Answer: Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet, was born at Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, August 4, 1792, the eldest son of a landed country squire. After some tutoring he was sent to Syon House Academy, where his shyness exposed him to brutal bullying. Entering Eton in 1804, he lived as much apart as possible, a moody, sensitive, and precocious boy with the nickname of “mad Shelley.” Here he wrote Zastrozzi (1810), a wild Gothic romance, Original Poetry by Victory and Cazire (1810), and another inferior Gothic romance, St. Irvyne, or The Rosicrucian, published in 1811.
Shelley matriculated at University College, Oxford, in 1810. He and Thomas Jefferson Hogg were _ expelled the following year for publishing and sending to bishops and heads of colleges their pamphlet, The Necessity of Atheism. At this time Shelley fell in low with Harriet Westbrook, daughter of a retired hotel-keeper.
They eloped, and despite Shelley’s open break with the conventions of the Christian religion and particular scorn for the marriage ceremony, they were married in Edinburgh in August, 1811. Both fathers contributed to their support for the next three years, which they spent wandering in Southern England, Ireland, and Wales.
His second marriage: In 1813 their first child was born in London and Shelley’s first long poem, Queen Mab, was published. Meanwhile, marriage with Harriet was proving a failure. In May, 1814, Shelley met Mary, the daughter of William and Mary Wolls-Tonecraft Godwin. Mary shared his belief that marriage was only a, voluntary contract. Harriet left for her father’s home, and Shelley and seventeen-years-old Mary eloped to Switzerland, accompanied by Claire Clairmont, Mary’s half-sister. When they returned to England in September, Shelley proposed to Harriet that she come and live with Mary and him; however, there was no reconciliation.
Mary bore a son in 1816 (the year of Alastor, or of Solitude). They, with Claire, spent the summer in Switzerland and became close friends of Byron. Soon after they returned to England in the autumn, they heard that Harriet had drowned herself. Shelley was now free to Mary Godwin (December 30, 1816), but a court order denied him the custody of his two children by Harriet.
His visit abroad: After he had completed The Revolt of Islam, revised version of his earlier Loan and Cythna, the Shelley’s and Claire Clairmont, with her child by Byron, went to Italy. There Shelley remained the rest of his life, wandering from Lake Como, Milan, Venice, Este, Rome, Florence, and Pisa to other cities and sections. Much time was spent with Byron. Julian and Maddalo (1818) is poem in the form of conversation between Shelley (Julian) and Byron (Maddalo), Next followed The Masque of Anarchy (1819), a revolutionary propaganda poem; The Cenci a realistic tragedy; and Prometheus Unbound, a lyric tragedy completed in 1819 and published in 182o. Earlier in the same year, at Pisa, he writes some of his most famous lyrics, “The Cloud”, “Ode to the West Wind”, and “Ode to a Skylark.”
The chief production of 1821 were Epipsychidion, a result of his platonic relationship with Countess Emilia Viviani, an uncompleted published after his death, and prose work, A Defense of Poetry, Adonais, an elegy inspired by the death of John Keats. From his wide reading he was most greatly influenced by Plato, Lucretius, Spinoza, Rousseau, Hume, and Southey Godwin’s influence lasted until Shelley’s death.
His final poem, The Triumph of Life, was incomplete at the time he was drowned, July 8, 1822, while sailing off Viareggio. His body was first buried in the sand, and then cremated. The ashes were buried in the Protestant cemetery at Rome, January 21, 1823.
Influence of Shelley on the nineteenth century poetry: The nineteenth century notion of the sensitive poetic soul owes a great deal to the ideal young man (Alastor—”the brave, the beautiful—the child of grace and genius”) built up largely by Shelley of Shelley. Yet in the history of English literature, Shelley is not as important as Wordsworth or as influential as Byron (more popular as a poet), or Keats. The public was shocked at his defiance of the conventions of life. Today he has many admirers, but for those who dislike Romantic poetry in general, Shelley is a particularly vulnerable target. Unquestionably he could give a song-like character to his verse, for his was the light, lyrical tone. He was a lover of unusual colors, blurred outlines, and large effects. He was also a lover of startling and frank realism and had an obvious passion for the mysterious and far away. In technique he, illustratedsomething more concrete by the less concrete. What Shelley starts to define often results in vague though pretty images. He offers emotion in itself, unattached, in the void.
