On the 8th July 1822, the leading figure of the Romantic movement, Percy Bysshe Shelley, drowned in the Bay of Spezia, Italy, when his small boat foundered in a storm. He had just visited friends, poet Lord Byron and journalist and writer Leigh Hunt. In his pocket was found a volume of John Keats poetry.
Shelley was an extremely controversial figure…he disapproved of marriage, royalty, meat-eating and religion. In truth he was an absolute rebel and anarchist and his work reflects his intellectual courage and sharp sense of humour.
‘I weep for Adonais – he is dead!
O, weep for Adonais! though our tears
Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!’
Ironically, Percy Shelley quoted this section of his poem 17 months before on hearing of the death of the Romantic poet he so admired, John Keats (February, 1821).
In England, Shelley was hardly mourned, one obituary stated “Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned; now he knows whether there is a God or not.”
Today, Shelley is remembered as one of the most significant poets of The Romantic Circle, who has contributed enormously to English literary and intellectual life.
Today’s blog title ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ is the title poem by Stevie Smith.