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Happy Birthday Percy Bysshe Shelley!

08.05.09 Posted in Birthdays, today's words by

all know what today is: the 217th birthday of Percy Bysshe Shelley! You
also know that he died just shy of his 30th birthday and that is a sad,
sad thing. You also know that he is acclaimed as perhaps the finest
poet of all time, that he was a Romantic, that he left his first wife
(pregnant with his second child) and ran off with Mary Godwin of
fame. Mary Shelley, as she was known following their marriage, became
one of his many editors and protectors of his work. His death, by
drowning, was mysterious, with rumors of foul play and government plots
persisting still. This much is known: his body (semi-decomposed) washed
up on the beach, where it was cremated in attendance by Shelley’s dear
friends, Leigh Hunt, Lord Byron, and Edward Trelawny. Now, here’s where
it gets good: Not only was Trelawny such a devoted friend that he
secured a prominent plot for the interment of Shelley’s ashes, he was
also the friend who retrieved the poet’s heart from the pyre and
delivered it to the widow Shelley (who is reported to have kept it for
the remainder of her days, having it buried with her). That’s hard to
top, no?

Shelley’s classic works are deep, lengthy, and supremely elegant,
warranting much reading and rereading, analysis and reanalysis. This is
a perfect, playful candy of a poem that sings and laughs and flirts.
Read it as a birthday gift from the man himself, Percy Bysshe Shelley,
and wish him a very happy 217th birthday!

Love’s Philosophy
By Percy Bysshe Shelley
(written in 1819, first published by Leigh Hunt, posthumously edited and republished by Mary Shelley, 1824)

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single,
All things by a law divine
In one another’s being 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 disdain’d its brother:
And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea–
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

3 Responses to “Happy Birthday Percy Bysshe Shelley!”

  1. Val says:

    Hi Annmarie! Seeing this birthday tribute to Shelley made me exceptionally happy. I adore Shelley. You mention Trelawny, and as an interesting side note, Trelawny was known then as a pathological liar and after Shelley’s death he embarked on a campaign to ingratiate himself to all of Shelley’s friends while simultaneously attempting to use this association to promote his own very atrocious writing. Almost immediately after Percy died, Trelawny attempted to make a move on Mary, who of course, being the savvy no nonsense gal she was, promptly told him to get lost. A little trivia for a Shelley birthday.

  2. Annmarie says:

    That is the best addition to the story ever Val! A poet (writer, artist, musician) is and should be known for the work they create, of course. But doesn’t it just add something fun, accessible, and human when you know things like this about them too? It gives me a sense for the landscape of the life in which that writing took place. Plus, it usually makes me laugh. 🙂 Thank you for this!

  3. Ray Sharp says:

    Strange about the heart, and that Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, a story of re-using body parts. Hmm

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