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The Politics of Percy Shelley

Powerful Essays
The Politics of Percy Shelley

Following the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, Europe was left torn by economic decline, political turmoil, and uncertainty. Out of these events sprang writers who saw it as their duty to ease the social and political dilemmas through their inspirational writings. One of these Nineteenth century writers was Percy Shelley, who is known for the revolutionary and defiant ideas he expressed in his works. Many of his writings such as "A Song: 'Men of England,'" "The Mask of Anarchy," and "Ozymandias," reflect his radical political approach to solving England's troubles. Although Shelley does not explicitly voice a cry for socialism, his poems do call for a proletarian response to the tyrannical leaders of England, yet he ultimately fails in sparking a revolution due to several contradictions as well as the fact that they remained unpublished; based on these issues, Shelley became merely a precursor to the socialist ideas of the late Nineteenth century.

One of Percy Shelley's boldest poems concerning a proletarian uprising is "A Song: 'Men of England,'" in which the diction and style of the piece evoked a sense of urgency and magnitude. Just as Ifor Evans claimed that Shelley had a "personality in revolt," it should also be noted that his poetry urged others to "revolt"(140). When read aloud, the poem sounds more like a fiery speech than a Romantic piece of literature. Shelley used vivid images to catch the reader's attention, such as "Drain your sweat? nay, drink your blood?" ("A Song" line 8). The "sweat" and "blood" were images that the en-slaved workers of England were well accustomed to, so Shelley used these words not only to attract attention but ...

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...orton Anthology of English Literature.Vol. 2.Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000.

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---. "The Mask of Anarchy Written on the Occasion of the Massacre at Manchester."The Complete Poetical Works (1904).Literature Online. 5 Apr. 2002 <http://lion.chadwyck.com/po_basic/fulltext?WARN=N&TO CHITS=N&ALL=Y&ACTION=BYID&ID=Z200484027>.

---. "Ozymandias."The Norton Anthology of English Literature.Vol. 2.Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000. 725 -26.

---. "To Sidmouth and Castlereagh."The Norton Anthology of English Literature.Vol. 2.Ed. M.H. Abrams and Stephen Greenblatt. 7th ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000. 728 -29.

Wolfson, Susan. Formal Charges. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1997.

Woodring, Carl. Politics in English romantic poetry. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1970.
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