Day 2

July 8th 1822
Death of Percy Bysshe Shelley

If Win­ter comes, can Spring be far behind?”
– Per­cy Bysshe Shelley

Per­cy Bysshe Shel­ley was a cen­tu­ry-and-a-half too ear­ly. Futur­is­tic Shel­ley, the first mod­ern artist: pro­lif­ic, prophet­ic, and torn from us far too soon. Dead at 29, Shel­ley, more even than Lord Byron him­self, was the pro­to rock star. In life, in work and in death he exud­ed rebel­lion, con­front­ed and sub­vert­ed social mores, and brought forth rad­i­cal ideas still dis­tant. Ideas of non-vio­lent resis­tance, veg­e­tar­i­an­ism and free love are all con­cepts still unac­cept­able to many even today: Shel­ley was far more shock­ing, chal­leng­ing God and State, the very foun­da­tions of soci­ety. Poor Shel­ley, and poor us. For we need him now. We need him and his athe­ism now more than ever before… his par­tic­u­lar brand of athe­ism, that is. Shelley’s was a deeply spir­i­tu­al, hea­then athe­ism – in con­stant cel­e­bra­tion of the nat­ur­al world, in con­stant rejec­tion of the God as Over­lord. His works teemed with thoughts more eas­i­ly suit­ed to essays, instead there­in tak­ing the form of ecsta­t­ic epic lyric poet­ry. He demand­ed that his poems be read with the seri­ous­ness of polit­i­cal tract. Por­ten­tous­ly, Shel­ley him­self declared that “poets are the unac­knowl­edged leg­is­la­tors of the world.”

Shel­ley hums with dis­con­tent. He was the black cloud of objec­tion who fore­saw a com­ing storm of civ­il unrest still near two cen­turies away. He’s not just pro­to-rock star: he was pro­to-Tran­scen­den­tal­ist, pro­to-Beat­nik, pro­to-Peace Activist. The futur­is­tic mind­sets that Per­cy Shel­ley played with antic­i­pat­ed by scores of years the duty-bound defi­ance of Hen­ry David Thore­au, and the mar­tyr-like non-vio­lence of Mahat­ma Gand­hi and Mar­tin Luther King, Jr. And yet his unpar­al­leled high ide­al­ism ensured that Shel­ley was nev­er a mere naysay­er: he offered an entire­ly new way, replete with alter­na­tives. For all his crit­i­cisms of this unjust world, he wrote in equal mea­sure of its aston­ish­ing beau­ties. Moved to his very core by cer­tain oth­er poets and artists, Shel­ley cel­e­brat­ed and mythol­o­gised them as heroes, prof­fer­ing them to the wider world, hold­ing them aloft as rich evi­dence of oth­er exotics whose par­al­lel visions of the earth vin­di­cat­ed the extreme man­ner in which he viewed life. And so, on this the sec­ond day of the SydArthur Fes­ti­val – where­in we seek to cel­e­brate vol­canic minds – let’s hon­our Shel­ley in that same exul­tant spir­it that he would hon­our others.

Here on Day 2 of the SydArthur Fes­ti­val, let’s com­mem­o­rate the dread­ful drown­ing of per­haps the ulti­mate poet – Per­cy Bysshe Shel­ley – 196 years ago off the coast of Italy. No punk rock will suf­fice for such a world-shat­ter­ing accident…only a lofty out­burst of ele­gant, elo­quent, mind-man­i­fest­ing musi­cal poet­ry will do.

So here’s the pin­na­cle of the rock artiste’s man­i­fes­ta­tion of the Muse; an extrav­a­gan­za, nay an abbon­dan­za, issu­ing forth in 1975 from FUTURAMA by Be Bop Deluxe. Ah, Bill Nel­son. In ‘Swan Song’, our hero Nel­son takes every ‘70s lib­er­ty to fash­ion musi­cal­ly an incred­i­bly mov­ing account of love’s first meet­ing. Bulging-eyed with emo­tion, Nelson’s every poet­ic dec­la­ra­tion is backed up by ernie-ernie out­bursts of seag­ull-screech elec­tric gui­tar, mak­ing it clear that his only endgame for this song is to leave lis­ten­ers exhaust­ed. On the record sleeve itself, Nel­son ded­i­cat­ed the album to ‘The God­dess in the Moon’; on the back sleeve pic, he plays “the unre­strained har­le­quin” – his two band mem­bers phys­i­cal­ly hold­ing him back. Let no one restrain the true artist lest they in their bliss­ful igno­rance unwit­ting­ly cause our Moth­er Earth to burst.

Sat Saturday
Sun Sunday
Mon Monday
Tue Tuesday
Wed Wednesday
Thu Thursday
Fri Friday
Day 1: Saturday Jul 7th
Day 2: Sunday Jul 8th
Day 3: Monday Jul 9th
Day 4: Tuesday Jul 10th
Day 5: Wednesday Jul 11th
Day 6: Thursday Jul 12th
Day 7: Friday Jul 13th
Day 8: Saturday Jul 14th
Day 9: Sunday Jul 15th
Day 10: Monday Jul 16th
Day 11: Tuesday Jul 17th
Day 12: Wednesday Jul 18th
Day 13: Thursday Jul 19th
Day 14: Friday Jul 20th
Day 15: Saturday Jul 21st
Day 16: Sunday Jul 22nd
Day 17: Monday Jul 23rd
Day 18: Tuesday Jul 24th
Day 19: Wednesday Jul 25th
Day 20: Thursday Jul 26th
Day 21: Friday Jul 27th
Day 22: Saturday Jul 28th
Day 23: Sunday Jul 29th
Day 24: Monday Jul 30th
Day 25: Tuesday Jul 31st
Day 27: Thursday Aug 2nd
Day 28: Friday Aug 3rd