Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) combines in his poetry the romantic elements typical of the period with a revolutionary protest against the growing power of capitalism.
The poet was born on August 4, 1792, in Sussex. Like Byron, he came from an aristocratic family, and broke away from his class. His father was a baronet, and, a, narrow-minded man. The boy felt ill at ease in the family and at the Eton College where he was sent to in 1804. He was a shy, gentle, kind and sensitive boy by nature, but he had his own notions of justice, independence and freedom. At Eton the teachers disliked him for independent thinking.
In 1810 Shelley entered Oxford. A year later he wrote an antireligious pamphlet called "The Necessity of Atheism" for which he was expelled from the University. The same year he was disinherited by his father.
In 1813 Shelley published his first poem "Queen Mab", containing sharp criticism of human society, past and present, and expressing his ideals as to the happy future of mankind, to be brought about by peaceful means. Almost the same idea of “bloodless revolution" is expressed in "The Revolt of Islam"(1818). For his poems Shelley received the reputation of being "a dangerous man" and was ostracized by society. Life in England became unbearable and the poet left his native country, which he was destined never to see again.
In 1818 Shelley went to Italy. After wandering over the country he finally settled in Pisa, admired by so many English poets. Here he found comfort in the friendship of Byron, who enjoyed his verses, and spoke of Shelley as the most gentle and amiable person he had ever met. The great works of art and the rich colouring of Italy gave new life to Shelley's poetic genius. Most of his best works were written under the southern sky (“The Cenci" (1819), "The Song to the Men of England" (1819), “The Mask of Anarchy" (1819), "England in 1819"(1819), "Ode to Liberty"(1826) and many others.) One of Shelley’s best works is his lyrical drama "Prometheus Unbound" (l820). According to Greek myths, Prometheus stole the gods' fire from Olympus, and brought it down to mankind. For this Jove, father of the gods, chained Prometheus to a rock, and subjected him to everlasting torture. In Shelley’s drama Prometheus symbolizes the human mind and will. His captivity means that both tie mind of man and man himself are enslaved. Shelley's hero does not seek a reconciliation with Jove. He suffers terribly tortures but does not submit. Prometheus is helped by innumerable forces of nature. Demogorgon - the symbol of revolution- and the other good spirits cast Jove out of Olympus into oblivion Prometheus is unbound, the human mind is free, the world of men passes from chaos to unlimited progress. The forces of nature symbolize the common people, who overthrow all forms of tyranny and become free and happy.
Shelley was also the author of many lyrical poems of rare beauty and emotional power. The poet was inspired by love extending to every living creature, to animals and flowers, to the whole of nature ("The Cloud”, "To a Skylark", "Ode to the West Wind").
Shelley’s rich imagination, his power of rhythmical expression, his passion for liberty makes his poetry unexcelled. To Shelley poetry was a device for making immortal all that is good and beautiful in the world. He had the key to the hidden mysteries of the heart of life itself.
On July 8, 1822, while Shelley and his friend were sailing in a small boat across the Bay of Spezia, near Genoa, a sudden and violent storm broke out. Ten days later their bodies were found washed ashore. They were cremated, and according to some accounts, the poet’s wife Mary, snatched her husband’s heart from out of the ashes. His heart was buries in the Protestant cemetery in Rome.

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