impliesin a given context, reckon withthewholeofShelley-and not withhis textsalone, but also withhis science, politics, theories literature, his his of his medicalrecord.What reallyhappensseemsto be that a certain of concept-generally a class of external objects-may be " over-determined," is, may serveas a collecting-point that forseveralof the writer's or political, scientific, philosophical ofreality.The fields perception perceptions of supplying these concepts withassociations veryvarious, may be briefly are as in illustrated the case of a (covered) hollowplace,often arbirestricted the wordscave and cavern This concept to trarily .' (whether actual wordsoccuror not) sometimes the involves a holein theground, in cosmicspace; a sanctuary, a prison; or or the lair of bestiallife,or the abode ofliberated humanity; the hollowof the womb,or of the grave; a hotbedof subversive or of activity, a fortress convention. mayimply physical It the of hollow theskull;intellectual potentiality; thenow-fashionor able recessesof the introspective mind. No doubt certainof theseimplications outweigh others particular in poems, lack but " ofinterest any but the" dimcaves ofhumanthought tvpe in of imageis due to the idola specus,the privateprejudices, of the interpreter, is hard to justifystatistically.If, for and " example,the " hollow lplaces of Promnetheius Ul)boud are investigated (including, withparaphrases, caves,caverns., lairs, abysses, chasms, pits,mines, prisons, excluding and but bowers,
A contemporarytourist in an area of Britain famous for its caves found, he said, that the natives there " did not understand the meaning of the word cavern; for,upon changing my question to that of a place under ground. information was immediately given." (Hutchinson's Tour of the High Peak of Derbyshire, 1819, 18). It is pointless to discuss " favouritewords " in Shelley: what favouriteword is used in " the Mother of the Months," or " the rack on high?"


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

domes, pavilions, and temples) it will be found that of 58 examples, 11 clearly involve the mind or spirit, and 7 more could be claimed to do so; while 10 of the 58 clearly involve volcanic action, with another 8 doubtfulcases. The remainder draw on otherassociationsin the first place, or are symbolically neutral. This should at least temper the urge to attribute a " precision of symbols" in Shelley's work; and I shall adopt where possible the term " over-determined concept" (admittedly not a happy one) rather than " symbol," in order to avoid the notion of referenceto an incorruptiblemystical systemnow attached to the latter word. 2) A second feature of Shelley's concepts, implicit in the first,is that they may be called on to illustrate opposite qualities. The snake is a famous example, but most of themperhaps all-have the same potentiality. Thus Maenads may be " bacchanals of blood," or assist at " bacchanals of Truth's mysteriouswine"; a veil is now of uglinessconcealingbeauty, now of beauty concealing ugliness; a many-sidedmirrorcan multiplyeithertruthor error;and so, too, with lightning, cloud meteor,labyrinth, and the rest. Tyrannyitselfmay implythe unjust enslavementof man by man, or the just dominion of man over nature, for the characteristicextends into Shelley's abstract vocabulary to affectconcepts such as faith,madness, contagion.and even love. It followsthat the invitationto walk into a web of " symbolism" on the assurance that everythreadleads ultimatelyto the realm of Timeless Ideas, must be declined. Two relevant examples,involvingthe neo-Platonic favoritescloud and fountain, may underlinethis warning. In the second stanza of To a Skylark (1820), we read: Higherstilland higher From the earth thou springest Like a cloud of fire; A " cloud of fire" which"springs " fromthe earth can only be, like the " burningsmoke" of Alastor (83), the nue'eardenteof an active volcano,4a mass of superheatedsteam and incandescent dust which, as an observer had seen it over Vesuvins.
' Shelley is also recalling the cloud and fireof Mount Sinai in Exodus (xiii. 21-2; xix. 18; xxiv. 15-18), which he certainly took to be volcanic, since when he lodged

G. J1. Matthews


appeared in the night tinged like clouds with the setting sun." 5 Shelley interpolatedthis volcanic stanza after drafting the lines Fromrainbowcloudsthereflownot Drops so bright see to As from presence a thy showers rainofmelody, so as to ensurethat what Neville Rogers has called " the notion of liquescence 6 should also include the notion of sparks and ashes, of propaganda broadcast with tempestuousenergy. The echo of the line in whichMilton's Satan " Springsupward like a Pyramid of fire" itselfa volcanic simile-adds mutinyand protest to the associations transmittedinto the poem by the word " fire." The flightof the skylarkis therefore not quite so innocuous as it mightseem; and Aldous Huxley, who made his characterMark Rampion " wish to God the bird had dropped a good large mess in his [Shelley's] eye," " would probably reach for his geiger-counter the bird dropped all if that the poem implies. The second example is froma letter defendingPrometheus

It may as well be said that Lord ByronimitatesWordsworth, or that Wordsworth imitates Lord Byron, bothbeinggreatpoets,and fromthe new springsof thoughtand feeling, deriving whichthe great events of our age have exposed to view, a similartone of sentiment, imagery, expression. (15 Oct 1819. My italics) and On the face of it, an orthodox" fountainof thought" image. But great events whichexpose springsto view must be seismic or volcanic events,like those causing " springsof flame,which burstwhere'er swift Earthquake stamps." I Countless examples of such springsare cited in contemporary accounts. Since on a social level he intended the " great events of our age " to
in view of Vesuvius be told Peacock that " a smoke by day and a fire by night is seen upon its summit" (22 Dec 1818). The same simile is used of the eagle in The Revolt of Islam. (I. xiii.243): " The vast bird would . . . soar-as swift as smoke from a volcano springs." 'Sir William Hamilton, Observations on Mount Vesuvius, Mount Etna, and other Volcanos (1772) 2nd ed. 1773, 3. 6 " Shelley and the Skylark," Times Literary Supplement. 24 July 1953. 7Paradise Lost II. 1013. 8 Point Counter Point (1928), Modern Lib. ed., 144. The Revolt of Islam V. i. 1728.


A Volcano's Voice i) Shelley

include such thingsas American independenceand the French Revolution, it is obvious that the image cannot be explained in purely neo-Platonic terms. 3) Thirdly, the prior judgment as to what is and what is not a symbol in Shelley has been somewhat distorted by the " spatial " interpretation poetry. Accordingto the spatialists, of a poet's use of symbolsrepresents seriesof insightsof varying a depth into an immutableand transcendent Reality; chronology and context and even poet affectonly the adequacy of the insightand the language in whichit is enshrined. Accordingly, " a " key-symbol has been sought that would be valid for the whole of Shelley's work, and this has been identified,with cheerfulvariety,as the Morning Star, the cloud, the veil, and " so on. In fact, Shelley's " symbolism changed as Shelley changed, and was varied from poem to poem according to subject. The concept cave/cavern,which,with stream,is commonest in the 720 lines of Alastor (1816), did not occur at all in that form in the 2289 lines of Queen Mab (1813). In Prometheus (1819), on the other hand, by far the commonest concept is storm (67 examples, including tempest, thunder, whirlwind,etc.). The second commonest is cave (58); then cloud (44); and then volcanic action (37) .10 Thus of four leading concepts in a much-annotatedpoem, two-the commonest, storm, and the most striking,volcanic action-have never been regarded as " symbols" at all. This is remarkable, consideringthat most stormsrequire the help of clouds, while a volcano would imply a cave to a classical scholar as well as to a contemporaryscientist. The conclusion seems inevitable " that Shelley's " symbolism is pronounced mysticalbecause only those concepts whichlend themselvesreadilyto mysticalinterpretation have been selected for comment.1' It is well worth
"0There is of course some overlapping in the count, as I have tried to assign each example to every concept possible, but the effect is negligible except with cave and volcanic activity,which share 9 examples. Storm and cloud share 2. 11The neglect is by no means confined to the two concepts I have cited. The firstwriterto referexplicitlyto Shelley's recurrentallusions formedthe impression that the commonest concerned the " art and mystery of weaving, including the whole process and its results, warp, woof, and web " (Edinburgh Review, April 1871, 438). This impressionhas not been followed up, and a Shelley scholar as distinguishedas Prof. Fogle has forgottenit was ever made. (See R. H. Fogle, The Imagery of Keats and Shelley, 1949, 226). The article has been attributed to Prof. T. S. Baynes.

G. M. Matthews


inquiring, what significance concept volcanic therefore, the has activity in Shelley's in work, particularly thestructure and imagery Promietheus of Unbound;and it will be convenient to begin by describing quite exceptional the positionwhich volcanic disturbances had come to occupy in the minds of intelligent at thetimethepoemwas written. men

Since 1755,a series disasters profoundly of had disturbed the complacency 18th-century of belief.In that year,the famous " Lisbon earthquake, certainly of the mostawfuland treone mendous calamities thathas everhappened the world," it in as was described threeyearsafterwards,destroyed cityand the up to 50,000inhabitants. Great volcaniceruptions Iceland in in 1783-4also cost thousands lives;and in the former of years in earthquakes Calabria were even moredevastating.Major paroxysmal of eruptions Mount Etna occurredin 1763 and 1792,and of Vesuviusin 1760, 1779,and 1794,besidesminor ones early in the new century. Shelley himself, climbing Vesuviusin 1818, foundthe mountain" in a slightstate of 13 eruption," and Etna, too,erupted again towards close of the 1819. No doubttheseeventswerenothing new;but severalfactors had contributed raise the status of the volcano,until to to many of Shelley'scontemporaries youngerPliny's pinethe shapedcloudoverVesuvius boresomething thesamemomenof tousimportance themushroom-shaped overthePacific as cloud bears to our own civilization. For one thing, information had become much more promptand accurate. From 1766-1795 Sir WilliamHamilton, Britishambassadorat Naples, though better known thehusband LordNelson'smistress, as of haunted theprecincts Vesuvius, of keeping diaryofthemajordisturba ances forthe benefit the Royal Society;duringthe first of thirteen yearshe made 58 visitsto the crater, and was on the mountain 200 times,besidesstudying through telescope. it a Hamilton'sCampi Phlegraei, foliocontaining a some 54 very impressive colouredplates by Peter Fabris (several showing
l' Philosophical Transactions, abridged(1809) ed., II. 192. ""Letterof 22 Dec 1818.


