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Shelley, England's greatest lyric poet, came of a family of some importance and power. His father was s Sussex county gentleman and a Whig member of Parliament; his grand-father, who became a baronet, had amassed a great fortune. Shelley, the eldest son, accordingly grew up with the prospect of becoming a man of wealth and title. At Eton, he proved a good classical scholar, but was not very happy, for he was by nature revolutionary and unconventional. He was known as ‘mad Shelley’ and ‘Shelley the atheist’, and his enthusiasm for studies in electricity, chemistry, and astronomy, and the exciting experiments he conducted, gave rise to many stories. The persecutions which he endured and witnessed at school gave him a lifelong detestation of tyranny and violence.

Shelley went to Oxford full of plans for changing the system of society --- ideas partly picked up from the literature of the French Revolution. Being convinced that religious faiths were harmful to man's happiness, he and his friend. T.J. HoggH, put forth a small study in logic, called The Necessity of Atheism. The Oxford authorities objected, and when Shelley and Hogg declined to discuss the matter, they were sent down. This to Shelley at 18 was a disaster, for he lost a valuable education at Oxford.

He fell out with his father and became a wan-derer; though he would eventually inherit a fortune, he had no ready money. When he was 19, he eloped with Harriet Westbrook, a girl of 16 whom he scarcely knew but whom he thought he should rescue from a tyrannical family. They were married in Edinburgh, and went to Keswick where Southey was kind to them. From there Shelley, always full of schemes, went on a quixotic expedition to redress the wrongs of the Irish; from Lynmouth shortly afterwards he distributed a seditious pamphlet called The Rights of Man, scattering some copies by balloon and putting others into bottles and throwing them into the sea. In 1813 he printed and published privately an extraordinary poem, Queen Mab, which expressed his protest against religion, his hatred of all forms of tyranny, and his belief in a new golden age.

In his glorification of revolutionary ideas, Shelley had sought out William Godwin, author of Political Justice, who had married Mary Wollstonecraft, author of The Rights of Women. His marriage with Harriet having proved a complete failure,? Shelley eloped with Godwin's 15-year-old daugher Mary. But later that year Harriet was found drowned in the Serpentine, and her two children by Shelley became the subject of a lawsuit. Shelley was not only deeply shocked by the tragedy but also suffered the bitterness of losing his children. He married Mary Godwin, and they tried to settle at Marlow, on the Thames. There, in 1816, he wrote Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude, the first long poem to show his true genius; next year he wrote a long imaginative poem on liberty and love, The Revolt of Islam, which was inspired by the French Revolution and contains many fine passages of description and dramatic narrative.

By this time Shelley had become a friend of Leigh Hunt and Peacock and had met Keats. Finally in 1818, partly to escape prejudice and insult, and also Godwin's constant demands for money, and partly because of Shelley's illnesses, the Shelleys decided to seek peace in Italy. There Shelley gave up his dream of reforming the world by direct political action and decided that he could accomplish most by passing on his own inspiration to others through his poetry. In this belief he composed his Prometheus Unbound, a poem to be enjoyed for its incomparable music, its colour and story, as well as because it contains Shelley's noblest ideas. To this period, too, belong his Lines written in the Euganean Hills and Julian and Maddalo, an autobiographical poem based on a happy visit to Byron in VeniceH. At this time Shelley wrote his finest lyrics --- The Could, The Skylark, the Ode to the West Wind, and others, the music and intensity of which show Shelley to be entering on a new stage of personal and imaginative greatness.

The Shelleys moved restlessly from place to place, and they suffered much unhappiness. The strain of constant travelling told on his health, and they both had to endure the great misery of losing their much-loved children William and Clara. They also found that the calumny and hate from which they had hoped to escape followed them even to Italy. In daily life Shelley was gay enough, however, the leading figure in their circle of friends in Pisa, where they eventually settled.

