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.

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