Review: Shelley – a Humanist out of Time

At our September meeting we were treated to a variety of media exploring Shelley and his poems, with a focus on the political and humanistic angle in his oeuvre.

The Songwriter and Shelley specialist John Webster introduced us to the lyrics in the context of Shelley’s life before we watched substantial sections from the film he made including a narration by Benjamin Zephaniah and songs based on his lyrics by Brindaband. This was an interesting and enjoyable way to encounter the lyrics, following on from the verbal and visual introduction, and certainly opened many people’s eyes to the wonders of Shelley’s poetry.

After the film, there was time for discussion and questions. It was clear that many had not quite realised the extent of Shelley’s humanist outlook and, in particular, the suitability for some of the poems for Celebrants’ use. Many had found the introduction and film to be very interesting and inspiring and were motivated to explore further.

Thank you to John for an interesting evening and fascinating, varied presentation.

shelleyFurther Reading:

John suggests that ‘The Mask of Anarchy’ (written as a response to the Peterloo Massacre) is a good accessible place to start for the longer poems; shorter ones include Ode to the Western Wind and Ozymandias. Love’s Philosophy is another which reflects his thinking, based on Erasmus Darwin and his idea of ‘organic happiness’.

Whether you go and buy a new copy of the poems or prose, or find a cheap copy in a second hand bookshop….why not get a book and explore the work of this fascinating and still relevant poet and author?

Following the meeting, John emailed to provide a further interesting connection and resource – referencing Shelley’s influence on reformers, he has found something Charles Bradlaugh (founder of the National Secular Society) had written on Shelley, praising him for advocating resistance to oppression in The Mask of Anarchy. It’s a pamphlet called ‘Jesus, Shelley and Malthus…’ and can be found here