His revolt against society: Because of his sensibility, perhaps, he was at war with the conventions of society from childhood. As a political dreamer he was filled with the hope of transforming the real world into an Arcadia through revolutionary reform. As a disciple of Godwin he directed Queen Mab against organized religion. The queen shows the human spirit that evil times, in the past and present, are due to the authority of Church and State. In the future, however, when love reigns supreme, the chains of the human spirit will dissolve; mankind will be boundlessly self-assertive and at the same time, temper this self-assertion by a boundless sympathy for others. Then a world will be realized in which there are neither inferior nor superior classes nor beings. The end of Prometheus Unbound gives his vision of humanity released from all evil artificially imposed from without (one of Rousseau’s main tenets), humanity “where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea,” and “whose nature is its own divine control”.
Shelley sets up a humanity glorified through love; he worships in the sanctuary left vacant by “the great absence of God” (His youthful atheism lacked warmth and in the end he turned to a type ofpantheism). Love, as exemplified in his personal life, is a passioh,t,, kind of sensuality which becomes his simple moral code with no duty, blame, or obligation attached. The reign of love when no authority was necessary was his millennium.
Early Writings: Shelley started writing very early, but his first major work came in 1811. This was Queen Mab, a long poem. It is a revolutionary poem, but there is much confusion in the development of the story. The next great poem, Alastor came in 1815. In the same year he produced Mont Blanc and Hymn to Intellectual Beauty. These poems expressed the poet’s idealism. In the latter of the two poems, the poet expresses his feeling of the presence of a spirit in nature.
Revolt of Islam: These were followed by The Revolt of Islam in 1817. We have here again a story of love and adventure and of the desire, in the hero and the heroine, of changing the world.
Prometheus Unbound: In 1818-19 came the great drama, Promethus Unbound. This is a major poem. As a drama it is not much of a success, but both in theme and in its individual songs it achieves greatness. Shelley takes a theme form Ancient Greek Literature. Prometheus was a mythical Titan who benefited mankind by stealing the fire from the gods and giving it to men. For this, Jove, the chief of the gods, punishes him by chaining him to a rock where he is eternally tortured. Shelley takes up this theme and makes Prometheus into a symbol of revolt. Jove becomes the symbol of oppression and tyranny. In the end, Jove is overthrown and unmixed goodness rules the world.
The Cenci: In 1819 came another great play, The Cenci. This is a well-knit play and is distinguished from his other works by this fact;this play portrays absolute evil as Prometheus Unbound portrays absolute goodness.
Later poems: This was followed by The Witch of Atlas, and Epipsychidion. In the same year was published Adonais, a lament on the death of the poet Keats.
Hellas:In the last year of his life (1822) Shelley wrote Hellas. This is the old name of Greece. Shelley left an unfinished, poem, Triumph of Life.
Shorter Poems: In addition to these long poems Shelley wrote a large number of lyrics. The most well-known of, these are Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark and The Cloud. It is in these lyrics that we often find Shelley at his best. Ode to the West Wind is a great achievement — a poem in which great thought is combined with great art. Most of his lyrics are love poems. Many of them express the poet’s deep joy in life as well as his deep sorrow.
Shelley: The Man
The life of Shelley lies worlds apart from that of Byron. His treatment of Harriet apart, his private life was not vicious, but on the contrary in many respects exemplary. As far as the ideas, which he sang, were capable of application to life, he applied them in his own conduct. “He preached the equality of man and he proved that he was willing to practice it. He was generous and benevolent to fault.”
Nothing can surpass Shelley’s poetic description of himself in Adonais, as a ‘frail form,’ a phantom among men,’ companion-less’ as ‘the last cloud of an expiring storm,–
A pard-like Spirit beautiful and swift, —-
A love in desolation masked, — a Power
Girt round with weakness; it can scarce uplift
The weight of the superincumbent hour,
It is a dying lamp, a falling shower;
A breaking billow;