In the summer of 1822 Leigh Hunt came out to Italy to discuss a new periodical, proposed by Byron, in which Shelley was to take part. Shelley with a companion sailed in his yacht to greet him; but on the return voyage, Shelley's yacht capsized in a sudden squall and he and his friend were drowned. Shelley's body was identified by the volumes of Keats and Sophocles found in his pockets. The bodies were cremated on the shore, and Shelley's ashes were buried next to Keats in the Protestant cemetery in Rome. It was for Keats that Shelley had written his elegy, adonais, in 1821, in which he seemed to predict his own death. Shelley was 30 when he died, leaving unfinished the most original of all his poems, The Triumph of Life, in which his realism appears in all its sharp strength. As we have it, this fragment presents life as a vanity of vanities, but it is almost certain that Shelley meant in the second half to assert the splendours which human beings could attain.

Mary Shelley, who was only 25 when Shelley died, wrote his biography and edited and published his poetry, comparatively little of which had appeared during his lifetime and that little received with almost universal abhorrence or indifference. He left much fine prose also, including his famous Defence of Poetry, containing his analysis of the way in which poetry is written and his defence of poets as the ‘unacknowledged legislators of the world’.

Excerpts from Oxford Junior Encyclopedia (来源:专业英语学习网站 http://www.EnglishCN.com)

 

珀 西·比 希·雪 莱(1792—1822)

英国最伟大的抒情诗人雪莱,出身于一个有点地位和权势的家庭。他的父亲是苏塞克斯郡的绅士,国会的辉格党议员;他的祖父是位从男爵,积聚了万贯家财。雪莱是长子,因此他长大以后,可望成为既富有又有爵位的人。在伊顿公学时,他就显示出是个优秀的古典派学者,但他并不感到愉快,因为他生来具有叛逆的、不落俗套的性格。他以“疯子雪莱”和“无神论者雪莱”而闻名。他热衷于研究电、化学,还有天文学,并进行了一些令人兴奋的试验,因而引起了许多流言蜚语。他在学校所亲身遭受和亲眼目睹的种种迫害使他终生厌恶专制和暴力。

雪莱进了牛津大学,脑子里充满了改造社会制度的各种设想——这些思想,部分是取自于有关法国革命的文学作品。他和朋友汤姆斯·杰斐森·霍格深信宗教信仰对于人类幸福是有害的,因此他们发表了一篇推理体裁的短篇论文《无神论的必要性》。牛津大学当局很反对这篇文章。当雪莱和霍格又拒绝对此事加以讨论时,学校就把他们开除了。这对于当时年仅十八岁的雪莱来说,是一个灾难性的打击,因为他从此不能再在牛津大学接受有益的教育了。

他和父亲也闹翻了,成了脱离家庭的游子;虽然他最终会继承一大笔财产,但他当时却身无分文。他十九岁时,和一个名叫哈丽艾特·威斯特勃鲁克的十六岁女孩私奔,他对她并不了解,但他认为他应该把她从专制家庭中拯救出来。他们在爱丁堡结了婚,然后到了凯悉克,在那儿他们受到骚塞的款待。脑子里总是充满各种计划的雪莱,从那儿出发,进行了一次吉诃德式的远征,想去改变爱尔兰人受压迫的处境;离开林茅斯后不久,他散发了名叫《人的权利》的带有煽动性的小册子,让气球带走了一部分,其余的则放入瓶子里,把瓶子扔到海里去。在1813年,他个人印刷出版了一篇很奇特的长诗《麦布女王》,这首诗表白了他对宗教的抗议、对各种形式的专制制度的憎恨以及对未来必将出现一个新的黄金时代的信念。

