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About this poet

Percy Bysshe Shelley was born August 4, 1792, at Field Place, near Horsham, Sussex, England. The eldest son of Timothy and Elizabeth Shelley, with one brother and four sisters, he stood in line to inherit not only his grandfather's considerable estate but also a seat in Parliament. He attended Eton College for six years beginning in 1804, and then went on to Oxford University. He began writing poetry while at Eton, but his first publication was a Gothic novel, Zastrozzi (1810), in which he voiced his own heretical and atheistic opinions through the villain Zastrozzi. That same year, Shelley and another student, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, published a pamphlet of burlesque verse, "Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson," and with his sister Elizabeth, Shelley published Original Poetry; by Victor and Cazire. In 1811, Shelley continued this prolific outpouring with more publications, including another pamphlet that he wrote and circulated with Hogg titled "The Necessity of Atheism," which got him expelled from Oxford after less than a year's enrollment.  Shelley could have been reinstated if his father had intervened, but this would have required his disavowing the pamphlet and declaring himself Christian. Shelley refused, which led to a complete break between Shelley and his father. This left him in dire financial straits for the next two years, until he came of age.

That same year, at age nineteen, Shelley eloped to Scotland with sixteen-year-old Harriet Westbrook. Once married, Shelley moved to the Lake District of England to study and write. Two years later he published his first long serious work, Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem. The poem emerged from Shelley's friendship with the British philosopher William Godwin, and it expressed Godwin's freethinking Socialist philosophy. Shelley also became enamored of Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft's daughter, Mary, and in 1814 they eloped to Europe. After six weeks, out of money, they returned to England. In November 1814 Harriet Shelley bore a son, and in February 1815 Mary Godwin gave birth prematurely to a child who died two weeks later. The following January, Mary bore another son, named William after her father. In May the couple went to Lake Geneva, where Shelley spent a great deal of time with George Gordon, Lord Byron, sailing on Lake Geneva and discussing poetry and other topics, including ghosts and spirits, into the night. During one of these ghostly "seances," Byron proposed that each person present should write a ghost story. Mary's contribution to the contest became the novel Frankenstein. That same year, Shelley produced the verse allegory Alastor, or The Spirit of Solitude. In December 1816 Harriet Shelley apparently committed suicide. Three weeks after her body was recovered from a lake in a London park, Shelley and Mary Godwin officially were married. Shelley lost custody of his two children by Harriet because of his adherence to the notion of free love.

In 1817, Shelley produced Laon and Cythna, a long narrative poem that, because it contained references to incest as well as attacks on religion, was withdrawn after only a few copies were published. It was later edited and reissued as The Revolt of Islam (1818). At this time, he also wrote revolutionary political tracts signed "The Hermit of Marlow." Then, early in 1818, he and his new wife left England for the last time. During the remaining four years of his life, Shelley produced all his major works, including Prometheus Unbound (1820). Traveling and living in various Italian cities, the Shelleys were friendly with the British poet Leigh Hunt and his family as well as with Byron.

On July 8, 1822, shortly before his thirtieth birthday, Shelley was drowned in a storm while attempting to sail from Leghorn to La Spezia, Italy, in his schooner, the Don Juan.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

