Check out the first page of the oldest surviving poem by iconic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley - “Cat In Distress” (transcript of the full poem here). He apparently wrote this when he was about 10. Sometime between 1809 and 1811, his sister Elizabeth transcribed it onto this piece of paper and created the little watercolor cat image. When Elizabeth died, the poem was passed to her sister Hellen. It is now in our Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection of Shelley and His Circle, one of the world’s leading repositories for the study of English Romanticism. Its holdings consist of some 25,000 books, manuscripts, letters, and other objects, chiefly from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. And today, it takes center stage for Caturday. Happy Caturday!
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said — “two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert … near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lips, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings,
Look on my Works ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.” —
More P. B. Shelley for you poetry lovers. “Ozymandias,” first published January 11, 1918, is here in its entirety. See our exhibition Shelley’s Ghost for more, including an original manuscript of this poem, which has never been exhibited in the United States before.
What’s that you say? You can’t make it to the library this spring? Well, fortunately for you - here’s the manuscript online.
Happy National Poetry Month!
Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!
Two hundred and one years ago today, Percy Bysshe Shelley and his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg were expelled from Oxford University for ”contumacy in refusing to answer certain questions put to them.” The two had published an incendiary pamphlet called The Necessity of Atheism.
Visit the exhibition Shelley’s Ghost: The Afterlife of a Poet to learn more about Shelley’s life and work.
I love all waste / And solitary places; where we taste / The pleasure of believing what we see / Is boundless, as we wish our souls to be…
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, from “Julian and Maddalo.” Learn more about Shelley and his circle of literary friends and family at Shelley’s Ghost, a new exhibition.
No man has a right to monopolize more than he can enjoy.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, in Declaration of Rights. Learn more about Shelley at Shelley’s Ghost, at the NYPL through June 24.
MUSIC, when soft voices die, / Vibrates in the memory. — / ODOURS, when sweet violets sicken, / Live within the sense they quicken. —
— "To…" by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Learn more about Shelley’s poetry at Shelley’s Ghost, at the NYPL through June 24.
Shelley’s Ghost: The Afterlife of a Poet opens today. Head over to the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building to check out Mary’s Shelley’s original draft of Frankenstein, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s baby rattle, and much more. Some of the artifacts and manuscripts have never been displayed in the United States before, so don’t miss this chance to see them!