Shelley's Faults.

Essay by sophia_lispectator September 2005

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Shelley's poetry is highly lyrical and highly deficient: it induces emotions that exclude critical intelligence. It is quite possible to read a poem of his for the first time and feel a tidal wave of feelings. But if you come back to it with critical thinking switched on, it points out a number of weaknesses typical of Shelley.

It is indisputable that Shelley had no gift for narration and that his poetry is based on emotion. However, if we compare him to another poet who is also undramatic and whose poetry is also based on emotion we can see that even his base is faulty. Wordsworth states that a poem is a fruit of an emotion recollected in silence. Moreover, only a man of great sensitivity who has thought a lot and thought deeply can produce a good poem. Recollection and deep thinking are the keywords. Comparing the poetry of Wordsworth and that of Shelley it is obvious that Wordsworth invested a great deal of conscious effort in his writing.

Shelley, on the other hand insisted on spontaneity. To him, writing poetry had nothing to do with discipline or conscious effort. If you write poetry whenever you feel and onset of powerful emotions and if you write so as to try and capture that emotion, you are bound to use poetic technique as merely a vehicle and easily fall into the trap of frequently using the same words (such as: radiant, aerial, winged, odorous etc.), repeating the same kind of elusive imagery and high-pitched emotions. Whereas Wordsworth presents an object and draws emotions from what is presented, Shelley repeatedly offers the emotion in itself and for itself, the best example of which is To a Skylark, described by a serious critic as a spontaneous overflow of poeticalities...