Essay on Birth Order

This essay has a total of 2999 words and 27 pages.

Birth Order


To think of something romantically is to think of it naively, in a positive

light, away from the view of the majority. Percy Bysshe Shelley has many

romantic themes in his plays. Educated at Eton College, he went on to the

University of Oxford only to be expelled after one year after publishing an

inappropriate collection of poems. He then worked on writing full-time, and

moved to Italy shortly before his death in a boating accident off the shore

of Leghorn. He wrote many pieces, and his writing contains numerous themes.

Shelley experienced first-hand the French Revolution. This allowed him to

ponder many different situations, and determine deep philosophical views -

views that were so radically different they were considered naive at best,

downright wrong at worst. He contemplated socialism, having for a

father-in-law William Godwin, who was the prominent socialist in the United

Kingdom in Shelley''''''''s time. Shelley liked Napolean, and was suspicious of both

the Bourbon monarchy and the Directory. Most of all, Shelley felt that all

people had the right to work for themselves; he did not support the notion

that once one had been born into a class, one must stay in that class for the

rest of one''''''''s life. Shelley felt that all bodies of the universe were

governed by the same principle, completely contradicting the given theories,

those of Aristotle. Thus, Shelley gained a romantic and rather naive view of

the universe. In fact, Carlos Baker describes his poems as "The Fabric of a

Vision". (Baker 1) In Percy Bysshe Shelley''''''''s poems, the author uses those

naive, romantic opinions on the themes of romance, politics, and science.



Romance is well defined as a theme choice for Shelley. Shelley uses this

theme rather romantically; one could say that Shelley''''''''s theme in his amorous

poetry is unrestricted passion; love, Shelley feels, can overcome all

obstacles, distance, fear, even death. One example of this is in Shelley''''''''s

poem which is titled by the first line: "I fear thy kisses, gentle maiden":

"I fear thy kisses gentle maiden;/Thou needst not fear mine;/My spirit is too

deeply laiden/Ever to burden thine/I fear thy mien, thy tones, thy

motion;/Thou needst not fear mine;/Innocent is the heart''''''''s devotion/With

which I worship thine" In this poem Shelley is observing that he feels

inferior to his maiden; he "fears" her kisses because he is intimidated by

her perfection to the point where he feels as though he is stifling her, that

she is compromising her own value by falling in love with him; this is why

the maiden should not fear Shelley. He emphasizes his own faults in line 3,

by stating that his spirit is "too deeply laiden" to be good enough for his

maiden. He also mentions that everything about her is perfect, her body

(mien), her voice (tones), and her walk (motion). In the last line, Shelley

asserts that he feels so inconsequential that he wishes to place his maiden

on a pedestal and worship her, as opposed to treating her as an equal. In

this way does Shelley show his unbounded passion for his maiden. Another

example of this is in Julian and Maddalo, a long text wherein Maddalo is

traveling to meet his beloved Julian. William Hazlitt reviewed as "a

Conversation or Tale, full of that thoughtful and romantic humanity... which

distinguished Mr. Shelley''''''''s writings." (500) The lines he most seemingly

referred to were lines 13-19, which state "...I love all waste/And solitary

places; where we taste/The pleasure of believing what we see/Is boundless, as

we wish our souls to be./And such was this wide ocean, and this shore/More

than it''''''''s billows..." Shelley is referring to the love that partners have for

eachother; this love is boundless, with infinite possibilities for showing

this passion, both physical and honorable. True love turns away from faults

and inefficiencies, which bound all other virtues (talent, strength, et

cetera); Shelley wishes that his body had that kind of freedom, the freedom

to roam around without a care in the world, and thus the freedom to do

whatever he chooses, knowing that nothing will be affected by the mistakes he

makes. Lovers whose love is true have this ability, the ability to forgive

and forget for the numerous errors that either partner commits. This is

easily translatable to any era and any person, which is the meaning of

Hazlitt''''''''s remark. Yet another example of this can be seen in Arethusa, with

the lines 19-37:



And now from their fountains

In Enna''''''''s mountains,

Down one vale where the morning basks,

Like friends once parted

Grown single-hearted,

They ply their watery tasks.

