Main Characteristics of Shelley’s Poetry

Main Characteristics of Shelley’s Poetry

Characteristics of Shelley’s Poetry

P.B. Shelley is a great name in the history of English poetry. He is considered as one of five great Romantic poets. He is the greatest lyric poet of England. His genius is essentially lyrical. He has left behind some of the best lyrics of English poetry. Moreover Shelley is an idealist and visionary also. “He excels all his competitors in ideality, he excels them in music and excels in intellectual appeal as well.” Being in idealist he raises every thought or action to a higher plane. His poetry is the fabric of a vision. Indeed he is a beautiful and effectual angel. He finds that the external objects are unreal and fanciful. He touches everything with imaginative interest, for he sees the spirit of beauty behind all these illusions. He transforms the real world of nature and fills it with his images of love, beauty and freedom. He seeks and concentrates upon the ideal world lying hidden behind the visible world. This hidden world is of a great significance for him in life.

Shelley shows a great influence of Plato in his poetry. As he advances in life, he becomes more and more a Platonist. Like Plato he believes a supreme power which works from within the world. Like the great Greek he is vividly conscious of the unity of the world of all life. He finds that the underlying spirits is the same everywhere even when it reveals itself in many forms. Like Plato, Shelley approaches the Supreme Power through the element of beauty in which “all things work and move.” Like him he believes in the conflict between the powers of good and those of evil. Shelley’s theory of love is based on his theory of beauty. Her resembles Plato in this respect. Like Plato Shelley thinks that matter is the dream and the shade. The things of the mind are the only true realities. The entire universe is the self-evolution of an absolute intelligence. All parts of this universe are inspired by their own intelligence. Love is not peculiar to man and animals only. It is a cosmic principle of the greatest nobility and power. Like Plato Shelly believes that the spirit of ideal or abstract beauty is the harmony of truth. He seeks to find its image in one woman after another. He feels that he finds the actual image of this ideal beauty in Emilia. This ideal beauty is the one life in a million forms which are themselves its painted shadows. We love the living spirit of beauty when we love the different elements of nature. Love is a force which kindless all things into beauty. It is a principle which extends through all nature. Love is the source of many benefits. It gives us wisdom.

The poetry of P.B. Shelley reveals that he is a great poet of nature also. Nature is a living reality and every part has its life in the whole. The wind is alive. It plays upto the instrument of woods. He sees things in nature as they really are. The indwelling spirit of nature is love which expresses itself in beauty. Unlike Wordsworth he does not recognize it as a teacher. The destruction which nature causes has got in it the needs of reconstruction. There is a certain Greek quality in his treatment of nature. He believes that nature is penetrated, vitalized and made real by a spirit. This spirit of nature is conceived by him as love or beauty. He thus takes a pantheistic view of nature. This treatment of nature differs from mood to mood. Shelley is a mythmaker also. This is very well illustrated by his poems such as “The Cloud” and “Ode to the West Wind”, etc.

The poetry of Shelley reveals that he has a vital faith which is known to have made his ideals. He has faith in the duty and desirability of overthrowing idols. He has faith in the gospel of liberty, fraternity and equality. He loves liberty in the abstract. It is some what after the pattern of the ancient republics. This love of liberty is accompanied by an equally ancient love of toleration of all opinions but more especially of religious opinions. Shelley seems to have faith in the gospel of divine beauty which is another name for the spirit of nature. He has faith in a love that rules the universe. He believes in the perfectibility of man also. He has faith in the omnipresent soul whereof our souls are but atoms. He has faith in affection as the ruling and coordinating substance of morality. Shelley is a social reformer who wants that love should take the place of force in all human affairs. He is a pessimist with some hope. He fell on the thorns of life and he bled. Though Shelley is full of hope regarding the future of mankind yet his lyrics are marked by a strain of melancholy and self-pity. In his poem “Stanzas written in the Dejection near Naples” he says:

Alas! I have nor hope nor health,

Nor peace within nor calm around.

To me the cup has been delat in another measure. It is this very poet who :

Look before and after

And pine for what is not.

It is he who finds that

Out of the day and night

A joy has taken flight:

Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hour

Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight

No more Oh! never more!

This melancholy mood is a result of his idealism, he treatment by the people and the criticism of his poetry.

P.B. Shelley impresses us with his verse and imagery. He is a great master of swift and lyrical blank verse. He uses it like his natural tongue. Shelley is the only English poet who has successfully handled the difficult metre of terza rima in his “Ode to the West Wind.” Every poem lacks what is called polish, for it is written in moments of inspiration. His poetry is the expression of imagination. The main points of his verse are its varying quality, power and complete absence of effort. He is a spontaneous writer. His verse is very musical or melodious also. According to Prof. Hales, Shelley’s gift of melody has not been reached by any other English poet. Keats is known to have advised him to be more of an artist. Shelly is known to have allowed the rush of his ideas to have it way. He does not pause to complete a troublesome line, nor does he stop to find a word that has not come. In spite of all his defects and blemishes Shelley holds a high position as an artist in verse.

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