Shelley’s newly discovered pro-peace poem

This video from England says about itself:

Poetical Essay: Shelley back from the dead

10 November 2015

In November 2015 the Bodleian Libraries acquired its 12 millionth printed book: a unique copy of a pamphlet entitled Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things, written by ‘a Gentleman of the University of Oxford’ and printed in 1811. The pamphlet was the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), then a student at Oxford University, and now recognised as one of the great English poets of the 19th century. The acquisition is a momentous event for the public, for scholars, the University and the Bodleian Libraries. Known to have been published by Shelley in 1811 but lost until recently, Shelley’s Poetical Essay is, thanks to the generosity of a benefactor, now freely available to all in digitized form at

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things

Thursday 26th November 2015

This rediscovered poem by PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY (1792-1822), now on view at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, is an acute commentary on war and colonial oppression which demonstrates his significance for Karl Marx and the Chartist movement and why he is an inspiration for a new generation of poets today

DESTRUCTION marks thee! o’er the blood-stain’d heath
Is faintly borne the stifled wail of death;
Millions to fight compell’d, to fight or die
In mangled heaps on War’s red altar lie.
The sternly wise, the mildly good, have sped
To the unfruitful mansions of the dead
Whilst fell Ambition o’er the wasted plain
Triumphant guides his car—the ensanguin’d rein
Glory directs; fierce brooding o’er the scene,
With hatred glance, with dire unbending mien,
Fell Despotism sits by the red glare
Of Discord’s torch, kindling the flames of war.
For thee then does the Muse her sweetest lay
Pour ’mid the shrieks of war, ’mid dire dismay;
For thee does Fame’s obstrep’rous clarion rise,
Does Praise’s voice raise meanness to the skies.
Are we then sunk so deep in darkest gloom,
That selfish pride can virtue’s garb assume?
Does real greatness in false splendour live?
When narrow views the futile mind deceive,
When thirst of wealth, or frantic rage for fame,
Lights for awhile self-interest’s little flame,
When legal murders swell the lists of pride;
When glory’s views the titled idiot guide,
Then will oppression’s iron influence show
The great man’s comfort as the poor man’s woe.
Is’t not enough that splendour’s useless glare,
Real grandeur’s bane, must mock the poor man’s stare;
Is’t not enough that luxury’s varied power
Must cheat the rich parader’s irksome hour,
While what they want not, what they yet retain,
Adds tenfold grief, more anguished throbs of pain
To each unnumbered, unrecorded woe,
Which bids the bitterest tear of want to flow;
But that the comfort, which despotic sway
Has yet allowed, stern War must tear away.

Ye cold advisers of yet colder kings,
To whose fell breast no passion virtue brings,
Who scheme, regardless of the poor man’s pang,
Who coolly sharpen misery’s sharpest fang,
Yourselves secure. Yours is the power to breathe
O’er all the world the infectious blast of death,
To snatch at fame, to reap red murder’s spoil,
Receive the injured with a courtier’s smile,
Make a tired nation bless the oppressor’s name,
And for injustice snatch the meed of fame.
Were fetters made for anguish, for despair?
Must starving wretches torment, misery bear?
Who, mad with grief, have snatched from grandeur’s store,
What grandeur’s hand had snatched from them before.
Yet shall the vices of the great pass on,
Vices as glaring as the noon-day sun,
Shall rank corruption pass unheeded by,
Shall flattery’s voice ascend the wearied sky;
And shall no patriot tear the veil away
Which hides these vices from the face of day?
Is public virtue dead?—is courage gone?
Bows its fair form at fell oppression’s throne?
Yes! it’s torn away—the crimes appear,
Expiring Freedom asks a parting tear,
A powerful hand unrolls the guilt-stain’d veil,
A powerful voice floats on the tainted gale,
Rising corruption’s error from beneath,
A shape of glory checks the course of death;
It spreads its shield o’er freedom’s prostrate form,
Its glance disperses envy’s gathering storm;
No trophied bust need tell thy sainted name,
No herald blazon to the world thy fame,
Nor scrolls essay an endless meed to give;
In grateful memory still thy deeds must live.
No sculptured marble shall be raised to thee,
The hearts of England will thy memoirs be.
To thee the Muse attunes no venal lyre,
No thirsts of gold the vocal lays inspire;
No interests plead, no fiery passions swell;
Whilst to thy praise she wakes her feeble shell,
She need not speak it, for the pen of fame
On every heart has written BURDETT’S name;
For thou art he, who dared in tumult’s hour,
Dauntless thy tide of eloquence to pour;
Who, fearless, stemmed stern Despotism’s source,
Who traced Oppression to its foulest course;
Who bade Ambition tremble on its throne—
How could I virtue name, how yet pass on
Thy name!—though fruitless thy divine essay,
Though vain thy war against fell power’s array,
Thou taintless emanation from the sky!
Thou purest spark of fires which never die!