A1Volcano's Voice in Shelley

Vesuvius in full eruption) was published at Naples in 1776. His Observations, already cited, ran throughthree editions in two years. Breislak also, the Italian geologist,was said to have attached himselfto the same area " with a peculiar and almost personal interest," and his findingswere reviewed in the 'leading Britishjournals. Visitingobserverswere also active: in 1811 a Britishpartyset up an observatory Etna, a thousand on feetfrom summit;and SirHumphrey the Davy climbedVesuvius 14 timesin 1820 15in orderto test a new volcanic theory, though the results were not made public until afterShelley's death. The more remotevolcanic areas of the globe were now being penetrated and described for the firsttime. Sir George Mackenzie issued his Travels in Iceland in 1811, a book whichhad much publicity and reached a second edition the following year; Shelley quoted fromit, though the studies of his science and symbolism have not foundit worthmentioning.Alexander de Humboldt explored the volcanic regions of the Andes and South Americain 1799-1804,and feweducated Englishmencan have been ignorantof his various books of travels. By modern standards all these men may have been amateurs, but their methods were professional comparisonwith the speculations in of ingenious clergymenwhich had gone before. Some of the new knowledgeresulteddirectlyfromthe industrialrevolution, forit was only afteranalogies had been drawn fromindustry that certainvolcanic processeswere explained. When the origin of vitreouslava was settled,forinstance,the Edinburgh Review remarked: " it is wonderful how it so long eluded observation, when the slag of every furnaceexhibitsit in the most striking manner."16 Breislak was a captain of industry,directorof a nitreworksin Milan; and Davy himself was led to the study of Vesuvius by his work in the coal-mines. A further reason forthe interestin volcanoes at this time lies in their impact on theology. French materialistshad already cast doubt on the foundationsof natural religion;science was now collectingevidence whichseemed to make beliefin Genesis impossible. Years before Shelley wrote Prometheus was it recognizedin the lay journals that " creation" had occupied.
14Edinburgh Review, Sept 1816, 161. Shelley read this number of the Edinburgh (see Mary Shelley's Journal, ed. Frederick L. Jones, 1947, 73). 1 Byron to Murray, 8 May 1820. 18 April 1804, 38.

G. M. Matthews


notsix days,but longages; thatthere musthave beennot one Deluge but several;and that in the case of many kinds of organized life God had unmistakably looked again and seen that they were not good. The Fundamentalist positionwas already untenable, thebattlejoinedwhich and wouldculminate in the greatVictorian debateson evolution.An unusualnote following advertisement Cuvier'stranslated an for Essay on theTheory theEarthin theQuarterly April1815,claimed of for " that this book wouldfurnish Christian witharmour the to defend faith his againstthosewriters have endeavoured who to overturn by objectionagainst the Mosaic account of the it deluge, and theage ofthe humanrace." Yet by January 1819, a reviewer the same journal was usingthe same workto in ridicule Gisborne's fundamentalist Natural Theology. The volcanowas a crucialwitness.Mightnot all mountains have been thrown by volcanicfire, up and all minerals have had an igneous origin?This is thespeculation behind Shelley's lineson theSwissAlps: Is thisthescene Where old Earthquake-daemon the her taught young Ruin? Were these their toys?ordida sea Offire envelop oncethissilent snow? (MontBlanc (1816), 71-4). " The " Plutonists did believethat the earthwas bornof fire; and it is clear that the Biblical account,in whichdry land emerged onlyon the thirdday, could be reconciled easily less withthisdoctrine thanwiththat of its opponents, " Nepthe tunians," who held " that all the solid materials the world of 17 have been formerly dissolvedin water." For this reason, volcanoesacquireda peculiarprestige the conflict belief. in of " Underthis[Plutonist] JamesSmithson pointof view,"wrote in 1813, an highinterest attaches itself volcanoes, theirejections. to and Theyceaseto be localphenomena; become they principal elements inthehistory ourglobe; of they connect present itsformer its with and condition; we have goodgrounds supposing, in their for that flames to be readitsfuture are destinies.18
" Phil. Trans.CIII, Pt. II, 257. Smithson was laterthe founder the Smithof sonianInstitution Washington. of
17Edinburgh Review,July1803, 338.


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

considerable not The dispute provoked excitement, onlyamong scientists, especiallyin the formgiven it by the Huttonian to Theory, whichwillbe returned later.

shared thisgeneral interest.1 learnthat We Shelley certainly in his earlyteens " His imagination was always rovingupon romantic and extraordinary, as spirits, such something fairies, fighting, volcanoes, &c. ... 20 (Medwinadds " storms," among other thingsto this list of interests). According Hogg, to fondof fireworks," which to Shelleywas also " passionately volcanicdisplayswerenaturally oftencompared;and a psychologistwould doubtlessinterpret in both interests sexual terms. The interpretation likely to contain some truth. is a manifests powerful towards Shelley's poetry impulse fertility, of which Dr. Leavis's " fondled" vocabularyis merelya surfacesign,and volcanoeshave directconnections withfertility, Shelley as was wellaware. Apartfrom Mackenzie's book we for Geologiawhich have seenhe readin theEdinburgh Sept. 1816,the sources which in Shelleypursued interest not his are certainly known,but a numberof parallels,some of which are quoted later,strongly suggestthat he was familiar with Hamilton'sworkon the Vesuviusregion. He probablyalso read the availablevolumesof Humboldt'sPersonalNarrative and Researches;Humboldtmay have inspired Laon's declaration: I willariseand waken The multitude, likea sulphurous and hill, Which a sudden on from snows shaken its has The swoon ages,it shallburst fill of and The world with cleansing . . . fire. (Islam, II.xiv) This simile seemsto be drawnfrom accountof theeruption an ofCotopaxiin 1803,which, Humboldt said,
19 Such an interest maywellaccountforhis promptness attending mineralogy in a lecture Oxford, his disappointment finding at and on that it was " Aboutstones!" stones, stones, stones!nothing stones! (The Life of PercyByssheShelley, but as

on Iceland,21 and a review of Breislak's Introduzione alla

comprised in the Life of Shelley by Thomas Jefferson Hogg . . . , ed. Humbert Wolfe, 1933, I, 49.)

"0SirJohnRennie,Autobiography, London 1875,2. " Cited in the Notes to Queen Mab,

VIII. 211-2.

G. M. Matthews


of the was preceded a dreadful by phenomenon, suddenmelting the snows that coveredthe mountain. For twentyyears beforeno had issued fromthe smoke or vapour, that could be perceived, fire crater; and in a singlenight subterraneous becameso active the walls of the cone,heated,no doubt,to that,at sunset, external the a veryconsiderable temperature, appearednaked.... review of But the passage is also quoted in the Quarterly's Humboldt,in July1816, and since Mary Shelley read this issue in August Shelleycould have borrowedat second-hand. Indeed, it is unnecessaryto assume that Shelley relied very heavily on reconditeworksof science. Much of his scientific informationliterally from Heaven's star-fretted domes To the dull weed some sea-worm battenson, fromastronomy ione or iodine-could have been drawnfrom to the major reviews,the Gentleman'sMagazine, and the Annual will Register. My own illustrations, therefore, be drawn partly fromthese obvious sources,partly fromShelley's known readin ing, and partlyfromthe books a reader interested volcanoes would naturallyconsult.23

AlthoughShelley's boyishimaginationroved upon volcanoes, however, they scarcely affecthis poetry writtenbefore 1817. The three references Queen Mab are to earthquakes alone; in and it is remarkablethat in all this early work the energiesof earthquake and storm are associated almost exclusively with the operationsof tyranny. Maintaining in one of the notes to Mab that God must be held responsibleforevil as well as good, Shelley writes:
"Alexandre de Humboldtand Bonpland, Researches the concerning institutions and monuments the ancient of inhabitants America, of etc.,trans.H. M. Williams, London1814,I, 119. Thereare severalotherprobable from borrowings Humboldt, notablyShelley'sspirits" Whose homes are the dim caves of human thought " (PU, I. 658-663),which appearto derivefrom birdsin the Cueva del Guacharo the at Caripe in Venezuela (Humboldtand Bonpland,PersonalNarrativeof travels to the equinoctial regions the New Continent of the during years1799-1804, trans. H. M. Williams, III, London1818,119-20, vol. 126. 38 Especiallythe Philosophical Transactions.For articlesbefore1800, I have used the moreaccessible Philosophical Transactions theRoyal Societyof London of from their commencement 1665 to theyear1800,abridged in withnotesby Charles Hutton . . . GeorgeShaw . . . and RichardPearson,1809; and thereafter the complete edition.


