Recently I was reading a series of essays, “English Romantic Poets: Modern Essays in Criticism” edited by M. H. Abrams in 1960. One writer, I think it was the poet Donald Davie, mentioned how when he was young and first introduced to the Romantics he loved Shelley to the point of memorizing his poems and quoting him freely. Now writing in 1956 and 25 years after university, he found there were few poems by him he could bare to read, much less quote. I found that hilarious because as a young lit student, I too loved Shelley and like he, here are few poems by him I can tolerate, Ozymandias & Ode to the West Wind being foremost. From Vergil’s 4th Georgics that inspired me to read that epic in the original seems horribly insipid now. There is one or two more poems that are tolerable, but too much Shelley is a horrible wooden harangue, belaboring the points and forgetting the cadence in almost a clap-trap staccato beat. It is a pity; he could be brilliant.
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.’
Shelley the Poet
Now his claim to fame is as the father to his wife’s Mary Godwin Shelley’s Frankenstein. One old version of the flick says Mrs. Shelley wrote it in a contest, Abram’s book mentions that, and it seems it is attributed to Robert Southey; the essayist does not dispute it as apocryphal, so perhaps it is true.
Looking at his chart created via Matrix Software’s $69.00 program, WinStar Express, we get 04 Sagittarius for his ascendant or the City of Ecbatan at dawn. It encapsulates the idea of a person extending himself into his environment. Thomas Jefferson Hogg, his friend at Oxford, wrote that Shelley’s rooms were filled with:
books, boots, papers, shoes, philosophical instruments, clothes, pistols, linen, crockery, ammunition, and phials innumerable, with money, stockings, prints, crucibles, bags, and boxes were scattered on the floor and in every place. . . . The tables, and especially the carpet, were already stained with large spots of various hues, which frequently proclaimed the agency of fire. An electrical machine, an air pump, the galvanic trough, a solar microscope, and large glass jars and receivers, were conspicuous amidst the mass of matter.
The Abrams article mentioned that “Shelley was often seen reading with a book held right up to his eyes, lying very close to the fire.”
The latter comment makes us wonder if he was near sighted. This is possible as a Fixed Star Aquila is right near his Ascendant, making his eye sight poor early on. It also according to Ptolemy gives great imagination, strong passions, and a dominating character. All true if we review his liaisons with Harriet Westbrook and then Mary Godwin, as well as how much he impressed Lord Byron to the extent of effecting that one’s poetry, as mentioned in the Abrams’ volume, much to the latter’s regret.
Shelley is definitely a see-saw temperament type, almost a perfect prototype. Half of his planets are in the Southern hemisphere and the rest below. There are two angles between them — one a square and the other a sextile. Plus, each half has a corresponding opposition to unite them: Pluto in Aquarius to Uranus in Leo and then Saturn to Neptune in Libra. His Mercury like Chef Bourdain is in a separate house from it’s sun showing Shelley had strong opinions and was an independent thinker. Mars is partile Jupiter showing his prolific poetry in the tenth fulfilling his dreams but also conjunct his Neptune in the eleventh, showing his hospitality to his friends and love of animals.
the second grouping in the Southern hemisphere in the eighth house has Venus partile the Sun and then conjunct Uranus. The first aspect does not bode well for marriage, as Harriet learned, and suggests jealousy and combativeness, as perhaps Mary did. Venus is semi-sextile Mercury that was unfortunate for his son, Charles, who died after being hit by lightning bolt that the mythological Hermes (Greek Hermes; Roman Mercury) used for transport.
Enter the Creature
That’s the Southern half, the public half of his chart. Now the hidden half obviously tilts towards Mary, highlighted by the Part of Fortune in the seventh house of relationships and opportunities that joins the two hemispheres via a friendly and helpful sextile to Saturn.
It is that sextile that changes and transmutes the Poet into the Father of the “Creature,” as Mary calls him in her book. He or is it an It? shows up as Saturn, the old Kronos of the Olympic gods that is Father Time, or in her version, Father Resetting Time as he comes to life again, Prometheus Reborn, in the creative house of offspring of the fifth in Taurus. Could anything be more fitting for the creature created from bits of this and that dug up from graveyard? Mary, is obviously the Part of Fortune at 01.10 Cancer, that is perfect for such a devoted mother (and she was to their sole child Percy Florence, as well). That point, for the Part of Fortune is an Arabian calculation like the ascendant or midheaven, and not a planet in space, is then square Neptune in the Eleventh, representing the popularly of the “creature” eclipsed for a time his own poetry which led to rumours that Shelley committed suicide and sank the Don Juan (named for his friend Byron’s masterpiece) drowning of all hands aboard the vessel.
To be honest, that last tall tale seems to be a “romanticized” version of his death. There is not much in his chart that suggests suicide, though a lot that does support his lofty ideals (Saturn sextile Moon suggests his vegetarianism that Mahatma Gandhi so admired and Uranus conjunct the Sun-Venus his pacifism), but nothing to suggest suicide. Still it makes for a good tale and as John Ford says in the Man who shot Liberty Valance, “When the Legend becomes Fact, Print the Legend,” and so for Shelley the suicide makes good copy for a “Romantic Hero.”