“Poets are the hierophants of an unapprehended inspiration; the mirrors of the gigantic shadows which futurity casts upon the present; the words which express what they understand not; the trumpets which sing to battle, and feel not what they inspire; the influence which is moved not, but moves. Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.”
Welcome to the Poetry Slow Down, produced by Zappa Johns, I’m Dr. B, your Professor Barbara Mossberg, live at Oxford University, St. Edmund’s College, and we’re talking today about Percy Bysshe Shelley, shhhhhhh, we have revolutionary, post-sub-versive (if you get my drift) things to say about a young man (for so he shall ever be) who advocates for poetry as the force that will save the world. The most contemporary of all poets, on the level of physicists and the spiritual understandings of what the world needs now.
Like many Oxonians famous throughout the word, Shelley isn’t a graduate of Oxford, but he came here, and ironically, it’s here that people flock to see his memorial, and it’s here that the Bodleian Library features its 12thmillion book, written by Shelley about the unjust treatment of him by Oxford . . . but this is primarily a glorious story with a happy non-ending of the role of poetry in our world. Slow Down, with our Poetry Slow Down, let yourself idle, for it is in such slow down that we allow our brains to wander at a pace where ideas and insights come and develop; find a hammock, or bench, or grass without the ubiquitous “don’t walk on the grass” signs., and let yourself drift as part of the current, in the company of poets and great minds everywhere and for all time. As we consider Shelley’s leadership in poetry, politics, and prose, we’ll marvel at the miracle of his output as a poet in twenty-nine years, and the spirit of hope he gives us for what is possible when we listen to poets, and poets listen to our world, to its wind and skylarks. We’ll hear “Ode to the West Wind,” and Wordsworth, and think about what the world needs now: you, the poetry in you, the poetry of you, the poetry of us.
© Barbara Mossberg 2018