Percy Bysshe Shelley
The Other Pages - Poet's Corner
Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now!
by Percy Bysshe Shelley, "To A Skylark"
Percy Bysshe Shelley, poet and political thinker, was born August 4, 1792, at Field Place, near
Horsham, Sussex, England. The eldest son of Timothy, a prosperous squire, and Elizabeth
Shelley, with one brother and four sisters, he stood in line to
inherit not only his grandfather's considerable estate but also a seat
in Parliament. He attended Eton College for six years beginning in
while at Eton he began writing poetry, but his first publication was a
Gothic novel, Zastrozzi
in 1810, in which he voiced his own heretical and atheistic opinions
through the villain Zastrozzi. and then went on to Oxford University where he was expelled for
his pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism in 1811, along with another
student, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, of which the university authorities
disapproved. This lead to a
complete break between
Shelley and his father and left him in dire financial straits for
the next two years, until he came of age.
Shortly after his expulsion from Oxford, the 19-year-old Shelley
eloped to Scotland with Harriet Westbrook, sixteen, and moved
to the Lake District of England to study and write. Two years later,
he published his first long serious work, Queen Mab: A Philosophical
Poem in 1813. The poem was one result of Shelley's friendship with the
British philosopher William Godwin,( husband of Mary Wollstonecraft the
author of Vindication of the Rights of Women), expressing Godwin's freethinking
Socialist philosophy. Another result of their friendship was Shelley's
relationship with Godwin's daughter Mary.
After separating from his wife, Shelley briefly toured Europe with
Mary (whom he married in 1816 after learning that
Harriet had apparently committed suicide, her body was recovered
from a lake in a London park.) In November
1814 Harriet Shelley bore a son, and in February, 1815 Mary Godwin gave
birth prematurely to a child who died two weeks later. The following
January, Mary bore another son, named William after her father.
Picture courtesy: Wikipedia
the couple went to Lake Geneva, where Shelley spent a great deal of
time with George Gordon and Lord Byron, sailing on Lake Geneva and
discussing poetry and other topics, including ghosts and spirits,
into the night. During one of these ghostly "seances," Byron proposed
that each person present should write a ghost story. Mary's
contribution to the contest became the novel "Frankenstein".
did not retain custody of his two children by Harriet, reportly, because of his adherence
to the notion of free love.
In 1817, Shelley produced Laon and Cythna, a long narrative poem that,
because it contained references to incest as well as attacks on
religion, was withdrawn after only a few copies were published. It was
later edited and reissued as The Revolt of Islam (1818).
Shelley composed the "Hymn To Intellectual Beauty" and "Mont Blanc" and
in 1817 Shelley published the much
anthologized "Ozymandias". Among Shelley's popular
poems are the
"Odes To the West Wind" ,
"To a Skylark" and Adonais, an elegy for Keats.
At this time,
he also wrote revolutionary political tracts signed "The Hermit of
Marlow." Then, early in 1818, he and his new wife left England for the
From 1818 he lived in Italy, touring, and living in various Italian cities,
with his family and friends. There he met Byron, and wrote the bulk of
his poetry, including odes, lyrics, and the verse drama Prometheus
Unbound. The Shelleys were also
friendly with the British poet Leigh Hunt and his family.
Shelley was considered by many to be among the greatest, and one of
the most influential leaders of the romantic movement. His work
reflected the radical ideas and revolutionary optimism of the era.
On July 8, 1822, shortly before his thirtieth birthday, Shelley sailed
to Leghorn to welcome his friend Leigh Hunt, during the stormy return
voyage, his small schooner sank and Shelley drowned with Edward
Williams. The bodies were washed ashore at Viareggio, where, in the
presence of Lord Byron and Leigh Hunt, they were burned on the beach.
Shelley's ashes were buried in a cemetery in Rome.
Inscription on tombstone:
PERCY BYSSHEE SHELLEY
COR COR DIUM
NATUS IV AUG. MDCCXCIL
OBIIT VIII, JUL. MDCCCXXII
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange
Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats
Music When Soft Voices Die
The Indian Serenade
To view more of Shelley's poems:
Famous Poets and Poems
Representative Poetry On-line
Some more of his poems includes:
Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude,
And like a Dying Lady, Lean and Pale,
Archy's Song from Charles I (A Widow Bird Sate Mourning),
Art thou pale for weariness ,
A Dream of the Unknown, A Lament, A widow bird sate mourning for her Love,
The Cloud, England in 1819, Flight of Love , From the Arabic , Hellas, Hymn of Pan,
Hymn to the Spirit of Nature, I fear thy kisses, gentle maiden,
Invitation, Invocation, Lines, Lines to an Indian Air,
Love's Philosophy, Moon, Music, Mutability, Night, One word is too often profaned,
Ozymandias of Egypt, Poet's Dream, Recollection, Remorse,
Time Long Past,
To ----, To Jane: "The Keen Stars Were Twinkling", To Night,
To the Moon , The Triumph of Life, The Two Spirits: An Allegory ,
To a Lady, with a Guitar,
[Poet's Corner Index]
Reference, Research and Source Information
The History Channel
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