Thursday, June 21, 2007


Galway Kinnell (2005)

When I was twenty the one true
free spirit I had heard of was Shelley,
Shelley, who wrote tracts advocating
atheism, free love, the emancipation
of women, the abolition of wealth and class,
and poems on the bliss of romantic love,
Shelley, who, I learned later, perhaps
almost too late, remarried Harriet,
then pregnant with their second child,
and a few months later ran off with Mary,
already pregnant herself, bringing
with them Mary's stepsister Claire,
who very likely also became his lover,

and in this malaise á trois, which Shelley
had imagined would be "a paradise of exiles,"
they lived, along with the spectre or Harriet,
who drowned herself in the Serpentine,
and of Mary's half sister Fanny,
who killed herself, maybe for unrequited
love of Shelley, and with the spirits
of adored but often neglected
children conceived incidentally
in the pursuit of Eros—Harriet's
Ianthe and Charles, denied to Shelley
and consigned to foster parents; Mary's
Clara, dead at one; her Willmouse,
Shelley's favorite, dead at three; Elena,
the baby in Naples, almost surely
Shelley's own, whom he "adopted"
and then left behind, dead at one and a half;
Allegra, Claire's daughter by Byron,
whom Byron sent off to the convent
at Bagnacavallo at four, dead at five—

and in those days, before I knew
any of this, I thought I followed Shelley,
who thought he was following radiant desire.


dan1968 said...

audio of author reading this poem: here

Shelley (wikipedia)

maybe a "depressing" poem, but some interesting ideas to consider

ethan said...

Good one!....again.

dan1968 said...

from The Best American Poetry of 2005

Jade said...


we read this poem in my AP English class two years ago, and since then I have been searching for it, and a friend of mine directed me here, and now I am very, very happy.

poems-hunter said...

thankss man

Anonymous said...

well done, shall we say romance is not always filled with a blessed and romantic life... Shelley's life is not to be envied, though his words are.... Thank God, Barrett and Browning - filled - my need for romance that actually fulfilled itself in life.... thanks for the link....bkm