dead Brits – Shelley

I definitely struck out here. The Shelley drawer in my head until now has contained a jumble of skylarks, west wind, Defence of Poetry & Ozymandias. I have tried to tidy it up and have dutifully read up on his life and times and — even more dutifully — read, read about, and listened to the Skylark and West Wind odes, plus Hymn to Intellectual Beauty and a huge piece of the (long, long — why is everything he wrote so long?!) Masque of Anarchy. No use — I just don’t have a Shelley lobe in my brain (plus he makes me think of Fotherington-Thomas).

A Defence of Poetry ends with his poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. Maybe at bottom my Shelley brain-block is philosophical.

I do have an Ozymandias lobe in my brain, though, like most people, and these are two Shelley moon notes that do actually quite rock, especially the second one (listed as a ‘fragment’):

       To the Moon

       Art thou pale for weariness
       Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
       Wandering companionless
       Among the stars that have a different birth, —
       And ever changing, like a joyless eye
       That finds no object worth its constancy?

and this:

        And like a dying lady, lean and pale,
        Who totters forth, wrapp’d in a gauzy veil,
        Out of her chamber, led by the insane
        And feeble wanderings of her fading brain,
        The moon arose up in the murky East,
        A white and shapeless mass–

(Not sure he meant this one to be funny, though.)

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Nic Sebastian

Nic is the author of Forever Will End On Thursday and Dark And Like A Web. She founded the now-archived Whale Sound site and is co-founder of The Poetry Storehouse. Nic blogs at Very Like A Whale and Voice Alpha.

3 thoughts on “dead Brits – Shelley”

  1. I think the Fotherington-Thomas comparison is slightly unfair if only in that Shelley was an atheist/anarchist/revolutionary and generally a more radical and extreme figure than I’ve ever thought Fotherington-Thomas was. ‘I met murder on the way / he had a mask like Castlereagh…’ It’s fairly full-on political commentary, at a time when people could go to prison for publishing that kind of material. Admittedly he was safely in Italy when he wrote that poem, but he also got into trouble a couple of times in England for other things he published.

    Having said all that, I’m not a particularly big fan of his poetry either. I just think Shelley’s Fotherington-Thomas image based, I guess, mainly on the Skylark and similar poems, is a bit misleading.

  2. He was unmercifully bullied for a sissy at school, a la F-T, but you’re right, he was expelled from Oxford and estranged from his father for refusing to repudiate an atheist pamphlet he wrote, so he had probably grown out of a lot of fotherington-thomasness along the way. (Also, it’s probably a bit unfair to try and tune into Shelley right after reading such gorilas of 3B as Blake and Yeats…)

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