The Bodleian Library has just acquired its 12 millionth book. Written by the romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and printed in 1811 under the alias of “a gentleman of the University of Oxford”, the Poetical Essay on the Existing State of Things is a 172-line poem written in support of the Irish journalist Peter Finnerty who was jailed for libelling a politician. The ‘lost’ poem was discovered in 2006 and has now been acquired by the Bodleian library which has created a full digital copy available free to the public to read. See the link above.
What may strike you when you read this poem is how little things have changed since the time of Shelley’s sentiments. The pointlessness and brutality of war, the oppression of the poor at the hands of the rich and priviliged, issues surrounding freedom of the press – themes as relevant today as they were back in the 19th century to Shelley.
I would like to say a big thanks to Shelley! Thank you for speaking up back then. You didn’t have to do this, but you found somewhere inside your spirit the voice to call out injustice and inhumanity. It’s a depressing realisation that little has changed for the better across two-hundred years, but I do draw some comfort that there will always be others like Shelley – and not necessarily just the poets or artists or actors or musician, but those who will continue to call out the corrupt politicians and rulers who consistantly try to prove to us that humanity must always come second to greed.
Note to the ruling class: you with palms greasy from money, or bloody from the sales of arms, many of us can see through your lies, and the petal-thin fabric of all your false charms.
Note to the poets, artists, actors and musicians and anyone with an amplified voice: please continue to speak out against social injustice. You are placed in unique positions, and people will listen.