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

the the The wide-wasting earthquake, storm, battle,and the tyrannyare attributable thishypothetic to beingin the same degree and of as the fairest forms nature, sunshine, liberty, peace.2' This kind of argumentis consonantwith the generalreaction initiatedby the Lisbon disaster against 18th-century optimism of 1755, and ProfessorGrabo seems to maintainthat Shelley always looked on volcanic activity as evidence of something malign in the forcesof nature.25Nothing could be more misleading. By August 1814, Shelley was writingthat in the Valley of Assassins, Courageand activevirtue . sleptliketheimprisoned .. earthquake, or thelightning shafts thathangin thegolden cloudsof evening; and the old man of The Coliseum, probably mostly written aftervisiting Vesuvius,is made to say that"... the glacier,the cataract, the tempest,the volcano have each a spirit which animatesthe extremities our framewith tingling of joy." But fromThe Revolt of Islam onwards," tingling joy " generally formsan essentialpart of Shelley's attitude towards volcanic activity. Throughouthis poetry Shelley referred to interchangeably volcanoesand to earthquakes. They were,of course,intimately linked in contemporary theory; earthquakes had constantly been observedto announceor accompanyeruptions, sometimes at vast distances. When the volcano of St. Vincentin the West Indies erupted in 1812, it was noted that earthquakes had strickenVenezuela a few weeks earlier. Humboldt devotes many pages of his Personal Narrative to these connections; 26 and Mackenzie, too, remarksthat beforethe 1783 eruptionof Skaptar Jokul," earthquakes shook the whole of Iceland." 27 Shelley conscriptedboth agents to explain the calamity at Pompeii. " My idea of the mode of its destruction was: ," he wrotePeacock,
First, an earthquake shattered it . . . then a rain of light small

pumice-stones thentorrents boiling fell; of water, mixed withashes, filled all its crevices." up (26 Jan. 1819)
24Note to VI. 198. 2' The Magic Plant, 1936, 255-7. "' Op. cit.,II (1814), 229-238. " Sir George Stewart Mackenzie, Travels in the Island of Iceland during the summer of the year 1810, (1811), 2nd ed. 1812, 365.

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" erasedthewords My idea of,"as ifto makehis He afterwards " water were of but official; the " torrents boiling explanation in whohad written 1767: by suggested Hamilton, perhaps
of In the greateruption MountVesuviusin 1663,it is wellattested,
that several towns . . . were destroyedby a torrentof boiling water

thousands withthelava, by which havingburstout ofthemountain of lives werelost.28

that a volcaniceruption however, believed, It was generally for The modern authority thisidea was earthquakes. prevented at of Professor Geology CamlaterWoodwardian Michell, John publishedin 1760 first bridge,whose essay on earthquakes
raised seismologyto the level of a science.29Michell held that " " subterraneousfires were the ultimate cause of both volcanoes and earthquakes, the distinctionbeing that
. . . all vapours, of whatever kind, raised fromthese fires,must be

pent up, unless so far as they can open themselvesa passage volcanosfind betweenthe strata;whereasthe vapoursraisedfrom theirmouths.30 in a vent,and are discharged blasts from An earthquakeoccurredwhen a wave of pent-upvapour propagated itself between two rock strata without findinga vent. Almost everyone,includingHamilton, seems to have accepted this theory of the safety-valve,which is implicit in Byron's of famousdefinition poetry: " It is the lava of the imagination whose eruptionpreventsan earthquake." 31 Unless Byron had the idea from Davy, his immediate source may have been Humboldt, whose translatedversionruns: " At Naples, earthquakes precede the eruptionsof Vesuvius, they cease when the lava begins to flow."32 Shelley cannot have been unaware of yet distinction, in his own this importantand universally-made workthe earthquake and the volcano are virtuallysynonymous. During a scene in The Revolt of Islam packed with volcanic imagery,Laone, just landed fromthe slave-ship she has drawn
Phil. Trans. abr. ed. XII, 495. Conjectures concerning the cause, and observations on the phenomena of earthquakes," Phil. Trans. abr. ed. XI, 447-4792. The essay was first published as a separate work in the same year. so Ibid., 457.
28 29"


Byron to Miss Milbanke, 10 Nov. 1813. Personal Narrative, op. cit., I, 247 note.

A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

the cry of liberty(" like a into revolt, claimsthat although volcano'svoice") is followed somedisillusion, by
Yet soon bright day willburst-even like a chasm and dead, outworn Of fire, burnthe shrouds to Whichwrap the world;a wide enthusiasm, worldas withan earthquake's To cleansethe fevered spasm! (IX.v) Here the two types of event are treated as interchangable: " earthquake's spasm " describesseismicaction,whilethe bursting of a bright ""chasm of fire" is more appropriate to the opening of a lateral vent in a volcano; while the phrase " wide enthusiasm" fuses the notion of a gaping fissurewith that of spreadinglava. Shelley, indeed, employs both types of phenomenon with equally exultantrelish. In Prometheus, the newly-liberated IV, earth cries: the the The joy, the triumph, delight, madness! The boundless, overflowing, bursting gladness, The vaporousexultation not to be confined! (319-321) This " vaporous exultation" is no mere abstract " poetic transcript of " the expansive force of gases," " as Whitehead and Grabo call it,33 but a precise volcanic metaphor. Earth greets her freedomwith an explosion of delight: Ha! ha! the cavernsof my hollowmountains, My cloven fire-crags, sound-exulting fountains Laugh with a vast and inextinguishable laughter. (IV. 332-4) In drafting these lines, Shelley contemplated followingthe pronoun in the second of them by the words " volcanoes " " ,34 (cancelled) and " mouthed fire-hills (uncancelled) so these caverns and fountains (like many others) have little enough to do with neo-Platonic correspondencies.Shelley may have owed his unconfinable vapour to the reviewof a History the of Azoreswhich appeared in the Quarterly April 1814. The for reviewerwrites:
Carl Grabo, Prometheus Unbound: an Interpretation,1935, 144. " H. B. Forman, The Notebooks of P. B. Shelley, London, pvtly. ptd. 1911 I, 42-5.

G. M. Matthews


Near Ribeira Grande,we are told thereis an aperture the side in of a mountain, from whencea lightvapourissues,which, corked if up, wouldgenerate earthquake, cause an explosion an thatwould or blow up the mountain." (p. 202)
The possibility that Shelley had seen this article is increased by the sequel:

I learnedfrom him[theauthoris speaking now of his servant] that of the numerous who put theirear to the aperture, persons from a curiosity similar mine,theyall became mad,instantly to mad,and were never again restored the light of reason,or the rational to government themselves. of (Ibid.)
This modern instance of sibylline frenzyperhaps contributed to Shelley's other sources for the passage in Prometheus alluding to the rise of Napoleonic imperialism:

There is a cavernwheremy spirit Was pantedforth anguishwhilst in thypain Made my heart mad, and those who did inhale it
Became mad too.
. .

(II. iii. 124-130)

With his often-expressed hatred of violence, Shelley might be expected to have taken advantage of this scientifictheory of the volcano as a preventative of earthquakes; but no inclination to do so seems detectable anywhere in his work.35 The fact is significant, and its implications will become clearer when contemporary writing on volcanoes is used to elucidate one of the poems. Prometheus Unbound is chosen, because the volcanic activity concept can be shown to contribute to its mechanism as well as to its symbolic content. Discussion of the poem from this point of view does not, however, constitute any claim to re-interpret the drama as a whole (attention will be confined mainly to the structural centre, the sea-sisters' journey to Demogorgon as far as the fall of Jupiter, II. i-Ill. ii), and a more or less continuous commentary is adopted simply for the sake of coherence. v During the mutual exchange of dreams in Act II sc. i, Asia and Panthea discover the command to " follow " explicit in
8 Possibly the feverfascinated him even more than the cure. The Shelley Concordance (1892) listsonly11 uses of the actual wordvolcanoand derivatives, compared with57 uses of earthquake and derivatives.


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

natureand in each other'seyes. Invisibleechoestheninvite them

Throughthe cavernshollow,
Where the forest spreadeth.

(II. i. 175-6)

We need not hesitate to recognize these caverns as volcanic, since the Echoes definitely tell us they are: the nymphs are urged to follow Throughthe many-folded mountains; To the rents, and gulfs, and chasms, Wherethe Earth reposedfrom spasms, On the day whenHe and thou now.... Parted,to commingle

(11. i. 201-5)

Without doubt Shelley had the 1794 eruptionof Vesuvius-the last beforehis own visit-in mind when depictingthe path of the ocean nymphs. The mountains above Torre del Greco (a village obliterated in this eruption) he described in language closely similarto that of the poem as coveredwiththe rare and divine vegetation this climate,with of many-folding vales,and deep darkrecesses, which fancy the scarcely could penetrate....36 The forcible separation of Asia and Prometheus, therefore, either caused, or resulted from,volcanic upheavals-presumably caused, since Earth recalls the outbreak of " new fireFrom earthquake-rifted mountainsof brightsnow " whenPrometheus As the pair approach these mountains,they enter" A Forest, intermingled with Rocks and Caverns "; here the lush exuberance of the floraand fauna, the interwoven bowersand voluptuous nightingales,have been criticized as excessive, but the
Letterof 25 Feb 1819. Some incidental supportmay be given to the contention C. E. Pulos of (PMLA, March 1952) that Malthusianism adverted in Prometheus is to Unbound, by a passage in A Philosophical View of Reform(1819), whereMalthusis representedas saying: ". . . afterthe frosthas bittentheir defenceless limbs,and the cramp has wrung like a disease within theirbones . . . the last tie by whichNature holds themto benignant earthwhoseplentyis garnered in the strongholds their up of tyrants, to be divided." Prometheus precisely dividedfromAsia, while is is so " Jupiter and Thetisbegetan ironically fatalchild."

