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Contemplative Verses: Echoes of the Poet Shelley (vegetarian), Part 2 of 2

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Percy Bysshe Shelley was as intent on investigating his own essential nature as he was to developing his poetry. Shelley asks life’s important questions in his book “A Defence of Poetry and Other Essays,” written in 1821: “What is life? For what are we? Whence do we come? and whither do we go? Is birth the commencement, is death the conclusion of our being? What is birth and death?”

Inspired by archaeological discoveries in Egypt, Shelley’s interest shifted to the ancient world. In “Alastor; or, The Spirit of Solitude,” the poet takes the reader on a fantastic voyage of discovery through his meandering contemplations, clothed in natural and geographical phenomena.

Influenced by Shelley’s own recent preoccupations with mortality, “Alastor” tells the story of a poet who is in a desperate search for permanent truth, which remains all but elusive.

In “Prometheus Unbound,” Shelley organized his poetry into a closet drama with four acts, reconstructing the ancient Greek legend of Titan Prometheus. It is his love and forgiveness that gives him strength to triumph over his detainment, even overcoming death, and thus freeing humanity and Mother Earth. Prometheus becomes a Christ-like figure, suffering as Lord Jesus Christ did on the cross.

Shelley wrote many other great and epic poems, including “Julian and Maddalo,” “To a Skylark,” “The Revolt of Islam,” and “Epipsychidion.” Perhaps Shelley’s favorite poetic theme was that of love, which he weaved into his writing in various manifestations as the sacred force that unifies all things.

In July 1822, when he was just 29 years old, his sailing boat succumbed to a storm, and his body was found on the Mediterranean coast. Upon his memorial stone were inscribed the words of fellow immortal poet William Shakespeare: “Nothing of him that doth fade But doth suffer a sea change Into something rich and strange.”
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