Romantic Opinions in the Work of Percy Bysshe Shelley

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To think of something romantically is to think of it naively, in a positive

light, away from the view of the majority. Percy Bysshe Shelley has many

romantic themes in his plays. Educated at Eton College, he went on to the

University of Oxford only to be expelled after one year after publishing an

inappropriate collection of poems. He then worked on writing full-time, and

moved to Italy shortly before his death in a boating accident off the shore

of Leghorn. He wrote many pieces, and his writing contains numerous themes.

Shelley experienced first-hand the French Revolution. This allowed him to

ponder many different situations, and determine deep philosophical views -

views that were so radically different they were considered naive at best,

downright wrong at worst. He contemplated socialism, having for a

father-in-law William Godwin, who was the prominent socialist in the United

Kingdom in Shelley's time. Shelley liked Napolean, and was suspicious of both

the Bourbon monarchy and the Directory. Most of all, Shelley felt that all

people had the right to work for themselves; he did not support the notion

that once one had been born into a class, one must stay in that class for the

rest of one's life. Shelley felt that all bodies of the universe were

governed by the same principle, completely contradicting the given theories,

those of Aristotle. Thus, Shelley gained a romantic and rather naive view of

the universe. In fact, Carlos Baker describes his poems as "The Fabric of a

Vision". (Baker 1) In Percy Bysshe Shelley's poems, the author uses those

naive, romantic opinions on the themes of romance, politics, and science.

Romance is well defined as a theme choice for Shelley. Shelley uses this

theme rather romantically; one could say that Shelley's theme in his amorous

poetry is unrestricted passion; love, Shelley feels, can overcome all

obstacles, distance, fear, even death. One example of this is in Shelley's

poem which is titled by the first line: "I fear thy kisses, gentle maiden":

"I fear thy kisses gentle maiden;/Thou needst not fear mine;/My spirit is too

deeply laiden/Ever to burden thine/I fear thy mien, thy tones, thy

motion;/Thou needst not fear mine;/Innocent is the heart's devotion/With

which I worship thine" In this poem Shelley is observing that he feels

inferior to his maiden; he "fears" her kisses because he is intimidated by

her perfection to the point where he feels as though he is stifling her, that

she is compromising her own value by falling in love with him; this is why

the maiden should not fear Shelley. He emphasizes his own faults in line 3,

by stating that his spirit is "too deeply laiden" to be good enough for his

maiden. He also mentions that everything about her is perfect, her body

(mien), her voice (tones), and her walk (motion). In the last line, Shelley

asserts that he feels so inconsequential that he wishes to place his maiden

on a pedestal and worship her, as opposed to treating her as an equal. In

this way does Shelley show his unbounded passion for his maiden. Another

example of this is in Julian and Maddalo, a long text wherein Maddalo is

traveling to meet his beloved Julian. William Hazlitt reviewed as "a

Conversation or Tale, full of that thoughtful and romantic humanity... which

distinguished Mr. Shelley's writings." (500) The lines he most seemingly

referred to were lines 13-19, which state "...I love all waste/And solitary

places; where we taste/The pleasure of believing what we see/Is boundless, as

we wish our souls to be./And such was this wide ocean, and this shore/More

than it's billows..." Shelley is referring to the love that partners have for

eachother; this love is boundless, with infinite possibilities for showing

this passion, both physical and honorable. True love turns away from faults

and inefficiencies,...
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