Notes on Percy Shelley


  • atheists replacing God with something else
    • for Shelley it’s Intellectual Beauty
    • for others it’s Truth, Beauty, etc
  • Romanticism as the endless pursuit of the definition of Beauty


  • epigraph – sexual love/romantic love is a precursor to the deep, Christian, Godly love of the Church
  • doesn’t know what he’s searching for, but it is a form of love
  • this quest cannot happen outside of the mind
    • things like Don Juan could be like picaresque novels, lack this contemplation
  • Shelley rejected the rituals, the edifice in his atheism essay, advocating for the personal journey

“Mont Blanc”

  • next part of the Journey of Alastor
  • “sound but half its own” – lack of a full image
  • relation of the age/lifetime of rocks to humans’ lifetimes
  • “the secret strength of things”
    • lack of importance of observation, it still happens regardless
    • what is the strength?
      • the strength of BEING, the continuance of existence with the lack of anything (atheism)
      • endurance, resilience
    • materialist view of life that becomes a spiritual awakening
    • impact on socialist thinking

“Hymn to Intellectual Beauty”

  • “intellect as an abstraction, “beauty” as amorphous
  • “the awful shadow of some unseen Power…”
    • inconstancy of the Other because humans are inconstant
  • “Spirit of beauty”
    • where has it gone?
    • too embroiled in wars, oppositions – where can we reconcile these things?
    • “God,” “Diving Spirit” are too human to encompass the Other
    • don’t want the scriptures, but don’t want a dark grave –> Imagination
      • very Romantic, nothing’s possible without Imagination
  • Wordsworth as a priest of nature, Shelley as a priest of Intellectual Beauty

“Ode to the West Wind”

  • West Wind as the force he’s been trying to figure out
  • differs from the above three poems
  • Stanza 1
    • dying of autumn, birth of spring
      • using seasonal imagery, not religious
  • Stanza 2
    • wind of crucifixion, it’s the destroyer
    • working to contain the complexities of the “Other” – breaks the binary of good/evil
  • Stanza 3 – take audience to the Mediterranean
    • talks about the effects of the storm inside the water, the power needed
  • Stanza 4
    • shift to the “I,” wants to be swept away, as a rejuvenation away from despondency
  • Stanza 5
    • seeking inspiration/prophecy from the wind
    • the poet has become a lyre, a wind-harp
    • suspending the interpretation of the poet
      • in contrast to Wordsworth who places a lot of importance on the poet

“Elegy of Keats”

  • Stanza 52
    • affirming the unity, the one-ness of everything
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