Percy Bysshe Shelley


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Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), one of the major contributors to English Romantic poetry wrote “Ozymandias”;

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Probably his most famous short poem, “Ozymandias” was published in 1818. The second-hand narration attempts to resurrect the once powerful king's might while the exotic setting of Egypt and desert sands helps illuminate the struggle between artist and subject. Shelley often attracted criticism and controversy for his outspoken challenges to oppression, religion, and convention as in his political poem “The Masque of Anarchy” (1819), a critical look at the Peterloo massacre;

Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number,
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you-
Ye are many — they are few.

Written in terza rima “Ode To The West Wind” (1820) is another of Shelley’s calls for revolution and change. Other longer visionary works by Shelley include “The Revolt of Islam” and “Prometheus Unbound” (1820). He also expressed profound tenderness and sympathy for humankind such as in “The Magnetic Lady to Her Patient” and deep love in poems dedicated to Mary;

O Mary dear, that you were here
With your brown eyes bright and clear.
And your sweet voice, like a bird
Singing love to its lone mate
In the ivy bower disconsolate;
Voice the sweetest ever heard!
And your brow more...
Than the ... sky
Of this azure Italy.
Mary dear, come to me soon,
I am not well whilst thou art far;
As sunset to the sphered moon,
As twilight to the western star,
Thou, beloved, art to me.

O Mary dear, that you were here;
The Castle echo whispers 'Here!'—“To Mary” (1818)

Shelley found friendship with fellow poets John Keats and Lord George Gordon Byron as well as paving the way for future esteemed poets Robert Browning, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Lord Alfred Tennyson, and William Butler Yeats. His life and works are studied still and his influence lives on in the 21st century.

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born on 4 August 1792 in Horsham, Sussex, England. He was the eldest of the seven children of Elizabeth Pilfold and Timothy Shelley, a country squire who would become baronet in 1815 on the death of his father. Young Percy attended Sion House Academy before entering University College, Oxford, in 1804. These years in a conventional institution were not happy ones for Shelley, where his idealism and controversial philosophies were developing. At this time he wrote such works as the Gothic Zastrozzi (1810) and The Necessity of Atheism (1811); “If the knowledge of a God is the most necessary, why is it not the most evident and the clearest?”

After Shelley’s expulsion from school for expressing his atheistic views, and now estranged from his father, he eloped with sixteen-year old Harriet Westbrook (1795-1816) to Scotland. They married on 28 August 1811 and would have two children, daughter Ianthe born in 1813 (d.1876) and son Charles born in 1814. Inviting college friend Thomas Hogg into their household, Shelley attempted an open marriage to the consternation of Harriet, which led to the demise of their marriage. For the next three years Shelley made several trips to London to the bookshop and home of atheist journalist William Godwin, the father of Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (1797-1851). Influenced by William Wordsworth, he continued to write poetry including Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem (1813) and participated in various political reform activities. He was also studying the writings of Godwin’s and embracing his radical philosophy.

Percy Shelley’s forays to the Godwin’s also resulted in his acquaintance with his daughter Mary, who almost immediately proved to be his intellectual equal. The poets’ fondness for each other soon grew and in 1814, Shelley eloped a second time with Mary and her stepsister Claire in tow, settling in Switzerland. This action drew the disapproval of both their fathers, and they struggled to support themselves. The Shelley’s were spending much time with Lord George Gordon Byron who also led a controversial life of romantic entanglements and political activity. Shelley was passionate about life and very generous to his friends, which often caused him financial hardship. They passed their days sailing on the lake and telling each other ghost stories. Mary overheard Percy and Byron speaking one night of galvanism, which inspired her most famous novel Frankenstein or; The Modern Prometheus (1818) and which Percy wrote the introduction for.

In 1815 the Shelley’s moved back to England and settled near London. The same year Percy’s grandfather died leaving him a lucrative sum of £1000 per annum. The year 1816 was filled with highs and lows for Shelley. His wife Harriet drowned herself in the Serpentine river in Hyde Park, London and Mary’s half sister Fanny committed suicide, but son William was born (d.1819) and he and Mary wed on 30 December. “Alastor or; The Spirit of Solitude” was published in 1816 and their joint effort based on their travels History of Six Weeks Tour was published in 1817.

