Percy Bysshe Shelley has been universally accepted as one of the supreme lyrical geniuses in English poetry. His poems are marked by an intensity of feeling and spontaneity due to swift, momentary, and passionate impulses. It is true that melancholy is the most dominant note in his poetry, but the poet is extremely optimistic about the future of mankind.
Here’s a list of the best Percy Bysshe Shelley poems:
1. To a Skylark
To a Skylark is perhaps the most famous of Shelly’s poems. In it shelly records the thoughts evoked in him by singing Skylark. He finds a contrast between the Skylark’s easy movements and fluent song, and man’s clumsiness in these spheres. The poet is led to feel that Skylark’s superiority over man lies in its superhuman talents.
Ozymandias is one of the best sonnets that Shelly wrote. It is different in subject and treatment from all other works of Shelly. A traveller relates how, in a vast, boundless desert there stands the statue of King Ozymandias. As an imaginative poem, it is, as felt by every reader, very impressive.
3. Ode to the West Wind
Ode to the West Wind is accepted as one of the best poems in English literature. The poem is remarkable for its theme, range of thought, spontaneity, poetic beauty, lyrical quality, and quick movement similar to that of the wind itself.
4. Adonais, An Elegy on the Death of John Keats
Adonais was composed three to four months after the death of John Keats. Ignorant, at the time of writing this poem, of the real cause of Keats’s death, namely, tuberculosis, Shelly got the impression that his death was due to brutal criticism of his poetry by an anonymous reviewer. Shelly, who had a high opinion of Keats as a poet, wrote this poem which was aimed to mourn the poet’s death as well as strike a blow at this murderer.
5. Stanzas Written in Dejection, Near Naples
Stanzas Written in Dejection is one of the most subjective lyrics written by Shelly. At the time of writing this poem, Shalley was in the mood of despair and frustration. He had faced a series of personal misfortunes and was left sad and lonely. It is, therefore, natural that the poem has become an expression of the deepest kind of pessimism and a record of the poet’s intense suffering.
6. The Cloud
The Cloud is perhaps the most purely objective and elemental of all of Shelley’s nature lyrics. The poem has been put through the mouth of the cloud itself to become its autobiography. As such, the poet’s own personality is debarred from obtruding by a deliberate sense of detachment.
7. Mutability, or The Flower That Smiles Today
Mutability, or The Flower That Smiles Today is supposed to have been written for the opening of Hellas to be sung by a favorite slave to the sleeping Mahmud, whose empire was collapsing as he slept. It is a fine lyric, remarkable for its sincerity, simplicity, imaginative beauty, and haunting rhythm and melody.
8. Music, When Soft Voices Die
Music, When Soft Voices Die is inspired by an intense and genuine feeling. The subject of the poem is the immortality of love. The simplicity of thought and diction, the sweetness and melody of its lines have, however, given this poem a truly lyric quality.
9. To the Moon
To the Moon is another superb illustration of Shelley’s mythmaking power. The moon, in particular, always fascinated him. Shelley’s myth of the moon, though in variance with modern scientific explanations, has lent this poem a unique refreshing appeal. The poem is clear, sober, and to some extent, cynical.
10. To Night
To Night is one of the best-known lyrics written by Shelley. It is marked by intense passion and yearning, and amply illustrates Shelley’s ability to make his own myths. Shelley’s love for the dark, mystic, and weird aspects of Nature also finds expression in this poem. The tone of the poem is not as grim as that of some of his other poems.