Tag Archives: Shelley

Dedication: To A Poet Dying Young #atozchallenge.

For the past six weeks, I have been writing Letters to Dead Poets for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. This wasn’t a selection of the world’s greatest, most influential poets. Rather, these were the poets who have touched me personally.

Due to the alphabetical nature of the challenge, it meant leaving some poets out and actively seeking out fresh sources of inspiration to fill those usual tricky letters along the road.

However, as I researched my list of poets more thoroughly, it became alarmingly clear that too many of these poets had taken their lives or had succumbed to some tragic accident. Indeed, that too many poets died young.

Throughout the challenge I was haunted by a poem we had studied at school: AE Housman’s: To An Athlete Dying Young. I have posted it here for your consideration and ask that you substitute “athlete” with “poet”.

To An Athlete Dying Young

The time you won your town the race

We chaired you through the market-place;

Man and boy stood cheering by,

And home we brought you shoulder-high.

To-day, the road all runners come,

Shoulder-high we bring you home,

And set you at your threshold down,

Townsman of a stiller town.

Smart lad, to slip betimes away

From fields where glory does not stay,

And early though the laurel grows

It withers quicker than the rose.

Eyes the shady night has shut

Cannot see the record cut,

And silence sounds no worse than cheers

After earth has stopped the ears:

Now you will not swell the rout

Of lads that wore their honours out,

Runners whom renown outran

And the name died before the man.

So set, before its echoes fade,

The fleet foot on the sill of shade,

And hold to the low lintel up

The still-defended challenge-cup.

And round that early-laurelled head

Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,

And find unwithered on its curls

The garland briefer than a girl’s.

A.E. Housman, 1859 – 1936

As a community, we need to look out for one another and reach out with love to the broken bird. Shelter, nurture the vulnerable, helping them to regain their own strength to return to the sky. While we can not offer professional mental health support or advice, I have to believe that love, acceptance and being part of community has to be some kind of help. Well, it’s doing a lot for me!

As poet John Donne wrote:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

Prior to undergoing this challenge, I’d never considered “Poet” a dangerous occupation. However, I am starting to wonder whether Stunt Pilots might have been survival rates.

It certainly reminds me of the need for balance. For taking the time to smell and inhale the roses and not just write about them. That as much as life needs to be lived, we also need to put down our pens, laptops and tools of trade and walk in the great outdoors.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

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