Friday, December 12, 2008

Shelley's political language

One of Percy Shelley’s greatest poems was the Masque of Anarchy written as an attack on the brutality of the British government of the 2nd Earl of Liverpool who was Prime Minister from 1812-1827. Liverpool surrounded himself with such distasteful men as Viscount Castlereagh and Viscount Sidmouth. Shelley’s attack on these brutal and cruel men was visceral and passionate. For those who don’t realize that even a Romantic poet can use provocative political language, here are a few verses from the Masque of Anarchy.

I met Murder on the way--

He had a mask like Castlereagh--

Very smooth he look'd yet grim;

Seven bloodhounds followed him:

All were fat; and well they might

Be in admirable plight,

For one by one, and two by two,

He tossed them humanhearts to chew,

Which from his wide cloak he drew.

Next came Fraud, and he had on,

Like Lord E--, an ermined gown;

His big tears, for he wept well,

Turned to mill-stones as they fell;

And the little children, who

Round his feet played to and fro,

Thinking every tear a gem,

Had their brains knockedout by, them.

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