雪莱赞颂各种革命思想,更看中了《政治正义论》的作者威廉·葛德文的观点,葛德文已与《妇女的权利》一书的作者玛丽·伍尔斯特奈克拉夫特结了婚。雪莱和哈丽艾特的结合完全破裂以后,他就和葛德文的十五岁女儿玛丽私奔了。那年后期,有人发现哈丽艾特在蜿蜒河里淹死了。她和雪莱的两个孩子的归宿问题成了一宗诉讼案件。雪莱不仅因这悲剧的结局倍感震惊,而且还因失去孩子而万分痛苦。之后,他和玛丽·葛德文正式结婚,他们想在泰晤士河畔的马洛镇定居下来。1816年他在那儿写下了《阿拉斯特》(或《孤独的精神》),这是表现他真正天才的第一首长诗;第二年,由于法国革命的启迪,他又写了关于自由和爱情的充满了想象的长诗《伊斯兰起义》,这首诗包括许多段很精彩的描写和戏剧性的叙述。

到这时,雪莱已和利·亨特以及皮科克成为朋友,而且与济慈会过面。最后,到1818年,雪莱一家,为了逃避社会对他们的偏见和侮辱,为了逃避葛德文在借贷方面对他们的纠缠不休,同时也是因为雪莱病魔缠身,需要休养,他们决定到意大利去寻求宁静的生活。在意大利,雪莱放弃了企图直接参与政治活动以改造世界的梦想,确信通过诗歌把自己的感受传达给别人会获得很大成就。抱着这样的信念,他创作了长诗《解放了的普罗米修斯》,从这部诗剧中,人们可以欣赏到它那无与伦比的音韵、色彩和故事情节,以及蕴藏于其中的诗人最高贵的思想。在这一时期,他还写了《尤根尼山上的札记》和《裘利安和麦代洛》,后者是根据他在威尼斯和拜伦一次愉快的会晤而写的自传体诗篇。这个时期,雪莱还写下了一些最优美的抒情诗——《云》,《致云雀》,《西风颂》以及其他。这些诗篇的音乐性和感情之强烈说明雪莱正进入一个新的具有崇高的品格和丰富想象力的阶段。

雪莱一家经常到处迁徙,并经受了种种磨难。这种过度劳累的频繁旅行影响了雪莱的健康,而且他们两人还因为两个心爱的孩子威廉和克拉拉相继夭折必须忍受极大的悲痛。此外,他们也发现他们本来希望避开的诽谤和憎恨一直在追逐着他们,甚至到意大利还摆脱不了。尽管如此,当他们终于在比萨定居下来以后,雪莱的日常生活倒也很愉快,而且在他周围还聚集了一群朋友。

1822年夏,利·亨特动身来意大利,讨论有关一份新的期刊的事宜,这是由拜伦倡议的,要雪莱参加创办。雪莱和一位朋友开着他的游艇去迎接他;但在返航途中,雪莱的游艇被突然袭来的狂风暴雨所倾覆,他和他的朋友都淹死了。从一具尸体的衣服口袋里发现了济慈的诗集和索福克勒斯的集子,从而证实那就是雪莱。他们的尸体在海边火化了,雪莱的骨灰被安葬在罗马的新教公墓济慈的旁边。雪莱在1821年写的那篇挽歌《阿童尼》是为悼念济慈而写的,但在这诗篇中,他好像也预言了自己的死亡。他去世时才三十岁,留下《生命的胜利》没有写完,这是他所有诗篇中最富有独创性的一篇,其中他的现实主义思想表现得格外强烈。就我们所看到的,这一部分把生命描写得像人世间一切事物一样是虚无飘渺的,但也几乎可以肯定雪莱是打算在下半部分说明人类一定能够到达光辉灿烂的顶峰。

雪莱遇难时,他的妻子玛丽只有二十五岁。她撰写了他的传记,编辑出版了他的诗集,在他生前,这些诗篇已经问世的相当少,而这相当少的一部分在社会上得到的反响也几乎是普遍的憎恶或漠不关心。他还留下了许多很出色的散文,包括有名的《诗辩》在内,在这篇文章中,他分析了诗歌的创作方法,为诗人进行了辩护,认为他们是“没有得到社会承认的立法者”。

节译自《牛津少年百科全书》

 
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