Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

English Romantic Lyric Poet

"He gave man speech, and speech created thought, which is the measure of the universe; and science struck the thrones of earth and heaven, which shook, but fell not; and the harmonious mind poured itself forth in all-prophetic song; and music lifted up the listening spirit until it walked, except from mortal care, Godlike, o’er the clear billows of sweet sound."

"It is not a merit to tolerate, but rather a crime to be intolerant."

"Love withers under constraint: its very essence is liberty: it is compatible neither with obedience, jealously, nor fear: it is there most pure, perfect and unlimited where its votaries live in confidence, equality and unreserve."

"Man who man would be, must rule the empire of himself."

"The more we study the more we discover our ignorance."

"The wise want love; and those who love want wisdom."

"Nought may endure but mutability."

"The only use of government is to repress the vices of man. If man were today sinless, tomorrow he would have the right to demand that government and all its evils should cease."

"A thought by thought is piled, till some great truth is loosened, and the nations echo round, shaken to their roots, as do the mountains now."

"All of us who are worth anything spend our manhood in unlearning the follies, or expiating the mistakes of our youth."

"Those who love not their fellow beings live unfruitful lives."

"They learn in suffering what they teach in song."

"When the power of imparting joy is equal to the will, the human soul requires no heaven."

"Wealth is a power usurped by the few, to compel the many to labour for their benefit."

"Deep truth is imageless."

"Death is the veil which those who live call life: they sleep, and it is lifted."

"Fear not the future, weep not for the past. Nothing in the world is single, All things by a law divine In one another's being mingle — Why not I with thine?"

"Necessity! thou mother of the world."

"No change, no pause, no hope! Yet I endure."

"Poetry lifts the veil from the hidden beauty of the world, and makes familiar objects be as if they were not familiar."

"Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought."

"Conformity and obedience, Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth, Makes slaves of men and of the human frame, A mechanized automaton."

"Honor sits smiling at the sale of truth."

"Strange thoughts beget strange deeds."

"The system of equality...must result from, rather than precede, the moral improvement of humankind."

"To the pure all things are pure."

"There is no real wealth but the labor of man. Were the mountains of gold and the valleys of silver, the world would not be one grain of corn the richer; no one comfort would be added to the human race."

"Age cannot Love destroy, But perfidy can blast the flower, Even when in most unwary hour It blooms in Fancy’s bower. Age cannot Love destroy, But perfidy can rend the shrine In which its vermeil splendours shine. "

"All love is sweet, Given or returned (received). Common as light is love, And its familiar voice wearies not ever. Like the wide heaven, the all-sustaining air, It makes the reptile equal to the God; They who inspire it most are fortunate, As I am now; but those who feel it most Are happier still."

"All spirits are enslaved which serve things evil."

"All things are sold: the very light of Heaven Is venal; earth's unsparing gifts of love, The smallest and most despicable things That lurk in the abysses of the deep, All objects of our life, even life itself, And the poor pittance which the laws allow Of liberty, the fellowship of man, Those duties which his heart of human love Should urge him to perform instinctively, Are bought and sold as in a public mart Of undisguising selfishness, that sets On each its price, the stamp-mark of her reign."

"A man, to be greatly good, must imagine intensely and comprehensively; he must put himself in the place of another and many others; the pains and pleasures of his species must become his own. The great instrument of moral good is the imagination. "

"A poet participates in the eternal, the infinite, and the one… defeats the curse which binds us… redeems from decay the visitations of the divinity in man."

"A wild dissolving bliss Over my frame he breathed, approaching near, And bent his eyes of kindling tenderness Near mine, and on my lips impressed a lingering kiss."

"A husband and wife ought to continue so long united as they love each other. Any law which should bind them to cohabitation for one moment after the decay of their affection, would be a most intolerable tyranny, and the most unworthy of toleration."

"A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds; his auditors are as men entranced by the melody of an unseen musician, who feel that they are moved and softened, yet know not whence or why."

"A poem is the very image of life expressed in its eternal truth."

"Are we not formed, as notes of music are, For one another, though dissimilar?"

"Before man can be free, and equal, and truly wise, he must cast aside the chains of habit and superstition; he must strip sensuality of its pomp, and selfishness of its excuses, and contemplate actions and objects as they really are. He will discover the wisdom of universal love; he will feel the meanness and the injustice of sacrificing the reason and the liberty of his fellow-men to the indulgence of his physical appetites, and becoming a party to their degradation by the consummation of his own."

"All things exist as they are perceived: at least in relation to the percipient. 'The mind is its own place, and of itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.' But poetry defeats the curse which binds us to be subjected to the accident of surrounding impressions. And whether it spreads its own figured curtain or withdraws life's dark veil from before the scene of things, it equally creates for us a being within our being. "

"Cease, cease, wayward Mortal! I dare not unveil The shadows that float o’er Eternity’s vale; Nought waits for the good but a spirit of Love, That will hail their blest advent to regions above. For Love, Mortal, gleams through the gloom of my sway, And the shades which surround me fly fast at its ray."

"Among the stars that have a different birth,-- And ever-changing, like a joyless eye That finds no object worth its constancy? "

"Chastity is a monkish and evangelical superstition, a greater foe to natural temperance even than unintellectual sensuality; it strikes at the root of all domestic happiness, and consigns more than half the human race to misery."

"Belief is involuntary; nothing involuntary is meritorious or reprehensible. A man ought not to be considered worse or better for his belief."

"Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim."

"Art thou pale for weariness Of climbing heaven, and gazing on the earth, Wandering companionless? "

"By solemn vision and bright silver dream His infancy was nurtured. Every sight And sound from the vast earth and ambient air Sent to his heart its choicest impulses. "

"Commerce has set the mark of selfishness, The signet of its all-enslaving power, Upon a shining ore, and called it gold: Before whose image bow the vulgar great, The vainly rich, the miserable proud, The mob of peasants, nobles, priests, and kings, And with blind feelings reverence the power That grinds them to the dust of misery."

"Love is free: to promise for ever to love the same woman, is not less absurd than to promise to believe the same creed: such a vow in both cases, excludes us from all enquiry."

"Concerning God, freewill and destiny: Of all that earth has been or yet may be, all that vain men imagine or believe, or hope can paint or suffering may achieve, we descanted."