Lectures/Literary criticism/Percy Bysshe Shelley/Alastor collection

From Wikiversity
Jump to: navigation, search

Alastor[edit]

Context[edit]

The Alastor volume of poetry was the first collection of his poems that contained his name. It also marked Shelley's revealing himself as a poet. Many of the 12 poems discuss Shelley's views on loss.[1]


"O! There Are Spirits Of The Air" - Mary Shelley, after Shelley's death, discussed the poem in a personally defensive manner when describing allusions within the poem to Shelley's relationship to Cornelia Turner, an affair.[2] He first met Turner in 1813, along with her mother and aunt, at a Vauxhall Gardens event. Though Turner was married, he began to spend time with her reading poetry, especially Petrarch's sonnets on love.[3] After leaving his first wife Harriet, he stayed with Turner's family. Shortly after, he wrote a letter to Thomas Hogg revealing his sexual attraction to Turner.[4] Eventually, the feelings between Shelley and Turner forced Turner's mother to prohibit Shelley from visiting their home.[5] Mary renamed the poem "To ----" and claimed that it was addressed to Samuel Taylor Coleridge and not about Turner. However, there is little evidence to claim that Shelley was referring to any poet more than to himself.[6]

Mutability - The poem discusses loss, a theme found within Alastor.[7] The poem's opening discusses loss:[8] "We are as clouds that veil the midnight moon". Bieri claims that the beginning lines are "lovely".[9] Later, Shelley wrote another poem with the title in the notebook containing his poem Hellas, but the later version merges his views on loss with politics.[10]

"The Pale, The Cold, And The Moony Smile"

A Summer-evening Church-yard - During August 1815, Shelley was travelling with many of his friends and associates, including Thomas Love Peacock, Thomas Jefferson Hogg, and Charles Clairmont. They left from Oxford and travelled to Lechlade before trying to find the source of the Thames outside of Cricklade.Their wandering continued and they were supposed to travel along the waterways into Wales, but the lacked the money needed to pass through the Severn Canal and another path was blocked. After returning to Lechlade, Shelley went to the community's graveyard and composed a poem about his surroundings, titling it "A Summer Evening Churchyard, Lechlade, Gloucestershire".[11]

To Wordsworth - During September 1814, Shelley was without funds and his wife, Harriet, was six months into her pregnancy. Their relationship was tense and Shelley was spending time with Mary Wollstonecroft Godwin, who would later become Mary Shelley. It was during this time that Shelley and Mary, along with the publisher Thomas Hookham, read Hookham's recently published work, William Wordsworth's The Excursion, but they were not pleased with the conservative nature of the poem.[12] The poem was published as "To -----" in the Alastor collection and Mary later attributed the poem to Shelley's thoughts on Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. However, the work, like many others within the collection, were more of a response to Shelley's feelings on Harriet and another love, Cornelia Turner, than to the poets.[13] Many of Shelley's poems did contain anti-Wordsworth feelings, as he wrote Peter Bell the Third as a satire in response to Wordsworth's poems and the 1816 sonnet expressed some of these views.[14]

Feelings Of A Republican On The Fall Of Bonaparte - In June 1814 while Shelley stayed with William Godwin's family, he sent wrote a letter to George Gordon Byron, which may have included the sonnet.[15] The poem was a response to Napoleon's actions after the French Revolution.[16]

Superstition - The poem "Superstition" was originally included in his early poem Queen Mab. The original argument follows an atheistic perspective but the Shelley revised the work to remove mention of "God" to "Intelligence, and unity, and power". It is possible that he did so to avoid critics charging the poem with blasphemy.[17]

Sonnet From The Italian Of Dante - The poem is Shelley's translation of some of Dante's poetry.[18]

Translated From The Greek Of Moschus - The poem is Shelley's translation of some of Mochus's poetry.[19]

The Daemon Of The World - Like "Superstition", "The Daemon of the World" was originally part of his earlier poem Queen Mab. He was originally going title the revised section as "The Queen of the Universe"[20]

