Shelley: The Move Away from Ego

With Wordsworth, we see the Romantic self – the “I” in contemplation of its place in the wider expanse of Nature. His poems are about the self, the reflection upon the self, and the reconciliation of the self with the world.

With Byron, who thought himself far removed from the prattling of Wordsworth, we see in a darker form another iteration of the Romantic ego. He romanticizes himself, castigates all others, and barrels relentlessly into a self-justification at the expense of all other people.

With Shelley, we begin the transition into the final form of the Romantic ideal – the beginnings of a self-less contemplation. Where Wordsworth saw Nature as a well from which to draw inspiration, Shelley saw it as an experience that could inspire the human into a Nature driven creativity. This removal of the self sits somewhere between the controlled observation and thought of Wordsworth and the spontaneous and sensuous recitation of experience of Keats.

Unlike Wordsworth, Shelley uses more energetic and exhilarated language, his poetry carries us like the leaves in the autumn upon the West Wind. Like Keats, he imbues his poetry with the wondering of the human mind, with the self’s attempt to fathom its place in the vast and tumultuous tides of Nature. Still heavy with the Romantic ego, the “I” tries to fit itself among what it experiences and sees in Nature.

Shelley is perhaps the best example of the transition between the generations of Romantic poets, and exemplifies perfectly what may come of the balance between them.

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About abbaxjane

Devoted writer, reader, pen pal, post card collector, raven admirer, anglophile, tea drinker, music lover, and binge watcher.
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