Percy Bysshe Shelley Questions and Answers

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Discuss Shelly's revolutionary idealism in his poetry and his hope for a better future.

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Shelley saw his thoughts and philosophy as representing a kind of revolutionary ideal that he saw as being important for mankind to be seized and changed by. Contextually, he was a figure who, like other Romantics, was delighted by the news of the French Revolution, as he saw it as being part of the necessary revolution that society needed in order to discard a corrupt and veneral past based on a narrow heirarchical system of power and embrace a newer, more egalitarian, philosophy of life. These revolutionary ideals are expressed in his works, but perhaps the most obvious reference comes in his famous poem, "Ode to the West Wind." Note how Shelley refers to the West Wind in terms of how it could spread his ideas:

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe,

Like wither'd leaves, to quicken a new birth;

And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish'd hearth,

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

Shelley draws a parallel between the West Wind that gathers up seeds and blows them throughout the globe to take root and grow and his own poetry that similarly, he hopes, will take his revolutionary ideals and spread them so that they can take root everywhere and grow to fruition. His idealism and his hope is thus expressed in this poem through the hope that his words and philosophy may be spread around the globe through his printed work and that it may, in time, cause a change to occur in society.

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