A critical examination of some poetry
This chapter explains the wide range of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetic achievement and his progress from the early romanticism of Alastor to the dramatic power of The Triumph of Life. What Shelley means by the ‘Power’ is debatable: it may be the world-spirit which rules the universe, and by analogy, the spirit of poetry; or it may be the power of the Sublime, just as the ‘Hymn to Intellectual Beauty’ celebrates the ‘awful power’ of Beauty. The extract is chosen to illustrate Shelley’s powers as a realistic descriptive writer, quality in his poetry sometimes forgotten. His fondness for dream-landscapes did not prevent him from observing Nature with a clear and thoughtful eye, as the section on ‘Shelley and Nature’ has tried to show. Shelley’s ideas on the nature of despotism and his optimistic belief in change are strongly expressed: Godwinian justice will prevail, and the tyrant will receive ‘pity, sorrow more than anger in the true Godwinian spirit of reason.