was firstenchained (I. 166-7).87

G. M. Matthews


lushness neither is nor fanciful gratuitous. Asia and hercompanionhave reachedan area of volcanicfall-out, long famous forextreme fertility. Sinceclassicaltimesobservers recoghad nized that "the Campania Felice . . . owes its exuberant fertility frequent to showers volcanicashes,"38 and thoseof of Shelley's letters which describe thisarea showthatthepassage was by no means exaggerated.Shelley'sscene is, of course, over-determined: mention Silenus (II. ii. 90) suggests the of that Etna and Sicilywerealso in his mind;but the clearest influence-and,indeed, the clearestscenic influence the on wholeof Prometheus apart from Act I-is not Rome,but the area roundNaples whichShelleyexplored withsuchdelight in late 1818 and early 1819, especiallythe PhlegraeanFields, where, some accounts,the Titans and Giants had fought by their vainrisings against Jupiter. Lake Agnanoand theAstroni crater particularly had impressed him:theywerethefirst places he mentioned after telling Peacockthatthescenery surrounding Naples was " moredelightful than any within the immediate reach of civilizedman." The prose and the versemust be comparedat some lengthto establishthis morepreciseconnection." They are boththecraters extinguished of volcanos," Shelleywrote, and Naturehas thrown forth forests oak and ilex,and spread of mossy lawnsand clearlakes overthe dead or sleeping fire. ... [The Astroni crater] a royalchace,and is surrounded steep is by and lofty hills, and onlyaccessible through widegate of mossy a oak. . . . The hillsare covered withthickwoodsof ilex,myrtle, and laurustirus. . . The plain so surrounded at mostthree . is miles occupied in It partly a lake,withbold by shores wooded evergreens, interrupted a sylvan by and by promonof tory thewildforest, whose mossy boughs overhang expanse, its ofa silent purple and like darkness, an Italianmidnight; partly and by the forest of itself, all gigantic trees, but the oak especially, whosejaggedboughs, now leafless, hoarywiththicklichens, are andloadedwith massy deepfoliage theivy.40 the and of The effect, added,was " of an enchanting he solemnity." Here is partof the verse: The paththrough which thatlovely twain



Edinburgh Review,April 1804, 27. Letter of 25 Feb 1819. Ibid.


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

Have passed,by cedar,pine,and yew, And each dark treethat ever grew, Is curtained from out Heaven's wideblue; Nor sun,normoon,norwind,norrain Can pierceits interwoven bowers, Nor aught,save wheresome cloud of dew, Drifted alongthe earth-creeping breeze, Betweenthe trunks the hoar trees, of Hangs each a pearlin the pale flowers Of the greenlaurel,blownanew And the gloomdivineis all around, is And underneath the mossyground. (II. ii. 1-23) Shelley's cedars and pines may be Roman (or Spenserian) and hoar trees of the poem, imports;but the ivy, evergreens, the mossy ground,the gloom divine, the green laurel, all have in counterparts the letter.4' The " clear lakes " of the Second Faun also derive fromthe scene of the letter. For this rich forestharboursthe echoes (or exhalations) whichdraw (or drive) those destinedto be agents of historicalchange towards the " fatal " mountain of Demogorgon. In it dwell nightingales, the " poets" or imaginative thinkers: among others, Spenser (in echoes of the opening canto of the Faerie Queene); Shakespeare (the opening of Twelfth Night); Milton (the opening of the Nightingale sonnet); probably Gray, whose Progressof Poesy had adopted the same idea of successive schools of poetry; perhaps the " frailform" of Shelley himself (the anemone). It is difficult to share the enthusiasm of ProfessorGrabo and more recent commentatorsfor the scientificknowledge displayed in the dialogue of the Fauns, where it. is suggested that the spirits causing these echoes live in bubbles sucked up fromlakes by the sun and return to the earth on shooting-stars.For one thing,what the sun raised fromlive confervain clear water, according to Priestley and Darwin, was not hydrogen,but oxygen.42And for another thing,it was a mere poetic fancy
41There are other undoubted details of this visit in Prometheus: for instance, the "budding . . . blooms Which star the wind with points of coloured light" (III. iii. 137-8) recall the willow-buds in the Astroni crater which " gleamed like points of lambent fire" in the forest. The visit was made earlier in spring than the season described in the poem. 42 "* . pure dephlogisticated air" (Erasmus Darwin, The Botanic Garden, IV. 195 note).

G. Ml. Matthews


by 1819 to suppose that hydrogenraised fromthe earth and ignitedwas the cause of meteors;HumphreyDavy had indeed proved this to be impossiblebeforethe Shelleys leftEngland."3 Like much of Shelley's science, therefore, did not intend to it I)e scientific; and the passage was in any case interpolatedso as to give timeforAsia and Panthea to reach theirdestination.4' But it is true that in popular folklore all kinds of similar exhalationscontinuedto igniteinto meteors,and were particularly common in volcanic country. Hamilton was told by the 1794 survivorsof Torre del Greco that theyoften a vapourissuefrom bodyofthe lava, and taking see the firein air,falllike thosemeteors called falling vulgarly stars.'5 Shelley would have seen gases liberated under water or mud in the Burning Fields, and possibly at Matlock Bath (which he must have visited on about 7 Oct 1813), and the passage is over-determined. The volcanic tract through which the ocean-nymphspass, then, correspondsbroadly to the countrynear Naples, where, as a contemporary journal put it, we find. .. the wholeterritory roughwithcraters, ... and fuming withexhalations; and near these half-extinct remains, findthe we formidable Vesuvius restingfromthe work of desolation,and concentrating energies anotheroverwhelming his for explosion.46 This association points a way throughthe complexitiesof the thirdSemichorus: . . . And first therecomesa gentlesound To thosein talk or slumber bound, And wakes the destined:softemotion Attracts, impelsthem: thosewho saw the Say from breathing earthbehind There steamsa plume-uplifting wind Whichdrivesthemon theirpath,whilethey
83Phil. Trans.CVII Pt. I (1817), 75-6. ""See C. D. Locock's note to line 64 in his editionof The Poems of Percy ByssheShelley (London1911), I, 610. The episodeseemsto have been suggested the dialogueof the Shepherds by in Leigh Hunt's The Descent of Liberty(1815), Sc.I. '"Phil. Trans.XVII abr. ed., 502. " Edinburgh Review,April1804,28.


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

Believetheir ownswift and feet wings The sweetdesires within obey.... (II. ii. 48-63.Locock'spunctuation) Sleep, in Shelley, is another over-determined concept which awaits investigation. It may imply what is now known as an hibernization, artificial or state of cold insensibility, a " detested trance" like that of winter;but winteris also "the winterof the world,"an era of bondage or of apathy in the face of social injustice. This is why the West Wind wakened the Mediterranean from dreams of Roman grandeur and oppression; why the news of Peterloo (that "tremendous storm") roused Shelley as he " lay asleep in Italy " to write The Mask of Anarchy, and whyin the same poem the workingmenweresummoned " Rise likelionsafter to slumber."" Those in talk or slumber bound" therefore means somethinglike " those who are too shallowor insensible heed the summons to 47 of history." I have triedearlier to indicate the heavy overdetermination the " plume-uplifting of wind" that blows the destinedalong theirpath. Volcanoes had always been thought to contain caves, and to generateunderground winds; where else could the lava come from, and how else was combustion to be maintained? "Omnibus est porro in speluncis ventus et aitr," Lucretiusremarked Etna,48 of and the moderns supported him: "The immensequantities of such matter [as] we see above ground must necessarilysuppose very great hollows underneath." Hamilton had investigated the ventarolinear the base of Etna; possiblyShelley,too, had feltan underground wind in what is now called the Great Rutland Cavern at Matlock Bath. He certainlyintroducesvolcanic winds and caves into his addressto Athensin the Ode to Liberty (1820): The voicesofthybardsand sagesthunder Withan earth-awakening blast Through caverns thepast the of (80-2) Of course,the " plume-uplifting wind" not only liftsthe wings of the chosen and wafts them onward, but involves other volcanic associations: the mofette, like that of the Solfatara

" De Rerum Natura, VI. 684.

Essaysin Cliticim,July1954.

' Hamilton, Observations, cit.,67. op.

G. M. Matthews


" (illustrated with " plumes in Plate XXVII of Hamilton's in thegeyser(illustrated Mackenzie's CampiPhlegraei) ; book); at thesteamfrom springs(Bladud's springs Bath), and so hot as " werecommonly described emitting plumes," on. Fumaroles accountof the birth forinstance Captain Tillard'sstriking in of Sabrina Island in 1811, when the sea eruptedjets of vapourlike "innumerable plumesof black and whiteostrich factors such as the tricolored 50 feathers." Otherdetermining but are plumeswornby the Frenchrevolutionaries important irrelevant this inquiry.The point is that the "destined" to whiletheyare really think theyare doingas theychoose, doing as Demogorgon chooses. This is a hardnut to crackforthose who thinkShelleyabandonedhis beliefin "Necessity" as appliedto theindividual will;buthe statedrepeatedly, throughout his life,that " poets" are subjectto coercive forces which they are powerless evade, althoughthey themselves to form part of thoseforces.In the Prefaceto The Revolt of Islam (1818), he put it likethis: must a resemblance, doesnotdepend ... there be which upontheir ownwill, between thewriters anyparticular Theycannot all of age. escapefrom influence subjection a common to which out arises of an infinite in combination circumstances of belonging thetimes to which eachis in a degree author thevery they live;though the of influence which being thuspervaded. by his is All artists, said again two years later in the prefaceto he and prophetsof social Prometheus itself,being companions change," are, in one sense,the creators, and, in another, the creations theirage. Fromthissubjection loftiest not of the do escape." And in A Defence of Poetry (1821), almost the last piece of prose he wrote,he reiterated that "Poets are " the hierophants an unapprehended of inspiration (i. e. the of servants an unconscious influence), that " even whilethey deny and abjure,they are yet compelled servethe power to whichis seated upon the throneof theirown soul . . . it is
less their spiritthan the spirit of the age."

