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Percy Bysshe Shelley (Illustrated Poets)

Percy Bysshe Shelley (Illustrated Poets) by Percy Bysshe Shelley,Peter Porter

ISBN10: 1854101684
ISBN13: 978-1854101686
Author: Percy Bysshe Shelley,Peter Porter
Book title: Percy Bysshe Shelley (Illustrated Poets)
Publisher: Aurum Press (October 1, 1991)
Language: English
Category: History & Criticism
Size PDF: 1214 kb
Size ePub: 1860 kb
Size Fb2: 1875 kb
Rating: 4.8/5
Votes: 640
Pages: 64 pages

Percy Bysshe Shelley (Illustrated Poets) by Percy Bysshe Shelley,Peter Porter

Poems specially selected by Peter Porter who captures the mood and feeling of Shelly's work for those newly interested.


ᵀᴴᴱ ᴼᴿᴵᴳᴵᴻᴬᴸ
Suppose someone published a Shakespeare selection, that included pretty set pieces from the plays ("Queen Mab! What's she?" from _Romeo and Juliet_, "I know a bank whereon the wild thyme grows" from _Midsummer Night's Dream_), bits of _The Rape of Lucrece_ and _Venus and Adonis_, every last one of the "Sonnetf to Sundrie Notef of Mufic_, and a few songs: "It was a lover and his lass," and the like. But anything that hinted at a darker worldview or Shakespeare's wider range was ruthlessly excluded.
And suppose further that this anthology claimed that it represented Shakespeare's best work, showing his range and the things that make that writer great. So that anyone who knew Shakespeare through that anthology would think that he was good for the odd flower poem and a bit of "Hey nonny nonny" but not much else besides.
Isobel Quigly's _Shelley: A Selection_ is the Shelleyan equivalent of that Shakespeare anthology. Thus, Shelley's epic philosophical drama _Prometheus Unbound_, both a meditation about the relationship between thought and language and a metaphor for political renewal based on moral growth (among other things), is represented by a couple of incidental lyrics; all complexity and depth are left on Quigly's cutting room floor. _Julian and Maddalo_, with its urbanity, its bitter wit, crisp dialogue and vivid characterisation, is represented by one short purple passage (admittedly a splendid one) describing sunset over the Euganean hills.
The satirical Shelley is not represented at all: the contemptuous handling of contemporary political figures in the energetically grotesque _Oedipus Tyrannus_ is missing in action, as is the more nuanced satire of _Peter Bell the Third_. Oh, and the real Shelley may have been passionately engaged in the real world, protesting poverty, war and oppression in general and by specifics, in hard detail and in words of fire: but you won't find a hint of that in Quigly's selection. Many of Shelley's finest poems are simply omitted. _The Mask of Anarchy_ , _Song to the Men of England_, _Similes for Two Political Characters_, _Feelings of a Republican on Hearing the Death of Napoleon_, for example, and much else besides: Quigly won't trouble you with a word of it.
What she gives instead is every "pretty" poem Shelley ever wrote. That includes great lyrics like the _Ode to the West Wind_ and _To a Skylark_ and others, but also all the poems Shelley dashed off as gifts to women friends, often for them to use as song lyrics, and often written to fit existing tunes. These became enormously popular anthology pieces in the Victorian period, though Shelley himself showed little interest in them and never bothered to publish them.
It's not that these are bad poems. All are good of their kind, and many conceal a hard metaphysical kernel under a candied surface: _When the lamp is shattered_, and _Music when soft voices die_, for example. Shelley was in a sense more of a metaphysical than a romantic poet, and in another sense more of a metaphysical poet than the metaphysicals themselves, since he was often concerned with genuine metaphysical questions in his poetry: thought and language, epistemology, and so on.
But [...] Shelley is a minor and one-dimensional poet on the basis of this selection. But it's the selection at fault, not the poet.
Quigly also, irritatingly, strips poems of their contexts. She gives _Alastor_ and (surprisingly in view of its Dantean difficulties) _Epipsychidion_ complete, but rips away the prefaces that Shelley used, in each case, as part of his framing and distancing effect: they are important to the way in which the poem is to be presented, and to be approached.
She also follows the Victorians in getting various telling details wrong. Thus _The Indian Girl's Serenade_ is printed as _The Indian Serenade_; the change allowed the Victorians to treat the poem as a personal lyric rather than a performance piece, and to marvel over Shelley's exquisite but rather weak sensibility: "O lift me from the grass! I die, I faint, I fall!"
The name change conceals the fact that this poem was written for soprano performance (to a tune from Mozart's _La Clemenza di Tito_). Its charm is that it allows the performer opportunities to both use feminine wiles and at the same time mock them. The "faint" at the end of the song is best performed, by the singer, with one eye open to judge the effect. But Quigly knows nothing of this, referring to Shelley's "wholly personal love poems" in her wholly clueless introduction.
Quigly's introduction clearly places her as a late surviving Victorian, who has read a little Leavis and Elliot but nothing of the critical work done on Shelley up to this anthology's first publication date, which is 1956. Nothing has changed in this recent re-publication, despite the rich and fascinating work in Shelley criticism and Shelley studies in the years since Leavis. But Quigly wouldn't be the person to guide you through that material anyway.
I recommend the Norton Selection of Shelley's poetry and prose instead, with a much better and wider selection, and intelligent introduction and notes. And it's quite reasonable to want the romantic (in the Valentine's Day sense) Shelley, though that is only one side of a multi-faceted poet of astounding technical skill, sophistication and range: but for that side of Shelley I'd recommend Richard Hughes' _Shelley on Love_. Either selection is far better than this vapid and misleading collection of prettiana.
PS Also avoid Penguin's Poet to Poet series' Shelley entry. 20th century poetaster Kathryn Raine's Shelley selection is if anything slighter than Quigly's.

