Posted by Tania Kindersley.
Today, I ended up thinking about Shelley. I did not start the day with that intention. I started thinking about the erroneous correlation between goodness and beauty; I was wondering why it persists despite all evidence to the contrary. I googled about, looking for clues; one thing led to another, and I found myself on a whole Keats and Shelley and beauty and goodness page. It never ceases to amaze me that the internet has everything.
I realised, to my shame, how little I know about Shelley. I know about the wandering about Italy in the big poofy white shirts, of course, and the marriage to Mary and the exile and the being sent down from Oxford. But that's about it. The only poem of his that I know is Ozymandias, and there are people who might think that is so good it is all you need.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".
I like this description of his rooms at Oxford by his friend Thomas Hogg:
Books, boots, papers, shoes, philosophical instruments, clothes, pistols, linen, crockery, ammunition, and phials innumerable, with money, stockings, prints, crucibles, bags, and boxes were scattered on the floor and in every place. . . . The tables, and especially the carpet, were already stained with large spots of various hues, which frequently proclaimed the agency of fire. An electrical machine, an air pump, the galvanic trough, a solar microscope, and large glass jars and receivers, were conspicuous amidst the mass of matter.
I like the most what Byron wrote about him after his death by drowning:
''There is another man gone about whom the world was ill-natured, and ignorantly and brutally mistaken.'
And again: ' You were all brutally mistaken about Shelley, who was, without exception, the best and least selfish man I ever knew. I never knew one who was not a beast in comparison.'
This is one of the reasons I like my job; it leads me into unexpected and enchanting places.
And talking of enchanting - we went a bit mad with the close-ups today:
Do you notice very hopeful face on the left? That is because I have said the word 'biscuits'. Bored disdainful look on the right is because she finds the whole posing for photographs thing a long way below her dignity.
The lavender was intensely lavender:
The trees were green:
The meadow had been mown:
The burn was peaty:
And the moss was mossy:
AND I finally managed to get to the post office. It's the sort of miracle I do not take for granted.