Yet let me pause, yet turn aside to weep
Where virtue, genius, wit, with Franklin sleep;
To bend in mute affliction o’er the grave
Where lies the great, the virtuous, and the brave;
Still let us hope in Heaven (for Heaven there is)
That sainted spirit tastes ethereal bliss,
That sainted spirit the reward receives,
Which endless goodness to its votary gives.
Thine be the meed to purest virtue due—
Alas! the prospect closes to the view.
Visions of horror croud upon my sight,
They shed around their forms substantial night.
Oppressors’ venal minions! hence, avaunt!
Think not the soul of Patriotism to daunt;
Though hot with gore from India’s wasted plains,
Some Chief, in triumph, guides the tightened reins;
Though disembodied from this mortal coil,
Pitt lends to each smooth rogue a courtier’s smile;
Yet does not that severer frown withhold,
Which, though impervious to the power of gold,
Could daunt the injured wretch, could turn the poor
Unheard, unnoticed, from the statesman’s door
This is the spirit which can reckless tell
The fatal trump of useless war to swell;
Can bid Fame’s loudest voice awake his praise,
Can boldly snatch the honorary bays.
Gifts to reward a ruthless, murderous deed,
A crime for which some poorer rogue must bleed.
Is this then justice?—stretch thy powerful arm,
Patriot, dissolve the frigorific charm,
Awake thy loudest thunder, dash the brand
Of stern Oppression from the Tyrant’s hand;
Let reason mount the Despot’s mouldering throne,
And bid an injured nation cease to moan.
Why then, since justice petty crimes can thrall,
Should not its power extend to each, to all?
If he who murders one to death is due,
Should not the great destroyer perish too?
The wretch beneath whose influence millions bleed?
And yet encomium is the villain’s meed.
His crime the smooth-tongued flatterers conquest name,
Loud in his praises swell the notes of Fame.
Oblivion marks the murdering poor man’s tomb,
Brood o’er his memory contempt and gloom;
His crimes are blazoned in deformed array,
His virtues sink, they fade for aye away.
Snatch then the sword from nerveless virtue’s hand,
Boldly grasp native jurisdiction’s brand;
For justice, poisoned at its source, must yield
The power to each its shivered sword to wield,
To dash oppression from the throne of vice,
To nip the buds of slavery as they rise.
Does jurisprudence slighter crimes restrain,
And seek their vices to controul in vain?
Kings are but men, if thirst of meanest sway
Has not that title even snatched away.—
The fainting Indian, on his native plains,
Writhes to superior power’s unnumbered pains;
The Asian, in the blushing face of day,
His wife, his child, sees sternly torn away;
Yet dares not to revenge, while war’s dread roar
Floats, in long echoing, on the blood-stain’d shore.
In Europe too wild ruin rushes fast:
See! like a meteor on the midnight blast,
Or evil spirit brooding over gore,
Napoleon calm can war, can misery pour.
May curses blast thee; and in thee the breed
Which forces, which compels, a world to bleed;
May that destruction, which ’tis thine to spread,
Descend with ten-fold fury on thy head.
Oh! may the death, which marks thy fell career,
In thine own heart’s blood bathe the empoisoned spear;
May long remorse protract thy latest groan,
Then shall Oppression tremble on its throne.
Yet this alone were vain; Freedom requires
A torch more bright to light its fading fires;
Man must assert his native rights, must say
We take from Monarchs’ hand the granted sway;
Oppressive law no more shall power retain,
Peace, love, and concord, once shall rule again,
And heal the anguish of a suffering world;
Then, then shall things, which now confusedly hurled,
Seem Chaos, be resolved to order’s sway,
And errors night be turned to virtue’s day.

See also here.

New Shelley poem, against persecution of Irishman, discovered

This video from England says about itself:

Poetical Essay: a Shelley pamphlet through expert eyes

10 November 2015

In November 2015 the Bodleian Libraries acquired its 12 millionth printed book: a unique copy of a pamphlet entitled Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things, written by ‘a Gentleman of the University of Oxford’ and printed in 1811. The pamphlet was the work of Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822), then a student at Oxford University, and now recognised as one of the great English poets of the 19th century. The acquisition is a momentous event for the public, for scholars, the University and the Bodleian Libraries. Known to have been published by Shelley in 1811 but lost until recently, Shelley’s Poetical Essay is, thanks to the generosity of a benefactor, now freely available to all in digitized form at

From the Irish Times:

Lost Shelley poem defending jailed Irish journalist unveiled

Vanessa Redgrave reads pamphlet defending former United Irishman Peter Finnerty

Fintan O’Toole

Tue, Nov 10, 2015, 18:15

A long-lost verse pamphlet by the great Romantic poet Percy Shelley, written in defence of an imprisoned Irish journalist, was unveiled on Tuesday at the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Shelley, one of the greatest English poets of the 19th century, wrote Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things in autumn and winter 1810-11 during his first year as a student at Oxford.

