All the earth and air
With thy voice is loud
Death Is Here And Death Is There
Death is here and death is there,
Death is busy everywhere,
All around, within, beneath,
Above is death—and we are death.
Death has set his mark and seal
On all we are and all we feel,
On all we know and all we fear,
First our pleasures die—and then
Our hopes, and then our fears—and when
These are dead, the debt is due,
Dust claims dust—and we die too.
All things that we love and cherish,
Like ourselves must fade and perish;
Such is our rude mortal lot–
Love itself would, did they not.
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Today, in July 1822, Mary Shelley and Jane Williams awaited with weeping anxiety the return of Percy Bysshe Shelley, who, sailing from Livorno in his fragile craft, had come to shore by sudden chance among the silences of the Elysian Isles. – O blessed shores, where Love, Liberty and Dreams have no chains.”This unearthly legend had been built up steadily throughout the 19th century. Shelley’s wife Mary herself launched it, writing immediately after his death: “I was never the Eve of any Paradise, but a human creature blessed by an elemental spirit’s company & love – an angel who imprisoned in flesh could not adapt himself to his clay shrine & so has flown and left it.”
Shelley drowned in his own sailing boat, the Don Juan, while returning from Livorno to Lerici, in the late afternoon of July 8 1822, during a violent summer storm. He was a month short of his 30th birthday. Like Keats’s death in Rome the year before, or Byron’s death at Missolonghi two years later, this sudden tragedy set a kind of sacred (or profane) seal upon his reputation as a youthful, sacrificial genius. But far more comprehensively than theirs, Shelley’s death was used to define an entire life, to frame a complete biography.