Ober, Warren U.
M.S. (Master of Science)
Department of English
Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 1792-1822
Without doubt, Shelley’s later works bear traces of his youthful endeavors. In examining his mature poetry, one finds that the ideas and even the techniques can be related to those found in the prose and poetry of his youth. The objective of this paper is to establish the significance of Shelley’s youthful efforts and their relationship to the works of his maturity. The paper surveys Shelley’s first writings, which culminated in the publication of Posthumous Fragments of Margaret Nicholson. By the time of publication of this work, the poet had established certain patterns of thinking and had become thoroughly indoctrinated with the popular Gothic literature. His early hatred of tyranny and evil is also shown. An examination of the initial efforts is valuable in determining the basic ideas and motifs of his youth, ideas which the poet never abandoned. By comparing and contrasting the early prose and poetry with the mature works, one finds a common theme. Throughout his life, Shelley fought against oppression, tyranny, and evil. At first he voiced his dislike of religious and political oppression; later he extended his aversion to include any person or system that hold men's minds in bondage, He declared that man’s only salvation was through love, goodness, and freedom. In order to expose evil and tyranny, Shelley employed similar techniques throughout all periods of his writing. For example, in symbolizing the heinousness of evil, the poet used images of darkness, winter, storm, turmoil. To intensify further the horrors of wickedness, Shelley utilized a Gothic vocabulary. Thus, the poet clearly indicated man's gloomy and desperate plight on earth. In direct contrast he presented his ideals of intellectual beauty and love through pictures of brightness. The more pleasant aspects of nature, especially spring, he equated with freedom, the bliss of eternity, and even the possible perfection of man. The joys of immortality, presented in glowing terms, assumed precedence over existence on earth. By such descriptions, the poet revealed his Platonic beliefs. What is important is that Shelley seemed always conscious of the darkness produced by evil in contrast to the light brought by love, intellectual beauty, and freedom. Evidence of this fact can be found in all stages of the poet's writings. Thus, the juvenilia assume a great importance, for they provide an indispensable background for the interpretation of the works of Shelley's maturity.
Hackett, Maryann, "Shelley's juvenilia : important contributions to an understanding of the mature poet" (1964). Graduate Research Theses & Dissertations. 4906.
Northern Illinois University
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