Posthumous Poems of Shelley: Mary Shelley's Fair Copy Book, Bodleian Ms. Shelley Adds (1969)
A Letter to Lord Ellenborough (1812)
A Philosophical View of Reform (1920)
A Proposal for Putting Reform to the Vote Throughout the Kingdom, as The Hermit of Marlow (1817)
A Refutation of Deism: in a Dialogue (1814)
Adonais: An Elegy on the Death of John Keats, Author of Endymion, Hyperion etc. (1821)
Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude; and Other Poems (1816)
An Address, to the Irish People (1812)
Epipsychidion (1821)
Essays, Letters from Abroad, Translations and Fragments (1840)
Hellas: A Lyrical Drama (1822)
Laon and Cythna; or, The Revolution of the Golden City: A Vision of the Nineteenth Century (1818)
Note books of Percy Bysshe Shelley, From the Originals in the Library of W. K. Bixby (1911)
Oedipus Tyrannus; or, Swellfoot the Tyrant. A Tragedy. In Two Acts (1820)
Original Poetry (1810)
Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson (1810)
Posthumous Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1824)
Prometheus Unbound. A Lyrical Drama in Four Acts, With Other Poems (1820)
Proposals for An Association of those Philanthropists (1812)
Queen Mab; a Philosophical Poem: with Notes (1813)
Rosalind and Helen, A Modern Eclogue; with Other Poems (1819)
Shelley's Poetry and Prose (1977)
Shelley's Prose; or The Trumpet of a Prophecy (1954)
St. Irvyne; or, The Rosicrucian. A Romance, as a Gentleman of the University of Oxford (1811)
The Complete Poetical Works of Shelley (1969)
The Complete Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1926)
The Esdaile Notebook. A volume of early poems (1964)
The Esdaile Poems (1966)
The Manuscripts of the Younger Romantics (1985)
The Masque of Anarchy. A Poem (1832)
The Necessity of Atheism (1811)
The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1839)
The Poetical Works of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1870)
The Wandering Jew. A Poem (1887)
Zastrozzi (1810)

Prose

Letters From Percy Bysshe Shelley to Elizabeth Hitchener (1890)
Letters from Percy Bysshe Shelley to William Godwin (1891)
Select Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1882)
Shelley and His Circle, 1773-1822 (1961)
The Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1964)
The Shelley Correspondence in the Bodleian Library: Letters of Percy Bysshe Shelley and others (1926)

Drama

The Cenci. A Tragedy, in Five Acts (1819)

Ode to the West Wind

Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792 - 1822
I
O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,
Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

The wingèd seeds, where they lie cold and low,
Each like a corpse within its grave,until
Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow

Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill
(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)
With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere;
Destroyer and Preserver; hear, O hear!
 
II
Thou on whose stream, 'mid the steep sky's commotion,
Loose clouds like Earth's decaying leaves are shed,
Shook from the tangled boughs of Heaven and Ocean,

Angels of rain and lightning: there are spread
On the blue surface of thine airy surge,
Like the bright hair uplifted from the head

Of some fierce Maenad, even from the dim verge
Of the horizon to the zenith's height,
The locks of the approaching storm. Thou dirge

Of the dying year, to which this closing night
Will be the dome of a vast sepulchre
Vaulted with all thy congregated might

Of vapours, from whose solid atmosphere
Black rain, and fire, and hail will burst: O hear!
 
III
Thou who didst waken from his summer dreams
The blue Mediterranean, where he lay,
Lulled by the coil of his crystalline streams,

Beside a pumice isle in Baiae's bay,
And saw in sleep old palaces and towers
Quivering within the wave's intenser day,

All overgrown with azure moss and flowers
So sweet, the sense faints picturing them! Thou
For whose path the Atlantic's level powers

Cleave themselves into chasms, while far below
The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know

Thy voice, and suddenly grow grey with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: O hear!
 
IV
If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O Uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seemed a vision; I would ne'er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh! lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chained and bowed
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.
 
V
Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawakened Earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

This poem is in the public domain.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose literary career was marked with controversy due to his views on religion, atheism, socialism, and free love, is known as a talented lyrical poet and one of the major figures of English romanticism. 

by this poet

poem
                                I
  The sun is warm, the sky is clear,
    The waves are dancing fast and bright,
  Blue isles and snowy mountains wear
    The purple noon's transparent might,
    The breath of the moist earth is light,
  Around its unexpanded buds;
    Like many a voice of one delight,
  The
poem

Which yet joined not scent to hue,
Crown the pale year weak and new;
When the night is left behind
In the deep east, dun and blind,
And the blue noon is over us,
And the multitudinous
Billows murmur at our feet,
Where the earth and ocean meet,
And all things seem only one

poem
         LXXIX
"Stand ye calm and resolute, 
Like a forest close and mute,
With folded arms and looks which are
Weapons of unvanquished war, 

         LXXX
"And let Panic, who outspeeds
The career of armèd steeds
Pass, a disregarded shade
Through your phalanx undismayed.

         LXXXI
"