Interpretation[edit]

Alastor[edit]

"O! There Are Spirits Of The Air"[edit]

Stanzas.—April, 1814[edit]

The feelings of losing a beloved within the poem mimic those found in Alastor.[21]

Mutability[edit]

"The Pale, The Cold, And The Moony Smile"[edit]

A Summer-evening Church-yard[edit]

The poem describes the narrator's feelings of loss:[22] "The winds are still, or the dry church-tower grass" The poem transitions into a mediatation:[23] "hope, like some inquiring child/Sporting on graves" "breathless sleep/loveliest dreams of perpetual watch did keep"

To Wordsworth[edit]

If the poem is read with "Feelings of a Republican on the Fall of Bonaparte", the image reveals Shelley as the poet who would replace Wordsworth and use poetry against dictators.[24]

Feelings of a Republican on the Fall of Bonaparte[edit]

The sonnet describes the treason of Napoleon to the ideas of the French Revolution but also describes the problems within Napoleon's opposition:[25] "Treason and Slavery..." If the poem is read with "To Wordsworth", the image reveals Shelley as the poet who would replace Wordsworth and use poetry against dictators.[26]

Superstition[edit]

Sonnet From The Italian Of Dante[edit]

Translated From The Greek Of Moschus[edit]

The Daemon Of The World[edit]

The scene of Queen Mab is replaced by Gothic imagery:[27] "Of murder, human bones, barbaric gold"

Contemporary criticism[edit]

Alastor[edit]

"O! There Are Spirits Of The Air"[edit]

Stanzas.—April, 1814[edit]

Mutability[edit]

"The Pale, The Cold, And The Moony Smile"[edit]

A Summer-evening Church-yard[edit]

To Wordsworth[edit]

Feelings Of A Republican On The Fall Of Bonaparte[edit]

Superstition[edit]

Sonnet From The Italian Of Dante[edit]

Translated From The Greek Of Moschus[edit]

The Daemon Of The World[edit]

Modern criticism[edit]

Alastor[edit]

"O! There Are Spirits Of The Air"[edit]

Stanzas.—April, 1814[edit]

Mutability[edit]

"The Pale, The Cold, And The Moony Smile"[edit]

A Summer-evening Church-yard[edit]

To Wordsworth[edit]

ś===Feelings Of A Republican On The Fall Of Bonaparte===

Superstition[edit]

Sonnet From The Italian Of Dante[edit]

James Bieri, in 2008, claimed the poem as "among his most beautiful creations".[28]

Translated From The Greek Of Moschus[edit]

James Bieri, in 2008, claimed the poem as "among his most beautiful creations".[29]

The Daemon Of The World[edit]

In 2008, James Bieri said that the poem is "a remarkable example of Shelley's creative process at work."[30]

Notes[edit]

  1. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  2. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  3. Bieri 2008 pp. 259-260
  4. Bieri 2008 pp. 268-269
  5. Bieri 2008 pp. 268-269
  6. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  7. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  8. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  9. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  10. Bieri 2008 p. 588
  11. Bieri 2008 p. 314
  12. Bieri 2008 p. 293
  13. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  14. Bieri 2008 p. 499
  15. Bieri 2008 p. 273
  16. Bieri 2008 pp. 309-310
  17. Bieri 2008 pp. 321-322
  18. Bieri 2008 p. 322
  19. Bieri 2008 p. 322
  20. Bieri 2008 p. 322
  21. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  22. Bieri 2008 pp. 314
  23. Bieri 2008 pp. 315
  24. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  25. Bieri 2008 p. 310
  26. Bieri 2008 p. 321
  27. Bieri 2008 p. 322
  28. Bieri 2008 p. 322
  29. Bieri 2008 p. 322
  30. Bieri 2008 p. 322

References[edit]

  • Bieri, James. Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Biography. Baltimore: John Hopkins Press, 2008.