In 1818, the Shelley’s moved to Italy and their son Percy Florence was born a year later. Advocates of vegetarianism, the Shelley’s wrote numerous articles about the subject. Percy was working on his tragedy in five acts The Cenci and many other works including “Men of England” and his elegy for John Keats “Adonais” (1821). Mary too was busy writing while they lived in various cities including Pisa and Rome. Shelley continued to venture on sailing trips on his schooner ‘Don Juan’. It sank on 8 July 1822 in a storm and Shelley drowned, at the age of twenty-nine. His body washed ashore and he was cremated on the beach near Viareggio. His ashes are buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, Italy.

The Shelley Memorial now stands at University College, Oxford, England, in honour of one of their most illustrious alumni. It features a white marble statue depicting Shelley as he appeared when washed ashore. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, having moved back to London with her son Percy Florence, devoted much of her time after her husband’s death to compiling and publishing his works. Her fondness and respect for her husband is expressed in her extensive notes and introductions to his works contained in The Complete Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe (1824).

Biography written by C.D. Merriman for Jalic Inc. Copyright Jalic Inc. 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The above biography is copyrighted. Do not republish it without permission.

Recent Forum Posts on Percy Bysshe Shelley

Looking for a percy shelly

Can anybody help me please. Im looking for a poem by Percy Shelly, iv searched and searched the internet but to no avail as i do not know the title. It was written to or about Mary Shelly after the death of their child, i think it was about her grief and i think there was a line saying something like shes gone to a place where he can not follow, or maybe iv got that wrong. If anyone can tell me what this poem is i would be most grateful. thanks. Clara


tonigh" BY:Percy Bysshe Shelley

To Night by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) Swiftly walk o’er the western wave, Spirit of Night! Out of the misty eastern cave, Where, all the long and lone daylight, Thou wovest dreams of joy and fear, Which make thee terrible and dear- Swift be thy flight! Wrap thy form in a mantle gray, Star-inwrought! Blind with thine hair the eyes of day; Kiss her until she be wearied out, Then wander o’er city, and sea, and land, Touching all with thine opiate wand- Come, long-sought! When I arose and saw the dawn, I sighed for thee; When the light rode high, and the dew was gone, And noon lay heavy on flower and tree, And the weary day turned to his rest, Lingering like an unloved guest, I sighed for thee. Thy brother Death came, and cried, Wouldst thou me? Thy sweet child Sleep, the filmy-eyed, Murmured like a noontide bee, Shall I nestle near thy side? Wouldst thou me?- And I replied, No not thee! Death will come when thou art dead, Soon, too soon- Sleep will come when thou art fled; Of neither would I ask the boon I ask of thee, beloved Night- Swift be thine approaching flight, Come soon, soon! .................................................... PLEASE : I need critical analysis of this poem ?????????


Shelley and the Left

Has anybody noticed how Shelley seems to be the pre-Marx poet held in the most admiration by leftists? Certainly among the Romantics. Aside from Blake, none of the others seem to be mentioned at all by the Left


PB Shelley

Hello, I joined the forum due to a recent interest in PB Shelley. I have a few questions if anyone cares to help me... 1. How do you pronounce the middle name Bysshe? 2. Does anyone have an insight on Ozymandias? Thanks! Adam


Shelley question

Hello Can I ask why Shelley, or Red Shelley as he is sometimes called, is referred to as an atheist when, in his Defence of Poetry, he states that man's imagination is only a reflection of God's? Many thanks for any clarification. Turtle


