Tag Archives: Percy Bysshe Shelley

S-Shelley: Advice from A Dead Poet #atozchallenge

“Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number-
Shake your chains to earth like
dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you
Ye are many-they are few.”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Masque of Anarchy: Written on Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. As much as I love my dear friend Lord Byron, I was rather touched than you wrote to me and he hasn’t received a letter. Of course, he is a shadow of his former self, but it is a good lesson. Always everybody’s darling, he could well become bearable again.

“I was never the Eve of any Paradise, but a human creature blessed by an elemental spirit’s company & love – an angel who imprisoned in flesh could not adapt himself to his clay shrine & so has flown and left it.”

Mary Shelley.

I must confess that I am quite stunned that I became so much larger in death, than life. Having experienced limited success and having my hopes dashed, I never anticipated such praise. Had I known I would be so loved, perhaps I might have been more careful in the storm. Considered Mary and my future, instead of trying to save my little boat. I did love her so, even though took me to my grave.

Shelleys Tombstone

As a traveller, I thought you’d appreciate my sonnet Ozymandias. I wrote it during a friendly competition with my friend Horace Smith, a banker and political writer.

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: “Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away”.

Perccy Bysshe Shelley

Might I also encourage you as you continue your quest, pursuing those age-old questions which have so enflamed a poet’s soul. Even when you feel rocked and shaken by your ignorance and feel you can not put the pen to page, persevere. Walk that extra mile or two and satisfy those doubts. Those who know least, rest in the comfort of their vast knowledge.

“The more we study, the more we discover our ignorance”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

I understand how you are needing solitude to write, withdrawing to your cave so you can shut all senses down to focus on the page. Yet, I also know that the world outside gives us life. Fuels our imaginations and our dreams so we can fully appreciate and feel love, laughter, joy and pain. Merge with the clouds as they move across a moonlit sky and fly with the birds through the leaves towards the sun. To fall and know your loved ones pick you up and that you will not live or die alone, are just as important as those sacred words you strive to write… if not more!

So, I am pleased to hear that you and you’ve husband made it out to dinner last night.

“The sunlight claps the earth, and the moonbeams kiss the sea: what are all these kissings worth, if thou kiss not me?”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley

Ours is not a balanced life and yet we have to strive. Go down the narrow path too long and you might find there’s no return. You’ve been consumed by the poet’s flame. No matter what you write, death is far too high a price to pay.

Anyway, I’m being whisked away by someone saying, it’s his big day.

Yours,

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shelley

PS: Knowing how you love a strange and macabre tale, I thought you’d be interested to read what happened to my remains. I could not have written such a bizarre plot myself, although evidently my Mary played quite a part. You might recall that she wrote: Frankenstein.

When my body was washed up upon the shore, a copy of Keats’ poetry was discovered in my pocket – doubled back. Naturally, it was comforting to know my friend was with me at the end. My body was cremated on the beach near Viareggio by Lord Byron and the English adventurer Edward John Trelawny and my ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome, near my good friend, John Keats.

Hold your horses! Before you start nodding off and telling me that wasn’t much of a story at all, we haven’t quite come to the end.

Whether you call it an act of God or some strange twist of fate, my heart didn’t burn and Trelawny, bless his soul, heroically snatched it out of the flames and gave it to my wife. I have no preconceived ideas about what a wife is supposed to do with her dead husband’s heart. However, when Mary died, my heart was found in her desk, wrapped up in the manuscript of “Adonais,” my elegy for Keats. In 1889, it was encased in silver and finally buried with our surviving son, Sir Percy Florence Shelley,but his gravestone in the Protestant Cemetery is inscribed: Cor cordium (“heart of hearts”), followed by a quotation from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea change,
Into something rich and strange.

Source & Further Reading

Richard Holmes http://www.theguardian.com/books/2004/jan/24/featuresreviews.guardianreview1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protestant_Cemetery,_Rome

 

S: Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Letter to Dead Poets #atozchallenge.

Dear Mr Shelley,

I apologise for the late hour. Much to my horror, time has escaped its cage yet again and runaway. Since our children are away in Sydney at their grandparents, my husband and I went out for a Mexican feast. After locking myself away inside my cave for many weeks with so many engrossing poets, I needed to spent the night with him before he thought he no longer has a wife.