It protests against Britain’s involvement in the Napoleonic war and in particular supports the Irish journalist Peter Finnerty, who was accused of libel by the government and imprisoned after criticising disastrous British military operations in Denmark.

Shelley’s 10-page poem was considered lost until 2006, when a single copy was discovered in a private collection. Only now, with the acquisition of this unique copy by the library, has the text been made public. The actress Vanessa Redgrave read it aloud at an event in Oxford on Tuesday evening.

Finnerty, whose name appears prominently on the title page, is thought to have been born in Loughrea, Co Galway, and was associated with the revolutionaries of the United Irishmen. He was imprisoned in Dublin in 1798 for seditious libel after he attacked judges who sentenced other members of the society to death. He emigrated to London, where he worked as a parliamentary reporter and was a member of the circle around the Irish playwright and politician Richard Brinsley Sheridan.

In 1809, he went to Denmark to report on British military operations. His critical reporting led to him being deported back to London. Finnerty accused the powerful secretary of state for war, Lord Castleragh, of seeking to silence him, and also of having been responsible for the torture of United Irishmen prisoners in 1798. Castlereagh sued him and Finnerty was again imprisoned.

In the newly revealed Poetical Essay, Shelley attacks Castlereagh and denounces war as a time “When legal murders swell the lists of pride;/ When glory’s views the titled idiot guide”. He praises Finnerty’s supporters and asks rhetorically: “Shall rank corruption pass unheeded by,/Shall flattery’s voice ascend the wearied sky;/And shall no patriot tear the veil away/ Which hides these vices from the face of day?”

Shelley imagines Finnerty and his supports as “a powerful hand” stripping away “the guilt-stain’d veil” of corruption.

Shelley clearly intended his poem to be part of the wider campaign to raise funds for Finnerty, which also staged large public meetings in Dublin and Belfast. Finnerty was released in 1813 and returned to work as a journalist until his death in 1822. His friend William Hazlitt wrote of him that he “loved Ireland to the last, and would overwhelm any man with a torrent of [curses] who would speak disrespectfully of the sod.”

See also here.

Shelley poems about war

This video is about Percy Bysshe Shelley – his poem The Mask of Anarchy.

The Stop NATO blog in the USA has a section Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts.

In it, there is a link to a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley about war (certainly not Shelley’s only poem on this).

And an excerpt from Shelley’s 1813 poem, Queen Mab, about war:

There an inhuman and uncultured race
Howled hideous praises to their Demon-God;
They rushed to war, tore from the mother’s womb
The unborn child – old age and infancy
Promiscuous perished; their victorious arms
Left not a soul to breathe. Oh! they were fiends!
But what was he who taught them that the God
Of Nature and benevolence had given
A special sanction to the trade of blood
His name and theirs are fading, and the tales
Of this barbarian nation, which imposture
Recites till terror credits, are pursuing
Itself into forgetfulness.

Whence, thinkest thou, kings and parasites arose?
Whence that unnatural line of drones who heap
Toil and unvanquishable penury
On those who build their palaces and bring
Their daily bread? – From vice, black loathsome vice;
From rapine, madness, treachery, and wrong;
From all that genders misery, and makes
Of earth this thorny wilderness; from lust,
Revenge, and murder. – And when reason’s voice,
Loud as the voice of Nature, shall have waked
The nations; and mankind perceive that vice
Is discord, war and misery; that virtue
Is peace and happiness and harmony;
When man’s maturer nature shall disdain
The playthings of its childhood; – kingly glare
Will lose its power to dazzle
, its authority
Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne
Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,
Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood’s trade
Shall be as hateful and unprofitable
As that of truth is now.

Where is the fame
Which the vain-glorious mighty of the earth
Seek to eternize? Oh! the faintest sound
From time’s light footfall, the minutest wave
That swells the flood of ages, whelms in nothing
The unsubstantial bubble. Ay! to-day
Stern is the tyrant’s mandate, red the gaze
That flashes desolation, strong the arm
That scatters multitudes. To-morrow comes!
That mandate is a thunder-peal that died
In ages past; that gaze, a transient flash
On which the midnight closed; and on that arm
The worm has made his meal.