It is an influence the same sortthat surrounds of Asia and Panthea as they approachthe realmof Demogorgon.Swept alongby the movement change,theyare bornelike clouds of
50Phil. Trans.CII Pt. I, 154.


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

to the fatal mountain. For it was observed of volcanoes that but attracted theynot onlygeneratedtheirown " clouds offire," more orthodox clouds from elsewhere. Breislak watched the 1794 eruptionof Vesuvius fromJuneto July," and duringthat period,"he declared," everycloud that appeared on the horizon "5' was attractedto Vesuvius." In the same way the sound bears the sea-nymphs to the realm Of Demogorgon, the mighty and portal chasm, Like a volcano'smeteor-breathing Whencethe oracularvapouris hurledup in Whichlonelymen drinkwandering theiryouth, And call truth, virtue, love,genius, joy.... or (II. iii. 1-6) It is hard to see why,in order to undertakewhat C. S. Lewis has eloquentlycalled " this descent into hell,this returnto the womb, this death,"52 the two sisters should have done so much climbing. Facilis descensus Averno. And why seek a return to the womb on a dizzy "Pinnacle of Rock among Mountains" ? To make the real position clear it is helpfulto recall Shelley's letterto Peacock describingVesuvius: On the summit a kind of irregular plain . . . riveninto ghastly is volumes standstheconicalhillfrom which chasms.... In themidst of smoke,and the fountains liquid fire, rolledforth of forever. are and a The mountainis at presentin a slightstate of eruption; thickheavy whitesmokeis perpetually by rolledout, interrupted enormous vapour, black bituminous columnsof an impenetrable whichis hurledup, foldafterfold,intothe sky. . ..53 We may note in passing that what alarms Jupiter,at the opening of Act III, is that the soul of man (" like unextinjust as the guished fire") is busy " Hurling up insurrection," is "hurled up " from Demogorgon's spiraculum and vapour from Vesuvius itself. But the objective setting seems unchallengeable: the nymphshave been attracted (impelled) to the terminalcone of a colossal volcano.54The pinnacle of rock
"Edinburgh Review, April 1804, 31.

Rehabilitations, 1939. 32.

"Letter of 22 Dec 1818. "' It is no objection to this reading that Paiitheal describes the realm of Demochasm." Panthea has not been there gorgonas " Like a volcano's meteor-breathing before,and does not know whether it is a volcano or not; in the same way, lone it compares the moon to itself before identifying in IV.206-213.

G. M. Matthews


corresponds the" conicalhill" ofVesuvius, to and the" oracular vapour,"like the earlier"plume-uplifting wind,"patently fliesthe same flagas the militant volcanicexhalation which, himto write Ode to Naples: Shelley said,forced the
From that Typhaean mount, Inarime,55 Therestreamed sunbright a vapour,like the standard Of some aetherialhost; Whilst from the coast, all Louderand louder, gathering round,therewandered Over the oracularwoodsand divinesea whichgrewarticulateProphesyings They seize me-I mustspeak them!-be theyfate!


Later, in Demogorgon's presence, Asia's tongue will be loosened by these ventiloquaces. " When this divine inspiration has been conceived in the virgin's breast," according to just as the Sicilian peaks undulate when the flamespress upon Aetna; or as Typhoeus, buried beneath the everlastingmass of Inarime,roaringaloud, heats the Campanian rocks." 56 Before becomingdruggedby inspiration, however,Asia bids her companion admire the view (" ere the vapour dim thy brain"); and the descriptionwhich follows has been recognized as deriving from the Alps, where the poem was firstconceived. Nevertheless,Alpine as it is, Asia's descriptionconfirmsthe poet's intentions. " Beneath is a wide plain of billowy mist," she says, "islanding the peak whereon we stand "-a peak that is naked at the top (if we take the makeshiftadverbs " midway, around" as qualifying" encinctured "), but belted lower down by the forestthroughwhich they had come. All round themand " far on high" stand mountains,in such a way i hat "The vale is girdled with their walls "-the idea of a circlebeing insistentlyenforcedby the vocabulary: islanding the peak, around, encinctured, girdled. A familiar picture emerges: a cone of rock in the centre of a luxuriant elevated valley, encircled by a mountainous wall. One remem" Inarime was an old name for the island of Ischia in the Bay of Naples, under whose volcano, Epomeo, the Earth-borinTyphon, or Typhoeus. wexas said to have been imprisonedafter rebellingagainst Jupiter. " Pharsalia, V. 97-101 (Bohn translation) .

Lucan, ". . . it re-echoes, and opens the mouth of the prophetess,


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

bersthe" circular vale " " surrounded steepand lofty by hills" of the Astronicrater. There is little doubt that Asia and Panthea are conceivedas standing a gigantic in caldera, the craterof a quiescentvolcanowitha tall cinderbowl-shaped cone in the middle. Both Astroni (splendidly illustrated in Plate XX of Hamilton,op.cit.) and Vesuvius are calderas, and although latterwas " themosthorrible the chaos thatcan be imagined" in 1818, Shelleyhad probablyseen Bracini's description it as it had been priorto the eruption 1631, of of when boarswerehunted cattlegrazedin thewoodedcrater. and He is known haveread a guide-book to which states-following " Bracini-that at this timethe summit and even the hollow of the crater,was coveredwith verdureand forest trees,as a Astroni, long extinguished volcano,is at present.' Other regions maywellhave contributed thescene: Las Faldas on to Teneriffe,58 example, AMorne for or Garouin theCanaries, which is said to have had a moss-lined circular crater, witha conical hill in the centreand a terminal cone of granite-like rockon top,the apex emitting smoke.59 The Alpineassociations reinforceas well as modifythe volcanic. The " sun-awakened by avalanche."compared Asia to theaccumulation thoughts of in a greatmind, tillsomegreat truth Is loosened, thenations and echoround, Shakento their roots, do themountains as now," (II. iii.40-92) no doubtowesits existence the avalancheShelley to witnessed in Switzerland, theshaking thenations but of round mustrefer to the collapse of Mont d'Anterne, whichin 1751 had sent people" from Turinto investigate whether volcanohad not a burstfrom amongthe Alps.""" Shelleyhimself the fallen saw mountain day after the writing letter. the Meanwhile Asia and Pantheaareurged downward a " Song by " of Spirits,"one of whichhas burning An azure firewithin its goldenlocks." Grabo thinks, not unexpectedly, that this
J. C. Eustace, A Classical Toulr through Italy (1812), 1818 ed., III, 40 note. MaIy's Jo? rinalnotes that Shelley read this work 3-5 Aug 1818. c GeologiVal Transactions, II (1814), 293. " Phil. Trans. XIII abr. ed., 636-7. " Letter of '25 July 1816.

G. Ml. Matthews -.


Spirit mustbe somekindof electricity, it is morelikely but to be gaseous oxide of carbon,describedby Davy as burning blue at the base of yellowflames, withwhat which-together the old mineralogists called " the inflammable breathof the pyrites "-was sometimes suggested amongthe causes of volcanicactivity.Asia is nowtoldthatshemust Resist theweaknessnot Suchstrength in meekness is ThattheEternal, Immortal, the Mustunloose through portal life's The snake-like Doom coiled underneath throne, his By thatalone, (II. iii. 93-8) Earlieranalysis shown has thatLocock'sinterpretation these of linesmustbe correct:it is onlyby submitting the windof to doctrine thatthe ocean-nymphs assistthe desiredchange. can A reasonably close modern equivalentwouldbe the Hegelian " freedom the consciousness necessity."The nymphs is of are " As steelobeysthe spirit the stone,"as the needle guided, of follows the magnet,but theirsubmission the influence to is conscious and co-operative. note to Mab had observed A that " In theonlytruesenseofthewordpower, applieswithequal it force thelodestone to the humanwill."61 to as The " Cave of Demogorgon" is attained at last. In his metaphysical study" The Motivation Shelley's of Prometheus B. Unbound," Rajan observesat this point,withsuddendisconcerting facetiousness, that " Demogorgon lives in a cave, because a cave is dramatically more appropriate than Bays62 water." But if Demogorgon inhabitsa quiescent volcano,a cave is not only appropriate but unavoidable. Shelleyhad visited Solfatara, the Strabo'sforum Vulcani, had doubtless and heard the guide thumpwithhis stick on the hollowground " thrown a vaultoveran abyssoffire," listened like and where " the workings the furnacebeneath are heard distinctly of he sits enthroned:
? Note to VI. 198.

through it." 63 In this cave, Panthea senses Demogorgon as

I see a mighty darkness

" Eustace. op. cit., II, 495.



