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Sunday, August 20, 2023

Aleister Crowley and Percy Bysshe Shelley

A Joseph Severn painting of Shelley in Italy. 

I have started reading Perdurabo, Richard Kaczynski's biography of Aleister Crowley, as preparation for reading Lion of Light. A passage describes how Crowley, while attending Cambridge, suddenly was introduced to the poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley. "For Crowley, the budding poet, Shelley's lyrical style and unique expressive language represented the perfect marriage of poetry and music .... Shelley ... remained Crowley's lifelong favorite."

This may be the only thing I have in common with Aleister Crowley, but I discovered Shelley in college, too, and while I liked all of the English Romantic poets, Shelley was my favorite and I read a great deal of him. 

Here is a famous Shelley poem: 


I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”


Eric Wagner said...

It delighted Bob Wilson that Percy Shelley encouraged his wife Mary Shelley to have Dr. Frankenstein go to university in Ingolstadt because Percy admired Adam Weishaupt who had taught in Ingolstadt.

tony smyth said...

I'm not much of a poetry fan but that one I always loved (had to do it in school).
Those 'two vast and trunkless legs of stone' still exist. You can see it (them!) when you cross the Nile to go to the Valley of the Kings: its maybe five minutes by bicycle from the river and still very impressive.

Spookah said...

Just a suggestion, but what about a Lion of Light reading group?
Many around here could weight in and bring some much appreciated depth of clarification.

Oz Fritz said...

Bob Dylan also admires Shelley. He gave his first NY love, Suze Rotolo a small book of Percy's poetry when they were both in their very early 20's though she may have still been a teenager.

Rarebit Fiend said...

It's been a long time since I read Perdurabo, and I didn't remember that Shelley was his favorite poet...I always thought it was Swinburne, since that's who his own poetry tended to emulate, especially as a young man. It is pretty certain that "Aleister" is inspired in large part by Shelley's "Alastor, of The Spirit of Solitude." (Most people reading this will probably know that one of the titles for Crowley's Autohagiography was "The Spirit of Solitude.")