At sunrise they leap

>From their cradles steep

In the cave of the shelving hill;

At noontide they flow

Through the woods below

And the meadows of asphodel;

And at night they sleep

In the rocking deep

Beneath the Ortygian shore;

Like spirits that lie

In the azure sky

When they love but live no more.





In this poem Shelley is playing on one of the most beloved fantasies of both

men and women, which is for the gorgeous, breathtakingly beautiful woman to

be swiftly carried away by a tall, handsome, strong gentleman to a remote

island where the two of them can make love in peace until the end of their

days. Arethusa is carried by Alpheus to a luscious island where they act

amorously until they die, their love for eachother lasting much longer than

their mortal lives. More evidence of Shelley being the "incurable

romanticist" comes in the poem The Dirge, which discusses a person who sees

his significant other in a coffin: "Ere the sun through the heaven once more

roll''''''''d,/The rats in her heart/Will have made their nest/And the worms be

alive in her golden hair/While the spirit that guides the sun/Sits throned in

his flaming chair/She shall sleep." (Hazlitt 494) Again Mr. Hazlitt remarks

that this poem "...is a fragment of the manner in which this craving...this

desire to elevate and surprise,...leads us to overstep the modesty of nature

and the bounds of decorum." (494). In the poem, Shelley imagines that his

wife, Mary, in the coffin, dead; he is so deeply in love with her that he

cannot bear the thought of her death, and the thought of worms, rats, and

parasites decomposing her once-dazzling body; the golden hair may or may not

refer to Mary, because it is not certain that she had blonde hair, but rather

one find finds his significant other''''''''s hair, rather amorously, beautiful, of

extremely fine quality, like gold. The flaming chair refers to Purgatory, the

weigh station before a soul can pass to heaven, according to the doctrines of

Roman Catholic Christians. The thought of the inspiration for all of his

passion being decomposed by parasitic, filthy creatures scares Shelley, as it

would any other man whose woman lays in a coffin. Thus, Shelley is able to

emphasize unbridled, noble passion in his poems.



Another theme Shelley exhibits in his poems is politics and social reform.

Shelley spent many years in France during the French Revolution, at a time

when the French did not respect any leader except Napolean. Europe set up the

Congress of Vienna, whose job was to oust Napolean after he tried to take all

of Europe, banish him to a remote island, and reset the borders of Europe to

what they were before they banished him. It took them two tries to get it

right, because Napolean returned to France, where he was still revered, and

attempted to conquer Europe again. He was finally defeated by the same

general, and was banished correctly. In his The Mask of Anarchy, Shelley

asserts that "I met murder on the way- He had a mask like Castlereagh, Very

smooth he looked, yet grim; Seven bloodhounds followed him." (ll. 8-12) Lord

Castlereagh was the United Kingdom''''''''s representative to the Congress of Vienna

in 1819; Castlereagh had the Congress impose harsh sanctions on France, and

the seven that followed him were seven countries that felt the same way,

including Austria, Prussia, and Russia, the dominant military powers of the

time. Shelley feels that the sanctions that Castlereagh imposed were too

severe, and thus would lead to the demise of both France specifically and

Europe in general. Shelley proved to be a prophet, for much land was given to

the Kaiser Wilheim II of Prussia, who then, drunk with power, formed Germany,

a nation that then attempted - twice - to conquer all of Europe. Harold Bloom

notes that "...the Power speaks forth, through a poet''''''''s act of confrontation

with it that is the very act of writing his poem, and the Power, rightly

interpreted, can be used to repeal the large code of fraud, institutional and

historical Christianity, and the equally massive code of woe, the laws of the

nation-states of Europe in the age of Castlereagh and Metternich..." (87).

Shelley, in writing this poem, is attempting to reveal the corruption at the

Congress of Vienna. Shelley''''''''s aforementioned wife, Mary, comments on her

husband in a similar way. "...[Percy Shelley] had been from youth the victim

of the state of feeling inspired by the French Revolution; and believing in

the justice and excellence of his view, it cannot be wondered that a nature

as sensitive, as impetuous, and as generous as his, should put it''''''''s whole

force into the attempt to alleviate for others the evils of those systems

from which he had himself suffered." (ix). Mrs. Shelley is referring to

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