A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

and raysof gloom Fillingthe seat of power, sun. (II. iv. 2-4) Dart round, lightfrom meridian as the The referenceto the infra-red rays discovered in 1800 was firstdetected by Grabo; but as unluckilyoftenhappens with Shelley's scientific allusions,no one has troubledto explain its relevance to the scene it occurs in. Why should Demogorgon emit infra-redrays? There is naturally only one answerbecause he is extremelyhot; too hot to be visible. It was known, in Herschel's own words on the solar spectrum,that " the full red falls still short of the maximumof heat; which 64 perhaps lies even beyond visible refraction." Demogorgonis, in fact, realized in terms of molten magma, the obscure and terriblevolcanic agent hidden in the depths of the earth. His further connections withMilton's Satan, and withthe Snake in Canto I of Islam, lie outside the scope of this article. It is now timeto inquirewhatcaused the magmaticreservoirs to explode and discharge their contents, in the opinions of Shelley's contemporaries. Here the explanationof the ancients seems to have survivedmodernscepticism. Strabo and Pliny declared that volcanoes eruptedwhentheircaves wereinvaded by sea-water;and thistheory was applied to Etna by Lucretius, whose influence Prometheusis appreciable: on Ex hoc usque marispeluncaemontis altas ad perveniunt subterfauces.hac ire fatendumst et penetrare marispenituspercoctain apertum atque efflare foras,ideoque extollere flammam saxaque suiectare arenaetollere et nimbos.65 Shelleyhad read an articlein whichBreislak (a Plutonist) was quoted as stating that " the access of the waters of the sea," contributedto volcanic activity.66There were doubters,adHumboldt among them; and it was hard to conceive mittedly,
*'Phil. Trans. XVIII abr. ed., 683. "Op. cit., VI. 696-700."From this sea subterraneancaverns penetrate all the way to the depth of its throat. It cannot be doubted that by this channel a blend of wind and water fromthe open sea is forcedinto the heart of the mountain. From here it spouts out, shootingup flame,volleyingstones and disgorging clouds of sand." (R. E. Latham's Penguin Books translation,London 1951). Edinburgh Reviewv, Sept 1816, 161. The Quarterly Review, Jan 1816, 382, refutingHumboldt, pointed out that "All the volcanoes known in the world are either on islands or withinno great distance of the sea coast . . . and it is a fact,

G. M. Matthews


howsea-water couldprovoke effusion lava; but thetheory an of was generally accepted,and indeed,according Chambers' to Encyclopedia, Breislak'scautious statement would still have beenacceptablein 1950. After greateruption Vesuvius the of in 1794,Hamilton found that the majority the peopleherewereconvinced of that the torrents mudand water, of thathad donethem much so mischief, cameoutofthecrater Vesuvius, thatit wassea-water.67 of and Shelleyhimself believedthat Pompeiihad been overwhelmed " by " torrents boiling of water from Vesuvius. It is clear what was to be expected, scientifically speaking, if children Ocean weredrawnintocontactwiththe magma of of a volcaniccavern-a violenteruption, accompanied the by classicsymptoms: earthquakes; mephitic vapours;the familiar pine-tree cloud;thebursting a storm, of withferilli volcanic or lightning; ofcoursedestruction-in case finaldestrucand this tion of the heavenlydictatorship which Demogorgontells Jupiter, nonemayretain, Or reassume, hold, or thee. succeeding (III. i. 57-8) All these symptoms occur. First Asia breathesthe divine vapourand is inspired be herownoracle,68 herultimate to until
well known to mariner. and sufficiently remarkable, that, in the neighbourhood of insular volcanoes in a state of activity, a constant current or indraught sets towards the island or group of islands." " Phil. Trans. XVII abr. ed., 502. Miss Porden's poem The Veils: or the Triumph of Constancy (1815), of which Sir Humphrey Davy's presentation copy is in the Bodleian Library, explains (citing geysers in evidence) that " Volcanic eruptions are known to be connected with the flowingof water into subterranean caverns, and thereforeprobably owe their origin to the contention of fire and water, and the expansive force of steam " (Canto III. 355 note). This remarkable work, ludicrous as it is, merits much of the admiration bestowed on the Newton among Poets; it anticipates the infra-redrays of Shelley's Demogorgon, and the ultra-violet rays of Shelley's moon (PU IV.0219-230); it is much better informed about meteors than Shelley's Fauns; and it borrows from Southey's Thalaba the same X-ray carbuncle as Shelley used in PU (IV. 270-287). Its hero, clad in insulators,fightsthe chief of the Gnomes with electricity,and (more pertinent here) one of its heroines,Leonora, descends into the crater of Stromboli in order to visit Pyros (Fire). The poem has been overlooked by students of Shelley's science. " Asia's exasperating " dialogue " with Demogorgon only makes sense, and becomes dramatically satisfying,if it is realized that she is talking to herself. She is made to interrogateher own soul; and Demogorgon can supply no answer


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

hourarrive? Andat this " question:" Whenshallthedestined The rocksare pointshe is answered a volcanic by explosion. that cloven; blackening night, terrible the shadow, Demogorgon, floats
as its Up from throne, maytheluridsmoke Of earthquake-ruined o'er the sea. (II. iv. 150-2) cities Any of a dozen accounts of major eruptionswould serve to gloss this scene. I select one fromHamilton (Vesuvius,1767) whichShelleymay have read: from newmouth, this split;and,withmuchnoise, ... themountain a fountain liquidfireshotup manyfeethigh,and then,like a of at torrent, rolled directly on towards The earthshook, thesame us. timethata volley pumice fell of stones thick uponus; in an instant, cloudsof black smoakand ashes caused almosta total darkness; than weremuchlouder theexplosions the from top ofthemountain I . the pumice-stones, ...... any thunder everheard upon falling sensation us likehail,wereof sucha size as to cause a disagreeable uponthe partwhere theyfell.69 Shelley himselfhad seen identical " fountainsof liquid fire" rolled forthfromVesuvius; and the Earth, who mightbe presumed to know a good deal of geology,was rightto warn the Spiritof the Hour that the flight its horses" must be swifter of than fire." It would not do to be caught in the " bursting cloud " that overwhelmed Jupiter,like an eagle blinded by lightning and struckdown by hail. Apollo is held in heaven by wonder: the " sun will rise not untilnoon." The reasonforthe apparentanachronism initiated by thisstatement that hintedat (but dismissed) by " B. V." is in his amusingsummary the time-problems Prometheus,70 of in as anyone interested volcanoes would assume at once. The in sun is eclipsedby the eruption, day " dawns " onlyat noon, and whenJupiter has been overthrown. Pliny, Cicero,Seneca, and otherclassical authorsread by Shelleyhad describeda similar
that she cannot supply herselfat this momentof supremepropheticconsciousness, or for which she has insufficient knowledgeeven to frame the question meaningfully. Demogorgonis describedby Lucan as a god " qui mundumcogere,quidquid Cogitur ipse, potest" (Pharsalia, 496-9). VI. 69 Observations,op. cit.,26-8.

"Shelley,a Poem: withotherwritings relating Shdlley, the late James to by Thomson('B. V.'), London pvtly ptd. 1884, 56.

G.-M. Matthews


volcanic darkness. Breislak,a witnessof the 1794 outburstof Vesuvius,wrotethat At Caserta, more than ten miles fromVesuvius,torcheswere obligedto be used at mid-day, the gloomwas onlybroken and by the frequent flashesof lightning which partiallydisplayedthe

mountain. . .71

Hamilton had shared this experienceat Somma, where " the darknesswas such, thoughit was mid-day,that even withthe help of torchesit was scarcely possible to keep in the high road.72 Artificalnight was an expected result of eruptions. In 1768 "the quantity of ashes ejected by the mouth of Cotopaxi was so great, that, in the towns of Hambato and 73 Tacunga, day broke only at three in the afternoon.... but Shelley had no first-hand knowledgeof this phenomenon; his nightview of Vesuviuson 16 December 1818 perhapscontributed to his pictureof the defeatedJupiter heaven illumining " sanguine light" throughthe " thick ragged skirts of " with the victoriousdarkness.74 With astoundingunanimity,criticshave contrivedto find that Jupiter's overthrowis an essentially peaceful process. Tyrannyalways fallswithouta struggle 75 " no real conflict "; is possibleif;76 "Jupiter simply falls."77 No doubt in these days of nuclearintimidation, respectformerelyvolcanic power may seem a littlenaive. Nevertheless, must be allowed that it a dispute which eclipses the sun and shakes the planets (possibly even the Milky Way) has its claim to seriousness. A hotter war could hardly have been imagined with the resourcesof 1819, though for the normal Aristotelianreasons its climax is not staged but reported. Perhaps the root of the
"Quoted by the Edinburgh Review, April 1804, 31. Phil. Trans. XVII abr. ed., Pt. I, 502. 7 Humboldt's Researches, op. cit., quoted by the QuarterlyReview, July 1816, 461. 7" " We were, as it were; surroundedby streams and cataracts of the red and radiant fire; and in the midst, from the column of bituminous smoke shot up into the air, fell the vast masses of rock, white with the light of their intense heat, leaving behind them throughthe dark vapour trains of splendour" (Letter of 22 Dec 1818). 71 Crane Brinton,Political Ideas of the English Romanticists,1926, 169. 76 C. M. Bowra, The Romantic Imagination,1950, 1292. "'Graham Hough, The Romantic Poets, 1953, 137.


