Percy Bysshe Shelley by Donald H. Reiman (auth.)

By Donald H. Reiman (auth.)

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Disillusionment because of the power that fate held over men had eventually caused him to withdraw to the solitary island, but news of Laon's active resistance to tyranny had roused the old man to go immediately to his aid. Seven years pass before Laon returns to full sanity; during this time the Hermit has been educating the people by writing revolutionary tracts that have improved the climate of opinion, and now, because of the persuasive preaching of an unknown young woman, the people of the empire are assembling on a great plain outside the Golden City; though not threatening violence, they boldly demand their rights.

Because she shares his feelings, Laon is spared the disappointments of the isolated Youth in Alastor, for she "endued/My purpose with a wider sympathy" (xxxvi). In Canto III, when marauding soldiers looking for slave girls seize Cythna, Laon stabs three of them before he is overcome and chained atop a column. There, in a fit of madness he imagines that, driven by extreme hunger and thirst, he has eaten the flesh of Cythna's corpse. Just as he is about to die, he is rescued by an old Hermit, who carries him off in a small boat to an island covered with pines and myrtles (symbolic of hope and love, respectively).

The first class could be the subjects only of satirical literature, and the latter were to be treated by Shelley in his next major effort, The Revolt of Islam. The middle category, those men with vision who allowed their private search for truth to carry them away from their public duty, were proper subjects for tragic literature, for their greatness was flawed. The true visionary, like Prometheus, brought fire from Heaven to mankind. Included in the volume with Alastor were a number of shorter poems: revised versions of two portions of Queen Mab-part of Canto I under the title of "The Daemon of the World" and Canto VI, 72-102, called "Superstition"; a lyric beginning "Oh!

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