Essay Paper on Percy B. Shelley Works
Percy B. Shelley and His Works “Mont Blanc” and “Defense of Poetry”
This paper is going to be devoted to contemplation of such works by the famous English writer and poet of the Romanticism period Percy B. Shelley as “Mont Blanc” and “Defense of Poetry”. But, to begin with, and in order for us to be able to understand the works of this writer better it is necessary to consider the way he wrote and the circumstances for the writing.
The epoch Shelly was lucky to be born in was the time of Romanticism in British culture. This trend consisted in opposition or, rather, contraposition of the Romantic Movement to the opinions and beliefs of the Enlightenment. The latter developed due to the Industrial Revolution and consisted in fulsome praise of reason, and rationalization of natural laws. On the other hand, Romanticism lied in emotional perception of the world around and considered emotion to be the mother of aesthetic experiences.
Nowadays, Shelly is considered a great and talented poet and writer, whose literary legacy is valued and respected as well as has been admired by many generations. But in the days of his life he was always considered controversial. “During his lifetime he was generally viewed as a misguided or even depraved genius; critics frequently praised portions of his poetry in passing and deplored at length his atheism and unorthodox philosophy.” But, if we remember his famous contemporaries such as Byron, Coleridge, Woodsworth, or Keats, they all admired him and always viewed his writings with approval. While living in Victorian era Shelley was perceived as a typical example of poetic genius misunderstood by the society.
The scholars started to study his works in detail only in the beginning of the 20th
century – in 1930s – and only then his complex style, major themes he contemplated in his writings and his philosophical ideas were recognized. These scholars generally viewed his style, technical specialties of his writings and his imagery, while to a lesser degree paid attention to such issues as the importance of other philosophers, neo-platonic trend, the ideas of French Revolution, religion in parallel with occultism for Shelley.
In principle, his odes and poems are always celebrated for their style as well as deep thoughts. His modern philosophy is very advanced and the work we are going to discuss hereinafter called “Defense of Poetry” is usually considered the hymn to the poet and the poetry of the time – the Romantic ideal of both. Thus, it is understandable why Percy Shelley is believed to be one of the central figures in British Romanticism.
Now, the time has come to consider Shelley’s works. And the first under discussion will be “Mont Blanc” – a poem about the spectacular mountain, which was written when Shelley, his future wife and her relative had a chance to observe the mountain of Mont Blanc – the highest mountain the entire Europe – while were traveling in the Chamonix Valley. The mountain was really sublime, and the feelings the view of it gave rise to were overwhelming. As a result, the poem appeared. It not only describes the landscape and the nature around the mountain as well as the river flowing from its tops. The lyric goes much deeper into the very essence of the feelings and emotions making us want to consider not only the happiness from observing such a magnificent beauty but also to consider where all this glory has come from and what the reasons for its existing are. “Looking up at the glacier covered pinnacles of Mont Blanc from the Arve river valley, Shelley feels that this is “the still and solemn power of many sights,” a unique sight where, owing to its extreme and imposing stature, the influential power of nature stands out in intensity. Since this particular sight affects his mind in a way that few others can, Shelley believes its significance warrants attention to each of the different parts that play a part in making it up, which hold great importance for him.”
But why is the mountain so important and outstanding for Shelley? The reason for it is the fact that he considers it the great and rare source of knowledge for himself. Why is it so? Because he believes that many people are very busy and concerned with their everyday hustle and businesses and thus cannot stop and admire the world around or otherwise they cannot see its beauty. But occasionally, “some say that gleams of a remoter world visit the soul in sleep,–that death is slumber, and that its shapes the busy thoughts outnumber of those who wake and live.” Thus while being asleep most of us can leave their down-to-earth perception of life and have the possibility to realize the truths which are hidden or impossible for us to be recognized for the reason of our obsession with our everyday life little things. On the other hand, Shelley believes that he himself has the possibility to feel and see all these secret things while being awake but in a sleep-like state. He states that this is the mountain which hypnotizes him so and makes him feel like dreaming. But, perhaps, this feeling visits him due to his poetical nature – as a poet he is able to see special things – the ability others are deprived of. Shelley believes he is endowed with the ability to imagine and thus to understand.
The mountain makes Shelley understand that everything in the world has its cause as well as certain effect. In this angle he views the mighty river of Arve flowing from the top of Mont Blanc. Here the cyclic nature of all processes is described with the example of the river – which springs from the glaciers, and being a stream comes to the bottom of the mountain where it becomes a mighty river. Further it flows sometimes destroying life, sometimes animating everything around – as it has done for centuries. The river Arve runs into the ocean and seems to disappear. But it is only a vision as the water from the ocean returns to the white snowy caps of Mont Blanc in the evaporated form. Here the process starts again. The two important issues can be concluded from this poem by Shelley. First of all, here we can see that the cycle of the acts of nature happens in an unstoppable manner and each of the parts of its cycle has its own cause as well as its own reason. Similarly, all processes in our life have their reasons and causes – this is the law of our existence, according to Shelley. And thus if we want to understand the core of it we just have to have a closer look at it. And second issue asserts that despite of not being aware of the exact subsequence or evidence of the events in the chain of our existence (for instance in the river example) we can understand it – and according to Shelley, this happens due to the existence of some unperceived link between our mind and the nature around. I think this link can be called imagination but only to the extent of existence of this link in reality. Our perception of reality is thus supposed to be intuitive and emotional, based on feelings and intuition – then we will be able to cognize the core of the world around and of ourselves as the part of it. “By closing the poem with a question “And what were thou, and earth, and stars, and sea, / If to the human mind’s imaginings Silence and solitude were vacancy?” Shelley provides the reader freedom to ponder the ultimate question of “what were “[Mont Blanc]” without “the human mind’s imaginings.””…
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