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

errorstill lies in the old fallacy that determinism exemptsits adherentsfromthe need to act. In fact, Shelley's bloodless revolutionism existedmorein his hopes than in his expectations, which were less optimistic;both his major pictures of social revolutioninvolve catastrophicviolence. " So dear is power," he believed at the time of writingPrometheus," that the tyrants themselves neither then,nor now,nor ever,leftor leave a path to freedombut throughtheirown blood." 78 Nothing could be more explicitthan that. A conflictwas inescapable " because the " tyrants were habitually the firstto resort to force. The fall of Jupiterunder a "bursting cloud " brings the concept of volcanic activity into close relation with that of the storm. Violent rains mixed with black ash, hail, and lightning, commonlyaccompanied volcanic eruptions. In that of 1794 Hamilton said: ... the discharge the electrical of matter from volcanicclouds the during thiseruption . . caused explosions thoseof theloudest . like thunder; indeedthe storms and raisedevidently the sole power by ofthevolcano, resembled every in respect other all thunder storms; the lightning falling and destroying everythingin its course.79 Jupiter's thunderbolts thusprovideda metaphorical connection between the concepts. " Sceptred curse," Earth cries later in the poem, Who all our greenand azure universe Threatenedst muffle to round withblackdestruction, sending A solid cloud to rainhot thunder-stones, And splinter and kneaddownmy children's bones... (IV. 337-341) Again the originof these lines is likelyto have been Hamilton and the 1794 eruption;his reportfor the 18th June includes this sentence: One cloudheapedon another, succeeding and each other incessantly,
" Phil. Trans. XVII abr. ed., 495-6. Grabo has noted (A Newton Among Poets, 1930, 183-5) the volcanic reference in this passage, but treats the " thunderstones" of 18th-century "philosophy" and 19th-century folklore,volcanic debris, and meteorites, interchangeable, as which no responsiblescientistcould have done " in 1818. Shelley's " thunder-stones describe in metaphor the products of a metaphoricaleruption.
78A Philosophical View of Reform,. 1819.

G. M. Matthews


and elevatedcolumnof the formed a fewhourssuch a gigantic in as darkesthue overthe mountain, seemedto threaten Naples with immediate destruction, havingat one timebeen bentoverthe city, to and appearingto be much too massiveand ponderous remain longsuspended the air.80 in " The followingday, " thunder-stones fell near Sienna during over fivepounds.8' The affinities a storm,the biggestweighing of these phenomena with the congregatedmight of vapours, black rain and fireand hail of the Ode to the solid atmosphere, West Wind make it patent that the sepulchral" dome " in that poem-a favouriteword of Humboldt's for the cones of the Cordillera-has its strong volcanic overtones as well as its share of starlight.

Who or what, then,is Demogorgon,and what underliesthis volcanic symbolism,these "characters and mechanism of a kind yet unattemptedA82 of Prometheus? He can scarcely be literally what he pretends, " Eternity," though some have accepted the paragram at its face value. This is rather as if an arrested rioter gave his name as " Swing," and saw it solemnly inscribedon the indictment. We must expect him, naturally,to be an over-determined, an allegorical figure, not and his interpretation therefore is limitedto the aspects isolated in this study. Several critics have felt Demogorgon to be uncomfortably alien among the classical personae of the poem; D. G. James even says-almost incredibly-that " at least, through him Shelley was able to fill up his second Act." 83 But Demogorgon in his volcanic capacity is, in typical Shelley fashion,at once a denizen of the Jupiter-Prometheus cosmos and an intruderinto it. His close affinity with Earth's " prostratesons," who had revoltedagainst Jupiterover the Burning Fields, is sufficiently evident. Like these,Demogorgonis located at the bottom of a volcano; accordingto one of Shelley's most admired authorities,his name cannot be mentioned without causing an earthquake; 84 and Jupiter himself, Act III, hoped in
Letter of 6 April 1819. The Romantic Comedy. 1948. 130. 8' " quo nunquam terra vocato Non concussa tremit"- (Lucan, Pharsalia, VI. 745-6).
8 82

81 Ibid., 503.

Phil. Trans. XVII abr. ed., 498-9.


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

to usethe" earthquake ofhisarrival destructive " for purposes, unlessindeedthismetaphor the of represents irony ignorance Prometheus contains (contrary traditional to teaching, brilliant is described and savage irony). Demogorgon accurately in in terms shapeless of molten magmaor lava; he erupts order to overthrow whenhe sees the Jupiter; Jupiter's and impulse, as danger, to deal withhimexactly he had dealt withthe is Titans and the Giants-that is, to attackhimwithlightning and incarcerate underground: him Detested prodigy! Eventhus beneath deepTitanian the prisons I trample thee! (III. i. 61-3) in consists thefactthat, unlike Demogorgon's earlier novelty rebels, genuinely he the possesses powerto overthrow Jupiter, so thatno figure namedby Hesiodcouldhave served Shelley's purpose. Shelleythought that his own contemporary society contained forcewhichwas familiar a and alien in the same way. He believedthat since 1688 a new social class and ideology had been acquiring separateexistence, destined ultimatelyto give the death-blow political to oppression, he and thisbeliefon manyoccasions, expressed notablyin the suppressed paragraph the preface Hellas (1821), and in A of to Philosophical Viewof Reform, from which, it was written as with sameimpulse Prometheus, quotations taken. the as my are AfterWilliamIII's accession,Shelleysaid, the numberof " hands" increased greatly proportion thatof the upper in to classes. A fourth therefore class appeared thenation, unrepresented in the . multitude thenation universally became multiplied a into denomination which had no constitutional presence the state. in Thisdenomination notexisted had beforeor, at least, had not been conscious havingindependent of interests. as thegrowth a middle But of class came to impose a " double aristocracy," intensified exploitation impoverished it and drove to seekredress an after-life, to itsmembers it in yet Thegleams hopewhich of speak Paradise of seem theflames like in hell to Milton's only makedarkness visible. .. . Shelleyknew that in 1818-9this class had few enlightened G. Al. Matthews 221

and leaders, littleorganization, no common plan of action, that it was, in fact, shapeless,with neither limb, nor form, nor that but outline; he felt passionately it was a living Spirit." He believedthat a clash betweenthe two classes of societywas and himself thepeople'sside," on inevitable, he eagerly ranged thereMary wrotein hernote to his 1819 poems. It is likely, fore, thatscholars werewasting their timein pursuing name the " in "Demogorgon to its unilluminating origins Lactantius and Hyginus.Shelleywas of the schoolofPeacock in his etymolothat the gies, as Swellfoot demonstrates, it is impossible and as combination -yopycy notcommend did itself one reason 8&o forthe choiceof name. To take the physicalsignificance of Demogorgonany further within the limits set is hardly practicable. The basisofmuchofthevolcanic in mature imagery Shelley's poetry mustnowbe clear. This is theperception revolutionof ary activity the external in worldand in the humanmind-of irrepressible collective energy containedby repressive power. (Such a usage,it willbe remembered, no meansprohibits by others,includingits opposite,that which implies despotic energy exerted againstthe oppressed). The Naples area presenteda perfect mythological background. The classicaltales of the risings Earth's sonsagainstJupiter of clearly record the volcanicupheavalsthat shaped the landscapein this part of Italy. Hamilton quotesan earlier witness writing, as during the 1538eruption MonteNuovo, of " It appeared me as ifTypheus Enceladus to and from Ischiaand Etna withinnumerable giants, thosefrom CampiPhlegrei of the (which, according the opinions some,weresituated this to of in 85 neighbourhood), cometo wagewaragainwith were Jupiter." Hamilton used the comparison himself when his powersof 86 description failed; and the same tradition to be foundin is manyauthorsread by Shelley.87 With his volcanoes, Shelley
Observations, op. cit., 131. Phil. Trans. XIV abr. ed., 618:-" It may have been froma scene of this kind, that the ancient poets took their ideas of the giants waging war with Jupiter" (11 Aug 1779). " E. g. in Pindar, 1st Pythian Ode; and Bacon, De Sapientia Veterum, under " Typhon, sive rebellis." Shelley speaks of " many-headed Insurrection in Hellas, " 334.
8 86

A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

was really making use of a myth or " symbol" at least as old as Exodus, which has survived with formidablevitality into quite recent times.88There are, in fact, groundsforregarding the volcano as an archetypalimage; whichposes an interesting question forfollowers Jung: how Collective is the Collective of Unconscious? It is understandable that the literatureof the French Revolution should exploit this inviting analogy between social upheaval and the highly topical science of geology. Shelley must have met it early, in the Abbe Barruel's Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinisn, " a favouritebook at college," according to Hogg, of which " he went throughthe four volumes again and again." 89 To Barruel, subversion appeared "to arise from the bowels of the earth";90 the disaffectedhid their purposes under " the black cloud . . . round the summit of the volcano,""' but "at length the erruptiondenotes the abyss where so great a convulsion was generated."92 After the suppression of the Jacobins, warned Barruel, The sect, weakened, may slumber a while,but such a sleep is for the calm preceding irruption the volcano. It no longer the of sends forth curling its flames; but the subterraneous windsits course, fire penetrates, and preparing many vents,suddenlyburstsforth and carriesmisery and devastationwherever fiery its torrent rolls. (I. xix) Shelley's prose establishes beyond doubt that these associations were deliberate. When in 1821 the Holy Alliance mandated Austria to interveneagainst the rebels of southern Italy, Shelley declared that notwithstandingthe soldierly advantages of the invaders,
88 The first line of the English versionof the Internationale," Arise,ye starvelings, from your slumbers!" was directly influenced by Shelley; the French original continues: "La raison tonne en sa cratere, C'est l'&ruption de la fin!" (Pottier, 1871). 89 Hogg, op. cit., I, 376. The English translation in four volumes was published in 1797. Shelley was reading it again in 1814 (see Mary's Journal for 23, 25 Aug and 9, 11 Oct 1814). 90 Barruel, Memoirs, op. cit., I. x.


thIbid., 3. IV, Ibid., IV, 356-7.