 Higher still and higher

From the earth thou springest

Like a cloud of fire;

The blue deep thou wingest,

And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

Shelley: To A Skylark

Coincidentally, as I thought about the To A Skylark, The Cloud and your sailing death at sea, my husband and I walked beside the beach. Voluminous clouds hovered like ghostly galleons out at sea. Serene and subdued, the ocean breathed in and out uneventfully. Indeed, I could almost forget the storm, which ravaged these shores, holding me hostage in my tin can, battered by the hail in the car park. Anyone else, would have known those menacing, dark purple clouds were trouble but I was only thinking with my lens. The storm engulfed me, before I could escape.

 

Yacht at sunset

Yacht at Sunset

You were not so lucky. The storm consumed you, devouring the Don Juan and all onboard like a snack. Your watch stopped, along with your heart while a book of Keats’ poems was hastily shoved in your pocket. Your remains were swept up on the beach.

Shelley Watch

Somehow, you became larger in death than in life. As poet Matthew Arnold wrote: “a beautiful and ineffectual angel, beating in the void his luminous wings in vain.”

Fishing through the many myths and legends, I am struggling to find you… you the man. The man stripped bare. There are so many, many half-spun truths that I almost wonder if there was anyone there.

While the jury is out on whether your death was an accident or suicide, I wonder if you have regrets? As much as I have loved the thrill of being under sail as the whole yacht tilts in a strong wind, was it worth it? Is dying doing something you love, very much like having your heart broken and as Tennyson wrote:

 

“’Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”

-Alfred Lord Tennyson

Is it better to have adventures and push ourselves way beyond our capabilities to have fun, test our mettle and find out that we’re made of stronger stuff? Is that this thing I keep hearing about called “resilience” or did you take too many risks?

After all, you were only 29 years old.

I don’t know why I even ask. The jury’s been out on this case for a long time and how am I ever going to unearth the truth when I am only passing through.

So, instead I’ll return to the clouds. Or, to be precise, your poem: The Cloud. I decided to illustrate it with some of my own photos. I’m sure you’ll be surprised to see what is possible these days with colour photography.

I hope you enjoy it.

Warm wishes,

 Rowena

                       The Cloud

 I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,

From the seas and the streams;

I bear light shade for the leaves when laid

In their noonday dreams.

From my wings are shaken the dews that waken

The sweet buds every one,

When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,

As she dances about the sun.

I wield the flail of the lashing hail,

And whiten the green plains under,

And then again I dissolve it in rain,

And laugh as I pass in thunder.

Storm clouds & boat

The Coming Storm

I sift the snow on the mountains below,

And their great pines groan aghast;

And all the night ’tis my pillow white,

While I sleep in the arms of the blast.

Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,

Lightning my pilot sits;

In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,

It struggles and howls at fits;

Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,

This pilot is guiding me,

Lured by the love of the genii that move

In the depths of the purple sea;

Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,

Over the lakes and the plains,

Wherever he dream, under mountain or stream,

The Spirit he loves remains;

And I all the while bask in Heaven’s blue smile,

Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

Sunset Umina Beach

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,

And his burning plumes outspread,

Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,

When the morning star shines dead;

As on the jag of a mountain crag,

Which an earthquake rocks and swings,

An eagle alit one moment may sit

In the light of its golden wings.

And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,

Its ardours of rest and of love,

And the crimson pall of eve may fall

From the depth of Heaven above,

With wings folded I rest, on mine aëry nest,

As still as a brooding dove.

That orbèd maiden with white fire laden,

Whom mortals call the Moon,

Glides glimmering o’er my fleece-like floor,

By the midnight breezes strewn;

And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,

Which only the angels hear,

May have broken the woof of my tent’s thin roof,

The stars peep behind her and peer;

And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,

Like a swarm of golden bees,

When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,

Till calm the rivers, lakes, and seas,

Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,

Are each paved with the moon and these.

DSC_0918.JPG

I bind the Sun’s throne with a burning zone,

And the Moon’s with a girdle of pearl;

The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim,

When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.

From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,

Over a torrent sea,

Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,

The mountains its columns be.

The triumphal arch through which I march

With hurricane, fire, and snow,

When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,

Is the million-coloured bow;

The sphere-fire above its soft colours wove,

While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,

And the nursling of the Sky;

I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;

I change, but I cannot die.

For after the rain when with never a stain

The pavilion of Heaven is bare,

And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams

Build up the blue dome of air,

I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,

And out of the caverns of rain,

Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,

I arise and unbuild it again.

 By Percy Bysshe Shelley