THE MASK OF ANARCHY.
WRITTEN ON THE OCCASION OF THE MASSACRE AT MANCHESTER.
[Composed at the Villa Valsovano near Leghorn—or possibly later, during Shelley’s sojourn at Florence—in the autumn of 1819, shortly after the Peterloo riot at Manchester, August 16; edited with Preface by Leigh Hunt, and published under the poet’s name by Edward Moxon, 1832 (Bradbury & Evans, printers). Two manuscripts are extant: a transcript by Mrs. Shelley with Shelley’s autograph corrections, known as the ‘Hunt manuscript’; and an earlier draft, not quite complete, in the poet’s handwriting, presented by Mrs. Shelley to (Sir) John Bowring in 1826, and now in the possession of Mr. Thomas J. Wise (the ’Wise manuscript’). Mrs. Shelley’s copy was sent to Leigh Hunt in 1819 with view to its publication in “The Examiner”; hence the name ’Hunt manuscript.’ A facsimile of the Wise manuscript was published by the Shelley Society in 1887. Sources of the text are (1) the Hunt manuscript; (2) the Wise manuscript; (3) the editio princeps, editor Leigh Hunt, 1832; (4) Mrs. Shelley’s two editions ("Poetical Works”) of 1839. Of the two manuscripts Mrs. Shelley’s transcript is the later and more authoritative.]
As I lay asleep in Italy
There came a voice from over the Sea,
And with great power it forth led me
To walk in the visions of Poesy.
I met Murder on the way— 5
He had a mask like Castlereagh—
Very smooth he looked, yet grim;
Seven blood-hounds followed him:
All were fat; and well they might
Be in admirable plight, 10
For one by one, and two by two,
He tossed them human hearts to chew
Which from his wide cloak he drew.
Next came Fraud, and he had on,
Like Eldon, an ermined gown; 15
His big tears, for he wept well,
Turned to mill-stones as they fell.
And the little children, who
Round his feet played to and fro,
Thinking every tear a gem, 20
Had their brains knocked out by them.
Clothed with the Bible, as with light,
And the shadows of the night,
Like Sidmouth, next, Hypocrisy
On a crocodile rode by. 25
And many more Destructions played
In this ghastly masquerade,
All disguised, even to the eyes,
Like Bishops, lawyers, peers, or spies.
Last came Anarchy: he rode 30
On a white horse, splashed with blood;
He was pale even to the lips,
Like Death in the Apocalypse.
And he wore a kingly crown;
And in his grasp a sceptre shone; 35
On his brow this mark I saw—
‘I AM GOD, AND KING, AND LAW!’