To William Shelley

Shelley, Percy Bysshe

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Moore, Pamela
  • Date of entry: Aug-08-1994


Shelley is writing about the death of his young son, William. He imagines that William's body held a bright spirit who consumed the body of his host. William's body does not lie beneath the headstone. The grave is merely a shrine for the grief of the parents. The child's spirit runs free. Shelley hopes to sense its presence in the colors and scents of the flowers and grasses surrounding the grave.


This is a classic articulation of a mind/body split. The son's body dies, but his spirit lives on. It also reflects the Romantic worship of nature. The scents and colors of nature allow entry into worlds and emotions beyond our everyday experience.


First published: 1824

Primary Source

Poetical Works


Oxford Univ. Press

Place Published

New York




Thomas Hutchinson