Shelley as a Lyricist

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P.B. Shelley (1792-1822) as a Lyricist.
It can be said without any reserve that the genius of English poetry is best manifested in the great Romantic Lyricism of the 18th Century. The Lyricism became spectacular in the Odes, Sonnets, and elegies of Wordsworth, Shelley, Coleridge, Byron and Keats. The Lyricism of these great Romantic poets is generally deemed unsurpassable either by their illustrious predecessors or by their subsequent meritorious successors. Romantic poetry is basically Lyrical even when its theme is philosophic, didactic or secular love. A Lyric is a short poem, usually divided into stanzas and directly expressing in melodious language the thoughts, emotions and feelings of the poet himself… It is the crowning glory of the subjective poetry. In modern times the range of the Lyric poetry has expanded so far that it is now identified with the subjective poetry. Originally, however, the Lyric meant a song which was sung in accompaniment with a Lyre or Harp. This original sense of the lyric being a song is preserved in its melodious (musical) language and in the intensity of emotion or feeling expressed. But whereas , in ancient times the Lyric ,like music , was inspired by something external to the poet by such public events as war, triumph in war, and religious ceremonies, and as such possessed the objective character , the modern Lyric , however, is inspired by something within the poet and possesses purely personal character. A Lyric proper is actually the product of a swift, momentary and passionate impulse. It implies impulsiveness or subjectivity. Secondly, it turns on to some single thought, feeling or situation. Thirdly, it is unique in its spontaneity and sincerity. Fourthly, a Lyric possesses the element of reflection and last but not the least feature of the Lyric is its music or melody. Shelley is considered as the greatest Lyricist till date. Though he wrote poems of all sorts, yet to the readers he is the consummate artist of Lyric harmonies. “In none of Shelley’s greatest contemporaries was the Lyrical faculty so paramount and---he was the loftiest and most spontaneous singer in our language” writes Symons. Earnest Rays in his book Lyric Poetry endorses the opinion of Symons. “Shelley is the Lyric Lord of England’s Lordliest singers” said Swinburne while Rabindranath Thakur Held him as ‘a heavenly creature both as a poet and as a Man‘ . And , according to Francis Thompson , “He is gold-dusty with tumbling amidst the stars”. His view of a poet in “A Defence of Poetry”-- ‘A poet is a nightingale who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds’ suits best for him as poet. He is really “A phantom among men; companionless.(Adonais) Robert Browning called him “Sun treader”( SURYA-TOPA) in noticing his Nightingale like desire to fly high into the unknown. English Lyric poetry has been developed partly out of indigenous folk-song and partly under the influence of Greek and Greco-Roman models. Folk-songs were the utterances of a single person where as Classical Lyrics were choral or even orchestra. Shelley’s Lyrics, however, contains the spirit of the both. The following lines from Prometheus Unbound describes the unpremeditated, effortless and spontaneous quality of Shelley’s Lyrics and of course, this is his first Lyric poem which heralded the emergence of one of the greatest Lyric poets in English: From unremembered ages we

Gentle guides and guardians be
Of heaven ----oppressed mortality;
And we breathe, and sicken not,
The atmosphere of human thought:
The Classical influence to Shelley came straight from the Classics, and he used it with a Greek lucidity and sonority, and yet with all the native music of the language, to express general ideas that had never before been expressed in Lyric poetry:...
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