Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing…

– Ode to the West Wind, Percy Bysshe Shelley

October 1819, Florence. Stung by fierce criticisms of his poetry and talk of the “disgusting picture” of his private life, Shelley has been in the habit of taking long solitary walks along the banks of the Arno. He has recently heard news of the massacre in Manchester – where the cavalry charged into a crowd of 70,000 demonstrators protesting for the reform of parliamentary representation. So he pours himself into one of his finest poems: ...


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