C. 31. AMatthews

is if all these things, the Spiritof Regeneration abroad, are chaff and eventswill fight the very elements against beforethe storm, themto the indignation shameful and repulsewillburnafter them, valleysof the Alps.93 The image of the pursuinglava would perhaps go unnoticed but for the letter to Peacock a month later, employingless terms: indefinite volcanoeswhich hereat Pisa by revolutionary We are surrounded as yet give more lightthan heat: the lava has not yet reached Tuscany." It is useful to findthe importanceof Demogorgon's heat confirmedby this remark. Nor are these the only confirmatory passages in the prose. In weighingthe chances of an Irish risingin 1821, for example, Shelley lamented that " there are nor no regularbodies of men in oppositionto the government, have the people any leaders. In England," he continued," all bears for the moment the aspect of a sleeping volcano."95 the vegetation spread " over the dead Shelley's descriptionofor sleeping fire" in the Astroni crater will be remembered. Some of the associationshe attached to the concept sleep have already been pointed out; and a sleeping volcano carried a double significance. Demogorgon remained quiescent until visitedby the sea-sisters. " In the worldunknown,"the Echoes had told Asia, Sleeps a voice unspoken; By thystep alone Can its restbe broken; Child of Ocean! (II. i. 190-4) In other contextsthe " sleep " of a nation or people mightbe brokenby the summonsor the inspiring example of a neighbor; and this idea, much cherishedby Shelley, commonlyinvolves imagerydrawn froma related geological discovery: England yet sleeps: was she not called of old? thunder Spain calls hernow,as withits thrilling VesuviuswakensAetna,and the cold Snow-crags its replyare clovenin sunder: by O'er the lit waves everyAeolianisle
"Letter of 18 Feb 1821. ' Letter of 20 Mar 1821. "Letter of 31 Dec 1821.

A Volvano'sVoice in Shelley

FromPithecusato Pelorus Howls,and leaps,and glaresin chorus... These lines, with their pounding rhetoricand comically inappropriate visual evocation (" Volcanoes of the World, Unite!"), are scarcely among Shelley's best, but for contemporary readers the comedy would not be quite so apparent. Only since Michell's impressiveessay of 1760 had it been fully realized that the volcanic regionsof the globe were interconnected,and could and did communicateat enormousdistances.97 The Lisbon earthquakehad been feltin the minesof Derbyshire. Humboldt remarked in his Personal Narrative that in Chile and Guatamala " the active volcanoes are grouped in rows,"98 and noted that those of Mexico, too, " are ranged in a line fromeast to west." '9 These and otherfacts led to a disturbing

crevice, an through enormous thatthesubterraneous has pierced fire Pacificto the AtlanticOcean.100
which exists in the bowels of the Earth . . . and stretchesfromthe

Some thoughtwith Humboldt that the world's volcanoes were ganged togetheralong isolated crevices;othersthat they pene101 trated direct to the central fires; but in either case the an permitted alarminganalogy to be drawnbetween recognition It internationalpolitical subversion and volcanic activity.102 that enabled Barruel was this consciousnessof interconnection to sav of Jacobinism that " the subterraneousfire winds its course," and Shelley to write of the " contagious" fires of sentiment;it explains why the curses of Laone's revolutionary
"Ode to Liberty (1820), xiii. The Aeolian or Lipari Islands contain Vulcano and Stromboli; Pithecusa was another early name for volcanic Ischia. 9 Michell, op. cit.,454-6;461-2.
19 Op. cit.,I, 200. " Researches, cit.,II, 103. op. 100Ibid.

If we consider a burning crater only as an isolated phenomenon . . . the volcanic action at the surface of the Globe will appear neither very powerful, nor very extensive. But the image of this action swells in the mind, when we study the relations that link together volcanoes of the same group; for instance those of Naples and Sicily, of the Canary islands, of the Azores . . . or the distance to which, by subterranean communications,they at the same moment shake the Earth " (Humboldt, Personal Narrative, op. cit., IV, 31-2.

I. 141-2,and The Templeof Nature,or The Origin Society (1803), I. 321. of


1o0 Erasmus

Darwin held the latter view. See The Botanic Garden (1791),

C. M1.Matthews


could be compared to " the voice of flamesfar fellow-captives underneath"; 103 and why the Greek Captive Women in Hellas long to hear shallflow fire, likesecret The wordswhich, the veins of the frozenearth, (32-3) Through until,as a messengerannounces later in the same poem, Creteand Cyprus, that Like mountain-twins fromeach other'sveins and Catch the volcano-fire earthquake-spasm, (587-590) fever. Shake in the general every outbreak of " fire" Readers should be wary of referring in Shelley's poetry to the electrical fire of Beccaria or the occult fire of Ficinus: even his purest flame is apt to have some relishof damnation in it. Again it will be noted that his " tingling joy " extends equally to the earthquake and the eruption. For both, in his symbolicusage, representan essentially preservativeand creative forceas well as a destructive one. On a social and political level they connote reform, the liberation,104 indomitableand united energiesof oppressed of and mankind,besidesthe destructiveness destruction Jupiter. On a physical level they involve, as we have seen, the fertility of nature. More, they involve the creation or renewal of the " earth. It is unquestionable that the " brightgarden-isles of isles " of PrometheusUnbound, Queen Mab and the " fortunate like the pumice-islesand faraglioniwhich Shelley had seen off the coast of Naples, are to be imagined as rising from the records wastes of the sea by volcanic action.105Contemporary of the birthof new islands, fromIceland to the Aleutianq,are too common to enumerate,but the QuarterlyReview justly observedthat theyconstituted" the most recentact of creation in the western world."106 Of the Naples region, Sir William Hamilton roundlydeclared:
08 104

let us confidentlyhope, remain unshaken by the earthquake which shatters to " dust the " mountainous strongholds of the tyrants of the western world." "' " Like rocks which firelifts out of the flat deep " (Ode to Liberty, ix. 125). The name " fortunate isles " itself derives from Plutarch's name for the volcanic Canaries. `D- April 1814, 194.

The Revolt of Islam, VII. vii. Cf. A Philosophical View of Reform: "The great monarchies of Asia cannot,


A Volcano's Voice in Shelley

The moreopportunities have of examining I thisvolcaniccountry, the more I am convincedof the truthof what I have already ventured advance,whichis, that volcanoesshouldbe considered to in a creativeratherthan a destructive light....107 This attitude, it should be added, was thoroughlyin accord with the most advanced geogenictheoryof Shelley's day, that of Hutton, who thoughtthat the continentsand islands of the globe, worn continually down into the sea by attrition,were continually replaced by subaqueous material thrust up by volcanic fire.'08 One mightsay that accordingto the Huttonian Hypothesis, the renaissance of the earth depended on volcanic change, and it would not be surprising Shelley accepted this if in a literalas he incontestably hypothesis did in a metaphorical
sense. Vii

"It is a mistake,"Shelley wrotein his prefaceto Prometheus, "to suppose that I dedicate my poetical compositionssolely to the direct enforcement reform." Present-day critics are of perhaps less liable to this particular mistake than the writer anticipated; yet it must be inferred fromShelley's words that the poem is at least partly so dedicated. The pursuit of " symbols" can become an evasion of reality. Some of the poet's most energeticconcepts have never been allowed their fullsignificance his work,and othershave been examinedtoo in exclusively froma mystical point of view. The eruption,the earthquake, the volcanic dome, cloud, cavern, and fire,the burningfountainor girandole,the storm,the spark blown from the metallurgical" hearth" (a technicalword probably picked up fromHenry Reveley) -all these, and others,contributeto a meaning which has been more and more attenuated by specialized metaphysicalassumptions. It would be fallinginto an equal errorto claim that the volcano is the " key-symbol "
107 108

James Hutton's A Theory of the Earth was first published in 1785, and elaborated in 1795 and 1799. Professor Playfair's Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth appeared in 1802. After initial hesitation, the theory was consistentlychampioned by the Edinburgh Reviewv,which hailed Playfair's popularization as " perhaps the most eloquent work on science in our language " in Feb 1816, 157. Writers as widely known as Mackenzie, Humboldt, and Erasmus Darwin accepted it (see esp. The Temple of Nature, op. cit., IV. 431-442).

Phil. Trans.XVI abr. ed., 134.

G. Mt. Matthews


in ofPrometheus Unbound, thatits recognition theimagery or and structure thework of the of exhausts significance thescenes discussed.Obviously manyproblems by thepoemare outset side the presenttermsof reference, whileothershave been raisedas a result them.Whatis therelation Demogorgon of of to Prometheus? volcanic electrical Of to energy? What is the purport a social level of Asia's part in the drama? What on " " modifications necessary the orthodox moralmyth are in view, whichpresupposes forgiveness Jupiter of a whichis demonstrably remain be answered. absent?Thesequestions to What is obviously is wrong, however, to acknowledge the on one hand Shelley's passionate and lifelong interest the proin gressof social relations, on the otherhand to studyhis and majorpoetry if its symbolism no bearing as had excepton the of progress theindividual soul. Shelley's boyhood recognition of Intellectual Beauty was a simultaneous recognition the of social and political principles in which, his opinion, illustrated and indeedconstituted that Beauty. Whateverfullreading to maybe given thegreat poemsof1818-19, must, am sure, it I remain constantly attentive the principles to Shelleyregarded as central:the beautyand grandeur redistribute own (to his words) of the doctrines equalityand liberty of and disinterestedness, which first determined to devotehis lifeto the him inculcation them. of
Universityof Leeds, England


i 'olcano'sVoicein Shelley