Shelley : Portrait of a Romantic Rebel

The Romantic period was characterized by a suggestive, individual, spontaneous and simple poetry. The romantic poets of the second generation represented the Romantic idea of the poet suffering through the injustices of society and life itself. Shelley was a poet of the second generation and he felt himself greatly involved in the political and social problems of his time. He can rightly be considered as the typical representative of the romantic titan who rebels against the traditional moral codes and tyranny. Shelley’s life also reflected his romantic ideals since as a boy he was a rebel. When he was at school he came to be known as “ mad Shelley” or “ Shelley the Atheist” since ho showed religious scepticism. Later he was also expelled from Oxford because he wrote a pamphlet entitled “ The necessity of Atheism”. He firmly believed in free love  and thought and he expressed his ideas both in his essay   “ Defence of Poetry” and in the “ Ode to the West Wind”. In his essay Shelley underlined the everlasting importance of poetry, which is the centre of knowledge. He said that poets are the legislators of the world thanks to a special sensibility. He considered the poet like a prophet who could foresee the future and whose doctrines could change the face of the earth and the destinies of mankind. According to him poetry was the expression of  imagination and the poet, who had a greater degree of imagination, was the only one who could promote the advent of a civil society. In fact, the poet’s task was that of helping mankind along the way to freedom and regeneration.

Shelley hated social oppression and he rebelled against society because he loved Man and, in his “ Ode to the West wind” , he invoked the violence of the wind to emancipate mankind from tyranny, thus leading it towards a new life through the regenerating power of poetry. Love and Freedom were the key notes of Shelley’s character and he thought that the world could be improved through Love. Shelley was greatly influenced by the revolutionary ideas of his times and his famous Ode to the West Wind can be considered as a prophecy of political renovation. In fact, the symbolic and metaphorical meaning of the wind shows both his belief in a universal spiritual force and his trust in the new spirit of the French Revolution. Through his Ode he wants to convey a message of hope for mankind.