Shelly was a master at combining images and creating a world that was uniquley his own. The problem is, that world seemed to consist mainly of foggy sea shores at sunrise and forest cathedrals. While there is nothing wrong with visiting such a world, there is very little reason to stay there.
Shelly's lyrics are uneven, sometimes resorting to rhymes that make me cringe. His strength is iambic prose. Even this suffers from what appears to be a limited vocabulary which para doxically inclused eccentric spellings like "aery".
Having said all that, I must admit that I am in sypmpathy with Shelly. He dwells in a solitary world of fairy beauty that is the spiritual home of every soul in search of Truth. This goes a long way toward forgiving his somewhat middle ground talent.
"Queen Mab" and "Alastor" are the best peoms in this collection. Most of the other seem to be either comments or footnotes to these. They encompass Shelly's strange universe beautifully.
"Alastor" is the strongest in terms of imagery reflecting isolation and the hard choice to foresake worldy pleasure to find a higher truth. All sorts of moonlit coves lie just past the crashing waves of the main stream. One only wishes that Shelly could see the beauty he was leaving was a part of what he sought.
I recomment this edition, and the critical essay at its beginning, as a starting point for study of Shelly and his work.

I bought the book used. Someone has written notes in it. Interesting to see what they were thinking. I love that the Pocket Poets give you a fair collection of the poet's work, the print is a nice size, and the book is perfect to tuck away in a tote or purse.

Shelly poems are nice. I bought the book of Shelly's poems to read occasionally. I'm not a real "poetry" fan, but these are very nice.

Shelley is still the greatest. I just expected this pocket edition to... well, fit in my pocket. They should call it a "large purse" edition. :-)

This text contains the most often anthologized poems that Shelley wrote, not the complete poems and none of his prose. This book would be a good gift for a person who is just becoming interested in Shelley (who, by the way, is NOT by any means an obscure author) but is not comprehensive enough for even an undergraduate student. I recommend the Modern Library Complete Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley instead of this for anyone who enjoys Shelley already. As for the prose, the Norton Critical volume is decent.