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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)

The Mask of Anarchy [Excerpt]

Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792 - 1822
         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
"Let the laws of your own land, 
Good or ill, between ye stand
Hand to hand, and foot to foot, 
Arbiters of the dispute,

         LXXXII
"The old laws of England—they
Whose reverend heads with age are gray, 
Children of a wiser day;
And whose solemn voice must be
Thine own echo—Liberty!

         LXXXIII
"On those who first should violate
Such sacred heralds in their state
Rest the blood that must ensue, 
And it will not rest on you.

         LXXXIV
"And if then the tyrants dare
Let them ride among you there, 
Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew,—
What they like, that let them do.

         LXXXV
"With folded arms and steady eyes, 
And little fear, and less surprise, 
Look upon them as they slay
Till their rage has died away.

         LXXXVI
"Then they will return with shame
To the place from which they came, 
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.

         LXXXVII
"Every woman in the land
Will point at them as they stand—
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance on the street.

         LXXXVIII
"And the bold, true warriors
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free, 
Ashamed of such base company.

         LXXXIX
"And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration, 
Eloquent, oracular;
A volcano heard afar.

         XC
"And these words shall then become
Like Oppression's thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain, 
Heard again—again—again—

         XCI
"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."

This poem is in the public domain.

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
    Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
        Bird thou never wert,
    That from heaven, or near it,
        Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

    Higher still and higher
        From the earth thou springest
    Like a cloud of fire;
        The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing
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
                  49

    Go thou to Rome,—at once the Paradise,
    The grave, the city, and the wilderness;
    And where its wrecks like shattered mountains rise,
    And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress
    The bones of Desolation's nakedness
    Pass, till the spirit of the spot shall lead
    Thy