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Selected Poetry and Prose

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Shelley's short, prolific life produced some of the most memorable and well-known lyrics of the Romantic period. But he was also the most radical writer in the English literary tradition of his day, a fiery political visionary committed to social change and progress. The generous selection in this volume represents the wide range of his writing, both poetry and prose. Arra Shelley's short, prolific life produced some of the most memorable and well-known lyrics of the Romantic period. But he was also the most radical writer in the English literary tradition of his day, a fiery political visionary committed to social change and progress. The generous selection in this volume represents the wide range of his writing, both poetry and prose. Arranged chronologically, the accompanying introductory essays set Shelley's works in their historical, social and political context. The Wordsworth Poetry Library comprises the works of the greatest English-speaking poets, as well as many lesser-known poets. Each collection has a specially commissioned introduction.


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Shelley's short, prolific life produced some of the most memorable and well-known lyrics of the Romantic period. But he was also the most radical writer in the English literary tradition of his day, a fiery political visionary committed to social change and progress. The generous selection in this volume represents the wide range of his writing, both poetry and prose. Arra Shelley's short, prolific life produced some of the most memorable and well-known lyrics of the Romantic period. But he was also the most radical writer in the English literary tradition of his day, a fiery political visionary committed to social change and progress. The generous selection in this volume represents the wide range of his writing, both poetry and prose. Arranged chronologically, the accompanying introductory essays set Shelley's works in their historical, social and political context. The Wordsworth Poetry Library comprises the works of the greatest English-speaking poets, as well as many lesser-known poets. Each collection has a specially commissioned introduction.

30 review for Selected Poetry and Prose

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    “It is the same! -For, be it joy or sorrow, The path of its departure still is free: Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow, Nought may endure but Mutability.” Sometimes I forget that I do not teach anymore [which - proof for eternal mutability - will now have to be changed into: "Sometimes I forget that I gave up teaching in despair - as I am back again, in my quixotic profession!"], and I wake up sweating, thinking I have forgotten to plan my lessons, and that I will have to improvise. Stran “It is the same! -For, be it joy or sorrow, The path of its departure still is free: Man’s yesterday may ne’er be like his morrow, Nought may endure but Mutability.” Sometimes I forget that I do not teach anymore [which - proof for eternal mutability - will now have to be changed into: "Sometimes I forget that I gave up teaching in despair - as I am back again, in my quixotic profession!"], and I wake up sweating, thinking I have forgotten to plan my lessons, and that I will have to improvise. Strange how bits and pieces of former life leave a trace long after you have moved on. Last year I taught all my classes the importance of change, of mutability in life, of the eternal shift in historical processes, using one of Shelley’s most famous poems, Ozymandias. I wanted the students to understand the poem on different levels, and to incorporate it in their lives, regardless of whether they would ever need poetry again or not. I wanted them to see that even if mutability is the rule, there is a red thread through the maze of humanity, a trace of culture that stays and tells the story of faraway times and lands, thus connecting us to older selves, in history and within our own lives. So I had them read, of course: “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 shatter'd visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things, The hand that mock'd 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.” And they did read. Monotonously, and with a big question mark on display in most faces. So I read it aloud to them, descriptively in the beginning, then raising my voice to brag with Ozymandias, king of kings, changing my facial expressions in accordance with the frowning statue. Then my voice faded away in the desert sand with the endless time that transformed the imposing emperor’s statue into a colossal wreck. When I had finished, I asked students to read themselves again, practising with each other, and then perform. In the end, they learned that poem by heart by accident, while giggling over exaggerated intonation. And then came the mean teacher questions: “What does Ozymandias think of his future reputation?” “Why did he have the statue constructed?” “What do you think his city looked like and why did it disappear?” (They had to write essays on the day of the inauguration of the statue in front of the palace, if I remember rightly.) “What does he mean by DESPAIR: Look on my works ye mighty and despair?” A boy who had previously claimed not to understand anything, raised his hand and said: “He wants others to feel jealous of his power!” (Actually, this is a teacher translation from the original, spoken in teenagerish: “Well, he kind of wants them to like feel like he is like more than them and stronger and that they are like not so cool, and feel like jealous!”) I was very proud of him. And then I asked: “And what kind of despair do you think the poet wants the reader to feel?” And they got it. They really understood that the reader’s despair was of a very different kind than the one Ozymandias had hoped for: more pity or sadness in the face of the mutability of life. I loved them that day, when we read Ozymandias together. Those days are now gone, nothing beside remains, except for my memories and theirs. For they did not forget Ozymandias. Whenever we talked about power, and change in historical contexts, they would eventually sigh: “Just like Ozymandias! Nothing remains!” Or I would shake them up by yelling: “Look on my works, ye mighty!” We learned something else reading Shelley together as well. We learned about the importance of having a sound educational foundation to understand a certain kind of wittiness and humour. And how one piece of cultural heritage builds on another one. In a completely different context, we had decided to send in contributions to the Bulwer Lytton contest, a very ironical yearly competition to find the “best” opening sentence for the worst imaginable novel. Obviously, the mean teacher had some hidden agenda here as well, hoping her students would be more aware of stylistical details in their essays if they deliberately tried their best to do their worst for once. But we had not even started reading through examples properly before they saw their teacher lose her (not very impressive) composure and start laughing tears. One of the contributions to the 2015 contest was so good, and so funny, and such a perfect match for our previous discussions of Ozymandias, that I could not quite believe my eyes, teary as they were. I had to start several times to deliver the following sentence, which my students would not have been able to appreciate at all in its beautiful irony, had they not practised reading the pompous original over and over again: “Ozymandias looked upon his mighty statue and despaired, amazed that the sculptors could have gotten his nose so wrong and wishing the darned thing would just crumble into pieces and blow across the lone and level sands, but leaving his legs since they were actually rather flattering.” When I had stopped hiccuping, I asked: “What kind of despair does this Ozymandias feel?” “The kind you felt when you read our essays on Ozymandias”, said a student, and I knew they were ready for real humour! Mutability, indeed! Reason for both despair and hope!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Conrad

