Weirdness: Butter for the Writer’s Bread

Research leads in many wry and byway paths. To wit, a bit of reading about Lord Byron (famously: mad, bad, and dangerous to know) led me, by hook and crook, to an anecdote about Mary Shelley, wife of Percy Bysshe Shelley, heroic romantic poet, who, like all good heroic romantic poets, died heroically and stupidly…but most of all mysteriously. His boat sank and he washed up on shore, and per the quarantine rules of the time, they cremated him on the beach. Sorry, chap.

However, many years later, after Mary died of an apparent brain tumor (not as good as drowning, but exploding heads have their allure), the Shelley’s opened a box in Mary’s desk and found a silk parcel, which was wrapped in Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poem “Adonaïs” and contained locks of her dead childrens’ hair along with a fragment of Percy’s heart. Yeah, his actual phsycial heart, apparently swiped from the pyre. These Romantics knew how to do it right.

Flash forward to to 1969, and the Stones play a free concert in Swinging London’s Hyde Park, as a tribute to the recently expired Brian Jones (who heroically and stupidly drowned in his swimming pool…under mysterious circumstances), during which Mick Jagger reads an excerpt from “Adonaïs” while butterflies are released. Jagger wears a little girl’s dress. Nice touch. And then Mick Taylor, Jones’ replacement on guitar, comes out and burns the place down.

A pretty bunch, all of them.

Here’s the excerpt; Shelley and Byron would have been proud:

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep
He hath awakened from the dream of life
‘Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit’s knife
Invulnerable nothings. — We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven’s light forever shines, Earth’s shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. — Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled! — Rome’s azure sky,
Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.