Percy Bysshe Shelley's When the Lamp is Shattered poem Analysis

I hope I'm posting in the right section! For a class project we were each assigned to choose a poem written by a British author and memorize the poem as well as explain what the poem means. I've chosen Percy Bysshe Shelley's When the Lamp is Shattered. So far I THINK I've gotten the meaning of most of the poem Here are my thoughts on it, let me know what you think: When the lamp is shattered The light in the dust lies dead - When the cloud is scattered, The rainbow's glory is shed. When the lute is broken, Sweet tones are remembered not; When the lips have spoken, Loved accents are soon forgot. When a lamp is broken it doesn’t produce light When it stops raining the rainbow goes away When a lute is broken, the sound it makes isn’t remembered After words are said, they aren’t remembered As music and splendour Survive not the lamp and the lute, The heart's echoes render No song when the spirit is mute - No song but sad dirges, Like the wind through a ruined cell, Or the mournful surges That ring the dead seaman's knell. Music and light don’t survive once the lamp and lute are gone The heart knows no joy when there is no spirit Only a sad somber song, like that of wind through a cell (not sure whether it means a cellar or some kind of vent) Or the large waves that signal a sailor’s death When hearts have once mingled, Love first leaves the well-built nest; The weak one is singled To endure what it once possessed. O Love! who bewailest The frailty of all things here, Why choose you the frailest For your cradle, your home, and your bier? When two hearts are attracted to each other, love will leave Love goes to a weak heart, to endure what it once possessed (not sure on the second half) Oh love, who laments the most fragile of things here Why do you choose the weakest to reside in? Its passions will rock thee, As the storms rock the ravens on high; Bright reason will mock thee, Like the sun from a wintry sky. From thy nest every rafter Will rot, and thine eagle home Leave thee naked to laughter, When leaves fall and cold winds come. Your (love’s) passion will be hard on the fragile heart every support for the nest will rot, and thine eagle home (not sure about the second half) once the nest has fallen you will be homeless, in the winter/fall Bright reason will mock thee, Like the sun from a wintry sky I'm not sure what he's saying here Overall summary: Percy starts out by giving us examples of things that extinguish once their source is destroyed, then he relates those to the hearts music and the spirit of it's occupant. By saying that without spirit the heart only sings sad and somber songs. The last two octaves I'm not too sure on, I think he's saying that love will help two hearts mingle then move on to another weak heart and love must again endure it's journey ("to endure what it once possessed"). Percy then questions why love, who expresses sorrow for the frail things, would choose the frailest heart to reside in, he then goes on to say that love will rock the heart, like a storm rocks a raven and that bright reasons (not sure what he means by this) will mock love, and will chase it away like a wintry sky chases away the sun, from every nest the support will fall out and love will be left naked and embarrassed at the worst of times. Thank you for reading / helping. (;


Ozymandias

Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand, Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things, The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains: round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away Here's a companion poem to Shelley's famous "Ozymandias", written by Horace Smith: In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone, Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws The only shadow that the Desert knows: "I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone, "The King of Kings; this mighty City shows "The wonders of my hand." The City's gone, Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose The site of this forgotten Babylon. We wonder, and some Hunter may express Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace, He meets some fragments huge, and stops to guess What powerful but unrecorded race Once dwelt in that annihilated place. And here's what is says about that poem on Wikipedia: Percy Shelley apparently wrote this sonnet in competition with his friend Horace Smith, as Smith published a sonnet a month after Shelley's in the same magazine. It takes the same subject, tells the same story, and makes the same moral point. It was originally published under the same title as Shelley's verse; but in later collections Smith retitled it "On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below". Am I alone in thinking that this is a damn fine poem? Why, then, is Shelley's the one far more remembered? Read over Smith's poem a few times and please explain to me why it has been ignored. Is it solely because the famous Shelley is the author of "Ozymandias"? (And I don't mean here to denigrate Shelley's poem; "Ozymandias" is actually one of my favorites.)


the cloud

hey! sup ppl.... (sry for the usage of informal language:D ) well anyways ..... i need ur help! i have a job to write about the poem THE CLOUD - PERCY BYSSHE SHELLY for my school paper so i require opinions of ppl on the background,theme and if possible a summary of this certain poem (cause i really cant understand this poem :p ) it would be great if i were able to get opinions as soon as possible cause i have a deadline to meet:bawling: sry for the trouble:( but I'll be waiting for some replies a.s.a.p thank you (i'm counting on you ppl:thumbs_up )


term paper

hello all! i'm doing a term paper, with the thesis statement: At the heart of Romanticism lies the idea that poets are set apart from the everyday as reflected in the works of Percy Shelley. i was hoping to get some help here. for ideas on which poems reflect that, and stuff. thanks.


To a Skylark, and Ode to the West Wind

hello everyone! i am having a little trouble....i am not very good with poetry i am trying to analyze these two poems of Shelley's, and come up with a commanality between the two. So far i have only been able to come up with a very boring theme of nature. To me, Shelley seems to use nature as his metaphor. In 'to a sklark', he compares his poetic self to the bird, and in 'ode to the west wind' he compares the wind to his poetry..? i know, not very good at all..but like i said im stuck... any advice???? please! :)


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