In spirit, Percy Shelley was perhaps the most essentially romantic poet of his age. Intense, idealistic, personal, his is the poetry of youth. His brief, impetuous life aroused great controversy, and, like Byron, he lives on outside his verse.
Shelley’s work has been criticized for its undisciplined emotionalism. But essentially he was a poet of ideas, and in his search for truth and original human perfection, Shelley was inspired as much by the Greek poets and philosophers, particularly Plato, as by the radicalism of his own age. Above all, his great gift was his lyricism, and his verse comes as near to music as poetry can. As the poet Kathleen Raine said, “In his art if not in his life, Shelley was able to soar, to give expression to those dreams and visions which, continually broken by reality, are inextinguishable in the human spirit.”