In 1822 Shelley's intense life was cut short by an accident: while sailing near Livorno, he was drowned during a storm. Shelley's grave is in the Protestant cemetery in Rome.


Shelley’s themes

Almost all works by Shelley show his restless spirit, his refusal of social conventions, political oppression and any form of tyranny, and his faith in a better future. At times the emotional extremes present in his verse become excessive, and modern critics have accused him of immature narcissism. However, if his works display a certain lack or finish, it must he put down to his passionate character. Less disciplined and methodical than Wordsworth or Coleridge, he remains nevertheless a poet or great conviction and powerful musicality; and the author of some of the finest lyric poetry in English Literature. Shelley believed strongly in the principles of freedom and love, which he regarded as remedies for the shortcomings and evils or society. Through love he believed man could overcome any political, moral and social conventions.

His idealism

Shelley's rejection or conventional modes of thinking led to a ceaseless search far new ideals, and he embraced the theories of Godwin and nco-Platonism. He partly altered Godwin's theories, whose materialism became a hope in the moral freedom or man and a religious pantheism, and whose anarchical egoism was turned into a humanitarian brotherhood. From Plato he derived his mystical and intellectual belief in a society ruled by ethics and wisdom; moreover, he absorbed the idea of reality, as an illusory image of the true reality or eternity, and of an idealistic pantheism. lf a divine spirit illuminates matter; it is love and sympathy that create the intimate fusion within the matter, that is, the nature and the human mind.

The role of imagination

Shelley's belief in nature and the function of poetry is mainly expressed in his essay. A Defence of Poetry consists of an exalted defence or poetry as the expression of imagination - endowed with a moral essence - and understood as revolutionary creativity; seriously meant to change reality. Shelley's reality, however, shows itself to be stronger than the ideal and desire, and his world refuses to change. The poet, therefore, is bound lo suffer and isolates himself from the rest of the world, projecting himself into a better future and hiding beneath a mask of stubborn hope.

The poet's task

The poet for Shelley, as well as for Byron, is at the same time a prophet and a Titan challenging the cosmos; his task is to help mankind to reach an idea world where freedom, love and beauty are delivered from their enemies, such as tyranny; destruction, alienation.


The nature Shelley describes is not the real world of Wordsworth's poems, but a beautiful veil that hides the eternal truth of the Divine Spirit. His approach to nature is also instrumental, since it provides him with images, such as the wind, the clouds, the skylark, and symbols far the creation of his cosmic schemes. Finally nature represents the favourite refuge from the disappointment and injustice of the ordinary world and the interlocutor or his melancholy dreams and of his hopes for a better future.

His style

Shelley's verse covers a wide range of metric and stanzaic forms. He was a master of traditional verse forms such as the Spenserian stanza, the couplet, blank verse and Dante's terza rima; he moved from the political ballad to the classical elegy; but is best remembered for his short lyric poetry.

To the moon

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?