Well, I finally recovered from my cold this week only to be buried under a mountain of projects at work. I’m hoping that this post marks my return to regular blogging . I haven’t done much reading of books this week. But I’ve been consoling myself with poetry.
This week, Reading the Romantics is exploring the works of the English Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 – 1822). In my opinion, lyrical Romantic poetry does not get any finer than this. But who knows? I may change my mind as this poetry project progresses. Shelley, people, Shelley. Excellent, beautiful, poignant etc etc poetry! A poet who left an indelible mark on the genre and who influenced multiple generations of poets. And his missus was the novelist Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin. Some of his most famous poems are To a Skylark and Ode to a West Wind. Please do read at least one poem by Shelley in your lifetime. Really!
This week’s poem is To Wordsworth. The poet’s longer poems are really his best works. But I chose one of shorter poems for a reason; I enjoy dedicated poetry, especially when written in memory of, or are dedicated, to other poets and novelists. My favorite of these, among the works of classic poets, is In Memoriam A.H.H by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I guess I’m drawn to the combination of emotion and professional respect, with the occasional dose of shared experience. Sometimes though, some of these poems are rebukes, a show of one-upmanship.
Poet of Nature, thou hast wept to know
That things depart which never may return:
Childhood and youth, friendship, and love’s first glow,
Have fled like sweet dreams, leaving thee to mourn.
These common woes I feel. One loss is mine
Which thou too feel’st, yet I alone deplore.
Thou wert as a lone star whose light did shine
On some frail bark in winter’s midnight roar:
Thou hast like to a rock-built refuge stood
Above the blind and battling multitude:
In honoured poverty thy voice did weave
Songs consecrate to truth and liberty.
Deserting these, thou leavest me to grieve,
Thus having been, that thou shouldst cease to be
– by Percy Bysshe Shelley
This is a poem that mourns the aging and passing of the poet William Wordsworth ( 1770 – 1850). In actuality, Wordsworth , a fellow Romantic poet, would outlive Shelley by two decades. The poem appears to praise Wordsworth’s past works and his use of themes like “childhood and youth, friendship, and love’s first glow”. However, Shelley uses these themes and manipulates some of Wordsworth great poems to mock and taunt the older poet with images of transience and death.
At the time that Shelley wrote this poem, Wordsworth had accepted a government job. Horrors of horrors, that a poet should seek employment outside of his craft to pay the bills! This sellout, of course, means that Wordsworth cannot “weave songs consecrate to truth and liberty”. Shelley declares himself the heir apparent. His works are of course better. Wordsworth concerned himself with “common woes”, Wordsworth is weak, “frail… blind”. Basically, Wordsworth has passed his sell-by-date. The nerve of Shelley. But a fantastic poem nonetheless.