Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Percy Bysshe

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:




Dogs 1

Dogs 2

Dogs 4

Dogs 6

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.


  1. Hello Tania - ahh Percy Bysshe reminds me of University...and wasn't it that group who challenged each other to a ghost story, from which Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein? I am coming to love your dogs - especially the hopeful face at the prospect of biscuits. Biscuits = hope. Trips to the Post Office are always more trauma than you think they will be...such a shame that the Post Office isn't what it used to be! Lou x

  2. Oh! What Byron said about Shelley was really rather splendid.

    It also reminds me of university and school and studying literature. I am trying to revisit some of the classics now my degree is becoming more of a distant memory.

    Thanks for putting such a lovely discovery here for us to find.

  3. Just yesterday I finished a first book by an English writer, Daisy Hayes, "Young Romantics," which I loved. She discusses the Romantic poets, with an emphasis on Shelley, in the context of their community of friends, originally built around a Leigh Hunt. It's fascinating.

    One of the things that the college English major in me found most interesting was the repositioning of Shelley's reputation, first my Mary Shelley, and later by Jane Shelley, Mary's daughter-in-law. He went from being a social radical to being a solitary tortured poet, which is the certainly the image I had of him when I was in school.

    In any case, I heartily recommend the book.


  4. Oops. Make that Daisy HAYS. The subtitle of the book is "The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation."


  5. Wrong again. This is what comes from attempting to contribute to a long-distance telephone conference call and write a blog comment at the same time.

    The writer of the book is Daisy HAY. She's the Alistair Horne Fellow at St. Anthony's College, Oxford. Oxford, of course, was the university from Shelley was expelled.


  6. What a gorgeous set of photo's of your dogs!
    They have such wonderful faces.

  7. Is it too strange to think that your gorgeous dogs look Scottish??
    I have no idea why, maybe it's all in the pose...


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