Queen Mab

Submitted by AWL on 20 January, 2015 - 5:27 Author: Percy Bysshe Shelley

Percy Bysshe Shelley is known as a romantic poet. He was also a radical, militant atheist, campaigner for women’s rights and Catholic emancipation in Ireland.

His first poem Queen Mab, written when he was only 20 years old, was used by the Chartists as an educational text (they may well have been unaware of who wrote it).

In Queen Mab, Shelley uses the literary device of a fantasy fairy taking a child away from Earth to gain a perspective upon it. It looks at how seemingly permanent and strong systems from the beginning of time have collapsed and fallen. It looks at tyranny and injustice, hunger and war. Many of these topics are touched upon in this short extract (the poem itself is long).

The Vectian

Whence, thinkest thou, kings and parasites arose?

Whence that unnatural line of drones who heap

Toil and unvanquishable penury

On those who build their palaces and bring

Their daily bread?--From vice, black loathsome vice;

From rapine, madness, treachery, and wrong;

From all that genders misery, and makes

Of earth this thorny wilderness; from lust,

Revenge, and murder.--And when reason's voice,

Loud as the voice of Nature, shall have waked

The nations; and mankind perceive that vice

Is discord, war and misery; that virtue

Is peace and happiness and harmony;

When man's maturer nature shall disdain

The playthings of its childhood;--kingly glare

Will lose its power to dazzle, its authority

Will silently pass by; the gorgeous throne

Shall stand unnoticed in the regal hall,

Fast falling to decay; whilst falsehood's trade

Shall be as hateful and unprofitable

As that of truth is now.

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