Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Power of Poetry (and Percy Shelley)

It was only a few years ago that I discovered the poems, sonnets and works of Percy Shelley. Although he is one of the most celebrated of the romantic poets of the Victorian age…and I do love the Victorian age, I was never one to read romantic poetry when I was younger. Perhaps because
I felt the reading of poetry was more for a young man’s means of winning his sweetheart’s affection or in small coffee houses where the Avante gard read pithy quotes and innovative angsty words of passion. But that whole mindset fell to the wayside the first time I read Selected Poems for the first time. To me, it had the power to evoke visions of what the ideals of romance were, at least in Shelley's time.

Percy Bysse Shelley was born in Broadbridge Heath, England, on August 4, 1792 and is considered the epitome of the romantic poets of the 19th century, best known for his classic anthology verse works, including Ode to the West Wind and The Masque of Anarchy but also for his long-form poetry, including Queen Mab and Alastor. He was also married to Mary, well known as the author of Frankenstein. He grew up in the country happily fishing and hunting, until going away to school at the tender age of ten years to study at Syon House Academy where he spent the next two years. He then transferred to Eton College, where being smaller and younger, was severely bullied, both physical and mentally, by his classmates. Shelley soon retreated into his imagination. Within the next year, he published two novels and two volumes of poetry. A phenomenal feat for one so young!

Why does Shelley still have such power to move our emotions even today? Perhaps because Shelley could show Romanticism at both its extremes:  The joys of love and being in love as well as its dark despair and loss. These themes were there in Shelley’s dramatic if short life as they exist in ours. His works were enigmatic, inspiring us to the greatest heights as well as the depths of brooding and restlessness. He was a non-conformist and rebelled against the authoritative control. He had an innate understanding of nature and its seasons. He was a visionary in the words of love and loss; and channeled the untamed spirit of our hearts. This is how he lived his life, and to which we owe a debt of gratitude for the body of work he gave the world before his untimely death at the young age of 29 in 1822.

Although well known for other powerful works, his poem Love’s Philosophy, is the one that spoke to me. I fashioned this piece of artwork based on this poem. It is called Paisleys, Posies, and Percy. In it I made use of re-purposed discarded objects (the frame), small beads, cut-out flowers, ink and parchment paper, craft paper, small rhinestones and gold and black paint. The piece was only big enough to write the first stanza, so I have included the entire poem here for you. 

Paisleys, Posies, & Percy, 2014

                                                                   LOVE'S PHILOSOPHY

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the Ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix forever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in he world is single;
All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle,
Why not I with thine?—


See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another’
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?-Percy Shelley


Thank you for letting me share this with you!-Marie Helena. 

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