    I just don't like Shelley. Where Keats seems subtle, Shelley seems didactic. Where Coleridge seems erudite, Shelley seems merely self-serious. His poetry really gets under my skin, especially his longer, allegorical works like Masque of Anarchy. I'm sure he was a genius, but I sometimes wonder how much of his appeal is a result of juicy biography and fortunate association.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Celeste

    After 10 years, reading is always re-reading! Aah, you problematic fave, you. Better than wrinkle cream.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Greer

    Shelley is great if you are in a philosophical mood. :) He is still a distant follower, though, to Keats in my mind.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Timothy Dymond

    “Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep - He hath awakened from the dream of life” Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry has the reputation for being long on the contemplation of transience, mortality, and the briefness of the time we have on this Earth. The romantic sensibility that there is something better beyond the vale of tears that is everyday reality is shown in lines such as the one above (from ‘Adonais’ - his 1821 elegy to the recently dead John Keats) were also reflected by his polit “Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep - He hath awakened from the dream of life” Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry has the reputation for being long on the contemplation of transience, mortality, and the briefness of the time we have on this Earth. The romantic sensibility that there is something better beyond the vale of tears that is everyday reality is shown in lines such as the one above (from ‘Adonais’ - his 1821 elegy to the recently dead John Keats) were also reflected by his political views. In ‘Prometheus Unbound’ (1820) he describes a utopian world thus: "The painted veil, by those who were, called life, Which mimicked, as with colours idly spread, All men believed and hoped, is torn aside; The loathsome mask has fallen, the man remains Sceptreless, free, uncircumscribed, but man Equal, unclassed, tribeless, and nationless, Exempt from awe, worship, degree, the king Over himself; just, gentle, wise: but man Passionless; no, yet free from guilt or pain" However Shelley wasn’t ‘merely’ a utopian. He also had what contemporary political organisers call a theory of change. In his famous response to the Peterloo Massacre - ‘The Masque of Anarchy’ (1819) - he hits all the rhetorical points for Anger, Hope, and Action. The second stanza gets stuck right into the leading Tory politician of the day: “I met Murder on the way - He had a mask like Castlereagh - Very smooth he looked, yet grim; Seven blood-hounds followed him:” Through the course of the poem, the argument is made for non-violent strength in numbers, concluding with the famous call for the people of England to “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!" For a man barely 29 years old when he drowned, Shelley was prodigious. Many of his works reflect what you might call a young man’s taste for florid emotional expression to make up for a limited life experience, except that Shelley had plenty of drama in his life even. He had bad experiences during his education in Eton College and later Oxford, though he also seems to have been something of a deliberate provocateur with his radical and atheistic views. His personal life of elopements, affairs, ‘illegitimate’ children and attempted ménage à troi relationships has ensured Shelley’s reputation for being ‘mad’, impulsive, and generally impossible to deal with. Indeed many commentators have used his personal life to undermine his political views. Either by emphasising his purely ‘romantic’ outlook on life - contemplating beauty and fragility (Matthew Arnold), or by presenting him as a hypocrite and a ruthless exploiter of others for his own selfish ends (Paul Johnson). Shelley’s most famous relationship was with the young Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin - later to become more famous than him as Mary Shelley, author of ‘Frankenstein’. She had ample cause for complaint about Shelley’s treatment of her, but Shelley also keenly encouraged Mary’s own writing. Mary gave some lines of Shelley’s verse to the ‘Monster’ of her famous novel, and Shelly later published them as ‘Mutability’. This poem’s sense of the constancy of change, movement, and flow in human affairs unites the radicalism of Shelley’s political outlook with the romance of his world view: “It is the same!--For, be it joy or sorrow, The path of its departure still is free: Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow; Nought may endure but Mutability.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lesley

  7. 4 out of 5

    L

  8. 4 out of 5

    Riaz

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paige

  11. 5 out of 5

    Laura Wiseman

  12. 4 out of 5

    Danijela

  13. 5 out of 5

    Richard Lodge

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ashok Banker

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

  16. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

  17. 4 out of 5

    Gil Rosado

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rosalie

  19. 4 out of 5

    ArieXeira

  20. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Rachel

  21. 4 out of 5

    Melanie J. Knadler

  22. 5 out of 5

    Antje

  23. 5 out of 5

    Shilpa das

  24. 4 out of 5

    Richard Sellwood

  25. 4 out of 5

    Barzin

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chico Robot

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nikki

  28. 4 out of 5

    Flo

  29. 4 out of 5

    Scott

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steven Wooten Jr

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