Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Shell on Shelley and The Moon

Some detail I found of interest on Shelley (based in part on the The Young Shelley – Phillip Rush) …

He was born into a very wealthy family (Field Place, Warnham village, near Horsham, Sussex). He had an assured income. His grandfather left him 1,000-pound p.a.

He had a prodigious memory and before he attended school was able to recite poetry after only one reading impressing a family gathering after being put to the test with a recital of Thomas Gray’s  ‘Ode to a favourite cat drowned in a tub of goldfish’. Poetry was in his blood all his life.

When a young boy his grandfather invited him out to lunch at a local pub. His money-land oriented grandfather started to speak unkindly of his father saying he was bumbling and well meaning but would get nowhere. His grandson stood up defending his father drawing attention from others in the pub.

He rebelled against the public school ‘fagging’ and was sent down from Oxford after the co-author writing of the paper ‘The Necessity of Atheism’.  His passion and enthusiasm reflected in sending copy to ‘every bishop on the bench, to the Chancellor of the University and to every college Master, Warden and Dean’.

He stood out against tradition always willing to speak his mind whatever the cost. He worked out his own philosophy. He had great strength and integrity in following what was right for him. Not surprisingly going against the expectations of family both in career and in his relationships (running away with the 16 year old Harriet Westbrook).

He was very generous and supportive of friends especially Leigh Hunt when Hunt was put in prison for libeling the Prince Regent. He was politically active in Ireland and England.

He was one of the so-called  ‘famous regency poets’ (Byron, Keats) escaping the restrictive environment in England after the Napoleonic wars for a life in Italy. He died tragically in a boating accident at the age of 29 and like Keats and Byron at an early age.

 He was cremated on the beach at Viareggio … in the line of a Greek hero … his heart remained and was taken away by friends … however; it may not have been his heart but his liver. This would be a poetic ending given that his most important work was Prometheus Unbound. The bound Prometheus had his liver attacked by vultures.

His most known poems are perhaps Ode to the West Wind and Ozymandias.

He wrote a paper in defence of poetry and he was very appreciative of the ‘poetic cannon’ especially praising Milton’s Satan in Paradise Lost.

The moon features in his work … including Prometheus Unbound … have a look at the imagery conjured by these two fragments put together after his death …

 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.
 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?

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

For more details here is the Wikipedia link …

No comments:

Post a Comment