Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Chad Norman writes


Mary napping beside a low fire;
a small sealed box under one hand

the churlish memory
chose to
select a dream I partly failed
to put away the treasonous year
it ran a taunting course
like the amorphorous clouds just now,
in no hurry,
content to detain the sun,
steal from me
the Past’s sympathetic return.
To deal with
the needs of a dream,
dangling as usual,
a brave doubt between the dross & the pangs
I saw our bond
strangely become,
a crude shift he
sheathed in gainful concern,
triumphant too often,
late in in those last years
we tried to redeem.
A sly attempt
to sate the loiterous jealousy
ushered the ruinous gait of
his spry craving
into the lunacy I knew well,
our sturdy losses steering us
easily toward the eventual Others
I revisit as their faces
peer from the clouds,
first his,
a gaze of slight & scurrility.
Then her,
leering from the dreamy pleasure-house
in a poem,
where she’s to be lady of the solitude,
and, cagily together,
below the tower
they’d become One,
a lust,
a loss,
a lie,
alone on his swollen island.
All this paradise,
the jocose makings of
a steep deceit,
adrift like the cordial sorrow
I deftly shift within.
All this,
poorly imprisoned in a poem,
his beautiful wreck,
a silence where
their fictitious love attempts to speak…
there was so much left to dream. 
 Shelley Memorial
 Shelley Memorial, Christchurch Priory, Dorset -- Henry Weekes
[The memorial commemorating Mary mourning Percy's drowned husband had previously been refused by St. Peter's Church in Bournemouth, where Mary was buried with his heart and the remains of her parents William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft.. Their son Percy Florence Shelley presented it to Christchurch. The inscription is from Shelley's Adonais, written in honor of his dead friend John Keats: "He has out-soared the shadow of our night; / Envy and calumny, and hate and pain, / And that unrest which men miscall delight, / Can touch him not and torture not again; / From the contagion of the world's slow stain, / He is secure. and now can never mourn / A heart grown old. a head grown grey in vain; / Nor when the spirit's self has cleared to burn, / With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.".


  1. Chad here channels 24-year-old Mary Shelley. 1821 was another in a series of bad years for her and her 29-year-old husband Percy Bysshe Shelley. Their premature daughter had died in 1815, a year before their son William was born. In October 1816 her half-sister had killed herself, and in December Percy's estranged wife drowned herself; the Shelleys married three weeks later so he could assume custody of his children. In January 1817, Mary's step-sister Claire Clairmont gave birth to Alba (renamed Allegra in 1818), the illegitimate daughter of George Gordon Byron, 6th Baron Byron, to whom she had introduced the Shelleys; he called Claire "that odd-headed girl.... I never loved her nor pretended to love her – but a man is a man – & if a girl of eighteen comes prancing to you at all hours of the night – there is but one way – the suite of all this is that she was with child – & returned to England to assist in peopling that desolate island;" elsewhere, he excused his action by saying he "could not exactly play the Stoic with a woman – who had scrambled eight hundred miles to unphilosophize me." In March, Chancery Court ruled that Percy was morally unfit to assume custody of his children (and later placed them with a clergyman's family); in September, Mary gave birth to her third child, Clara. In 1818, after Mary anonymously published "Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus," which most reviewers assumed was written by Percy since it contained a preface by him and was dedicated to his political hero, William Godwin, Mary's father, they decided to leave England forever and join Byron in Italy. Claire and Alba went with them, and Byron agreed to raise his daughter as long as Claire had nothing more to do with her; in fact, though, he merely arranged to place her in a Capuchin convent in Bagnacavallo. At various times Claire may may also have been sexually involved with Percy; Thomas Jefferson Hogg (whom Percy seemed to hope would become Mary's lover) joked about "Shelley and his two wives," and many scholars have speculated that his "Epipsychidion" (Comet beautiful and fierce / Who drew the heart of this frail Universe / Towards thine own; till, wrecked in that convulsion / Alternating attraction and repulsion / Thine went astray and that was rent in twain) and "To Constantia, Singing" (In thy dark eyes a power like light doth lie / Even though the sounds which were thy voice, which burn / Between thy lips, are laid to sleep: / Within thy breath, and on thy hair / Like odour, it is yet, / And from thy touch like fire doth leap. / Even while I write, my burning cheeks are wet / Alas, that the torn heart can bleed, but not forget!") were both addressed to Claire, the latter probably as they were departing for Italy.

  2. In September their one-year-old daughter died in Venice. The Shelley entourage then settled for awhile in Napoli and hired Elise Foggi as a wet nurse for their remaining child. In February 1819 Percy registered the birth of Elena Adelaide Shelley, the daughter of himself and "Marina Padurin" (possibly a mispronunciation of "Mary Godwin," though Mary was not the mother) but almost immediately placed her with foster parents, (She died in 1820.) Three-year-old William died in Roma in June 1919, though another son, Percy Florence, was born five months later. By then, the Shelleys were being hounded by threats and accusations by Paolo and Elise Foggi, whom Percy had dismissed shortly after their marriage; they insisted that Claire was the mother. Byron and Hogg both believed the rumors. In his notebook Percy wrote, "My dearest Mary, wherefore hast thou gone, / And left me in this dreary world alone? / Thy form is here indeed—a lovely one— / But thou art fled, gone down a dreary road / That leads to Sorrow's most obscure abode. / For thine own sake I cannot follow thee / Do thou return for mine." (This sympathy, however, did not interfere with his dalliances with other women.) In 1829, Percy invited the ailing John Keats to join him in Pisa, but Keats died in Roma in February 1821 before they could meet. in January and February 1821, Percy composed "Epipsychidion" ("concerning or about a little soul") in Pisa and published it anonymously though he quickly asked it to be withdrawn out of fear that it would be regarded as autobiographical; Mary included it in his posthumous collection of works but completely altered the first two stanzas. Ostensibly it was addressed to Teresa Viviani, the 19-year-old daughter of the city's governor, while she was confined in the Benedictine Convent of Saint Anna. A meditation on the nature of free love, which he regarded as ideal, while conventional marriage was "the weariest and the longest journey," he referred to the poem as "an idealized history of my life and feelings. I think one is always in love with something or other; the error, and I confess it is not easy for spirits cased in flesh and blood to avoid it, consists in seeking in a mortal image the likeness of what is, perhaps, eternal."


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