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How does Shelley introduce and handle the concept of the sublime in his poetry?

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hbakir | Honors

Posted January 27, 2013 at 10:50 AM via web

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How does Shelley introduce and handle the concept of the sublime in his poetry?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 27, 2013 at 5:22 PM (Answer #1)

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The concept of the sublime in Shelley's poetry refers to the way that nature is above and beyond man and represents concepts such as eternal beauty and also power that shows at once the frailty of man and also his ability to learn and commune with nature. If there is a difference in Shelley's presentation of the sublime, it is the way that he, as opposed to Wordsworth, presents nature as a force that is utterly indifferent to man and contains the power to destroy as well as the power to inspire. Note, for example, the way that the West Wind is presented in Shelley's famous poem, "Ode to the West Wind":

The sea-blooms and the oozy woods which wear
The sapless foliage of the ocean, know
Thy voice, and suddenly grow gray with fear,
And tremble and despoil themselves: oh hear!
 
Shelley's presentation of the elevating powers of nature therefore does not present nature as just being about beautiful scenes involving daffodils and clouds, but it is a celebration of the raw power of nature which exposes man's frailty and inherent fragility. Note the way that the woods and blooms grow "gray with fear" at the coming of the powerful West Wind, which elsewhere in the poem is characterised by its dual role of "Destroyer and preserver."

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