Belief in the importance of imagination is a distinctive feature of romantic poets. 'Facts' said Shelley, 'are not what we want to know in poetry, in history, in the lives of individual, in satire or panegyric. They are the many diversions, the arbitrary points on which we hang and to which we refer those delicate and evanescent hues of mind, which language delights and instructs us in precise proportion as it expresses.' Shelley calls poetry "the expression of imagination", because in it diverse things are brought together in harmony instead of being separated through analysis. Shelley made a bold expedition into the unknown and he felt reasons should be related to the imagination. His expedition was successful when he made the people understand that the task of imagination is to create shapes by which reality can be revealed to the world.
Melancholy occupies a prominent place in romantic poetry, because it is a major source of inspiration for the Romantic poets. Though Shelley was a man of hope and expectation and spiritualistic about the future of mankind, yet he represents himself in his poems as a man of ill luck, subject to evil and suffering. He expresses this in his "Ode to the West Wind":
Most of the Romantic poets used supernatural elements in their poetry. Shelley's interest in the supernatural repeatedly appears in his work. The ghosts and spirits in his poems suggest the possibility of glimpsing a world beyond the one in which we live. In "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty", the speaker searches for ghosts and explains that ghosts are one of the ways men have tried to interpret the world beyond. The speaker of "Mont Blanc" encounters ghosts and shadows of real natural objects in the cave of "Poesy". Ghosts are inadequate in both poems: the speaker finds no ghosts in "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty", and the ghosts of Poesy in "Mont Blanc" are not real thing, a discovery that emphasizes the elusiveness and mystery of supernatural forces.
The world of classical Greece was important to the Romantics. Shelley wrote "Hellas" which is the ancient name of Greece. "Ozymandias" is an ancient Greek name for Ramses II of Egypt. Shelley was mainly influenced by Platonism. Plato thought that the supreme power in the universe was the spirit of beauty. Shelley borrowed this conception from Plato and developed it in his metaphysical poem "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty". Intellectual Beauty is omni-potent and man must worship it. The last stanza of "The Cloud" is Shelley's Platonic symbol of human life. In fact, Shelley frequently turned to Greece as a model of ideal beauty, transcendent philosophy, democratic politics, and homosociality or homosexuality.
Beauty is an other element of Romanticism in Shelley's poetry. Beauty, to Shelley, is an ideal in itself and a microcosm of the beauty of Nature and he calls it "Intellectual Beauty". He celebrates Beauty as a mysterious power. In the de arts, to intellectual Beauty, he says that when Intellectual Beauty departs this world becomes a "dim vast vale of tears, vacant and desolate" and if human heart is its temple, then man would become immortal and omnipotent:
Idealism is the very much common characteristic especially in second generation Romantic poets. Shelley's idealism falls under three subheadings. Revolutionary, Religious and Erotic.
(i) Revolutionary Idealism: His revolutionary idealism is mainly due to French Revolution. Through his Queen Man, The Revolt of Islam, and Prometheus Unbound, he inspired people to revolt against by scorning at the tyranny of state, church and society and hoping for a golden age.
(ii) Religious Idealism: Though Shelley was a rebel, he was not an atheist. He believed in the super power of God, and he imagined God as supreme 'Thought' and 'Infinite Love'.
(iii) Erotic Idealism: Shelley believed in the abstract quality of love and beauty -- love as infinite and beauty as intellectual. He celebrates love as a creator and preserver in his "Symposium"; and beauty as Supreme Spirit in "Hymn to Intellectual Beauty".
8. Poetic Style
Shelley's poetic style is also romantic. To some extent, it is an imitation of William Wordsworth's style. He uses a lot of powerful symbolism and imagery, especially visual. The series of gorgeous similes in "The Skylark" show the romantic exuberance of Shelley. His diction is lush and tactile. But he never uses any ornamental word and every word fits in its place and carries its own weight. They express the diverse feelings of the poet with the notes of music which appeal to every human beings's ears. He uses terza rima in his "Ode to the West Wind" which is one of the finest uses of terza rima in an English-language poem.
In brief we can say that every bit of Shelley's poetry is romantic. Shelley's joy, his magnanimity, his faith in humanity, and his optimism are unique among the Romantics; his expression of these feelings makes him one of the early nineteenth century's most significant writers in English. Of all the Romantics; Shelley is the one who most obviously possessed the quality of genius-quickness, grasp of intellect, the capacity of learning languages rapidly, ability to assimilate and place scientific principles and discoveries. Due to his premature death, he attained the iconic status as the representative tragic Romantic artist like Byron and Keats. No wonder Shelley is heralded as the best Romantic poet of his age.