Shelley's themes Almost all the literary works by Shelley show his restless spirit, his refusal of social conventions, political oppression and any form of tiranny, and his faith in a better future. Less disciplined and methodical than Wordsworth or Coleridge, Shelley remains nevertheless a poet of great convinction and powerful musicality, and the author of some of the finest lyric poems in English literature.
Shelley believed strongly in the principles of freedom and love, which he regarded as remedies for the evils of society.
Through love he believed man could overcome any political, moral and social conventions.
Shelley's rejection of conventional modes of thinking led him to a search for new ideals, and he embraced the theories of Godwin and neo Platonism. From Plato he derived his mystical and intellectual belief in a society ruled by ethics and wisdom; moreover, he absorbed the idea of reality as an illusory image of the true reality of the eternity, and of an idealistic pantheism.
The role of imagination
Poetry, in Shelley's opinion, is the expression of imagination; it is considered by the poet as a revolutionary creativity, seriously meant to change reality.
The poet is bound to suffer and isolates himself from the rest of the world, projecting himself into a better future and hiding beneath a mask stubborn hope.
The poet's task
The poet for Shelley, as well as for Byron, is at the same time a prophet and a titan challenging the cosmos; his task is to help mankind to reach an ideal world where freedom and beauty are delivered from their enemies, such as tiranny, destruction, alienation.
His apprehension of the natural world passes throught the appreciation of its beauty; it is with the most intellectual part of himself that he aspires to an identification with nature. So the nature he describes is the beautiful veil that hides the eternal truth of the One. His approach to nature is also instrumental, providing him with the images and symbols for the creation of the myths and cosmic schemes. Finally nature is the privileged refuge from the disappointment and injustice of the ordinary world and the interlocutor of his melancolic dreams and of his indomitable hopes for a better future.