One of my favorite discoveries is a brief, four-paragraph piece entitled “In Appreciation of Shelley’s Poems” which begins:
This summer I spent on Cape Cod surrounded by picturesque, shadow-haunted groves of scrub pine, desolate, sun-brilliant dunes, and bays whose intense blueness numbs the senses to anything but color. Such things are extremely conducive to the reading of poetry and, at first, I feasted upon all sorts of morsels from various anthologies, but finally ended up by devoting all of my reading time to Shelley.Having set the scene with such a precisely lyrical narrative frame, she proceeds to discuss Shelley’s poetry in a series of eloquent turns, as when she praises his drama Prometheus Unbound for its “intricate pattern of spirits, storms, song, and clouds, all moved by his sweeping ideas.”
Her concluding paragraph returns to the narrative structure with which she began, and tells the tale of “sailing late one evening this summer to an island far out in the bay” to camp overnight:
During all the long sail out we read Shelley from a water-stained, paper-bound copy. It was a cold, star-sharp night and I slept with the music of his lines echoing through my brain. Early in the morning we sat up to watch the sun rise. It began with faint, rosy fingers reaching up the east, and at last flamed a burning gold that glimmered across the water and stained the dunes and flying gulls with gilt. It seemed to me then that Shelley was a spirit of the sunrise—one of his own creatures of whom he says:Apart from the obvious pleasures of its evocative, beautifully felt and beautifully crafted sentences, its intelligence, and its tone (which captures an ideal reader’s embrace of Shelley’s sensibility), “In Appreciation of Shelley’s Poems” has another remarkable feature, perhaps its most remarkable of all: it dates, amazingly, from 1927, when its sixteen-year-old author published it in her school magazine.
See where the child of Heaven with winged feet,
Runs down the slanted sunlight of the dawn.