Shelley, Percy Bysshe - Life and Poetry
Percy Bysshe Shelley was born in August 4th 1792, in Sussex, son of a wealthy and conservative Member of the Parliament. After having attended the Eton College, he went to the Oxford University from where he was expelled because of his pamphlet "The Necessity of Atheism", in which challenged the existence of God.
Shelley's contempt towards the conventional forms of religion and politics was matched by an interest in the sciences.
When he was nineteen, he married the sixteen year-old Harriet Westbrooke, from which he had two children and with which travelled a lot. When Shelley and his wife returned to England, they understood their marriage was unsuccessful so they decided to separate.
Shelley met Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, with which he eloped, and they went to Switzerland, during this trip their three children died, and Mary often blamed her husband's nomadic and restless way of life for this.
In 1817, the poet wrote an epic revolutionary poem “The Revolt of Islam", in which he expressed his conviction that only love could deliver men from any social claims.
Shelley used the Gothic symbol of the wanderer to explain his vision of history and to teach that individual violence is the product of social inequity.
In 1818 the Shelleys left England and they went to live in Italy, in voluntary exile, during which time much of his best works were written:
Ode to the West Wind, written in 1819.
The Cenci, a verse tragedy, written in 1819.
To a Skylark, written in 1820.
Prometheus Unbound, written in 1820, is a lyrical drama dealing with the theme of intellectual rebellion, the desire for spiritual liberty and the belief that evil would be overcome by the power of love.
Adonais, written in 1821, is an elegy written in honour of John Keats.
A Defence of Poetry, written in 1821, is an unfinished essay concerning the importance of poetry.
In 1822, Shelley’s intense life was cut short by an accident: while sailing near Livorno, he drowned during a storm (Shelley’s grave is in the Protestant cemetery in Rome).
Shelley belongs to the second romantic generation of poets, in fact, he is considered a revolutionary poet because he refused social conventions, customs and traditions, but also a fighter, because being him against to social conventions, he wanted to destroy them.
Shelley believed in the principles of Freedom and love, which he regarded as remedies for the faults and evils of society.
According to Shelly, men could overcome the political, moral and social constraints only through love.
Shelley considered poetry an useful message that he used as a weapon for destroying social conventions, customs and so on, to free mankind.
According to Shelley, imagination is a particular faculty that lets the poet to save the world from the evil, represented by the social conventions, the traditions and so on, through the using of poetry.
But, as the mankind refused to change, Shelley was forced/bound to escape for finding a shelter/refuge where he could isolate himself from the rest of the world, projecting himself into a best future and hiding himself under a mask of stubborn/continuous hope.
The poet is at the same time a poet and a titan challenging the cosmos, whom task is to help mankind to reach/achieve an ideal world, where the main features are freedom, beauty and love, in fact, he makes a reference to the platonic world, because also Platone researched an ideal world, that is, a world of right ideas. We can notice the poet task, that is, to save mankind, in his works, for example in "Ode to the west wind" the author says that he would that his dead thoughs, compared to ashes and sparks of a hearth, fly all over the universe, for saving humanity.
According to Shelley, nature is a beautiful veil whose hides the eternal truth of the Divine Spirit, so nature represents the favourite and the better refuge from the injustice of the real world and it also represents the interlocutor of his melancholy dreams and his hopes for a better future.