Peter Bell The Third

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 (Horsham) – 1822 (Lerici)

BY MICHING MALLECHO, Esq.

Is it a party in a parlour,
Crammed just as they on earth were crammed,
Some sipping punch-some sipping tea;
But, as you by their faces see,
All silent, and all-damned!

Peter Bell, by W. Wordsworth.

Ophelia.-What means this, my lord?
Hamlet.-Marry, this is Miching Mallecho; it means mischief.
~Shakespeare.

PROLOGUE
Pet er Bells, one, two and three,
O'er the wide world wandering be.-
First, the antenatal Peter,
Wrapped in weeds of the same metre,
The so-long-predestined raiment
Clothed in which to walk his way meant
The second Peter; whose ambition
Is to link the proposition,
As the mean of two extremes-
(This was learned from Aldric's themes)
Shielding from the guilt of schism
The orthodoxal syllogism;
The First Peter-he who was
Like the shadow in the glass
Of the second, yet unripe,
His substantial antitype.-
Then came Peter Bell the Second,
Who henceforward must be reckoned
The body of a double soul,
And that portion of the whole
Without which the rest would seem
Ends of a disjointed dream.-
And the Third is he who has
O'er the grave been forced to pass
To the other side, which is,-
Go and try else,-just like this.
Peter Bell the First was Peter
Smugger, milder, softer, neater,
Like the soul before it is
Born from that world into this.
The next Peter Bell was he,
Predevote, like you and me,
To good or evil as may come;
His was the severer doom,-
For he was an evil Cotter,
And a polygamic Potter.
And the last is Peter Bell,
Damned since our first parents fell,
Damned eternally to Hell-
Surely he deserves it well!

PART THE FIRST
DEATH
And Peter Bell, when he had been
With fresh-imported Hell-fire warmed,
Grew serious-from his dress and mien
'Twas very plainly to be seen
Peter was quite reformed.

His eyes turned up, his mouth turned down;
His accent caught a nasal twang;
He oiled his hair; there might be heard
The grace of God in every word
Which Peter said or sang.

But Peter now grew old, and had
An ill no doctor could unravel;
His torments almost drove him mad;-
Some said it was a fever bad-
Some swore it was the gravel.

His holy friends then came about,
And with long preaching and persuasion
Convinced the patient that, without
The smallest shadow of a doubt,
He was predestined to damnation.

They said-'Thy name is Peter Bell;
Thy skin is of a brimstone hue;
Alive or dead-ay, sick or well-
The one God made to rhyme with hell;
The other, I think, rhymes with you.'

Then Peter set up such a yell!-
The nurse, who with some water gruel
Was climbing up the stairs, as well
As her old legs could climb them-fell,
And broke them both-the fall was cruel.

The Parson from the casement lept
Into the lake of Windermere-
And many an eel-though no adept
In God's right reason for it-kept
Gnawing his kidneys half a year.

And all the rest rushed through the door,
And tumbled over one another,
And broke their skulls.-Upon the floor
Meanwhile sat Peter Bell, and swore,
And cursed his father and his mother;

And raved of God, and sin, and death,
Blaspheming like an infidel;
And said, that with his clenchèd teeth
He'd seize the earth from underneath,
And drag it with him down to hell.

As he was speaking came a spasm,
And wrenched his gnashing teeth asunder;
Like one who sees a strange phantasm
He lay,-there was a silent chasm
Between his upper jaw and under.

And yellow death lay on his face;
And a fixed smile that was not human
Told, as I understand the case,
That he was gone to the wrong place:-
I heard all this from the old woman.

Then there came down from Langdale Pike
A cloud, with lightning, wind and hail;
It swept over the mountains like
An ocean,-and I heard it strike
The woods and crags of Grasmere vale.

And I saw the black storm come
Nearer, minute after minute;
Its thunder made the cataracts dumb;
With hiss, and clash, and hollow hum,
It neared as if the Devil was in it.

The Devil was in it:-he had bought
Peter for half-a-crown; and when
The storm which bore him vanished, nought
That in the house that storm had caught
Was ever seen again.

The gaping neighbours came next day-
They found all vanished from the shore:
The Bible, whence he used to pray,
Half scorched under a he
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is regarded by critics as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. more…

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