Look on yonder earth:
The golden harvests spring; the unfailing sun
Sheds light and life; the fruits, the flowers, the trees,
Arise in due succession; all things speak
Peace, harmony and love. The universe,
In Nature’s silent eloquence, declares
That all fulfil the works of love and joy, –
All but the outcast, Man. He fabricates
The sword which stabs his peace
; he cherisheth
The snakes that gnaw his heart; he raiseth up
The tyrant whose delight is in his woe,
Whose sport is in his agony.

Now swells the intermingling din; the jar
Frequent and frightful of the bursting bomb;
The falling beam, the shriek, the groan, the shout,
The ceaseless clangor, and the rush of men
Inebriate with rage: – loud and more loud
The discord grows; till pale Death shuts the scene
And o’er the conqueror and the conquered draws
His cold and bloody shroud. – Of all the men
Whom day’s departing beam saw blooming there
In proud and vigorous health; of all the hearts
That beat with anxious life at sunset there;
How few survive, how few are beating now!
All is deep silence, like the fearful calm
That slumbers in the storm’s portentous pause;
Save when the frantic wail of widowed love
Comes shuddering on the blast, or the faint moan
With which some soul bursts from the frame of clay
Wrapt round its struggling powers.

The gray morn
Dawns on the mournful scene; the sulphurous smoke
Before the icy wind slow rolls away,
And the bright beams of frosty morning dance
Along the spangling snow. There tracks of blood
Even to the forest’s depth, and scattered arms,
And lifeless warriors, whose hard lineaments
Death’s self could change not, mark the dreadful path
Of the outsallying victors; far behind
Black ashes note where their proud city stood.
Within yon forest is a gloomy glen –
Each tree which guards its darkness from the day,
Waves o’er a warrior’s tomb.

From kings and priests and statesmen war arose,
Whose safety is man’s deep unbettered woe,
Whose grandeur his debasement. Let the axe
Strike at the root, the poison-tree will fall;
And where its venomed exhalations spread
Ruin, and death, and woe, where millions lay
Quenching the serpent’s famine, and their bones
Bleaching unburied in the putrid blast,
A garden shall arise, in loveliness
Surpassing fabled Eden.

Felicity Arbuthnot comments on this blog post:

David Cameron should be made to read this at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, 11.11.2012, as Obama and leaders across all Western countries taking part in their murderous, illegal assassinations, slaughters and ram raids. Thank you.

Reaction from Richard Rozoff to this comment:

Splendid idea.

School children in Britain, here in the U.S. and throughout the English-speaking world are given poems of Shelley’s like “Ode to the West Wind” (without having its true purport explained) or “Adonais” to read while passing over completely his major works like “Queen Mab,” “The Cenci,” “The Revolt of Islam,” “Hellas” and “Prometheus Unbound” as unfit for, politically speaking, virginibus puerisque.

Mary Shelley on stage

This video from Britain is called Mary Shelley Biography.

By Barbara Slaughter in Britain:

Mary Shelley—A new play about her remarkable life and times

13 June 2012

Mary Shelley, a new play by Helen Edmundson, opened in Leeds on March 16 and, after a national tour, is now running at the Tricycle Theatre in London until July 7. It is a joint production of Shared Experience, Nottingham Playhouse and West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Edmundson’s play is based on the relationship between the remarkable Mary Shelley, future author of Frankenstein and wife of poet Percy Shelley, and her father, radical journalist and philosopher William Godwin, between 1813 and 1816.

The play opens with 16-year-old Mary dreaming about an attempted suicide by her late mother, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), the advocate of women’s rights and defender of the French Revolution. The young Mary is traveling by sea from Scotland back to her home in London and has recently read Godwin’s biography of her mother, published in 1798. Profoundly moved by the candid and revealing book, Mary is inspired to live as her mother did.

Wollstonecraft died of puerperal fever, 11 days after Mary was born. Overcome with grief, Godwin began writing Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman only two weeks later. This was a heartfelt account of Wollstonecraft’s astonishing life, written by a man who loved her and appreciated her unique qualities as a writer and a revolutionary.

He was criticised mercilessly by the reactionary press, and middle class public opinion was “scandalised”. In the end, Godwin felt obliged to compromise and published a sanitised version of the memoir, with all mention of her love affairs, attempted suicides and illegitimate daughter removed.

Godwin educated Mary and her stepsister Fanny Islay as their mother would have wanted, to fight for political justice and social change and to face the world and its travails with fortitude and honesty.

See also here.