Percy Bysshe Shelley is an English Romantic poet who leads a nonconformity life and makes great changes in society. However, he has died at a young age so he doesn’t enjoy his achievements. He got a high education at Eton College and Oxford University. He has published such a great works such as poems like Ozymandias, and essays such as ‘A Defence of Poetry’. His personal life has affected his works. Being an atheist makes him a revolutionary in such a way. He tries to show poetry in a different way not as normal. Therefore, he writes ‘A Defence of Poetry’, which is written in 1821, to insist on his own idea. Moreover, it comes as a response for an essay called ‘The Four Ages of Poetry’ by Thomas Love Peacock, in which he shows that poetry in valueless and not important in the age of science and the industrial revolution. Shelley opposes his friend ideas about poetry, and he tries to defense poetry to show its significance and its impact on society. Not only this but also he shows that poets are the legalistor of political and social rules. In ‘A Defence of Poetry’, Shelley explain comprehensively the definition of poetry, poet, imagination, and its impact on social life.
In the essay “A Defence of Poetry”, Shelley differentiates between two classes of mental action, reason and imagination, in order to defend poetry and show its significance. For him, reason, which is considered as mind completing one thought to another, is the principle of synthesis, while imagination, which is considered as mind acting upon those thoughts and color them with its own light, is the principle of analysis. It seems even though the two terms differ, both are related in a way or another that ‘reason’ has its own property and its effect is related to ‘imagination’. Shelley says:” Reason is to imagination…as the body to the spirit…”. Shelley defines poetry as ‘ the expression of the imagination’ and it is attached to the origin of man and his own sense and imagination. In addition, poetry is the arrangements of language which is arbitrarily produced by imagination, in particular, metrical and metaphorical language, in which color, form, and religious and civil habits of action are poetry’s instruments. He sees poetry as a divine thing that acts in a divine and unapprehended manner above consciousness. Poetry is the best way to immortalize the best and happiest moments of the events and the best minds. Shelley indicates that poetry is imagination in a wide sense and is not like reasoning because it is over the determination of will and it is innate; we cannot easily say that we are going to write poetry. It is over than that because writing a poems needs imagination. Shelly maintains that it is “an error to assert that the finest passages of poetry are produced by labor and study.” However, it is the product of unconscious creativity. Shelley’s defense includes not only poetry but also the poet himself. Shelley insists that poetry is accompanied with pleasure; he says: “Poetry ever communicates all the pleasure which men are capable of receiving: it is ever still the light of life; the source of whatever of beautiful or generous or true can have place in an evil time.” Going further in the same context, Shelley explains who the poet is. For Shelley, to be a poet is to apprehend the true and the beautiful, and the relation between existence and perception, and between perception and expression on another side. ‘A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds’, who participates in the eternal and the infinite. At the end of the essay, Shelley describes poets as ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’ which can be explained and understood through the essay in which he says: “poets are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance, and architecture, and statuary, and painting: they are the institutors of laws, and the founders of civil society.” In this essay, Shelley strengthens his defense by making some comparison between poets and prose writers, and poetry and drama. In his attempt to trace the origin of poetry, he mentions the literature timeline, especially the birth of drama and its effects on poetry. Furthermore, he writes about great figures in poetry such as Dante, Homer, and Milton. In one word, poetry is universal and deals with society and civilization. Therefore, it is as a record for life events in a shape of arranged words to bring delight for all humans.
Percy Shelley is a man of his kind; he is not only defened poetry, but also makes a great effort to raise it again, to return it back for the golden era, and to flourish it to be the most adorable type of literature. In this essay, I think Shelley insists on poetry as a great figure of literature. I feel that in his defense of poetry, he defenses the imagination as being the base of composing the poetry. Through reading Shelly’s essay, I found that he wants to show that poetry and poets are essential components for the birth of cultural ideas and social traditions, rather than be an imitation of these ideas. From only a sentence in which Shelley describes poets as ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’, it sheds the lights on the defense of poetry is like a defense of political and social ideas as if the poetry a political and social reform. It is like an ongoing revolution against traditions and solid forms of thoughts and reflection of nature. I think that poets are the renewal of society language according to Shelley. From my point of view, this essay gives a comprehensive explanation and justification why poetry is the most important genre, and it is necessary for all sciences and especially for social life. The most thing I like about this essay is the use of language. However, I don’t like the length of the essay, the long paragraphs about the evidence he added to strengthen his idea. For me, poetry is more than a word; it is a whole life that it is composed to be immortalized; it is a history of its own. Anyone want to read history, should read poetry. As an English student, I highly recommended this essay for those who are fascinated with literature, in particular poetry. It is the best guide for understanding poetry compared with the work of Wordsworth and Coleridge. This because the great usage of defining poetry and its impact on the society, as what Shelly says: ‘poetry is utilitarian, as it brings civilization by “awaken[ing] and enlarg[ing] the mind itself by rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended combinations of thought. Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world.”
All in all, the essay ‘A Defence of Poetry’ is such a great work of all the times. It is not only a response but also a science of its own. This essay has Borden the horizon to think more about poetry, poet, and imagination which are more than words. Moreover, this essay sheds lights on the poetry as a universal work of literature. It is found in all time from the time of Greek and Rome, then the time of the Christian era, and then the time of Milton and the middle ages until he arrives at his present day.