Isn’t It Romantic?

Today is the birthday of Percy Bysshe Shelley, the English Romantic poet. Let’s start right there:

  • Percy Bysshe Shelley. I’m not exactly sure how you pronounce his middle name, but I always said “Biss,” and I wondered why he chose to go by such an odd moniker. Wouldn’t Percy Shelley sound better than Percy “Biss” Shelley? Please forgive my trivial concerns: I was seventeen at the time.
  • Romantic poet. Well, that conjured up images of a guy with flowing black hair wearing a flowing white shirt, standing underneath a window reciting verse to his lady love. His name would be something like “Percy Shelley.” Again, seventeen.

And there he is! Shirt looks full-cut. Hair’s not so short. And he died before he turned thirty. Now how romantic is that to a seventeen-year-old?

Well, to borrow a line from Janis Ian, I learned the truth at twenty-one. While good old Percy may have looked the part, he wasn’t just some Romeo. The Romantic period, or movement, was part of a huge reaction to the French Revolution, and poets such as Shelley

did not surrender their hope for a radical reformation of humankind and its social and political world; instead, they transferred the basis of that hope from violent political revolution to a quiet but drastic revolution in the moral and imaginative nature of the human race.

You can read more about all that stuff here.

Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being,
Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,
Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,
Pestilence-stricken multitudes

Wow. And his wife wrote Frankenstein. Happy Birthday, Percy Biss.


4 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jena said,

    I like your blog. You have interesting perspectives and great writing. And I hadn’t heard of the children’s lit carnival. Thanks for all you do here.

  2. 2

    softwareNerd said,

    I found your post while searching for the right way to pronounce “Bysshe”. If I find out, I’ll return to give you a link.

  3. 3

    softwareNerd said,

    I found it, so I’m back to give you the info. Bysshe is pronounced “Bish”.
    This was one source: (, but there were others.

  4. 4

    sgaissert said,

    Thanks for your research! “Bish.” Sounds goods!

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