You are here
Percy Bysshe Shelley - Opening lines of 'The Triumph of Life'
Part of the Shelley's Ghost Exhibition. Shelley worked on 'The Triumph of Life', a dark and visionary poem, while living at the Villa Magni.
At the time of his death it was still in a very incomplete state but despite this it is generally considered one of his major poetic achievements. Life is envisioned as a remorseless triumphal procession: a chariot is driven blindly through a madly dancing crowd, taking with it 'a captive multitude ... all those who had grown old in power, Or misery'. 'The Triumph of Life' caused Shelley considerable trouble. Most of the manuscript is heavily revised, and the page shown here is his fourth attempt at the opening lines. He wrote in terza rima, an Italian verse form used by Dante in the Divine Comedy, and by Petrarch in his Trionfi (Triumphs). Both these poems were sources for 'The Triumph of Life', but the triple rhyme scheme of terza rima is exceedingly difficult to sustain in English.