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10 of the Best Percy Shelley Poems Everyone Should Read

The best poems by Shelley

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) wrote a considerable amount of poetry in his short life, as well as penning pamphlets such as The Necessity of Atheism (which got him expelled from Oxford) and ‘A Defence of Poetry’ (which contains his famous declaration that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world’). But which are Shelley’s very best poems. Undoubtedly, a number of poems immediately spring to mind. Below are what we consider to be Shelley’s ‘top ten’. What’s your favourite Shelley poem?

Ozymandias’. Published in The Examiner on 11 January 1818, ‘Ozymandias’ is perhaps Percy Bysshe Shelley’s most celebrated and best-known poem. A sonnet about the remnants of a statue standing alone in a desert – a desert which was once the vast civilisation of Ozymandias, ‘King of Kings’ – the poem is a haunting meditation on the fall of civilisations and the futility of all human endeavour. Shelley wrote the poem as part of a competition with his friend, Horace Smith. Read the rest of this entry

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A Short Analysis of Shelley’s ‘To the Moon’

A summary of Shelley’s short moon poem

Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) was one of the greatest second-generation Romantic poets, along with John Keats and Lord Byron. Shelley’s poem ‘To the Moon’ is a short lyric in which the poet, addressing the moon in the night sky, poses several questions to it. ‘To the Moon’ is worth analysing because it displays many hallmarks of Romantic poetry, not least the observation of and identification with the world around us (or, in the case of the moon, the world beyond our world), and pathetic fallacy, or the attributing of human emotions to non-human objects. Here is ‘To the Moon’.

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy? Read the rest of this entry

A Short Analysis of Shelley’s ‘The Flower That Smiles Today’

A critical reading of Percy Shelley’s poem

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) was, along with Lord Byron and John Keats, one of the second-generation Romantic poets who followed Wordsworth and Coleridge – and, to an extent, diverged from them, having slightly different ideas of Romanticism. ‘The Flower That Smiles Today’, sometimes titled ‘Mutability’ (though Shelley, confusingly, wrote another poem called ‘Mutability’) is one of Shelley’s most widely anthologised poems, so we thought we’d share it here, along with a brief analysis of its language and meaning.

The flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow dies;
All that we wish to stay
Tempts and then flies.
What is this world’s delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
Brief even as bright. Read the rest of this entry