Celebrating Poetry in April: 13. Shelley’s “To Wordsworth”

Hello! Today’s sonnet is by Percy Bysshe Shelley, titled “To Wordsworth.”

Everything about this poem seems like it is a celebration of life of the late poet, but Shelley wrote his poem in 1816, and William Wordsworth lived for another 30 years following the death of Shelley in 1822. So why the faux posthumous ode?

Shelley was so angry at Wordsworth for what he saw as an “abandonment of his ideals” in his later works, so Shelley decided to mock his change by citing his own works in this sonnet, throwing them in the still-living face of Wordsworth in a lament of the “passing” of the more idealized and youthful Wordsworth.

Sonnets aren’t all about love, apparently. 😉

Enjoy “To Wordsworth,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley.

TO WORDSWORTH

Poet of Nature, thou hast wept to know
That things depart which never may return:
Childhood and youth, friendship and love’s first glow,
Have fled like sweet dreams, leaving thee to mourn.
These common woes I feel. One loss is mine
Which thou too feel’st, yet I alone deplore.
Thou wert as a lone star, whose light did shine
On some frail bark in winter’s midnight roar:
Thou hast like to a rock-built refuge stood
Above the blind and battling multitude:
In honored poverty thy voice did weave
Songs consecrate to truth and liberty,–
Deserting these, thou leave’st me to grieve,
Thus having been, that thou should’st cease to be.

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