The Defence Of Poetry By P. B. Shelly

The Defence Of Poetry By P B Shelly

The Defence Of Poetry By P. B. Shelly
The Defence Of Poetry By P. B. Shelly


“The Defence of Poetry” is an essay by the English Romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, commonly known as P. B. Shelley. It was written in 1821 and published posthumously in 1840. In “The Defence of Poetry,” Shelley argues that poetry is the highest form of human expression, surpassing all other forms of literature and art. Shelley’s essay is a remarkable example of poetic criticism, as it combines logical analysis with poetic expression.

Shelley’s argument for poetry is an important text of English Romanticism. Shelley wrote his essay “The Defence Of Poetry” in response to his friend Thomas Love Peacock’s essay “The Four Ages of Poetry”, which argued that poetry was useless and outdated in an age of science and technology.

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            Percy Bysshe Shelley (4 August 1792 – 8 July 1822) was one of the major English Romantic poets. Shelley did not achieve fame during his lifetime, but he got fame and recognition for his achievements in poetry after his death. He became a significant influence on many generations of poets including Robert Browning, Algernon Charles Swinburne, Thomas Hardy, and W. B. Yeats.

Among his best-known works are “Ozymandias”, “Ode to the West Wind”, “To a Skylark”, the philosophical essay “The Necessity of Atheism” written alongside his friend T. J. Hogg, and the political ballad “The Mask of Anarchy”.

American literary critic Harold Bloom describes him as “a superb craftsman, a lyric poet without rival, and surely one of the most advanced skeptical intellects ever to write a poem.”


P. B. Shelley wrote “A Defence of Poetry” in response to “The Four Ages of Poetry,” an essay by his friend Thomas Love Peacock. In “The Four Ages of Poetry,” Peacock satirically argues that poetry is no longer needed amid the great technological and scientific advancements of the Industrial Age. He adds that poetry was once useful for awakening the intellect of society, but now humanity has advanced beyond it.

Peacock also said the poets of his era were derivative, which showed the downfall of poetry. Responding to Peacock’s critiques in “A Defence of Poetry,” Shelley argues that poetry is imperative to society. Shelley defines poetry as “the expression of the imagination”. He claims that all works of the imagination are poetry. Poets are critical to society because their works encapsulate universal truths and forecast a vision of the future for generations to come.

The Defence Of Poetry

In the essay, Shelley argues that poetry is the highest form of human expression, surpassing all other forms of literature and art. He contends that poetry is not just a means of entertainment or a way to express emotions, but rather a way to explore the mysteries of the universe and to connect with the divine.

Shelley’s essay is divided into four sections, each of which builds on the argument he makes for poetry’s transcendent qualities.

In the first section, Shelley argues that poetry is the most sublime form of expression because it allows us to connect with something greater than ourselves. He contends that poetry can convey not only the beauty of the natural world but also the abstract concepts of love, justice, and freedom.

The second section of the essay is a defense of the role of the poet as a prophet and visionary. Shelley argues that the poet has the unique ability to see beyond the surface of things and to understand the deeper truths of existence. In this way, the poet is a visionary who can inspire us to greater heights of creativity and understanding.

The third section of the essay is a critique of the philosophy of Shelley’s time. In this section, the poet shows that his beliefs had become too focused on reason and logic at the expense of imagination and creativity. Shelley contends that poetry is necessary to counterbalance the excesses of reason and to keep the human spirit alive using imagination and creativity.

Finally, in the fourth section, Shelley returns to the idea that poetry is essential for humanity to achieve its full potential. He argues that poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world because they have the power to shape the way we think about ourselves and our place in the universe.

Shelley also repeatedly says that poets are not recognized as great in their own time, because they are for the future and not exclusively the present. Shelley’s “beautifully written Defence of Poetry” is a work that “analyses the very inner essence of poetry and the reason of its existence, – its development from, and operation on, the mind of man. Shelley, said “poets . . . are not only the authors of language and of music, of the dance, and architecture, and statuary, and painting but they are the institutors of laws and the founders of civil society. Shelley ends the essay with his last famous line “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world”.


   Thus, We can see that “The Defence of Poetry” is a passionate and deeply philosophical essay that explores the nature of human creativity and its role in shaping the world around us. Shelley‘s ideas in The Defence Of Poetry continue to influence and inspire poets and thinkers. The Essay is also a passionate manifesto for the importance and relevance of poetry in society. It offers a rich and inspiring perspective on the nature, history, and purpose of poetry, as well as on the role and responsibility of poets.

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