One more on Shelley’s 1813 Queen Mab. But I shouldn’t be writing these: doing blog entries takes me a significant amount of time -- I can’t just dash them off. I usually write notes and scribble thoughts as I’m reading stuff but it would take a lot of work to turn them into anything more public.
The correct function for my blog, I've concluded, is to keep me writing in those periods when I don’t have a ‘proper’ writing job on the go -- which at the moment I do, which is why I shouldn’t be writing this. Hence the long interruptions to my blogging activity.
Shelley: one other thing he is good at is space -- interstellar immensities, constellations. The last part of section I (of nine) is a description of the journey of the fairy’s ‘car’ up from earth, through clouds and sky and across the extent of the globe and then out into space, further and further away. This is almost the end of the flight:
The magic car moved on.
Earth’s distant orb appeared
The smallest light that twinkles in the heaven;
Whilst round the chariot’s way
Innumerable systems rolled,
And countless spheres diffused
An ever-varying glory.
It was a sight of wonder: some
Were horned like the crescent moon;
Some shed a mild and silver beam
Like Hesperus o’er the western sea;
Some dash’d athwart with trains of flame,
Like worlds to death and ruin driven;
Some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed
Eclipsed all other light.
Spirit of Nature! here!
In this interminable wilderness
Of worlds, at whose immensity
Even searing fancy staggers,
Here is thy fitting temple....
That’s ‘the Sublime’, as theorised by Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant.
Shelley ends the section with his metaphysical notion that that Spirit of Nature that pervades that ‘interminable’ space fills everything there is, so that ‘not the lightest leaf / That quivers to the passing breeze / Is less instinct with thee’. (Both space and time are interminable, infinite: for Shelley the atheist, there was no Creation and there are no bounds to space.)