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Lecture 6

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English 2307E
Krista Lysack

English 2307E Tuesday January 28 Lecture 6 Shelley and Keats Shelley and Keats • At this time there was an emphasis on individuals and individualism, civil rights, and democracy • There were many experiments with poets at this time • Both Shelley and Keats were quite young (died in their twenties) and it was an energetic moment in English history Shelley (1792-1822) • He is often referred to as ‘mad mad Shelley’ because he was a radical in his thinking (for the time) • He supported democracy (unusual for someone who was born into the upper class and whose father was a member of Parliament) • He also identified as a socialist (on the other end of the political spectrum) • He was an agnostic at a time when most of the country was Christian • He was a vegetarian at a time when it wasn’t popular at all • Shelley went to the good schools, but was expelled from Oxford for writing a pamphlet called ‘the necessity of atheism’ o He wrote at a time when you couldn’t be an atheist and become an established figure at Oxford or Cambridge (you had to write a statement of theological belief just to be a student • He had a well-known romantic life (many girlfriends, a few wives) • He died at the age of 29 (an accidental death off the coast of Italy) • He wrote a longer poem, Prometheus Unbound where he took a myth and gave it his own romantic spin Shelley: Hymn to Intellectual Beauty • He used mythmaking to generate a new myth • The poem gives an outline of beauty, but it is so metaphysical and broad that it is hard to pin down a definition • Stanzas 1-4 – an “unseen power” and the “SPIRIT OF BEAUTY” o He is trying to construct some sort of myth that has to do with a force he feels at work in the universe o There is something unreachable about this power (‘floats’, ‘shadow’) o He has an ambivalent relationships with Christian ideas, but on the other hand he wants to talk about God and heaven o He’s taken the idea of Christian myth (faith, virtues), and translated them into humanistic values  “Love from God becomes the sympathies in lovers eyes”  “Hope for the afterlife becomes hope for this world” o Shelley was coming from a worldview that was interested in matters of the soul and ideas like beauty and truth (but was still bound to religious concepts) • Stanzas 5-7 – The Poet? o Even though he hasn’t accomplished a hymn to beauty (it has appeared to be too illusive), he has turned to looking at the poet  Is this a failure, or has it moved on to a different point? o Although he abandons the project about beauty, you could say that he finds an all-encompassing, illusive quality that constitutes beauty  Even in the title, he says it is a hymn to intellectual beauty, not a hymn of intellectual beauty o The poem comes back to the idea of the poet  The poem moves away from a hypothetical power to the poet himself  It is about not so much about the power that is out there, but how you choose to perceive something, express it, and create something out of it • It is very speculative – there is no fixed logic that will move you from point A to point Z • In other poems, Shelley often comes back to the idea of the poet as the receiver, expressing what he sees in the universe o This can be related to Wordsworth, romanticizing the poet and his ability to sense and perceive the world and create something from it • The poem ends on the idea of empathy and the ability to sympathize • Shelley’s myth of power and the spirit of beauty becomes a way to form the poet o The
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