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Julian and Maddalo: A Conversation.

Introductory Note



The meadows with fresh streams, the bees with thyme,
The goats with the green leaves of budding Spring,
Are saturated not--nor Love with tears.
VIRGIL'S Gallus.

Julian and Maddalo is the fruit of Shelley's first visit to Venice in 1818, where he found Byron, and the poem is a reflection of their companionship, Julian standing for Shelley, Maddalo for Byron, and the child being Byron's daughter, Allegra. It was written in the fall, at Este, and received its last revision in May, 1819, but was not published, notwithstanding some efforts of Shelley to bring it out, until after his death, when it was included in the Posthumous Poems, 1824. Shelley had it in mind to write three other similar poems, laying the scenes at Rome, Florence and Naples, but he did not carry out the plan. He once refers to the tale, or 'conversation' as among 'his saddest verses;' but his important comment on it is contained in a letter to Hunt, August 15, 1819:

'I send you a little poem to give to Ollier for publication, but without my name. Peacock will correct the proofs. I wrote it with the idea of offering it to the Examiner, but I find it is too long. It was composed last year at Este; two of the characters you will recognize; and the third is also in some degree a painting from nature, but, with respect to time and place, ideal. You will find the little piece, I think, in some degree consistent with your own ideas of the manner in which poetry ought to be written. I have employed a certain familiar style of language to express the actual way in which people talk with each other, whom education and a certain refinement of sentiment have placed above the use of vulgar idioms. I use the word vulgar in its most extensive sense. The vulgarity of rank and fashion is as gross in its way as that of poverty, and its cant terms equally expressive of base conceptions, and, therefore, equally unfit for poetry. Not that the familiar style is to be admitted in the treatment of a subject wholly ideal, or in that part of any subject which relates to common life, where the passion, exceeding a certain limit, touches the boundaries of that which is ideal. Strong passion expresses itself in metaphor, borrowed from objects alike remote or near, and casts over all the shadow of its own greatness. But what am I about? If my grandmother sucks eggs, was it I who taught her?

If you would really correct the proof, I need not trouble Peacock, who, I suppose, has enough. Can you take it as a compliment that I prefer to trouble you?

'I do not particularly wish this poem to be known as mine; but, at all events, I would not put my name to it. I leave you to judge whether it is best to throw it into the fire, or to publish it. So much for self--self, that burr that will stick to one.'

CONTENTS      BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD


 
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