1882 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Epes Sargent, in Harper's Cyclopaedia of British and American Poetry (1882) 421.



Whatever his speculative beliefs may have been, Shelley, in pursuing the ideals he did, showed that he was no atheist at heart. That he believed intuitively and intensely in a conscious immortality, is evident from one of his letters to Godwin, and from many passages in his poems. His belief in absolute goodness must have led him logically, at least, to belief in a Supreme Spirit of good; but the early despotism he had encountered and striven against for the free opinions of his youth probably had its effect in biassing his will against his own intuitional convictions. That he would eventually have emerged into a state of mind far different from that of his immature years, is more than probable. "Poetry," he says, "redeems from decay the visitations of the divinity in man." That thought could hardly have been uttered by one logically or emotionally an atheist. Indeed, his is an atheism that may be subjected to endless confutation from his own best utterances.