Discussion Questions: Part One (See Part Two ) "Defence of Poetry" (1821)
How does this piece compare with Wordsworth's Preface to Lyrical
What, according to Shelley, is the difference
between imagination and reason? (You may wish to compare
Coleridge's discussion of the imagination and the fancy in Biographia
Literaria, esp. pg. 306.)
Explain the image of the Aeolian lyre.
Explain: "A poet participates in the eternal, the
infinite, and the one" (443). (See also Coleridge's
conception of "the infinite I AM"
Explain the role of the sympathetic imagination (see fn 2).
Explain: "We have more moral, political, and
historical wisdom, than we know how to reduce into practice"
Explain the image of the fading coal. (See also
Coleridge's discussion of "Kubla Khan" on 274).
Explain: "Poetry is the record of the best and
happiest moments of the happiest and best minds" (449).
Explain: "All things exist as they are
perceived: at least in relation to the percipient"
(450). How does this perspective compare with that found in
Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey"?
Explain: "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of
the world" (452).
Other Discussion Questions: 386:
Why was Shelley expelled from Oxford in 1810?
Describe Shelley's philosophical perspective.
What was Shelley's inspiration for composing his "Defence
Explain: "The savage is to ages what the child is
to years" (441). How does this compare to Wordsworth's
discussion of "low and rustic life" (138)?
Explain: "Men, even in the infancy of society,
observe a certain order in their words and actions distinct
from that of the objects and the impressions represented by
them, all expressions being subject to the laws of that from
which it proceeds" (441).
How, according to Shelley, is the language of poets
Explain: "Language itself is poetry" (442).
How, according to Shelley, is a poet both a
legislator and a prophet?
Explain: "Language is arbitrarily produced by the
imagination, and has relation to thoughts alone" (443).
Explain: "A poem is the
very image of life expressed in eternal truth" (444).
Explain: "Poetry is a
mirror which makes beautiful that which is distorted" (445).
Explain: "A Poet is a nightingale who sits in
darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet
Explain: "The great instrument of moral good is the
imagination; and poetry administers to the effect by acting
upon the cause" (446).
Explain: Poetry "awakes and enlarges the mind itself by
rendering it the receptacle of a thousand unapprehended
combinations of thought" (446).
(See also 442, as well as Coleridge's discussion of the plan
for Lyrical Ballads
Explain: "We want the poetry of life" (448).
When, according to Shelley, is poetry most needed?
Explain: Poetry "is at once the centre and
circumference of knowledge" (448).
Explain: Poetry "is at the same time the root and
blossom of all other systems of thought" (448).
Explain: "Poetry turns all things to loveliness"
How does Shelley's description of the poet here compare
with Wordsworth's on page 143?
Explain: Poets "are the hierophants of an
unapprehended inspiration, the mirrors of the gigantic shadows
which futurity casts upon the present" (452).
Part Two: Discussion Questions: "England in 1819" (1819)
What exactly was the Peterloo Massacre?
Explain the leech imagery in lines 4-6.
What book is "sealed" (11)?
Explain lines 13-14.
"Ode to the West Wind" (1820) 396:
What is the significance of the West Wind?
What is the significance of the colors of the leaves
blown by the wind (4)?
What is the significance of the reference to Siva and
In what ways are clouds like leaves (15-23)?
How are waves like clouds and leaves (35-40)?
Explain lines 53-54. Does PBS really identify himself with
Jesus, as some critics suggest? Explain.
Other Discussion Questions: "To a Sky-Lark" (1820) 423:
What is the significance of the sky-lark being unseen
Explain lines 31-35.
How does the discussion in lines 36-40 compare to Shelley's
discussion of the poet in his "Defence" (445)?
Explain the comparisons to the poet (36-40), maiden
(41-45), glow-worm (46-50), and rose (51-55).
Explain "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of
saddest thought" (90). Compare with "Poetry is the record of
the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds"
("Defence of Poetry" 449).